Eat ‘n Run Café satisfies with a fresh and convenient menu

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, May 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

Sometimes, we take the happy things in our midst for granted. That has been the frequent refrain from new customers to a li’l Flagstaff café on the corner of Route 66 and Fourth Street.

The welcoming homey building in grey with sunny accents offers patio seating and a cheery interior. Slate and rustic wood with a fireplace, denim and yellow paint throughout and plenty of table or counter seating offers a view of the iconic Mother Road. A mural of the shop and San Francisco Peaks shows a heart in the community. Its slick clock logo with fork and knife hands reminds guests of the fast and fresh food found at Eat ‘n Run Café.

Mounted on the wall, a bicycle acts as a connection point for owners Wes and Sarah Neal, who also manage Bright Angel Bicycles and Café at Mather Point. That grab and go coffee shop with pre-made products provisions their tour operations and canyon visitors.

The Neals began their original venture as a wholesale outfit with catering services. Retail took a backseat, but in 2014, their location in Sunnyside pushed them to meet the needs of convenience store customers. The couple renovated and moved into their current location in 2018.

“Sarah designed everything,” Wes said with admiration, “the look and feel and pops with color.”

Hailing from South Africa, Sarah’s background influenced the cafe recipes. With an avocado tree in her yard, she enjoyed nutritious avocado toast long before it trended on American menus. Fresh avocado slices on crostini are topped with garlic infused olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, fresh dill, red pepper flakes and sea salt. Or go West Coast with chili cream cheese, bacon and ceviche onions.

All dressings, sauces and soups are house made with quality products.

“People like convenience, but not the usual upscale price tag,” Sarah said. “We are better value for money and high on flavor.”

Local vendors include Village Bakery, Tender Heart Cookies in Sedona for vegan, gluten-free enticing sweets and Firecreek Coffee Company.

At Eat ‘n Run Café, there is no need to special order from the espresso bar, as many drinks are named for frequent customers. Try the fragrant, soothing Neta Bee. This lavender latte blends espresso, honey, lavender syrup and milk.

For many, a smoothie is the super sipper start, and Eat ‘n Run Café makes its blended drinks from whole foods. Most shops use a commercial concentrate, but their smoothies contain no fillers, just wholesome fruits, veggies, syrups, milks and juices. All can be customized or lightened.

The boatmen’s breakfast will float your oats with chocolate, peanut butter, oatmeal, banana, hazelnut and caramel syrups, espresso and your milk of choice. It’s thick with childhood flavors. The Popeye is vibrant and healthy with lively green apple, baby spinach, fresh lime and mint, plus pineapple and apple juices. The morning glory brightens your outlook with pineapple, mango, a touch of basil and orange juice. The Sonoran sunrise whips organic prickly pear—with flavor and health benefits—mixed berries, orange juice, lemon and prickly pear syrup. This dairy-free choice reveals tart and tasty textures, or add yogurt to keep it creamy.

For a heartier start, order the Hatch and hash burrito. Slow-roasted pork, Hatch green chilies, scrambled eggs, potatoes, house-made salsa, jack cheese and cilantro lime dressing are wrapped in a tortilla to go or for dine-in.

“We’ve worked hard to create more variety—our choices are niche, new,” Sarah said. “We keep to traditional recipes and nod to trends.”

The Mexican chopped salad is the best blend of proteins and greens. Slow roasted pork is piled on mixed greens with bacon, red onion, bell peppers, grape tomatoes, black beans, avocado, dehydrated corn, feta and a choice of cilantro lime dressing or chipotle ranch. Toasted French bread adds warm crunch.

The big apple sandwich loads pecan-smoked bacon, Granny Smith apples slices, lightly dressed arugula and sharp cheddar on a butter croissant. It is pressed and served with spicy honey mustard for dipping. All sandwiches come with a choice of a pickle and chips or lemon garlic kale salad.

Simplify with a soup or salad and sandwich combo for $10, back by popular demand.

This locally-owned, family-oriented shop is open for breakfast and lunch, closing in mid-afternoon, every day except Sunday.

“We like our evenings at home, and our kids are our priority,” Wes said.

Sarah added, “We have a happy customer base and serve the community in this go-to spot.”  

So, grab a bite of something real and fresh to pick you up or calm you down, as their menu suggests. NAMLM

If you go

Eat ‘n Run Café is located at 2400 W. Historic Route 66. Order dine-in, take-out or delivery Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m., or Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Visit www.goodeatson66.com to view the menu and order online.

https://azdailysun.com/entertainment/dining/matters-of-taste-eat-n-run-caf-satisfies-with-a-fresh-and-convenient-menu/article_72dda141-552b-5ee4-a573-9650e1906c53.html

Health: Telehealth here to stay

Written by Gail G. Collins

Until recently, a virtual visit with a physician via computer screen to discuss or assess a medical condition had the whiff of sci-fi, but the future arrived quickly.

“If there has been a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been the positive impact and growth of Virtual Care (Telehealth) … which allowed NAH (Northern Arizona Healthcare) and other health systems across the nation to fully embrace virtual care delivery,” director Travis Boren said.

Prior to the pandemic, telehealth had limited, but growing, application and acceptance. A host of barriers blocked broader usage of telehealth, such as insurance coverage, patient comfort, technology access, privacy and so on. As businesses shut down or migrated to home-based work, the overall need for health access increased. Policymakers, insurers and health systems searched for methods to deliver care to patients in their homes to limit transmission of the virus.

NAH had been working to expand telehealth for a decade, beginning with remote patient monitoring. After rapid expansion of virtual care programs, the focus is stabilizing the ecosystem.

“Key investments will continue to be made in the coming six-to-12 months to support our virtual visit, remote patient monitoring and acute telehealth capabilities,” Boren added.

When regulations were lifted after the first quarter in 2020, North Country Healthcare grew its site-to-site telehealth program to in-home visits using Zoom by leveraging the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth grants. This summer, the Patient Portal will transition to an integrated platform for smooth access without an app to enhance the workflow.  

North Country offered refills, medication changes, lab follow-ups and review, general questions as well as chronic patient care.

“Should there be any need for a physical exam or in-person tests, labs or imaging, we can then schedule curbside, in-office or referrals,” said chief medical officer April Alvarez-Corona, MD.

The pandemic created more than a physical health crisis. According to Pew Research Center, by May, one-third of Americans had already experienced high levels of psychological distress related to the outbreak.

Cultivate Counseling made a big pivot in March, moving its services solely to telehealth to provide a smooth transition of care. The rate of cancellations fell as access to therapy sessions rose. Patients can open a laptop, log in and receive therapy.

“People can pop in during lunch, from work or at home with the kids,” said clinical director and owner Melissa Dohse. “There are more benefits than drawbacks, and most (clients) prefer telehealth.”

Though developing a sense of connectedness may be harder for some, for others, the comfort of a familiar setting promotes connection. Therapist backgrounds are kept neutral and environments quiet. Dohse serves a lot of parents, who no longer have to plan for childcare, and sometimes, life introduces real-time learning and application during a session.

To assure privacy in telehealth, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing and text messaging are used to communicate.

Junto Skin and Laser did not use virtual appointments previously, but quickly adopted them for consultations and follow-ups.

“In our industry, people tend to feel like they need to be seen in person to be understood or properly evaluated—and in some cases, this is true,” said Amy Aranda, LE LMT CLT. She recognizes telehealth is a useful tool for determining whether the business can fit the client’s needs. “It also can help us set up a plan and is an effective communication tool prior to appointments, so clients know how to prep for actual treatment.”

Sufficient broadband to carry video conferences initially across the industry, and other challenges, such as Zoom fatigue, have added a new dimension to administering care. There are still hurdles to overcome related to technical access across lower income demographics and isolated geographic areas, but infrastructure grants and investments at the state and federal level aim to bridge this gap.

Today and looking forward, telehealth will continue to be a critical strategy for consultations, follow-ups, chronic circumstances, remote locales, mental therapy and more. The proper hybrid balance of in-person care and telehealth offers opportunities and efficiency for the best fit for provider and patient as far as preference and convenience. Delivering quality care anytime or anywhere enhances the patient experience overall.

https://azdailysun.com/healthcare-telehealth-here-to-stay/article_a086ecb5-777e-55b1-997a-4870fde51345.html

Amangiri Executive Chef Anthony Marazita

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, April 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

Framed by the dunes and ridges of the Colorado Plateau, Amangiri blends into the wildscape. Located 25 miles from Page, the secluded resort offsets the raw aesthetic with streamlined elegance. The poured concrete structure of neutral tones and textures takes full advantage of the panorama while affording pared back serenity.

Amangiri opened in 2009 after a six-year building process. Two wings contain 34 suites, many with desert or mesa views, private plunge pools and fireplaces. Its central pool hugs a 65 million-year-old rock outcrop, a setting reminiscent of Horseshoe Bend. Sister property Camp Sarika, Sanskrit for “open sky,” enables wilderness encounters without compromising comfort.

Located on 600 acres in Utah, the resort is within reach of five national parks. Day tripping includes the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon or Monument Valley’s buttes or a splash in Lake Powell. Property adventures offer hiking trails to explore with resident guides, horseback riding and a sunset hot air balloon launch.

An intimate personal journey begins in the spa with the full complement of massages and outdoor treatment terraces, plus flotation and water pavilions with steam, sauna and cold plunge invigoration. Then, indulge the body with nourishing meals that combine Indigenous ingredients with global accents.

Amangiri’s adventurous cuisine is executive chef Anthony Marazita’s signature. 

“The over-tweezed 12-course meal is a thing of the past,” he said. “Simple, but elegant, dishes with high-end quality ingredients—paying homage to a classic meatloaf, for example—that satisfies people.”

The southwest is familiar as the chef grew up in a family restaurant in Reno, Nevada, where he said he fell in love with taking care of people.  

Most kids collected Ninja turtles; Marazita collected cookbooks. The contrasting styles of Charlie Trotter, whose chic presentation established Chicago as a serious dining destination, versus Lyon’s Paul Bocuse with a profound respect for local products and meticulous cooking processes, fascinated him.

The homegrown chef learned from the dishwasher to the line cook on up. From fine dining apprenticeships in Napa and San Francisco in his teens with exposure to international fare through the galleys of lavish hotels on the West Coast to indulging premiere guests at Starwood Hotel and Resort’s St. Regis in Kauai and Sheraton Grand in Scottsdale, Marazita earned his kitchen credentials.

In 2017, the same tug of stark sophistication that draws luxury clients to Amangiri also drew Marazita. With a wife and young daughter, and employed in an industry with high demands on his personal time, a life nestled into nature provides a superior existence. 

The remote locale presents business opportunities and challenges. The biggest is recruiting, and investment in a bullpen to build the team has been key. Stewards become dishwashers, who then train as cooks, fostering skills.

Marazita sources heritage products from local tribes—Navajo, Pima, Maricopa, Akimel O’Odham, Paiute and Hopi—adding a refined twist to classics.

“We embrace customization and cater to that, making dishes approachable,” he said. “Our guests travel the world, and they want simple done right.”

A collaboration of the tribes is best experienced in the Spirit of the Journey tasting. Four courses introduce guests to  k’os, or “flight,” with mesquite-smoked duck breast with petite frisée nest, poached hen’s egg, sweet potato twigs and charred citrus vinaigrette; to`, or “water,” as blue corn polenta with sweet butter poached lobster, goat cheese and fry bread popover; dzeh kayenta, or “hunters pit,” presents a choice of chili-rubbed, crusted elk loin or ruby trout with sweet pea purée; and u`kan, or “sweet one,” closes with a 60-day corn cheesecake with desert pear, hibiscus gloss and saguaro syrup. Wine pairings are available to enhance this eclectic excursion.

A la carte menu options range from starters, such as tepary bean hummus or posole—a green chili stew with native hominy and chemith. Entrées include a poke bowl—furikake sushi rice with big eye tuna, pickled cucumber, avocado, jalapeño, sprouts, smoked chili aioli and sesame seeds—or wood-fired black oak pizzas, like the Basque—house chorizo, San Marzano sauce, Kalamata olives, hearts of artichoke, local chevre and baby arugula.

Now, sit back, sip a cocktail and take in the timeless view. Rejuvenate with revify—Hendrick’s gin, citrusy yuzu, cucumber and cracked pepper, or try a teasing mocktail, like Serenity now—raspberry, lavender, grapefruit soda and sage.

Amangiri appeals to those who wish to escape and enjoy austere magnificence in every way. As general manager Julien Surget reminded, “Reconnect and restore. Amangiri is a healthy blend of adventure in the morning, wellness in the afternoon and beautiful food to cap it off.” Steal away to Amangiri, the Peaceful Mountain. NAMLM

https://azdailysun.com/matters-of-taste-amangiri-executive-chef-anthony-marazita/article_24b7f86f-9c0b-5fcb-93a3-df5a36b66322.html

Turquoise Room’s ongoing success builds on its Southwest strengths

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, February 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

Grandeur never fades. In the case of the landmark La Posada Hotel, it has endured some humbling moments, but its prominence continues, true to its original vision.

Fred Harvey Company completed the building of La Posada Hotel in 1930 to serve as the “Resting Place,” as its Spanish name imparts. Purposefully situated as a resort for northern Arizona, the hotel proffered the luxury of linens, china, crystal and, importantly, the flawless service synonymous with Harvey, who “civilized the West.” The hospitality tycoon developed and ran the hotels along the Santa Fe Railroad, marking La Posada as the finest in the Southwest.

Grand Canyon artist and architect Mary Colter worked for Fred Harvey Company, designing everything from La Posada’s functional layout to its maids’ costumes and niche tableware. A fantasy backstory projected the property as a Spanish landowner’s grand hacienda, and attention to detail in art and artifice enhanced that image. Colter also fashioned the railroad dining car for the Super Chief, which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, dubbing it the Turquoise Room. Starlets and icons, such as Shirley Temple, Amelia Earhart, President Harry Truman and Albert Einstein, embraced the chic transportation.

La Posada closed in 1957, then was gutted and turned into offices for the railroad. A few times, it was slated for demolition, before it was rescued by in 1997 by Allen Affeldt and wife Tina Mion and restoration began.

In 2000, Affeldt invited John and Patricia Sharpe to explore the renovation of the historic property. It needed a restaurant comparable to its celebrated caliber. Sharpe left four acclaimed restaurants and a 25-year culinary career in Orange County and moved to Winslow.

The location was as appealing to Sharpe as it had been to Harvey. An interstate highway, the romance of Route 66, Grand Canyon National Park and other international tourist sites drew millions of annual visitors and lay within a comfortable reach. Still, no destination dining existed between Flagstaff and Albuquerque.

As chef-owner, Sharpe executed the vision for the Turquoise Room’s stylish features, from exposed beams, stained glass, pressed tin and tile to carved chairs. Patricia added imaginative influence with leather-topped tables and painted vintage placemats.

Staffing from a small pool was difficult. The team was trained from the ground up, and a strong crew endures.

“People thought we wouldn’t make it,” Sharpe said of when the Turquoise Room opened on Oct. 10, 2000. With a wry smiled, he added, “It was all we could do to keep up with the people coming through the door.”

The Turquoise Room’s menu melds traditional Southwest flavors with artistic arc. The braised Churro lamb is a stalwart example and found in a host of dishes, like Native cassoulet with elk sausage, lamb chop and duck confit.

To spearhead local sourcing in California, Sharpe drove to San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente for direct access to farmers. His interest in Native American culinary history prompted him to host Indigenous feasts at Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana. In Arizona, he allied with Gary Nabhan at the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University to prosper relationships and venues, like Flagstaff Community Market.

Sharpe is a chef with a conscience. He built bonds with local tribes—the Tohono O’odham, Navajo, Hopi and Zuni—to provide ancient produce, like tepary beans, cholla buds, acorns, and products, like Churro sheep and delicate piki bread, to complement authentic recipes. Try the bison ribs or red posole with lamb and pork.

This attention to detail earned the Turquoise Room such accolades as Condé Naste’s Best Food Award, a listing among Arizona Highway’s Best 75 Restaurants and the New York Times highlight of rediscovered glory among many more. In 2012, the James Beard Foundation announced Sharpe as a semi-finalist for Best Chef.

On Oct. 1, 2020, Sharpe retired from 20 years in his creative kitchen. He praised Patricia’s backing and recognized diners’ special connections. In the last months, patrons savored a meal, shook Sharpe’s hand and offered thanks.

“The important thing is to support our team,” Sharpe said. “They are the success of this restaurant—they execute.”

Rest assured, this gem is in the capable hands of Chef Jesus Nuñez, Sharpe’s right-hand man of 33 years, and an accomplished staff. The humble chef is driving the menu in a delicious direction, while building on its Southwest strengths.

General Manager Johnny Jackson III confirmed longtime guests are delighted with the host of persistent favorites alongside fresh approaches.

“People come here to create great memories, and this has continued,” he said. “Last year brought a younger crowd of families to this magical place, and we’re inspired and hopeful.”

Chef Nuñez hails from Jalisco, Mexico, and blends his background with the menu’s assets. For Thanksgiving, Nuñez prepared a Latin turkey, marinating the fowl in achiote paste, featuring chili, garlic and cumin with sweet prune sauce, which garnered rave reviews. Other additionsto the line-up include pork chops in tamarind sauce and grilled fresh trout with roasted vegetables, a popular pick.

“We will continue the same traditions in level of service, quality of food and local sourcing, so nothing has changed,” Nuñez assured. “The groundwork for this exceptional hotel has been laid, and we will keep the train on the track.”

So, the grandeur guests expect from their beloved La Posada’s Turquoise Room carries forward, even as new relationships are forged. NAMLM

If you go

The Turquoise Room at La Posada is located at 305 E. Second St. in Winslow. Visit www.theturquoiseroom.net to browse the menu, make a reservation and learn more.

Price: $$-$$$

https://azdailysun.com/turquoise-room-s-ongoing-success-builds-on-its-southwest-strengths/article_5a609b9f-f985-5719-bfd9-30f54e7c59d9.html

Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano celebrates 25 years

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, January 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

Champagne luxe satin chairs surround cozy tables set with crisp, fine linens and sparkling stemware. Rough stone arches and pillars frame the setting while dark wood, gilded accents and bejeweled lighting suggest the timeless ambiance of a Tuscan trattoria. The syncopated swing of a jazz trio swirls amid guests’ subtle conversations, and Lisa Dahl breathes a thankful sigh. She is proud that “her baby”—Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano—grew up to be as lovely as she had imagined it 25 years ago.

Remarking on the transformation over time, the chef-owner said, “We had absolutely zero budget, but every time there was a little extra money in the bank, we did something to bring more beauty to the restaurant and the cuisine’s flavors.”

Dahl had left the Bay Area and everything she loved before planting an Italian restaurant on a corner in Sedona across the street from another Italian place. Nothing like head-to-heart competition. But the self-taught chef had a secret weapon—moxie—exhibited as courage, spirit and heart.

“It had to be Italian for multiple reasons,” Dahl said. “It was the ‘90s, and Italian was trending in spots one, two and three, but it was always my plan. Now, we’ve arrived at our silver anniversary, and although many things are bittersweet this year, we’re still commemorating all of the hearts and palates we’ve touched over the years.”

Dahl & Di Luca pioneered Sedona’s fine-dining scene and is celebrating that silver lining. Now through Jan. 30, a four-course, prix-fixe menu, priced from $65 per person, honors some of the most popular dishes over the years. The menu features an antipasti of the Caprese d’ Amore and Arancini, a primi of Ravioli Romana, an entrée choice of Vitello Picatta or Prawns Fiorentina, capped with a dessert duet of tiramisu and baby cannoli.

For pure pleasure, the star-studded jazz trio of vocalist Vismaya Hagelberg, bassist Theodore Sistrunk and pianist Ioannis Goudelis will entertain from 7-10 p.m.

Dahl feels an unspoken higher purpose to dining which also translates as community goodwill. As a result, Dahl Restaurant Group will be donating a generous percentage of anniversary sales to the Children and Family Services Center Foundation.

From the beginning, Dahl envisioned her cuisine signaling a shift in her own style—healthy, with a lighter flair to the traditional approach with a comfortable elegance. The restaurant’s affectionate nickname, D & D, embodies that image.

Dahl has refined the art of delicate, yet sophisticated, dishes, utilizing the highest quality purveyors, organically grown produce and wild-caught seafood.

“From a robust red to delicate lemon to cream sauces with a hint of truffle, there is balance in the meats, sustainable seafood and colorful plates,” Dahl said. “We have the freedom to grow the menu and work with the chefs to be innovative, while revering the classics.”

The Arancini are handmade risotto balls. Sweep the crispy morsel with a molten center of baby peas, spicy peppers and mozzarella through the signature sauce and allow all the sensory elements to collide.

New menu items also emerged in the New Year. The Chilean seabass is pure white, pan sautéed, topped with Gulf Rock shrimp scampi and served over primavera vegetables tossed in an orzo pilaf. The calamari steak is sautéed dore style accompanied by jumbo seared scallops with a white wine garlic, parsley and lemon sauce on angel hair pasta—reminiscent of abalone. Another show stopper is aragosta fra diavolo with chunks of Canadian lobster swimming in spicy Vodka sauce over tubular garganelli.

Dahl is a James Beard-featured chef and was named Arizona Top Chef in 2018 from the Arizona Restaurant Association’s Foodist Awards. With a strong commitment to excellence, the team consistently retains TripAdvisor’s fine dining spot. An expansive wine list, cataloging more than 1,000 bottles, supports the Wine Spectator’s Award for Excellence for the past 15 years. Alongside D & D, other Dahl dining successes include Cucina Rustica, Pisa Lisa, Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill and Butterfly Burger.

The soul longs for whiff of gala, so D & D encourages guests to strut their stuff with resort casual dress guidelines. Or dine more casually al fresco, where wrought iron and pavers coupled with statuary and columns form a classy courtyard.

“Our signature style at D & D is that the place gets better with age,” Dahl said. “It doesn’t venture from consistent quality, delicious food and upscale service.”

Old World charm meets modern romance. Come and celebrate, and then, come again. NAMLM

If you go

Visit www.dahlanddiluca.com for location details and reserve a table by calling 282-5219 or visit www.opentable.com/dahl-and-diluca-ristorante-italiano

https://azdailysun.com/entertainment/dining/sedonas-dahl-di-luca-ristorante-italiano-celebrates-25-years/article_b6e7d0d3-286b-55e5-9865-ded459e2a1e7.html

Flagstaff Station Market Café pays homage to history with convenient and tasty food

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, December 2020

Written by Gail G. Collins

Repurposing is the process by which something of value is transformed. That definition describes the quick and clever conversion of an historic 1962 gas station to a retail coffee pit stop to its current collaboration of local goods at Flagstaff Station Market Café—a place where people can gather and linger.

After Late for the Train relocated, the coffee spot was honed and expanded to serve tourists on their way to the Grand Canyon, skiers looking for a bite and a beer, or neighbors, who can swing in to collect eggs, milk and bread.

“On the road to Snowbowl, everyone going to ski goes past us,” co-owner Frank Garrison said. “We can fuel your day or power your hike.”

The Station opened on Sept. 11 after a lightning speed gut and earnest DIY upgrade.

“It took four weeks to transform the space with dawn to dusk effort,” partner Jenn Cohen said. “Neighbors watched, cheered and checked on the progress—a welcome addition to a longtime neighborhood.”

Previously, the couple owned the Butterfly Garden Inn along State Route 89A. With affection for Flagstaff’s favorable climate, they moved with a comparable business idea in mind.

A large parking lot with a sprawling patio and deck invite customers to dash in for coffee and a pastry or lounge through lunch with a panini. The Station is dog-friendly and resides within walking or biking distance of thousands of homes.

The Station has not forgotten its roots. Metal art and menu choices are a nod to its original purpose as a filling station. Now, it fills guests with food and drink.

“Old timers remember when it was a gas station, and it has long been referred to as Flag Station,” Cohen said. “It was the most natural thing in the world to come full circle.”

Breakfast paninis are named for landmarks, like the Humphreys—scrambled farm fresh eggs with smoked Gouda cheese and applewood smoked bacon—or the San Francisco—truffle goat cheese, scrambled eggs, roasted red bell peppers and arugula. Hot lunch sandwiches reference area roads, like Route 66—Black Forest ham, caramelized onion jam, Gruyère cheese and baby arugula.

Rough-hewn wood booths, tables, painted concrete flooring, retro lighting with steel and wire accents feel comfortable while pops of deep red in the ceiling and trim enliven the space. Many local products are for sale, bridging the gap between souvenirs and staples: artisan postcards, books, honey, goat milk beauty notions, beer, wine and more. Most are created within a mile of The Station.

Half of the beers for sale are from Flagstaff with must-haves from other small breweries filling the gaps, such as Walter Station, a Phoenix brewing company located in a former firehouse.

The bakers begin at 3 a.m. to supply a dozen different morning sweets by 6 a.m., always with a gluten-free option among them. The Danishes are a consistent hit as are the croissants—enormous, yet light. The cheddar and onion biscuits hide savory pockets in every bite. Nearby residents of The Peaks, A Senior Living Community  often come by for their favorites.

As the previous shop focused on coffee for more than three decades, expectations are high for The Station. Garrison has been involved with coffee since he was 15 years old and a partnership with Matador Coffee Roasting has produced a special blend, labeled and bagged for The Station. The Brazilian Sul de Minos and Tanzanian Peaberry combo crafts a full-bodied cup of joe. Whole leaf blended teas from Matador also fulfill caffeine cravings.

“The quality and consistency is spot on. Once people try us, they’re happy,” Cohen said. “Customers move us to tears with their compliments.”

As far as food, Cohen conjures ingredients, while Garrison tailors recipes. The couples’ 14-year-old daughters drove the need to fashion the perfect chai, mixing spices, concentrating the liquid and adding a splash of agave syrup. Served hot or cold, add a shot to make it dirty.

Last highpoints include the waffle, which is gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free, yet rests on its Belgian bonafides. Made with almond flour and coconut sugar, it is topped with maple syrup or handmade whipped cream with organic vanilla syrup. The 180 panini with pesto Genovese, fresh tomatoes, turkey and provolone is melty marvelous.

At The Station Market Café, everything comes together in a sweet locale that encourages pop-in traffic, a family stop with the dog in tow or that per-chance date night. Just say, “Meet me at The Station.” NMLM

If you go:

Flagstaff Station Market Café is located at 1800 N. Fort Valley Rd. Stop by any day of the week between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Visit www.flagstaffstation.com for more information.

https://azdailysun.com/entertainment/dining/flagstaff-station-market-caf-pays-homage-to-history-with-convenient-and-tasty-food/article_3d155152-3a7b-5163-8cea-ab40c074ad51.html

Fratelli Pizza: Best Pizza

Best of Flagstaff December 2020

Written by Gail G. Collins

From the beginning, brothers Brent and Pete Schepper were all in and motivated to succeed in the pizza business. In 2002, they opened Fratelli Pizza in a 500-square-foot space that seated four and focused on the grab-n-go lunch crowd. Two slices from a 20-inch pie—which is still cut into six substantial pieces today—plus a drink cost $4.25. At first it was mainly service industry folk, like bartenders, servers and cooks, bound for work who swung by. The brothers also strolled the streets, offering free slices and catering to small businesses with limited staff restricted from stepping out for a bite.

In 2004, Fratelli Pizza expanded and moved to the former location of a Pizza Hut—the first in Arizona—and again three years later, to their current downtown location. Add the Fourth Street space, and three years ago, the Fort Valley Road spot, and their feat is multiplied.

It’s no wonder the local pizza shop has garnered the Best Pizza award each year since they began.

Brent Schepper spoke for the brothers. “It’s let us know we’re keeping standards fair and continuing to be a strong part of the Flagstaff community.” 

Of course that doesn’t mean he’s letting his guard down anytime soon, hoping to keep the title for many more years. Fratelli attributes its favor to high end ingredients like Wisconsin whole-milk mozzarella, house made sauce and dough topped with quality, cured meats.

Even during the pandemic, when supply issues caused prices on cheese and fine meats to spike, Schepper said, “We always strove to get the best and ours cost more—we pay that.” As far as handcrafted pizza, he qualified, “We’re still competitive.”

Despite the crashing waves of 2020, Fratelli righted its ship quickly, according to Schepper. With the take-out business at the forefront, a loyal customer base supported them in tandem with longtime fundraising efforts for schools and charities.

Respect is universal at Fratelli Pizza. The business moved to a minimum $15 per hour wage before the law required it.

“Employees had paid vacations 15 years ago and health insurance 12 or 13 years ago—always ahead of the game on state initiatives,” Schepper said.

That is reciprocated by pizza makers, staff and managers, who strive to create the best product with attention to preparation, cooking and customer service. Partnering with Door Dash offered the latest delivery option.

Pete brought the pizza experience to the mix, crafting recipes and building the menu, and with a little “dough” from their parents, Schepper said, “We were all in.”

They had good credit, but sometimes, no cash in the till to make change. The razor thin margins were a proving ground. Daily, the shop did not close until the phone stopped ringing.

Fratelli’s lunch special is $10 today, but as plate-filling as ever. The traditional pizzas sell best, like the Works with red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, olives, onion and bell pepper, or the Margherita with red sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, basil pesto, Roma tomatoes and garlic.

The specialty pizzas at Fratelli are truly unique. The best seller Route 66 pizza honors the Mother Road with BBQ sauce, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, bacon, roasted Hatch green chilies and red peppers, grilled chicken and red onion. The Pesto Cashew pizza layers basil pesto with mozzarella, grilled chicken, roasted cashews, red onion, mushrooms and blue cheese crumbles.

“This one stands out—roasted cashews on the baking pizza release oil from the nuts and a pop of salt,” Schepper said. “We don’t see anything like it at the pizza shows.”

Guests can also grab a salad to get their veg on. Whether it is the Anti-Pasta medley of mixed spring greens, topped with genoa salami, ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, banana peppers, green olives, artichoke hearts and grape tomatoes or a simple garden salad of fresh greens, cucumbers, black olives, shredded carrots and tomatoes,  it is the ranch dressing that maintains a fervent following. Guests come with mason jars to see them through until their next fix.

“Pizza is simple—crust, sauce and cheese made right, and it’s all good,” Schepper said. “We’re grateful for the continued support and will continue to provide the best.” BESTofFLAG2020

https://azdailysun.com/fratelli-pizza-best-pizza/article_36dcbbe6-f6bf-5c13-b71c-d04b1dcd2fdf.html

Josephine’s Modern American Bistro a Flagstaff icon

Best of Flagstaff December 2020:  Best Fine Dining

Written by Gail G. Collins

Josephine’s Modern American Bistro sits on the hill in a Craftsman bungalow just above downtown. It is an icon as far as the building’s historic stature—built in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places—as is the restaurant, which has striven to offer classy, classic fare since 2002. Such diligence and happy patronage has earned Josephine’s the Best Fine Dining award.

Owners Tony Cosentino and wife Marlene, who manages the operations, shared, “We are honored and proud for the award. What makes us stand out is that we are owner-run; it is not just about business for us. We are and have been a part of the community for decades. We love Flagstaff and want to put our contribution into making it a special place.”

As the bistro is chef-owned, the menu of comfort foods with a fancy twist is forefront. Cosentino is notable in his own right, gathering experience as Executive Chef at Forest Highlands and L’Auberge Restaurant in Sedona before founding Josephine’s. Still, Cosentino, a Chef of the Year recipient, gives enormous credit to his chefs, Manny Ramirez and Ivan Fuentes, who total 15 years’ combined experience at Josephine’s. Remaining teachable and humble are their team strengths.

“Often you meet chefs, or for that manner, people in many professions, who think they know all there is to know. We are not afraid to step back and learn something new,” Cosentino said. “That gives us the ability to continue to improve.”

Improving on gold standards keeps their menu lively and engaging—the kitchen has offered a fried green tomato dish each summer for years. This past season, the chefs varied the prep to create pepita cornmeal fried green tomatoes with grilled panela cheese, pepita pesto and pickled red onions.

“This is a good example of how we keep things fresh,” Cosentino said. “We aren’t afraid to take an old restaurant standard item and change it up to improve on it.”

Southwestern influences are natural, too, and expected by tourists and locals alike.

A headline choice is the osso buco, a traditional Italian dish of braised pork shanks. The bistro puts a twist on the herbs and spices to showcase an achiote demi-glace served with sweet, green chili polenta for regional flare and a side of sautéed baby vegetables. A Lapis Luna Zinfandel is suggested for pairing.

Alongside popular menu items, seasonal showstoppers arrive with the harvest produce. Menus regularly reflect updates on favorite dishes or innovative new ideas, sometimes found on a trip to Mexico or a cruise in French Polynesia. 

Overall, Josephine’s menu is comfort-food driven. Many people have mouth-watering memories of meals that tug at the heartstrings, especially in the winter months. Perhaps that is why entrees like Diablo Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese with its seashell pasta in smoked Gouda sauce, topped with sun-dried tomatoes and pickled red onions and wild Mexican shrimp retains firm footing with diners. Cosentino recommends sipping a St. Francis Chardonnay.

The menu gently guides diners to perfect pairings with the bistro’s creative cuisine, but an extensive wine list broadens the choices. It has been featured on the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for years running.

The casual and comfortable bistro is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Two fireplaces chase away the chill of wintery weather and add romantic ambiance. On warm days, the landscaped patio beckons. That garden space is set for expansion with new decking, pavers and more umbrellas to make the most of our elevated summers.

“Food and service are crucial in the fine dining experience, but the whole package includes the atmosphere, and our patio rocks it,” Cosentino said.

As others in the industry coped, Josephine’s also met the pandemic challenges with safety protocols and procedures, and the patio afforded pleasant, outdoor seating options.

Like the heritage home on the hill, Josephine’s Modern American Bistro appreciates the classics, but focuses excitedly forward.

“Whether it is in the kitchen or the front of the house,” Cosentino said, “we keep on top of our game to provide the full experience for our guests. It truly is the people working on our team who make the difference.” BESTofFLAG2020

https://azdailysun.com/josephine-s-modern-american-bistro-a-flagstaff-icon/article_8f9de0d4-6111-5343-a951-bed2383a384e.html

Aloha Hawaiian BBQ: Authentic island fare

Best of Flagstaff December 2020:  Best Hole in the Wall/Late Night Snack

Written by Gail G. Collins

Hawaiian barbecue traditionally consists of marinated meat, sticky rice and macaroni salad. Its history is one of simply necessity. In the late 1800s, Hawaiian plantation workers paired rice with any available meat. This grab-and-go meal evolved into a standard plate lunch served at roadside stands and hole-in-the-wall joints around the island.

Recognizing a good thing, Aloha Hawaiian BBQ’s fans voted them the Best Late Night Snack and Hole in the Wall Restaurant.

“It’s pretty cool to win,” said General Manager Irene Lepulu. “We all work hard here from open to close, including the owner, Ben Tang, every day. It’s nice to be acknowledged by our customers.”

Chicken katsu is a popular dish. Crispy, juicy fried chicken crosses every international boundary, and a cutlet crusted with panko crumbs is perfect pairing with a variety of sides from creamy macaroni salad to dumplings to deep-fried macaroni and cheese. Other options include traditional musubi, a block of rice covered with nori, often with meat or vegetables added. Go Hawaiian with SPAM musubi.

Aloha BBQ’s mixed plate is a round-up of chicken, beef and short ribs. All meat is hand-cut and marinated in a teriyaki blend before grilling. The barbecue sauces are scratch-made, and the recipes are personal with a sweet edge. Basic flavors include brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and onion, but on the islands, every stand has its own secret blend, as unique as a fingerprint. The Asian influences in flavor profiles and sticky rice are natural complements.

When you step into Aloha BBQ, you may be greeted with lilting rhythms and ukulele. It doesn’t stop there. Lepulu is Samoan, and other islanders, who work alongside her, lend an honest, warm island welcome along with authentic tastes.

During the pandemic, Aloha BBQ closed to dine-in guests for a spell before reopening with uniform protocols alongside most eateries in Flagstaff. Their lapse in industry business caused a roll-down effect, but Aloha BBQ is open later than other restaurants steering existing traffic happily in their direction.

People come back again and again to what they enjoy Lepulu said, “because it’s so good, different—a fusion between island and Asian food.”

Food for thought, literally, here are few reasons to hit up Aloha BBQ: It’s the closest you’re likely to come to Hawaii this year; the food is cheap as eats go; the meal plates will fill you up, and there are plenty of standard and island burgers and fries to round things out.

Like the islands from which the street food originates, you’ll find the menu tangy and sweet, colorful and fresh, fried and finger-licking, tempting and satisfying. Regulars are prone to post with gusto on Facebook, “I love you and your macaroni salad!” Aloha Hawaiian BBQ says, “Mahahlo.” BESTofFLAG2020

https://azdailysun.com/aloha-hawaiian-bbq-authentic-island-fare/article_29d6799d-35a4-50db-83a2-be56c2e286bb.html

Stop by Mama Burger for Flagstaff’s Best Burger

Best of Flagstaff December 2020

Written by Gail G. Collins

When we nurture things, they grow. So it has been for Mama Burger, even during these difficult days. After a decade, crafting vintage and trendy burgers has earned them the patronage of neighbors, schools and the medical community. With a win in 2019, they have doubled down as the Best Burger in Flagstaff.

“It’s a good feeling,” owner Bernadette Chavez said. “This time, it solidifies everything. It’s a boost of confidence for us and the business and validation for all the blood, sweat and tears.”

Co-owner and husband Pete Schepper agrees as their two daughters follow in their footsteps, supporting the family business. The couple chalks up their success to an amazing crew, who run the day-to-day show, developing customer relationships with guests, advising on community contributions to school events and more.

Mama Burger brought on a new general manager, Ryan Boser, who has delivered with creative problem-solving. The pandemic demanded it, and crises are when innovators shine. As staff numbers fell and rose again, Boser built a team, meshing former employees with a new crew.

“It’s been tough navigating the past seven months,” Schepper said, “but Ryan helped us think through problems as they arose and devise solutions.”

For example, when the delivery truck backed into their drive-through sign board and voice box, Mama Burger was caught short. Boser brainstormed an outdoor menu board, gathered materials from Home Depot and helped construct it.

“It’s easy to say something doesn’t work, but it’s rare when people come to you with solutions,” Chavez said.

Under COVID-19, Mama Burger changed their entire sales format, transitioning from a 90-percent dine-in model to 100-percent drive-through. 

“What had been an after-thought—our drive-through—was now our priority,” Schepper said. Mama Burger has continued that strategy to keep employees safe.

Running the drive-through presented a challenge to service as far as speed. With one grill and one cook, they worked to become more fast and efficient.

“We have no warmer, and food is cooked fresh to order, and that takes time,” Chavez said, “but those who wait are rewarded with a great product.”

The namesake burger is the most popular menu item by far. Made with house sauce, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, American cheese and pickles, it accounts for three-quarters of orders.

“The Mama Burger is a traditional throwback to diner days,” Schepper said. “Fresh meat smashed on a flat-top griddle—there’s nothing better.”

According to Schepper, that sandwich epitomizes Mama Burger’s nostalgia, located in an old building, where time seems to have stood still.

The MOAB, or Mutha’ Of All Burgers, is the runner-up. Built on a foundation of two patties, French fries are packed on, adding tomato, lettuce, grilled onions, green chilies, bacon, cheddar cheese, house sauce, pickles and jalapeños. No need to put down that mammoth stack of meat to stuff fries in your mouth.

The burgers are a bargain as handcrafted goods, ranging from less than $5 to $7.50 for the MOAB. One can fashion a niche burger as well, adding patties or swapping cheeses and sauces, like ranch or A-1, extra toppings like red onions or jalapeños, plus primo toppers like green chilies, guacamole, mushrooms or pineapple. The world is your burger.

There is also a local, plant-based patty or gooey grilled cheese for those who might be giving beef a break. Extra deals include creating a combo with fries or tots and a drink or trading up for a milkshake.

As for adapting, Mama Burger was born of inspired ideas. Brothers Brent and Pete Schepper own Fratelli Pizza, another Best of Flagstaff winner. As the pizza place expanded and moved, they ended up with an empty lease spot. Pete pitched the idea of a burger joint, and his wife leapt at the notion. Mama Burger opened with a bang, outgrew the original location and moved to bigger digs and expanded the menu. 

Their drive-through lane often snakes into the neighborhood, but no one minds. They love Mama B, as she is known around town.

“I got her into this,” Schepper said, “and Bernadette has done a fantastic job of making it her own success.” BESTofFLAG2020

https://azdailysun.com/stop-by-mama-burger-for-flagstaffs-best-burger/article_1f85537d-b9ba-5d00-9908-fee6a101a652.html