In a complicated, crowded world, it is easy to see why KISS—or Keep It Simple Sweetheart—is an ascending principle and a darn good way to start off the New Year. After seasonal trimmings, January offers the opportunity to strip away the unnecessary. Many people de-clutter or simplify aspects of their lives. Whether it is cleaning out closets or losing weight, the idea of getting back to basics or KISS, is attractive indeed.
Perhaps, it is the less-is-more seduction, like the practicality of a little, black dress or the sleek lines of a sports car. Either way, simplicity sells. This ideal is also finding tasty traction in the food industry. Clear labeling informs, instead of confuses consumers; clean eating unplugs confounding nutritional concepts and dietary restrictions; and a short list of ingredients makes shopping and kitchen prep more inviting—and probable. Unadorned or natural foods, perceived as authentic and unpretentious, are welcoming. A siren call to simpler times and unsophisticated food with fewer and familiar fixings.
Haagen Dazs answered this call with its latest branding, called Five. It focuses on five ingredients in every carton, all things households generally have on hand, beginning with milk, cream, sugar and eggs plus the added delight of ginger in one case.
Tourist Home Urban Market is the newest property alongside Tinderbox and Annex, or as co-owner Scott Heinonen put it, “the final piece to the puzzle.” Heinonen finds KISS a guiding viewpoint. The three businesses continue an upbeat pace to downtown Flagstaff’s south side streets. “Across the properties, we keep the menus concise with limited description,” he explained. “Our philosophy is: The food is simple with three or four ingredients—whether it is a sandwich, entrée or dessert—and presented that way on the plate as well. We prefer to under-deliver on description and over-deliver with flavor on the plate.”
Layers of seasoning and intricate presentation blur the flavor forward simplicity and elegance of real food, so Market’s dishes entail a limited list of quality ingredients. The breakfast potato trilogy is a delicious example. With four types of spuds—red, russet, yam and Yukon—the foundation is laid for tweaking Southwestern fare. Use of Greek yogurt and house made harissa, instead of sour cream and salsa, plus a French pistou with herb and underlying sweetness, has created loyal fans. Ah, the modest potato takes center stage.
Daily breakfast and lunch specials deliver plenty of flexibility, and Heinonen provides interesting elements from which his chefs draw inspiration. Recently, it was sauerkraut. The fermenting cabbage can be utilized at different points in the process, presenting unique flavor profiles. A heaping helping of the pickled slaw on pumpernickel ratchets up the Market’s lean and tender strip steak “pastrami” sandwich. A dribble of thousand island and melty gruyere make for a hearty handful plus a pile of pearly, pistou Israeli couscous and lively mixed greens.
Diners likely don’t realize that a great deal of thought goes into building every sandwich at the Market. Playing on the KISS principle, Heinonen instructs chefs to deconstruct the simple act of getting a stack of delectable ingredients into one’s mouth. “A sandwich should be quick and easy, not muddled or a mess between two slices of bread,” he said. In other words, guests aren’t interested in an ego-driven chef’s sandwich spectacular, just a spectacular sandwich.
Breakfast is popular at the Market. Perfectly poached eggs jiggle and wait to ooze over a pool of coarse-ground, blue cheese grits. Three sturdy, smoked bacon strips accompany the plate with crostini to daub the remnants. The breakfast burrito is anecdotally the best in town with fluffy scrambles mixed with tater tot crunch. A generous bowl of cut melon, apple and grapes with scattered mint adds freshness on the side.
The Market’s space—flooded with natural light and streamlined steel in the long table and window seat bars—directs diners to a central case, filled with grab-and-go savory and sweet plus cheese and meat choices. Pastries are made fresh daily and abound on Saturday via Kat Biemann’s longtime expertise. A variety of donuts, airy macarons, berry crumb cake or homemade brown sugar Pop-Tarts tempt, so mix and match a basket of three for $7.
Heinonen hinted that more is planned with ready-to-eat suppers and even a bottle of wine from the owners’ interest, Sutcliffe Vineyards, for purchase. With a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. timeframe, Tourist Home Urban Market is capitalizing on the need for speed and simplified nourishment.
NAMLM Gail G. Collins