Featured

Haunted History

Connecting with Jerome’s Rowdy Past

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, October 2018

Written by Gail G. Collins

As I climbed the steep, narrow, winding staircase of abandoned Mingus Union High School, a cool, but gentle, hand languidly brushed across my forehead. The hairs on my neck prickled, and my brows rose in wonder. I was not physically alone on the staircase, but neither was anyone within reach of me. The stairs brought me from the teachers’ dormitory to the main floor of the gymnasium where I stopped to consider what had just happened. The people ahead of me and behind continued upward without a care. Gooseflesh rose on my arms, as I recounted my ghostly encounter to the guide from Ghost Town Tours. Deadpan, he pointed out that the boys do love a pretty lady.

In the 1920s, the building was constructed to serve as Jerome’s new hospital, but it became the center for education for mining families. Today, the deserted property registers electromagnetic energy instead of students with activity spikes recorded in the boys’ shower and the whiff of cigarette smoke present in the girls’ area. My mind was open to things that defied explanation, but I wasn’t a ghost hunter.

A glance around present-day Jerome easily inspires imagination of the town it was during the mining boom of the early 20th century. Its history leaps from original buildings like the Jerome Grand Hotel, derelict mining sites or a worn, painted sign that reads House of Joy, reminiscent of a rampant prostitution business. With the season of spooks upon us, it’s easy to be carried off by ghostly tales. Still, there is a rich and ribald past, which is recorded or waiting to be explored on the zig-zagging streets of this precariously perched town. Does a residual of characters remain?

Mining History

Originally, the Verde Valley was farmed by the Hohokam people, but Jerome has long been a place of mining. Whether it was those early tribes in search of ore for pigments, the Spanish conquistadors seeking gold or the two veins of copper that earned Arizona its nickname, the Copper State, the site suggested shiny value.

In 1876, the first mining claims were staked on two mounds that later would be called Cleopatra Hill and Woodchute Mountain. The result of tectonic plates pushing an ancient, undersea volcanic caldera upwards revealed two of the wealthiest ore deposits ever found, worth more than $1 billion. The stakes were purchased a few years later and organized as the United Verde Copper Company and bankrolled by Eastern financiers, including Eugene Jerome. A small mining camp began on Cleopatra Hill and was dubbed Jerome to honor him. Eugene Jerome was a relative of Jennie Jerome, mother of Sir Winston Churchill.

A few years later, the mine closed and was purchased by William A. Clark, whose successes in Montana mining carried over to assemble a profitable business venture in Jerome. He enlarged the smelter and built a narrow gauge railway. The company expanded to become the leading copper producer in the Arizona Territory, extricating nearly 33 million tons of copper along with zinc, lead, silver and gold.

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Featured

Sweet Joy! Cone Company Turns 100

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, August 2018

Written by Gail G. Collins

In a recent drive from Texas to Arizona, billboards along Interstate 10 West beckoned my husband and I to explore “The Thing?” roadside curiosity. As it turned out, the best part of our stop at the travel center was ordering ice cream from Dairy Queen.

The creamy treat in an edible handhold is quintessential summer. One can lick, lick, lick away, and then, consume what remains. The simple cone is easily taken for granted, but after touring the Joy Cone factory in Flagstaff, I knew exactly from where the flaky cup in my hand had been shaped, baked, packaged and shipped.

Joy Cone began as a family business in 1918. Lebanese immigrant George Albert and some of his relatives bought cone-making equipment to found the George & Thomas Cone Company. The George family, along with Joy Cone employees, continues to own and operate the business under an employee stock ownership plan.

History of the Cone

Although ice cream cones were sold by street vendors in New York in the 1890s, they achieved popularity in 1904 with its introduction at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. The stories are many, but the according to the International Dairy Foods Association, Syrian immigrant Ernest A. Hamwi, is the inventor of the conventional ice cream cone. Hamwi, a pastry vendor, was selling “zalabia,” a crisp, sugary waffle, near the many rows of ice cream hawkers at the fair. He rolled the waffle into a cone, handed it to be filled with ice cream, and the rest is sweet history.

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Bona fide Butchery: Proper Meats + Provisions

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, January 2019

Written by Gail G. Collins

The Shambles is the oldest street in York. Its name descends from an archaic word meaning slaughterhouse. The market of butcher stalls is mentioned in The Domesday Book of William the Conqueror, an 11th-century grand survey of England. Soon after, the Butchers Guild, a professional organization, who held sway in matters of hygiene, weights and measures and so on, formed to oversee the trade.

Fast forward in history to 1865, when Chicago’s meatpacking industry utilized a vast network of railways, and few decades later, the advent of reliable refrigeration generated potential. In the 50s, neighborhood butchers promoted their offerings with recipe booklets, such as A Medley of Meat Recipes. In those days, a shopper popped into the green grocer for fresh produce and the fish monger for today’s catch, but the butcher often suggested supper. Cleaver in hand, he would point out specialty cuts and how to prepare them.

This golden period—captured in ambience and action—still exists at Proper Meats + Provisions, newly relocated on Route 66. Chunky, custom, butcher block tables meet leather benches with their backs fastened by leather pulls against rough paneled wainscoting. Chalkboards advertise the menu choices. Iron shelving contains practical goods for dining plus items for sale—olive oils, fresh pasta, cutting boards or cast iron pans. Kim Duncan Design fashioned the vintage air.

Behind a long glass case, filled with sausages, steaks and unique offerings, Joe Fiandach stands ready to provide advice on locally-sourced animals with a sure pedigree.

“The goal is to buy meat, like wine, from single farms,” said owner Paul Moir. “We have three sources in the case today:  Arizona Legacy from Humboldt, Pierre’s Prime from Rimrock and Creekstone Farms out of Kansas.”

Award-winning restaurateurs Paul and Laura Moir also founded Brix and Criollo Latin Kitchen in Flagstaff, and originally opened Proper Meats in Southside in 2014. Now occupying the former Grand Canyon Café space, the new location expanded the shop in multiple ways.

“It gave us opportunities to spread out the kitchen space for production and preparation and include a new seafood case with wider selections,” said Paul. “It also provided more space for retail and expanded hours.” Meal options, like a bucket of fried chicken, homemade stock or Bolognese, sausages or charcuterie and more, are prepackaged in a case for easy access. Even Fido can benefit from homemade dog food.

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The Tortilla Lady & Rising Hy

Scratch made favorites with heat and flavor

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, December 2018


Written by Gail G. Collins

Brenda Ramirez stands at the stainless steel counter, her deft hands scooping, spreading, filling and folding. A huge bowl of moist masa sits within reach—the base ingredient for creating dozens of tamales—and stacks of corn husks bundle the completed package. Turning the sticky hominy dough into handfuls of this holiday staple is a series of tasks best shared by extended family, each taking on a physical role in the assembly line, but also fulfilling the role of happy company. It’s a time for chatter about the year just gone and what lies ahead. Hands and hearts are busy, and the tamalada, or preparation party, is a festive glimpse of the celebration at which the tamales will be the highpoint.

Spanish history professors believe that tamales have been filling growling bellies since Pre-Columbian times. Aztec women prepared them and toted the portable handholds into battle to keep the army fed. The tamales were easily heated by burying them in ashes. By the 1550s, tamales were served to Spanish conquistadores, and steaming was introduced as the cooking method. Tamales vary in size, flavor, filling and wrapper, depending on the resources available, but the laborious process remains one reason they are dedicated to special occasions.

One shortcut is to buy ready-made scratch masa from authentic tamale crafters, like The Tortilla Lady, where Ramirez makes tamales year round. “Why tamales?” asked co-owner Mike Konefal, “Because people love them. Stock your freezer with our tamales. They’re always available.”

Konefal’s first business venture, Rising Hy Specialty Sauces, began in 2005 in his final year at Northern Arizona University. As a joke, a childhood friend gave him a hot sauce kit, and his first fiery efforts yielded a habanero sauce. He was hooked. Now, a shelf of handcrafted choices are offered, still made in small batches. Unlike most recipes, Konefal doesn’t use vinegar. “Vinegar overpowers, and we want people to enjoy the chili with the food.”

In 2009, Konefal partnered with Dawn Graham, and a couple of years later, they bought The Tortilla Lady, keeping the genuine product, the employees and the business rolling.

“Mike had the passion and heart, and I brought skills and initiative for the combined company to grow with our goals,” said Graham. “It’s been a hot mess and a good outcome.”

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Bandera Craft Tacos

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, October 2018

Written by Gail G. Collins

As drinkers down tequila, Mexico’s raises production, which is expected to reach 290 million liters this year. Agave syrup and a newfound embrace of mescal—on par with world-class scotch or cognac—have upped the demand for agave overall. This is a boon, but it is at odds with an artisanal product that takes long years to cultivate.

The demand is global and labor intensive legacy farming strains to respond. Outside corporate agronomics enters the market, disrupting village practices. Fast cash tempts farmers, too. Some harvest plants early and others overharvest and risk ongoing pollination by the long-nosed bat, while cloned plant farms are susceptible to disease. All of these unsustainable practices threaten a fragile ecosystem and the trade itself.

Is there an agave crisis? Organizations, like the Tequila Interchange Project, believe so and advocate the preservation of ecological, traditional and quality practices in the agave distilled spirits industry.

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Coppa Café

European flavor and flair meld with ingredients from home

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, September 2018

Written by Gail G. Collins

As we travel, we taste and retain sensations that are activated by similar smells, sounds or sights. The scent of orange blossoms transports us to a stroll on the labyrinth streets of Seville’s Barrio Santa Cruz, or the delicate crunch of a macaron spread with pistachio ganache places us in Paris at Ladurée once more.

Culinary culture is an intricate and integrated part of travel, but marking the miles isn’t necessary to gather such sensual awareness. Leading chefs build a practiced foundation of globally seasoned skills to appeal to the hungering traveler in all of us.

Basic flavor profiles include Mediterranean, Latin American and Asian. Within these regions, sub-profiles exist, driven by climate, agriculture and lifestyle. For example, the Mediterranean pantries of Spain, France, Greece, Egypt and more consist of similar products, but the cooking methods can differ. Further, the fundamental flavor combination of olive oil and garlic ranges from French aioli to Italian pesto and Tunisian harissa. Oh, the range of recipes they reap.

Brian Konefal, owner and chef of Coppa Cafe in Flagstaff, has built an engaged following by introducing guests to global menus. “The idea is to visit a restaurant and taste dishes from abroad without having to travel.”

That said, Konefal has traveled to gather practical knowledge, history and culture with a hands-on year in Barcelona. “The moments of food in a place—freshly plucked or locally cured—the nostalgia of terroir is important, and then, the practice of craft steps up.”

The chef employs European techniques and care, offering such standards as steak frites, while changing up most dishes routinely. Wife Paola Fioravanti advised him, “Remember the first time you ate something. Introduce foods that way and educate others.” Previously the pastry chef, she handles the financial aspects and menu modifications at Coppa.

Coppa Cafe presents as a Euro-bistro and pastry case in colors of ochre and cream with mismatched tables and chairs under a coffered ceiling. Art with whimsical touches complete the airy esthetics.

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Trail Crest Brewing

An Ideal Spot for Lingering

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, August 2018

Written by Gail G. Collins

Life is crowded with the priorities of work and home, and they often keeps us frantically rushing from one to the other. But in the best world—and to the benefit of those on either end—we could use a buffer zone. A place to gather, complain or celebrate, and crucially, feel connected. Michael Hickey, a community development consultant, called such community hangouts “third spaces.” He discovered that nine times out of ten, it’s a bar. Call it a tavern, pub, or micro-brewery, but it maintains eternal essentials:  taps, stools and an amiable air.

In an article titled, In Praise of (Loud, Stinky) Bars, Hickey wrote, “The vaunted ‘third space’ isn’t home, and isn’t work—it’s more like the living room of society at large. It’s a place where … these two other spheres intersect.” In a nutshell, this is the aim of Trail Crest Brewing Company, a recent addition to Flagstaff’s suds scene.

Its sunny space boasts a bank of roll-up doors to integrate drinkers with our San Francisco Peaks view. Embodying that pause for a panorama—Trail Crest is an ideal spot for lingering. Big booths and picnic tables with a snaking, 30-seat concrete bar and rough-hewn kick area beneath keep it casual. A hay and charcoal color scheme, canvas photography of landmark surroundings and a stone fireplace add warmth to the welcome.

Owners Joel Gat and wife Turtle Wong create classic reasons to come around, such as Wednesday’s trivia night gathering of Geeks Who Drink. The owners are also fans of Ultimate Fighting Championship, so some of the nearly 20 television screens play the matches, but Gat is too busy these days to watch the mixed martial arts.

Trail Crest’s first broad menu narrowed to crowd pleasers with an eye on quality. Antibiotic and hormone-free proteins are sourced from Sterling Food Service for fresh, not frozen, products and beef ground daily. “We stay as local as we’re able,” said Gat.

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Destination Dining

Orchard Canyon on Oak Creek Restaurant

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, July 2018

Written by Gail Collins

Ding, ding! The bell clanged brightly seven times. Sitting near the resort’s fireplace, guests clinked cocktail glasses and smiled, while four ladies playing dominoes at a table outside set down their tiles and looked toward the lodge. Beyond them, the gentle splash of Oak Creek offered a refreshing backdrop. Earlier, the flowers—irises, coreopses, lilies and poppies—were bathed in golden light as the canyon walls burned with the sun’s last fiery rays. In this respite between afternoon tea and drinks before dinner, time had hung complacent. Now, the bell summoned all from their cabins or from a stroll through the apple grove to enjoy a spectacular four-course meal at Orchard Canyon on Oak Creek Restaurant.

Folks ambled toward the century-old lodge—originally a miner’s retreat—bearing a stone and log façade. Windows glowed warmly and carefree conversation spilled across an expansive lawn. Upon entering the restaurant, the tang of earth and woods were exchanged for the rich scent of garlic and roast meat, drawing diners to tables where friendships would soon bloom.

Maitre d’Hotel Michael Stober arranges the nightly seating.

“Orchard Canyon creates a European dining experience, where strangers gather at the table, slow down and indulge,” he said. “They share names, then laughs, and often, phone numbers. It’s a luxury of time that resonates with our guests.”

The stone fireplace soars as the dining room’s centerpiece. Rough wood braces and paneling rekindle rustic beginnings. Pierced tin chandelier shades and Tiffany lamps complete the enduring effect. The Todds built the property in 1902 before Gary and Mary Garland cultivated the land as a resort for nearly five decades. Their name remained with the business for two transition years before Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge rebranded as Orchard Canyon on Oak Creek in 2017. Preserving the cherished landmark and its beautiful food was paramount. It succeeded; USA Today listed Orchard Canyon as a Top 10 Best Restaurant.

Seventeen bungalows are scattered over 10 lush acres, luring guests to the tranquil setting for many reasons. Some marry there, and others return regularly to celebrate the date. Dr. Rog Jenkins and his wife Dottie came from Prescott to mark 36 years of marriage as they have for a dozen previous anniversaries.

After hiking Sedona or slipping down Slide Rock, Orchard Canyon gathers guests at 4:00 p.m. for afternoon tea.

“It’s a chance for the back of the house to get creative,” Stober said. “Regulars take the opportunity to check out the evening’s imaginative menu.”

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SPIRIT OF THE OLD WEST

Mormon Lake Lodge Steakhouse

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, June 2018

Written by Gail G. Collins

When Mormon Lake Lodge invited the families of local ranchers and loggers to enjoy a steak and some lively music on a Saturday night, the owners likely never dreamed of its lasting impact. Originally dubbed Tombler’s Lodge in 1924, the name later changed to honor Mormon dairy farmers, who settled the area in the 1870s. The rustic outpost was remote enough to embrace local, calloused hands, yet enticing enough to draw guests from Flagstaff, and perhaps, further afield. The lodge still serves all of those purposes. The loyalty of rural residents remains strong and the pull for traditional steak, cooked over an open fire, lures travelers from Phoenix. Executive chef Dylan Gold, who plays with fire at the steakhouse, summed it up best, “Mormon Lake Lodge is a time capsule for the area.”

Mormon Lake Lodge has long been a statewide gathering point for rodeo events. In fact, the world’s largest jackpot team roping contest, is held there annually. Such devotion is longstanding and the reason the lodge is literally standing today. During the July 4th weekend events in 1974, a faulty heater caused a fire that burnt the lodge to the ground. True to the grit and determination it takes to rope and ride, the cowboys vowed to rebuild before the next event, Labor Day weekend. Volunteer labor coordinated and executed the timely construction project, and as protection, ranchers burned their brands into the walls. “People regularly come in and search for their family’s brand,” Chef Dylan said.

One thing survived the blaze—The Pit. As one of the state’s last open-pit barbecues, its name is hung alongside a pair of longhorns high above its leaping flames. The Pit produces grilled steak, chicken and ribs for 500 guests over busy holiday weekends. Mesquite chips lend the local smoke to meat that needs little else as far as seasoning. “We don’t muddy the quality flavor,” Dylan said. “Simplicity built the restaurant’s fame, and that means doing steak really well.”  Continue reading “SPIRIT OF THE OLD WEST”

Old School to Inventive

Jitters Lunchbox satisfies with wholesome meals

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, May 2018

Written by Gail Collins

Life can feel too busy to stop and eat a wholesome lunch. That’s bologna! In fact, stopping to eat a bologna sandwich can improve the rest of the day. A midday meal creates better mental and physical health. Pushing back from tasks with a change of venue is a necessary, nourishing break—the chance both to de-stress and raise blood sugar.

Stress steps up the flow of cortisol, which can lead to fat accumulation if elevated for long periods. This same function occurs from the physical stress of going long periods without eating. So, don’t even think about skipping lunch on a daily basis for weight control. Consistent fuel keeps the metabolism active.

Lunch re-energizes us and is especially important for children, who need calories to power through until dinner. Nutritionists recommend combining complex carbohydrates with lean protein for a concentrated, long-lasting burn. Lean turkey on wholegrain bread, cottage cheese with fruit or beef and vegetable soup with wild rice are great choices.

Jitters Lunchbox has been satisfying Flagstaff’s needs for flavor and fuel for decades.

Owners Sharlene and Reggie Fouser first opened Jitters Gourmet Coffee and Café on the east side in 1995 serving, healthy food, retail teas, beans and coffees. In 2000, they also launched Confetti’s Gifts and Party next door, but later, decided to operate only the party store.

“We missed feeding folks though; our customers were our friends,” Sharlene said.

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