Festive & Fresh

Arizona foods elevate the holiday table

Written by Gail Collins

As the golden light of autumn waned, the brisk afternoon warmed with the happy chatter of guests. Pecks on the cheek, lingering hugs and the joyous anticipation of time with loved ones set the stage for a holiday gathering. The cook mopped a brow with a dish towel, inhaled the stuffing’s fall fragrance and smiled. Nothing can top the celebratory combination of glorious food, home and company. In fact, it is the melding of elements, both festive and familiar, that creates the greatest happiness.

Gatherings can feel stressful, but serving specialty foods and a showcase bird is worth the planning and preparation. Even professionals, like Logan Webber, executive chef at Brix, utter colorful language when the top of the stuffing chars instead of browns, so relax, home cooks—it’s all part of the process.

Sustainable Serving

When it comes to choosing quality ingredients, local is always better. Even a massive bison creates a smaller carbon footprint when the animal is grazed, processed and eaten regionally. Sustainable farming and ranching guard future land use for all. Environmental preservation—avoiding toxic substances or depleting natural resources—builds an ongoing ecological balance. Sustainable practices consider animal welfare, protect public health and support vibrant communities. The good news is that increasing demand for sustainable living is fueling a robust market of products and producers.

The Colorado Plateau offers a wider variety of proteins and produce than might be expected for a semi- arid land. Some of the sources readily available to Northern Arizona include:  McClendon’s Select, Roots Micro Farm, Black Mesa Ranch, Two Wash Ranch, and of course, the local farmers market. Three generations at McClendon’s Select have cultivated nearly 100 acres of certified, organic farmland in Peoria and Goodyear. Roots is an urban farm in Flagstaff supplying colorful micro-greens—vegetables, herbs and flowers—to local restaurants. Black Mesa Ranch boasts the “flavor of the White Mountains” with farmstead artisan cheeses crafted from registered Nubian goats. Two Wash Ranch, a five-acre poultry farm, raises chickens, ducks, geese and pea fowl in a cage-free environment.  For the easiest downtown shopping however, visit Proper Meats + Provisions, an abundant source of regional, quality fresh and jarred items.

“There are many reasons to use sustainable ingredients,” Chef Webber said. “It’s better for the environment, but there is also the chance to talk to the people, who make the food, about their practices and upcoming farm produce. This offers the chance to change up the menu with seasonal items.” Farmers markets are ideal for this, and he also chats with other chefs, who can help with sourcing. Webber, who entice diners with the unique root vegetables in autumn, added, “Local goods taste so much better and have a longer shelf life that extends recipe opportunities.”

Continue reading “Festive & Fresh”

In Search of Great Cuts

Heritage Meats & the Downtown Butcher

Mtn Living Mag November 2014

Dish Proper Nov 2014aWe often hear the cliché: There is strength in diversity. But what does that mean? When it comes to heritage farms, it can be the difference between life and death. In 1845, the Irish potato crop suffered blight. The bulk of farmers had planted only one type of potato, and over six years, a million people starved and another million left Ireland. This is the danger of industrial agriculture, which utilizes few breeds or crops to maximize output under specific conditions. Here is the bottom line on factory farming: 60 percent of beef is Angus, Hereford and Simmental breeds; 75 percent of pork comes from three breeds; and four breeds of sheep make up 60 percent of the market with a whopping 40 percent of that number as Suffolk. In the last 15 years, 200 breeds of animals have become extinct worldwide. Genetic diversity is essential to a healthy food supply to withstand harsh conditions and unforeseen circumstances. Continue reading “In Search of Great Cuts”

BUILDING ON SUCCESS

Brix Casual Fine Dining & Wine Bar Bring a Grown-Up Culinary Sensibility

Mtn Living Mag August 2014

Dish Brix Aug 2014A recent guest review of Brix Casual Fine Dining & Wine Bar wrote, “Flagstaff has done a lot of growing up in the last few years.” It’s happily true. The downtown restaurant industry has been on a track to offer clients high end, sustainable, creative cuisine, while maintaining that easy-going Flagstaff attitude. At the head of this march strode Paul Moir with the opening of Brix in 2007. He later opened Criollo, a Latin-inspired kitchen in downtown and mentored fellow restaurateurs in this consistent, positive direction. It’s a national trend with hometown success. Continue reading “BUILDING ON SUCCESS”

Cooking with Fire

How Paul Moir Brought Culinary Depth to Flagstaff’s Downtown

Mtn Living Mag June 2013

June 2013Restaurateur Paul Moir has worked to bring both Brix and Criollo to the downtown scene. While these restaurants were not the first to provide haute cuisine to the Flagstaff market, they did create a deep bench of fine dining options and a sharper focus toward local and seasonal foods. Moir’s recipe for establishing a restaurant also lent a helping hand to the success of Diablo Burger. Moir is also expanding his range with three new establishments in Tucson’s downtown—including Diablo Burger’s second location.

Taking a risk is both exciting and scary. Those two words emerged consistently when Paul Moir spoke about creating a restaurant and his subsequent strides forward. The naysayers seem to have the loudest voices at those moments. And as Moir positioned himself to open a high end restaurant in Flagstaff, they said to him, “Local people don’t care.” But the owner of Brix and Criollo has since proven them wrong and will do so again with the May opening of his third restaurant, Proper, in Tucson. Continue reading “Cooking with Fire”