January 29, 2009

Flagstaff's best spots to buy fresh bread

(*This story, written by me, first appeared in Flagstaff Live on January 29, 2009*)

Bread is a healthy diet staple (unless you’re on a no-carb kick) and a comfort food. It’s one of those things that just seems to go well with almost any meal. Good bread can make or break a sandwich or some French toast. Treating yourself to some of the great homemade loaves cooked up by Flagstaff’s best bakers will end up saving you money. You may pay a little extra per loaf compared to grocery store prices, but you’ll be making restaurant-quality sandwiches at home—not to mention how good your bruchetta and French toast cooking skills will seem to improve. What an easy way to impress.

The Village Baker
1435 S. Milton
The Village Baker used to be a tiny little bakery without a sign making some of the best breads in town.
But a few months ago they got a new location on Milton behind Strombolli’s, still without any frills, except in their foods. The Village Baker is a great place to buy fresh, unique, healthy breads. They’ve got quite an impressive assortment from several varieties of whites and sourdoughs to honey wheats and multi-grains and everything in between. Options do depend on the day and the time, so go in the morning for the biggest selection. You can call them at 773-9310 to find out what’s on the menu as well. During the summer and early fall, you can also buy Village Baker breads at the Flagstaff Farmer’s Market. It’s worth noting that when they opened the new location, the bakery also added lots of yummy breakfast items from cinnamon rolls to scones, Danishes and more. Totally worth dropping by for!

House of Bread
1237 S. Plaza Way
House of Bread serves up 25 types of homemade premium breads, made with freshly stone-ground flour. They do it right in the store everyday. (But don’t show up before work to watch because all the fun goes on in the wee hours of the morning.) Their products are all natural with no chemicals or artificial preservatives. You can taste the quality of the ingredients. I really enjoy HOB’s Grandma’s White Bread. It is exactly what you want a fresh loaf of bread to taste like and it’s great for sandwiches. That being the case, the sandwiches that House of Bread serves for lunch are probably pretty good, but I’ve yet to try them. But one day the Cranky Turkey sandwich with cranberry cream cheese sauce is going to call my name. I have tried their cinnamon rolls and blueberry scones. Both are delish. By the way, HOB also makes different breads on different days. Check out what they’ve got in the ovens today by calling 774-5254 if you’re looking for something particular.

Outside of Flagstaff
Other great bread bakeries include:
Wildflower Bread Company in Sedona, Prescott and all around Phoenix, and the Orion Bread Company in Cottonwood (you can also buy this bread in Flagstaff at New Frontiers Natural Marketplace).

January 22, 2009

Best soups in Flagstaff

*Note this article was written by me and originally published in the Jan 22 issue of Flagstaff Live!*

Soups are among the oldest meals of mankind. Heat a pot of water, throw in vegetables, spices and leftovers, and you’ve got soup. The recipes have advanced over time and now come in many varieties from chowder to chili, gazpacho, bisque, borscht, gumbo, goulash, consommé and more. Whether an entrée or appetizer, a good soup is hard to beat.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of soups is Seinfeld’s famous “Soup Nazi,” a character known for his fantastic soups and bad attitude. Every time that episode airs, I’m overcome with the need for some really good soup. Northern Arizona may not have a little shop that exclusively serves up soups that people line up for everyday, but it does have some great places with fantastic soups to warm you up on a cold winter’s day.

Beaver Street Brewery and Whistle Stop Café
11 S. Beaver

Beaver Street comes through once again in the soup category. Their choices change daily and usually include a chili of the day plus a soup of the moment. All I’ve tried are satisfyingly tasty, but of particular greatness—Beaver Street’s Southwestern corn chowder. It’s spicy, thick and creamy. Pair it with a side salad for the perfect winter meal. Call 779-0079 for the soup and chili specials of the day.

Buster’s Restaurant and Bar
1800 S. Milton, Ste. 111

At lunch, Buster’s has a great soup and salad combo that is perfect for a chilly afternoon. Their soups of the day rotate, but always available is the baked French onion soup. It’s made with a dash of sherry and topped with a large crouton and melted Swiss cheese. Call 774-5155 to see what’s being served up today.

Brandy’s Bakery and Restaurant
1500 E. Cedar, Ste. 40

Brandy’s offers a soup of the day served by the cup or bowl. Their recipes go beyond the normal choices like chicken noodle soup. One of the weirdest-sounding but best-tasting I’ve tried was a mushroom artichoke vegetable parmesan soup. It was creamy and flavorful and great with a side of fries for lunch. Find out what’s on the menu at 779-2187.

Macy’s European Coffeehouse, Bakery and Vegetarian Restaurant
14 S. Beaver

A cozy little spot to grab a cup of coffee, a bowl of soup and a sweet treat is Macy’s. The friendly and relaxed atmosphere compliment the warm goodness of the soup. They usually have two types each day and their pepper corn chowder is particularly good. It’s basically a potato soup with red peppers and corn—hearty and delicious. Call 774-2243 for the soup of the day.

Mountain Oasis International Restaurant
11 E. Aspen

Mountain Oasis is an upscale yet relaxed restaurant in the heart of downtown Flagstaff. They serve up two, from-scratch soups per day. The one to get here: the New England Clam Chowder—a classic soup, Flagstaff-style. Check to see what the soup of the day is at 214-9270.

Chi’s Cuisine
114 N. Cortez St., Prescott

For the best Wonton soup in northern Arizona, a drive is in order. Chi’s Cuisine in downtown Prescott has a great version of this Chinese restaurant favorite. A big bowl of what they call “Wor Wonton Soup” filled with wonton noodles, shrimp, pork, chicken, bok choy, carrots and broth is served up hot and fresh. This is not the tiny appetizer you get at many Chinese restaurants. It’s a full meal in itself. Find out more at 928-778-5390.

January 11, 2009

Best Breakfasts in Flagstaff

Best Breakfast Joints in Flagstaff
By Angele Sionna

(*Note: This article originally appeared in Flagstaff Live! Written by me, of course.)

Eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, pancakes, cereal, bagels, cinnamon rolls, danish, kolaches… the list of breakfast foods is expansive and varies culture to culture. But wherever you go breakfast means the same thing - to break one’s fast. The fast being the longest period that most of us don’t eat, which is overnight. No wonder it’s traditionally a carby-starchy meal that can take you through the day, if need be. Here’s a look at Flagstaff’s best breakfast joints. All places that make getting up in the morning something to look forward to.

La Bellavia, 18 S. Beaver St.
La Bellavia is arguably the best all around spot for breakfast. The atmosphere is homey and the food fantastic. The Swedish Oat Cakes are the perfect choice for those feeling the need for some morning sweets without going into sugar shock. These huge buttermilk and oat pancakes are served with a hot cinnamon apple topping. They’re so big that if you eat a whole stack of three oat cakes, they’ll take your photo and hang it on the wall… plus if it’s a weekday the sign on the wall says they’ll give you a free coffee mug too. Another tasty great option – La Bellavia’s omelets. They’re filled with the ingredients of your choosing then smothered with hollandaise sauce. Delish.

Brandy’s Restaurant & Bakery, 1500 E Cedar Ave
Brandy’s used to be owned by the same people as La Bellavilla. (The owners of Brandy’s being the ones who founded La Bell.) Their breakfast menus do have some feeling of Déjà vu to them. But Brandy’s chef makes the breakfast potatoes much better than their downtown cousin. In fact, I think they have the best breakfast potatoes in town. Their menu includes daily specials from quiches to homemade bagels. Brandy’s also serves up sugary yummies like cinnamon rolls and muffins. While the coffee is good, Brandy’s hot cocoas are not to be missed, piled high with whip cream, to the delight of kids of all ages.

Mike and Ronda’s The Place, 21 S Milton Rd
Mike and Ronda’s The Place is by far the best deal on breakfast. It’s simple and simply great. I recommend their two eggs scrambled with hash browns and a pancake all for the nice price of $4. Add a cup of Joe for an extra $1.50. And the service is always good there too. Added bonus: Thursdays through Saturdays they’re open 24 hours a day. When you just want a good meal at a good price in an old-fashioned diner style, this is the place.

MartAnne’s Burrito Palace, 10 N San Francisco St
MartAnne’s is a hot little hole in the wall spot downtown for Mexican breakfast. In fact it’s got the trifecta of hotness going on… Hot because it is very popular amongst those in the know. Hot because the food is really spicy. And hot because it can get pretty warm in there with all the people packed in. The quarters are tight but friendly. The food is traditional but not to imply boring by any means. It’s plentiful and filling, which is good because you’re going to be really hungry by the time it gets to you. Expect a line here every weekend plus a wait for your food, but it’s worth it.

Best spots for breakfast on the go in Flagstaff

Morning Quickies
By Angele Sionna

Need a morning quickie? Here are the best spots around town to grab breakfast on the go.

Malone’s Bakery & Deli, 1490 S Riordan Ranch St
Wanting the nice, fresh sugary goodness of a donut or maybe a filling breakfast burrito? Malone’s has the best of both in town and are great for on the go. They’ve got both vegetarian and meat lovers options on the burritos too.

Village Baker, 1421 S Milton Rd
The Village Baker isn’t just for bread loaves anymore. They’ve opened a new location behind Strombolli's on Milton and have added an array of scrumptious breakfast pastries. The fresh fruit Danish is fabulous.

Biff’s Bagels, 1 S Beaver St
What would a quickie breakfast guide be without mentioning the ever-popular Biff’s Bagels. They’ve got a great variety and are available served in all the classic ways from plain to toasted with cream cheese and bagel breakfast sandwiches. Try the coconut-almond bagel for unique goodness you’re not going to find anywhere else in town! (But don’t go try that right now. Instead for the holiday season, Biff’s has replaced it with pumpkin or cranberry-walnut, depending on the day.)

Route 66 Dog Haus, 1302 E Route 66
Needing a bite but don’t want to brave the cold? Check out the croissant breakfast sandwiches at the Dog Haus. This place is not for vegetarians by any means and substitutions are not allowed. They’re a greasy spoon for sausage and bacon-loving peeps on the go and in a hurry.

Fun way to get kids interested in food

HERE's an article about getting kids interested in food and trying new things. It'll make going out to eat even more fun for the whole family.

On a related note, check out THIS story with a great idea on a fun new twist to a pizza party. It also includes some recommendations for frozen pizza for nights you don't want to go out to eat.

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