Hallmarks of Goodwill and Resiliency: Locals help buoy the restaurant community

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, June 2020

Written by Gail G. Collins

Finding stories of goodwill during such tentative times has not been difficult as communities have been supporting each other in newfound ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. The people behind these good deeds, however, have proven a little more difficult to pin down.  They are busy, making positive strides in any way they can. When they sit down to share stories of comfort and compassion, they talk about others. Jamie Thousand, owner of Satchmo’s BBQ, is fond of saying, “No one loves Flagstaff more than Flagstaff.”   That’s a strong statement about the real character of our mountain community.

Like many of his fellow small business owners, he received endless encouragement from others in the midst of lockdown. Weekly customers, who had forgone logging into Yelp when business was thriving, wrote rave reviews and hopeful messages.

“There has been a challenge around every corner and curve balls thrown at us,” Thousand said, “and we adapt as quickly as possible.”

With owners nowhere near in the clear yet, and the hopeful summer boom ahead, the waters are uncharted. Planning is tenuous and preparation is dynamic. More processes, more space, but less confidence.

Along the way, Zoom conference calls and text strands buoyed and informed restauranteurs. State, city and chamber members exchanged ideas on how to interpret loose re-opening guidelines and implement safe practices, like face shields over face masks to counter asthma or a hearing deficit to continue lip reading. Scores of accepted human behaviors no one had previously second-guessed needed to be considered, such as the potential risks of a self-serve soda station.

John Conley, owner of Salsa Brava and Fats Olives, coordinated a multi-party Zoom call to share ideas and exchange information on new protocols. Tinderbox Kitchen’s Kevin Heinonen, Oregano’s David Kennedy and Thousand began a discussion of vital topics, among those the issue of liability.

“Never before in my 32 years of cooking in this amazing mountain town have I witnessed such unification, a fellowship of sorts,” Conley said, “where restaurants united and embraced one another, when a true sense of ‘no one is left behind’ prevailed.”

The crisis brought forth clear priorities.

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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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Some Favorite Desserts of the Flagstaff Culinary Scene

Mtn Living Mag February 2014

Feb 2014 sweetest thingsSweet temptation has always been there. People have enjoyed fruits, nuts and honey since ancient times. Today, those ingredients are still among the basic elements used to craft tantalizing treats, yet celebrated chefs and global inspiration have happily pushed flavor boundaries beyond standard cookies and cakes. From classic cravings to artisan accents, here is a local look at Flagstaff’s sweetest things. Continue reading “Some Favorite Desserts of the Flagstaff Culinary Scene”

A Slice Above

Fat Olives Brings Gourmand Wood-Fired Fare to the Dining Scene

Mtn Living Mag March 2013

Dish Fat Olives 1 Mar  2013Somewhere along the way, Salsa Brava owner-chef John Conley developed an obsession for wood-fired fare. A decade ago, he built an Alan Scott artisan brick oven in his backyard, and two years ago, he bought a mobile, wood-fired oven. Conley says a plethora of recipe experimentation ensued. And with that, he ventured into the Italian restaurant business with the opening of Fat Olives in November 2012. As you might have guessed, the hallmark of Conley’s second successful eatery on Route 66 is the oven. Continue reading “A Slice Above”