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.