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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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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Barbecue & Beyond

Bigfoot makes a might mark in catering

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, April 2018

Written by Gail Collins

There are many reasons to hire a caterer for an event. For personal or professional gatherings, the benefits of leaving the prep to experts are as numerous as the guests. And the bottom line:  Caterers work hard to produce an effortless event, so hosts and guests can simply enjoy it.

The first step is hiring the right caterer, so pick up the promotional cards of creative crews at successful parties. Food is the overall factor, and the type of gathering determines the method and measure. If it’s a boxed lunch, a couple of options work well. For a cocktail a party, plan on 10 to 15 appetizers per person. A sit-down dinner requires more staffing, but people eat less than at buffets, where lines develop and stations require constant attention.

Defining a party timeline keeps it lively and curbs costs. Consider a cocktail party with staffed stations for building tacos or beef sliders to circulate guests. Cut bar bills by showcasing a specialty drink and use one glass for all beverages to reduce rentals. Skip the filet mignon and focus on trends, like ethnic stews or braised meats. In the end, a capable caterer can make your event unique, memorable and affordable.

Bigfoot BBQ earned a reliable reputation with Kim Duncan of Kim Duncan Designs for their fresh take and no boundaries approach to catering. Despite their legendary smoked meat, “We had the courage and confidence to branch out,” said J. Carnes, who partnered with Bigfoot in 2008, and now, concentrates on catering. A mac ‘n cheese bar, baked potato bar and calabacitas enchiladas offered unexpected options at a wedding reception for a vegetarian family.

The rustic joint in the basement of Old Town Shops celebrated 15 years in 2017 and finds its strength in a partnership that also includes Colby Ramsey, kitchen operations manager, and John Van Landingham, the business guru. In a setting of reclaimed barn wood, checked tablecloths and downhome charm, Bigfoot has flourished. With South Carolina and Kansas style barbecue backgrounds, diners have it all—rubbed, sauced, pulled or sliced.

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Cedar House Coffee Shop

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, March 2018

Written by Gail Collins

Women have an innate ability to juggle multiple tasks. Whether it’s prepping dinner with a baby on a hip or making a business call from the soccer practice sidelines, the balls stay mostly in the air. Perhaps, that is why women are natural entrepreneurs, where owners need to manage all facets of a business.

Diving into business is as earnest a commitment as caring for those we love. It also affords the same combination of challenges and rewards. Channeling realistic fear into motivation, expectations into short and long term goals and family support into a community network is a women’s typical to-do list, and it becomes profitable as a business venture. Confidence and competence are gained in the process.

“As a mother, I’m comfortable wearing many hats,” said Wendy Kuek, owner of Cedar House Coffee Shop in Flagstaff. She enjoys the stimulation her family business brings.

Kuek has lived and worked throughout the world from her native Asia to England and the U.S. “Each move built experience, cultural education and opportunities,” she said. And when the family moved to Flagstaff in 2016, the home educator and architect wanted to build community.

“In each locale, we extended ourselves, so the coffee shop is another example of that.”

Growing up in Singapore, food is a significant part of large, family events. Inspired later by Britain’s foodie networks, Wendy and her husband acted as bakers and cooks, aiming to recreate cuisine from their travels. Having a child with health concerns, it also was important to Kuek to make clean, quality food with known sources. She found Flagstaff is well suited for that despite its small town size.

“Food is nourishment and medicine in Asia,” Kuek said, “and Grandma would always ask, ‘What are you eating?’”

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Veg Out!

Finding great flavor in meatless dishes around town

Written by Gail Collins

Striving for healthful, responsible eating means including more veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Vegetarian dishes often invoke creativity and color urging cuisine in flavorful directions with earthy lentils, creamy cheeses, garden produce, aromatic spices and satiating sauces. Flagstaff has an abundance of such choices on the menus of our ratcheted-up restaurant scene. Here is overview of vegetarian dishes from some innovative kitchens.

Sosoba

This nonstop noodle shop is not just ramen, but a full-service restaurant incorporating authentic dishes with farmers market finds. The starters boast unique concepts:  balls of fire mac ‘n cheese; flash-fried cauliflower with madras curry aioli and scallions; steamed edamame dusted with zippy togarashi and more. The salads add inventive goods, like rice noodles, shaved veggies, nuts and seeds plus citrus-soy dressing. But who are we kidding? We’re here for the noodles. The SUV—So, You’re Vegan—piles noodles with roasted veggies, sautéed greens, squash and rayu’s chili-sesame spice for a Japanese curry. The Mothra bowl layers broccoli, peas, cabbage, herbs, sriracha, fried garlic and marinated tofu over the noodles. And Yakisoba is stir-fried carrots, onion, celery, garlic, scallions and herbs in a Thai peanut sriracha sauce. This noodle house is hot on a winter’s day. 12 E. Route 66, Suite 104

Root Public House

This rooftop bar and grill offer peaks views and comfort cooking. Chef and owner David Smith draws on a southern background for inspiration. Root changes up the menu weekly according to fresh accessible ingredients, but vegetarian dishes are always available. One option is the cold, roasted vegetable salad contains seasonal garden goodies tossed in cream cheese vinaigrette with a scattering of fermented black garlic. Of course, there are salads, like the baby greens topped with tempting bee pollen, feta, candied walnuts and carrot vinaigrette. For a savory main, try the ricotta gnocchi with seasonal vegetables, olive, lemon, Black Mesa Ranch goat cheese, plus pecans. 101 S. San Francisco St.

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Best Bakery

Tourist Home All Day Café

Written by Gail Collins

Donut mountains, bagged sugar cookies, pumpkin cheesecake rolls … the tempting pastry posts of #katthebaker to the Facebook page of Tourist Home All Day Café are continuous. It’s enough to cause a change in the morning’s plans to include a quick stop for sweet treats. That certainly seems to be the case—the pastry case, that is—as the numbers of folks picking up pastries has expanded like a warmed bowl of yeast dough.

Pastry Chef Kat Biemann has had her hands in the flour at Tourist Home for more than two years. In that time, batches of donuts readied for the fryer have literally risen from eight to 80. Three assistants have joined the bakery team to help knead, shape and prep.

Saturday is Donut Day, and with 300 freshly glazed circles of happiness on display, there is still no time to dawdle. “We are more popular because we carry more variety than other shops,” Kat said. Keep it quiet, but there are alternate venues for baked goods. The kitchen also supplies pastries to Rendezvous and macarons to Steep Tea Lounge, as well as the menu of desserts for Tourist Home’s related eateries, Tinderbox Kitchen and Annex Cocktail Lounge.

Other days of note for Tourist Home are Pretzel Fridays and Cinnamon Roll and Sticky Bun Sundays. We knew you had a need to know.

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LEGACY restaurant preserves its Italian tradition

Mamma Luisa Italian Restaurante

Written by Gail Collins

When you put your heart and soul into something, it becomes more than a business. To Tony Martinez, his restaurant became his love. Wife Lisa smiled and said simply, “Mamma Luisa’s was his pride and passion.” After a good night, Tony might say of their maturing business, “‘She’s so beautiful—let’s buy her a gift,’” Lisa mused.

The man in the double-breasted chef’s jacket with a toque smashed over a bush of curls died his unexpectedly in June. “Honoring Tony and continuing his legacy in operating the restaurant is important,” Lisa said, her voice catching. “The community support, sharing memories and celebrating Tony, has been inspiring.”

Tony had presided over the kitchen since 1984. The original owner, Ernesto, built his menu on his Italian mother Luisa’s cooking, and Tony employed the same craft. There are no microwaves, food warmers or vats of sauce, other than the long-simmered spaghetti standard used in a variety of ways. All dishes are made fresh to order, like the renowned stracciatella, a Roman egg-drop soup, and the bread is baked daily.

The guest book contains a long list of regulars known by their first names. “We’ve seen people get engaged, have children, and grow families of their own,” Lisa said. Day-trippers and annual trekkers on cross-country ventures plan a Flagstaff stop to dine. The experienced wait staff has logged nearly a decade on the floor and includes extended family. The kitchen crew apprenticed under Tony and carries his legacy forward.

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