Palate Primer—Whisk and Whisky

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, April 2019

Written by Gail G. Collins

Whiskey has always been in style, but it’s never been more popular than it is today. Alongside those, who’ve maintained a long term relationship with whiskey, millennials have been cultivating one for more than a decade. Craft cocktails have bolstered the trend. Over the past five years, the American Whiskey & Bourbon Distilleries industry reported 6.3% growth with revenue of $4B in 2018.  With so much grand sipping going on, here is quick primer on appreciating a tumbler sparkling with what in Gaelic translates as “water of life.”

First, the spelling—whisky or whiskey? The Irish and all, but two American distilleries, call it whiskey, while in Japan, Canada and elsewhere around the world, it is whisky. In your glass, it’s all the same. The best glassware for nosing and warming whiskey, if it is your preference, is tulip-styled. This concentrates the bouquet at the top of the glass, which unfolds in layers over an indulgent half hour. Adding ice or water is either frowned upon or praised for masking aromas or allowing them to blossom.

Now, examine the dram. A lighter color comes from American oak casks, and a darker hue is imparted via port or sherry casks. Swirl the glass. Legs on the side reveal higher alcohol and a full-bodied spirit, and thinner legs indicate lighter flavor. Cradle the glass to warm it and sniff again. Develop a relationship that can last a lifetime.

Whisk and Whisky, Flagstaff’s latest entry to the bourbon boom in August, is keen to sweep away any intimidation. “We offer whiskey flights to help guests determine their palate,” said Ryan Field of Plated Projects LLC. “From there, you can expand and build on your preferences.”

For example, the Kentucky Derby tour contains:  Buffalo Trace, Old Forrester, Woodford and Old Weller. Need further introductions? Rye Not? explores rye whiskey, Traditions travels the Scottish countryside (as I did garnering my initial education) and don’t forget Irish You Did! Better yet, choose a Passport and any four of 11 labels from around the world.

Need some entertainment? Order an ice ball for $3 ($1 goes to charity) and watch a frosty cube melt into a clear sphere to plop into your glass. Behind the C-shaped granite bar with dropped, tongue-in-groove ceiling, the whiskey is arranged by region with 200 evolving choices. Importantly, the cocktail assortment of glassware is ideal for the task at hand, adding a classy dimension.

Whisky Wednesday is the chance to indulge your heart’s desires with half-off pricing on one-ounce pours. “It’s an educational intro with a low investment,” said Brian Terpay. Or dip your toe with a blended whiskey cocktail. There are two on draft, a New Fashioned and a Manhattan.

As with other Plated Projects, partners Brian Terpay, Tim Pacatte and brothers Jared and Ryan Field built a comfortable place, where they might bring friends or family to eat, drink and enjoy. The airy, industrial, full bar and restaurant boasts glass walls with a Peaks view, yet invites. “This is a smaller spot than our other five projects in Flagstaff,” said Field, “with 85 seats inside and 45 outside.” Their location at Aspen Place at the Sawmill encourages mingling with other tenants via music and block parties in mild weather.

Chef Justin Martinez keeps the menu approachable with quality ingredients. “We take comfort food and replicate it in-house,” he said. “It’s the nostalgia of how food should taste.” With scratch sauces, homemade pickles, hand-cut fries and potatoes mashed to order, Martinez explained, “That is what separates us from others.” Unique offerings, like the buffaflower—crisped cauliflower with spicy buffalo sauce and gremolata—pique trendy taste buds, too.

Channel pub grub with BBQ poutine. Super crisp, skin-on fries are heaped with shredded pork, Tillamook cheddar and whiskey-laced sauce. Street tacos are equally popular. The el diablo sandwich begins as a breast brining in buttermilk before it’s fried. Airy batter offsets the kickstart heat of Fresno pepper coleslaw plus a pickle for a moist mouthful.

The Patagonia salmon is pretty and perfectly portioned. Chef said, “I know when it was caught, shipped and delivered.” A flaky, rosy wedge swims in a pool of blitzed butternut squash with roasted corn and caramelized onion relish, capped with a seasoned crust and verde drizzle. The sweet potato pie is generously deep dish and dense, topped with sweet cream and infused bourbon syrup, of course. The angel’s share at Whisk and Whisky goes to the guests.

“It’s become a place for young professionals to gather and connect, a girls night out or for couples,” said Terpay. “I love our guests—they are wonderful company.” NAMLM

Pub Essentials Fine company, good grub, raising a glass

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, March 2019

Written by Gail G. Collins

When it comes St. Paddy’s Day, everyone claims a bit of Irish, even if it’s simply a wearing ‘o the green and a proper toast:  “May your right hand always be stretched out in friendship and never in want.” Filling your cup is truly a Gaelic matter though, so let’s travel a wee bit of Great Britain’s whiskey trail.

Scotch whiskey hails from five regions in Scotland and is aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. Single malt is made solely from malted barley, while single grain adds another grain to the mash. Each is produced at a single distillery. Two or more single malts from different distilleries create a blended malt, and a similar ratio of grains designates a blended grain. A blended whiskey, however, mixes malts and grains, and constitutes the majority of such spirits. Scotch is distilled twice, while Irish whiskey is distilled thrice. Both make a worthy whiskey.

Uptown Pubhouse in downtown Flagstaff has long encouraged raising a glass of whiskey with friends. It opened in 1993 as Uptown Billiards with pool tables and an extensive beer selection. Later, it began serving spirits, especially whiskey.

Today, owner James Jay stands behind the copper-topped bar and offers suggestions. He prefers 10-year Ardbeg Uigeadail when it’s cold.

“It’s peatiness is like an earthworm crawling in the soil, loamy,” he said. “It’s especially good with our Guinness stew.” Sirloin ends are slowly simmered in broth and Guinness with onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and potatoes and served with dinner rolls to mop up every drop.

Jay’s 15-year vision was not merely a bar, but an Irish pub that “would offer food anyone can feel comfortable with while enjoying the social component—no need to bounce from spot to spot.” Nearly two years ago, Paddy’s Grill opened to fill the bill. Order at the window with pager alerts for pick-up. 

Chef Nick Clark launched the menu.

“It’s a simple pub with a little of everything for everybody,” he said. His aim includes quality fare in a tight turnaround for diners.

The true test of a pub is its fish and chips. Clark’s batter is lightened with Smithwick’s Irish ale and seasoned with garlic, ginger and onion. Four hearty hunks of haddock—a British standard—come with chips (fries) in a newsprint-lined red basket, reminiscent of British vendors, who serve the street food in a newspaper cornet. Douse liberally with malt vinegar, a spritz of lemon and tartar sauce.

Padddy’s Reuben stacks tender, shaved slices on toasted, farmhouse-thick, marbled rye. In preparation, the corned beef is marinated in Guinness and cured for up to two days with mustard, juniper, allspice and peppercorns. The choice of sandwich sides includes fries, tater tots or beer-battered onion rings.

Paddy’s popular appetizers are built on fries. The curried fries are slathered with classic, golden curry gravy plus a parsley sprinkle. Dig in. They’re also vegan, like the Impossible™ Burger, made with heme and utilizing fermentation to achieve a browned, ground-round effect. For a bigger bite, try the barbacoa, slow-cooked with orange juice, ancho chili paste, oregano and more. The shredded heaven is heaped on cheesy fries or tater tots and capped with sour cream, avocado, jalapeños and salsa verde.

For an ooey-gooey close, choose the deep dish, chocolate chip cookie, served in a skillet with ice cream and chocolate sauce. It’s enough for two.

This traditional pub offers authentic grub for St. Paddy’s Day, too. Corned beef and cabbage with potatoes and carrots are available while supplies last.

“It’s popular, and we sold out entirely last year,” said Clark.

An Irish pub is a connection spot, and Uptown creates opportunities to do just that. Sundays offer Celtic music jams, the Literary Society meets on Mondays with books to lend, and Wednesdays are Trivia Nights.

Six billiard tables form the pub’s central corridor with flags bearing coats of arms. It’s not fancy, but it promises fun, as if the memory of good times lingers in the air, beckoning. A handful of regulars recognized that a dozen years ago. A snowstorm had blown through, and they warmed themselves at the bar. Aloud they mused at the number of whiskeys behind the bar and how long it would take to taste them all.

“I guessed we had about 70,” said Jay, “and I began keeping track of their trials on napkins behind the bar.”

It’s still recorded on paper, but Uptown has over a thousand earnest sippers working their way through the bottles now. Upon completion, they will join honorees on Uptown’s Scotch Wall.

Clark’s favorite whiskey is Hell-Cat Maggie, an Irish spirit, of course, which also rotates as amongst the specials.

“Join me in a glass,” he suggested, “or better yet, buy me one.” Sláinte! NAMLM

COZY UP: Find your ideal coffee shop in Flagstaff

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, November 2019

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Written by Gail G. Collins

For most of us, morning doesn’t come without coffee. It supercharges us for the day ahead. In fact, two-thirds of American adults begin the day with a cup of joe, and we average nearly three mugfuls. A welcoming vibe greets us at our coffee café. The beckoning aroma, friendly faces, comforting taps of the portafilter and hiss of steamed milk feel like your second home. You meet co-workers, study or steal away for a quiet afternoon hour. Sill looking for your perfect coffee vibe? Here are five places in Flagstaff to try.

Lux North 111 E. Aspen Ave.

The newest comer to the caffeine scene is Lux North, which expanded from Phoenix. Channeling the ‘60s with burnt orange leather couches, sleek lines and funky blown glass lighting, the entry steers service to one side and seating to the other. Owner Katie Calahan feels camaraderie with other coffee spots in town and focuses on her customers.

“We believe in building relationships, and that requires dialogue,” she said.

And the drinks are the perfect complement to quality conversation. Calahan’s la Marzocco espresso machine is lever operated, which requires serious skills, but offers defter options for infusing shots with water, following “the original principles of coffee creation.”

The company roasts daily in Phoenix, and the popular sippers are lattes, pour overs and cold brews. At 3 a.m., Calahan bakes croissants, cinnamon rolls, and her grandmother’s coffee cake among others to accompany that morning coffee. For a heartier start, try the eggerchief, so called for the portability of egg, meat and cheese as a pocket sandwich.

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Tradition & Elegance: Dining on the Rim

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, February 2019

Written by Gail G. Collins

The best things in life change little. They are honed by time and elements, yet their inherent value grows dearer. This is true of the Grand Canyon’s vistas and the fare served in El Tovar’s dining room, where the panorama from a coveted table may distract you from the favored French onion soup. The signature recipe has been served for nearly four decades. Though a typical room at the luxe lodge cost $4 per night when it opened in 1905, the standards have remained as high as the “perpendicular mile from rim to river,” as recorded in the primer on El Tovar in Princeton University Library’s Collection of Western Americana.

El Tovar captivates guests with a grand entry. Its dark timber, Native American rugs and art with an array of wildlife on display matches the natural grandeur of its perch on canyon’s edge.

“The Grand Canyon is the destination of a lifetime,” said executive chef Matthew McTigue. “El Tovar is on par with that.”

McTigue interned in the kitchen before graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1995, and the job hasn’t lost its allure. While it’s challenging to recruit to a remote locale, a dedicated staff has built a life there with careers clocking 20 to 40 years. Thomas Ratz has served guests for 38 years. His affection for the park extended to stenciling red deer on the dining room walls, redolent of pictographs on Bright Angel Trail, and collecting Fred Harvey memorabilia. Harvey, El Tovar’s founder, was a talented visionary, who fulfilled the need for quality hotels and service for weary travelers heading West.

“We are like a family,” McTigue said. “People have raised their kids here.” This tight community inhabits homes listed on the historic register and some walk to work.

The Grand Canyon attracts an international crowd, and El Tovar’s menu reflects a comparable Continental cuisine with a southwest streak. It is classic, yet seasoned.

Tamales are made in-house with tender, seasoned shreds of beef or pork chili and served with chipotle crema. Savory scallops float on mango puree with prickly pear syrup balancing a raw, lively pineapple-jicama slaw. Soup de jour invites ladling in the bacon-corn chowder, hearty with chunky potato and queso fresco or the heritage onion with sweet ribbons swimming in robust broth. “It is deceptively simple,” admitted McTigue. The recipe can even be found on tea towels for sale in the gift shop.

The crab stack is the chef’s creation piling lump meat with avocado and tomato plus cumin and cilantro olive oil and topped with hand battered onion rings. The house salad boasts shredded jicama, goat cheese, berries, tomatoes and pine nuts for a gorgeous beginning to any meal. Spinach salad with gorgonzola, bacon and fried shallots on a wheel of Granny Smith apples and endive leaves creates a complex flavor profile. Try the lively salmon tostado, layered with mixed greens, roasted corn salsa and crema with a side of black beans and rice.

The New York strip is Arizona grown and crusted in a coffee-cumin rub with a demi-glace crafted of New Belgium’s 1554 black lager and a side of pepper-jack potato wedges. The mixed grill includes filet mignon, semi-boneless quail and poached shrimp with brown butter mashed potatoes to fill a belly decadently. The seabass is moist with a roasted tomato and fennel sauce plus sprightly sweety drop peppers and bright snap peas. Cauliflower puree with saffron adds velvety appeal.

An extensive list of mostly domestic wines and some local brews are available to accompany the meal. To close, seriously sweet choices, such as fruit sabayon, a chocolate mousse taco, flourless chocolate cake with crème anglaise and strawberry sauce and seasonal crème brûlée, tempt diners.

“We want to serve people and make them happy,” said McTigue. “We are the entrance to the experience at the Grand Canyon.”

Like the eternal canyon, meals are served on timeless Mimbreño china. Crafted by architect Mary Colter with Native American-inspired images in black and grey, the china mimics that used on the Santa Fe Railway, which brought guests to El Tovar. On a busy day, the restaurant serves 500 guests, and it’s usually busy.

“The atmosphere at the Grand Canyon is something to admire every day,” said McTigue. “We see it fresh through others’ eyes.” That includes an impressive guest list, such as Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and celebrities, like Nicholas Cage, Al Pacino, Will Smith and Ron Howard. McTigue reminded, “Still, we are all made small by the Grand Canyon.”

The chef’s stellar advice:  After dinner, go out and look up at the night sky, where the stars seem brighter and closer than elsewhere. “It’s the best show on the planet.” NAMLM

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.

Proper Meats drives to Perkinsville to pick up animals each week. “There is no place that delivers whole animals to your door,” said Paul. Processing the whole animal from nose to tail yields by-products, such as lard, tallow, soup bones and organ meat. Nothing is wasted at Proper. Still, a pig only has two bellies, which doesn’t near the numbers needed for Saturday sales of bacon. Two briskets won’t fulfill a day’s order of sandwiches either, so certain cut are supplemented.

There is an educational component to shopping a neighborhood butcher like Proper Meats. Pierre’s Prime Beef is dry-aged for 25-30 days. The grass-fed and grain finished meat is darker with a gamier, concentrated flavor. Arizona Legacy Beef’s Criollo cattle are lean. Paul advises basting the ribeye with butter before cooking it in cast iron.  “It’s about keeping expectations in line with new products and techniques,” he said. Sausages blister on the grill and flame, so poach them first, then finish them off.

“The sandwiches are ridiculously big,” said Paul, “because that’s what I want to eat.” The fried chicken po’boy is piled high with house-made smoked andouille, slaw and spicy remoulade made with guajillo chili. It’s as good as it gets outside of New Orleans. Sweet and spicy wings on mizuna greens go Asian dressed with roasted garlic and toasted sesame. The PMP cheesesteak is shaved, tender roast beef with triple peppers, onions and provolone on a hoagie. The pastrami is the best-seller for a reason. It’s an eight-day process of brining, smoking and steaming the higher fat, flavorful briskets. A peppery stack of meat with Swiss on grilled bread makes for a melty meld with fries and a pickle spear.

The charcuterie board varies; this day with prosciutto, fennel salami, house capicola—a Corsican cold cut—three cheeses, including barely Buzzed coffee-rubbed cheese, sourdough toasts, pickled peppers and onions, honeyed apricots and figs plus wholegrain beer mustard. Toss back a local beer or sip an Arizona wine for the perfect indulgence.

 “Keep an open mind—try new cuts and take the butcher’s advice on how to cook an imaginative recipe with specialty cuts,” said Paul. Benefit from higher quality meats or learn about value cuts that aren’t available in supermarkets. Either way, a better dinner is served with choices from Proper Meats + Provisions. NAMLM

Proper Meat + Provisions, 110 E. Route 66, is open daily 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

La Fonda Two bests for legacy eatery with 60 years

Best of Flagstaff 2018

Written by Gail G. Collins

Motivation can come from many sources, even frustration. With hard work, the Garcia family turned frustration and a desire for entrepreneurship into a legacy business model for three generations of continued success. In 1957, three brothers—Sylvester, Frank Sr. and Albert Garcia—borrowed against everything they owned, including a beloved piano, to found the first La Fonda restaurant in Frank’s Sunnyside home on Center Street. It seated 30 guests, and their reputation for delicious meals soon outgrew their capacity. A warehouse on the corner of Second Street and Second Avenue was renovated and tables filled up with customers ordering homemade tamales and enchiladas cooked by the wives on Center Street. Their children raced to the restaurant with the food.

It’s always been a family affair at La Fonda, and several members went on to found six restaurants in Flagstaff, Kingman and the Phoenix area. Sylvester and his son, Marty, consistently pushed La Fonda in Flagstaff forward, and in 2018, celebrated 60 years in business. At 93 years old now, Sylvester was always humble, but grandson and general manager Brandon, said, “He comes in, he cooks and makes every big decision. My father, Marty, is the president—el jefe—and sister, Stephanie, and cousin, Ruben, are managers.”

The team believes showing up is 90 percent of it. Four generations have proven it. “Every Garcia born to us has worked, cooking on the line, washing dishes, whatever—it’s expected,” said Brandon.

The low, stucco building with arches is quintessential Mom and Pop Mexican, standing the test of time and tacos. The menu also has changed little by design and guest demands. Memorabilia menus confirm only slight alterations. Fajitas were added 20 years ago, and carnitas made an appearance a decade later. The most popular request remains the #2 Combination:  cheese enchilada, tamale, shredded beef taco, tostado, rice and beans.

“It’s not fancy, just good, old fashioned Mexican food.” The house margarita sells by the gallons—60 to 70 gallons on average each weekend. Local drafts and Mexican beers fill the gap.

La Fonda supports the community, and the athletic programs of Coconino, Flagstaff, Chinle, Tuba City and more high schools regularly unload busses of hungry athletes to refuel. “We clear the tables to feed everyone and help anyone that calls,” said Brandon.

Long-term commitment goes both ways at La Fonda. Juan has cooked for 30 years, and his assistants, Pedro and Fausto, have logged nearly 20 each. Employees have met and married there. Customers span generations, celebrations are commonplace, and cherished souls have ordered last meals from La Fonda to be delivered to hospice.

Continue reading “La Fonda Two bests for legacy eatery with 60 years”

Delhi Palace Cuisine of India A hidden gem in Hilltop Shops

Best of Flagstaff 2018

Written by Gail G. Collins

One of the seven wonders of the world stands in brilliant marble in Agra, India. The Taj Mahal is an UNESCO world heritage site, which took more than two decades to build. It hosts several million visitors annually, and a practicing mosque onsite is closed on Fridays.

Delhi Palace Cuisine of India, on the other hand, has been described as a “hidden gem” and is open seven days a week. The restaurant, tucked in its new, roomier location in the Hilltop Shops at Woodlands Village, closed for only a few days to make its move. The back wall boasts a spectacular painting of the Taj Mahal with linear perspective beckoning diners to enter. That is, if the scent of spices hadn’t drawn you in first. Either way, guests will explore a heady feast at Delhi Palace.

Northern Indian food is on the menu. A plethora of vegetables, fruits, grains and spices makes the cuisine vibrant and flavorful. Relative to southern dishes, the recipes are richer, with gravies made with ghee (clarified butter) or steeped in cream. Many dishes take hours to prepare. The spices used to create the staple garam masala, meaning warm mixture, are robust and earthy. Crushing and blending cumin, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and more create pungent plates of curry begging to be mopped up with warm naan bread. 

Classic curries are popular. Lamb korma features marinated, boneless lamb, cooked in yogurt with cashews and delicate herbs and spices. Chicken tikka masala smothers boneless tandoori chicken in tomato and butter sauce. The tandoori is a clay vessel, heated with mesquite charcoal to 360 to 400 degrees for cooking anything from shrimp to mixed grill and even paneer, a fresh cheese. Think of it as ancient, aromatic barbecue.

Continue reading “Delhi Palace Cuisine of India A hidden gem in Hilltop Shops”

Your Pie: Good eats and a place to linger made your way

Best of Flagstaff 2018

Written by Gail G. Collins

When Lisa Muscarella traveled with her children to Atlanta for a chess tournament, starting a new business was not on her to-do list. The wife and mother of four already met specialized needs at home alongside a demanding job. Eating out is a necessary luxury at times, but value drove Lisa to research meal options before that trip. She found a company catering to families first and serving delicious, nutritious food at affordable prices. Your Pie hand-tossed pizza, customized with the freshest ingredients fit the bill.

“It’s hard to eat out as a family today; everything is pricey, or it’s junk,” said Lisa. “I wanted to build a restaurant where we would eat.”

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The 25-year Flagstaff resident had no business or food industry background, but her enthusiasm carried the idea forward. Husband Peter provided expertise as a longtime commercial contractor, who has built restaurants around the city and the country. Their planning utilized as many local attributes as possible, so Your Pie would be Flagstaff’s pie.

The one-of-a-kind ponderosa pine bar was felled by pine bark beetles, yet stands up to a throng of diners. The wall menu—a checkerboard of painted chalk slates—was designed for the space. Blonde wood fixtures and tables, matched with chairs and booths, plus long banquettes, provide tons of seating. The soaring space with steel and stone accents, sleek lighting and stacked ruddy brick generates an updated Brooklyn pizza presence.

Peak Produce delivers high quality, fresh, native produce, but what makes the pizza your pie? “You can build your own handcrafted pizza with endless toppings,” said Lisa. “Create any masterpiece you want and all for the same price!”

Diners with dietary restrictions can enjoy vegan choices with dairy-free cheese or a gluten-free crust made with cauliflower. “We go the extra mile for our guests,” assured Lisa.

The Millers, regulars at Your Pie, like the consistency and clean concept. Usually Mrs. Miller orders the turkey pesto panini, but this night sampled the cauliflower pizza crust because they have found everything is good.

Your Pie serves root beer, handcrafted in Arizona with honey from local bees, on draft. “We are the only ones in town to offer natural soda choices on our fountain drink dispenser,” said Lisa. No artificial coloring and sweetened with cane sugar. Kombucha on tap offers another healthy alternative. As for tipples, 18 more taps with plenty of Arizona brews, like Historic Brewery’s Pie Hole Porter, and wine are available.

Community is integral at Your Pie. The company pledges aid to end childhood hunger. From the day ground was broken for Your Pie, Lisa gathered community, building both a restaurant and a family of followers. A free pie donation party on Opening Day in June sealed a happy bond with pizza lovers. When it came time to vote for Flagstaff’s best, Lisa neglected to request support. Your Pie’s loyal fans voted it Best New Restaurant anyway.

Stopping by for a quick meal is no problem. Your Pie’s wood-fired custom oven cooks pizzas in about four minutes. As proof, two Guardian ambulance crews clustered around tables on a weeknight for a fast, wholesome supper.

Still, you’re invited to linger at Your Pie. Televisions catch up diners on the sports scores or serve presentation purposes. That night, folks played board games, and an impromptu birthday celebration arrived, balloons and gifts in tow. Those seated around the fire pit called out for another round of drinks.  

“Good food and the good community of family and friends is the ultimate combo,” said Lisa with a smile. AZDailySun

2619 S. Woodlands Village Blvd.

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.

Continue reading “Bona fide Butchery: Proper Meats + Provisions”

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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