Perfect Picnics

Tips on how to fill your basket and where to spread the blanket

Written by Gail Collins

It’s always a good day for a picnic in northern Arizona. And it’s the perfect meal for a few reasons:  no need for a clean house to entertain, a tablecloth doubles as a nap blanket and al fresco feasting tastes better. Keep it simple and keep it fun by gathering your goodies at local shops. This list is not exhaustive, as Flagstaff’s foodie scene continues to expand, but it provides a good start. As for the venue, numerous parks and panoramas are within easy reach.

Where to fill the basket

Planning brunch on a blanket? Swing into Macy’s European Coffee House (14 S. Beaver Street). Unique combinations, like the mozzarella sandwich, bursting with fresh cheese, organic spinach, roasted red pepper, balsamic glazed onion, tomatoes and basil, create difficult, but delicious, decisions. The coffee is top-notch and grab a made-from-scratch pastry.

Tourist Home Urban Market (52 S. San Francisco Street) carries specialty items on the shelf and fresh grub to go. The daily quiche makes an easy handhold and the Cobb salad packs protein. Pastry chef Kat Beimann stocks a case of sweet surprises, too.

The deli counter at Proper Meats + Provisions (110 S. San Francisco Street) offers specialty butchered meats for the best cheesesteak outside of Philly or go global with the bahn mi of pork shoulder confit, pickled zucchini and carrot with cilantro and chili aioli.

Café Daily Fare (408 Historic Route 66) provides platters of veggies and dips or assorted spreads, including smoked salmon with lemon caper cream, and tarts or cookies. Frank’s, of course, carries all-beef hotdogs and Italian sausage with peppers plus snacks. Jitters Lunchbox (3504 Historic Route 66) features weekly sandwiches, like an egg salad BLT on buttermilk bread, and soups. Items are hand-crafted at Aspen Deli (20 N. Beaver Street). Choose the rise and swine burrito with pork and potatoes for a hearty start or Grandma’s recipe potato and pasta salads. Go Go’Z Drive-Thru (1750 E. Route 66) boasts two food truck concepts, including BBQ, for a fusion of flavor.

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Valley of the Vine

The Business of Grapes from Ground to Glass

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, August 2017

Written by Gail Collins

Sitting in a trattoria in Tuscany, we ordered the local red wine, served in carafes. Such stuff never leaves the country, and it was the perfect complement to the boar stew. Terroir and taste—as local as it gets.

Over several years, the locavore trend has gained momentum growing farmer’s markets, restaurant offerings and Arizona’s Verde Valley Wine Trail. Cultivating its success was a team effort.

Eric Glomski, owner and director of winegrowing for Page Spring Cellars and Arizona Stronghold, has been in the wine business for two decades. He shunned becoming “just another winery in California,” where costs are prohibitive, and he undertook a statewide search of Arizona before calling Cornville home. His criteria for making wine were climate, soil, water supply, population proximity and demographics. The rural spot was ideal for raising a family, too. That was 14 years ago, and Glomski has learned a great deal and taught it to others, who possess the same passion.

“Since 2004, Page Spring Cellars (PSC) has become the father and mother of products personally and for others,” said Glomski, who helped birth Burning Tree, Carlson Creek, Painted Lady, Gallifant Cellars and more. Winemaking expanded in the region, so he moved Arizona Stronghold to a bigger facility to become “a home for start-ups, an incubator” for making contract, custom brands.

Glomski studied the subtleties of the land and helped define the crops, such as French-American hybrids over pinot noir. Educating the public built loyalty, the industry and recognition. PSC earned 90+ points on Wine Spectator’s scale, yet the bestowing of two Jefferson Cups in 2010 by the country’s top officials marked a turning point. “Arizona is not imitating others—we are confident winemakers in the Arizona marketplace and beyond,” Glomski said.

Winning teams comprise dedicated players, who work together. When Casey Rooney, economic development director for the City of Cottonwood, arrived 10 years ago, he recognized the potential for the wine game. “I’m a cog in the development of Cottonwood,” Rooney said. Old town was underutilized and devoid of businesses then. The mission:  To bring private business to the table to advise city planning.

In 2008, with other power players, such as police-chief-turned-city-manager Doug Bartosh, the wine industry became the focus. It would act as the driver for tourist dollars. As five-year plans were enacted, ancillary business alliances exploded in old town. “We were a sleeping giant with excitement to grow,” Rooney said. “We still feel the times are supercharged.” Wineries, such as Javelina Leap and Alcantara Vineyards, popped up in the countryside, and a tour of Napa and Sonoma confirmed, “We could do this.” Rooney called it “economic gardening,” growing from within to stay local and smart. Seeking solutions to problems benefitted all entrepreneurs, and in 2014, Cottonwood rebranded as the Heart of Arizona Wine Country.

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Going a Cut Above

Pine Canyon’s Executive Chef Dishes on Cuisine

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, August 2017

Written by Gail Collins

Executive Chef David Lapinski’s first job in the culinary industry seemed unlikely, at the time, to propel him to the celebrated successes of his long career. The high schooler hired on to wash dishes at Mount Holyoke College. On his first day, the cook was sick and promoted him to organize the meal service two hours later. Having noted the young man’s interest in attending culinary school, the cook gave him the menu rundown, and it went off without a hitch. “I’d never cooked for anybody before in my life,” Lapinski said with a chuckle. “I’d only taken a home ec class, but I never washed dishes again.” Within two years, he took on the role of catering manager. Perhaps, moving from the dirty frying pan to the fire galvanized and prepared him for the challenges ahead.

After graduating from Johnson & Wales, Lapinski began a coast-to-coast tour, beginning with Disney World’s Apprentice Program, where he learned classical French cuisine. Nearly two decades later, his resume lists the renowned Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Sidewalkers in Manhattan, Max’s Restaurant in San Francisco, followed by positions in Virginia, Maine, and Massachusetts before settling in Arizona. Along the way, Lapinski refined his craft and gained further professional training. It earned him accolades, which include:  recognition in Gourmet Magazine, Best New Restaurant, second place for Most Creative American Cuisine, Executive Chef Certification, American Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year plus various gold and silver medals within the association as well as ice carving competition awards.

Despite his management background, Lapinski works the line as necessary and enjoys it. “My tradition is to lead by example, whether it’s a dirty job, like cleaning the grease trap, or managing,” he said. Opening restaurants and menu design are strengths honed to launch The Capital Grille in Scottsdale. Then, building on his club experience, The Estancia Club took him up a rung before heading north to manage the dining at Pine Canyon Clubhouse.

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