April 28, 2010

Profile: Arizona's Wildflower Bread Company

Profile: Wildflower Bread Company

  • Louis J. Basile Jr, CEO
  • Open 14 years in Arizona, with the newest location in Flagstaff at 530 East Piccadilly Drive (Southeast Corner of Bulter and Lone Tree)
  • www.wildflowerbread.com (You can find menus, soups of the day, locations, etc there.)
  • Twitter: @WildflowerBread and Louis is @WildflowerCEO (Louis responds to Twitters and really cares about customer input I've found in my Twitterings with him!)
  • www.facebook.com/WildflowerBread
Louis J. Basile Jr, CEO Wildflower Bread Company
Photo courtesy Wildflower Bread Company
Examiner: What makes your establishment unique?
Louis: We bake over 15 varieties of naturally leavened, artisan bread daily in our store.  These award-winning breads are part of everything we offer including soups, salads, sandwiches, homestyle breakfast and pasta entrees.

Examiner:  What is a little known factoid about your place?
Louis: Giving back to our community is one of core business values. We contribute 10% of our baguette sales to Arizona’s at-risk schools, donate leftover bakery items to local shelters and support local causes through time and in-kind contributions. Additionally, we donate office space to a non profit organization called Open Table which is focused on helping people in poverty get back into the workforce; we work closely with Open Table to create job placements in our restaurants. 

Examiner:  What is your specialty?
Louis: Our specialties include hard-crusted artisan bread, specialty bakery, soups, salads, sandwiches, pancakes, pastas, café beverages and catering.
Examiner:  What is your patrons' favorite thing about your establishment?
Louis: High-quality, freshly-prepared food that doesn’t break the bank. We’ve created raving fans for our cranberry scones, chopped salad, potato cream cheese soup, passion fruit iced tea and more.
Examiner:  What's your favorite?
Louis: Our favorite quality about our restaurant is making the design fit within the neighborhood so that it truly is a place created for and enjoyed by our customers.
Examiner: Anything new on the horizon that people can look forward to trying?
Louis: This Valentine’s Day we created a fun, affordable heart-shaped Valentine’s cake.  It’s sumptuous white cake layered with vanilla cream and strawberries and coated in a dark, velvety chocolate ganache. It’s perfect for a couple to share but can serve up to four.  Around springtime, patrons look forward to our homemade Irish Soda Bread and Hot Cross Buns.
Examiner:  What is the top thing you recommend visitors to your city do/see - besides your business, of course?
Louis: Visitors should spend a day skiing at Snowbowl or hiking the Grand Canyon then head over to Wildflower for a tasty meal and comforting atmosphere!

This article is part of a travel series profiling chefs, owners, managers and people behind the scenes of restaurants, hotels and other things of interest to tourists and locals alike across the Western US. These profiles also include a local favorite thing to see or do from the person at the helm in addition to him or her sharing the local flavor of their place.

April 27, 2010

Profile: Parisi Pizzeria Deli Trattoria in Denver, Colorado

Profiles: Parisi Pizzeria - Deli – Trattoria
  • Simone and Christine Parisi, owners
  • Opened in 1998
  • 4401 Tennyson St., Denver, CO 80212
  • www.parisidenver.com
Parisi has been called one of Denver’s hidden gems. Owner and chef Simone Parisi is an Italian native who has brought his family’s recipes, from handmade raviolis to seafood soup, to Denver. Parisi is also in one of the hottest spots of Denver: The Highlands neighborhood, what’s been called by one national magazine, “The Brooklyn of Denver” – where families, yuppies, millionaires and even long-time residents combine to make one of the most compelling areas of Denver known for his hip arts scene, thriving restaurant community and just generally its hipness.

Simone Parisi, owner/chef
Photos courtesy: Parisi
Examiner: What makes your establishment unique?
Simone: The image and culture of Italian cuisine is deeply embedded in our character.  I grew up in Florence where food and family are ingrained in the culture, but in America, the simplicity of eating well had become a status symbol. We created an affordable, casual and quick-dining concept without compromising the quality of authentic Italian cuisine. The family-friendly atmosphere has helped turn Parisi into one on of the most beloved restaurants in the city. What’s more, Parisi attracts some of the most discriminating Italian food and pizza experts in the nation.

Examiner:  What is a little known factoid about your place?
Simone:  Parisi has a Community Table night each month in which neighbors and strangers alike sit together at long tables and share a family-style meal prepared at the chef’s discretion. This evening of sharing, laughing and eating has become a cherished tradition for locals.

Examiner:  What is your specialty?
Simone: Parisi is famous for its pizza, which is prepared in traditional Naples style: thin crispy crust, light sauce and cheese, with fresh Italian-style toppings: basil, prosciutto, soprassata, and others. Don’t ask for any pepperoni here!
Examiner:  What is your patrons' favorite thing about your establishment? What's your favorite?
Simone: I think Parisi’s patrons favorite thing is that Parisi has changed their notion of “Italian food” – it’s not just heavy cheese-laden pastas. Instead we’re about fresh ingredients, hand-made pastas and breads, thin light pizzas and traditional flavors. My favorite part of the restaurant is that it’s for families and friends. Neighbors greet each others, families bring their small children, couples go on dates. It’s a social and lively place that also has excellent food.

Examiner: Anything new on the horizon that people can look forward to trying?
Simone: We’re expanding and renovating the deli and take-out section of Parisi because that’s quickly becoming a larger part of our business. People pop in for things such as our raviolis and sauce to take home, or on summer nights we serve a lot of gelato.

Parisi in Devner
Examiner:  What is the top thing you recommend visitors to your city do/see - besides your business, of course?
Simone: Parisi is located in the Highlands neighborhood of Northwest Denver, an area of the city that has been compared to Brooklyn. I recommend visitors check out the local art galleries, coffee shops, book stores and nightlife that is popping up all over this part of the city. It’s just a few minutes from the famous LoDo part of Denver, yet has a completely different feel.
Examiner:  Anything else you want to add?
Simone: I would just emphasize that delicious, fresh food doesn’t have to be expensive. Food should be shared, celebrated and eaten with family and friends and that’s what we’ve created at Parisi.
This article is part of a travel series profiling chefs, owners, managers and people behind the scenes of restaurants, hotels and other things of interest to tourists and locals alike across the Western US. These profiles also include a local favorite thing to see or do from the person at the helm in addition to him or her sharing the local flavor of their place.

April 24, 2010

Where to find the best chicken fried steak in Flagstaff

Crown Railroad Cafe's breakfast CFS
Chicken fried steak also known as country fried steak or CFS is sinfully delicious when done right. This southern comfort dish is far from health food. But it sure makes for a scrumptious meal.
If you’re not familiar with chicken fried steak, you may be surprised to learn there’s no chicken in it. It’s typically a piece of tenderized round steak (one of the tougher cuts of beef) breaded and cooked in the style of fried chicken.
CFS originated in Texas, said to be the invention of German immigrants who brought with them a love of weiner schnitzel but found more beef on hand than veal. It has since turned into something you’ll find in every mom and pop café and diner across the mid-South and is spreading in popularity as the taste for this pan-fried piece of heaven grows.
Here’s a look at a few of the best spots across northern Arizona to get classic chicken fried steak…

Granny’s Closet
218 S. Milton Rd., Flagstaff
Not a surprise that the cozy Granny’s features this down-home dish done right. At dinner, Granny’s chicken fried steak is served up with veggies plus mashed potatoes and gravy, or as they call it down South “the works.” You could opt for a side of fries, baked potato or rice but I recommend going traditional on this one. Granny’s CFS hits the spot when wanting a tummy full of comfort.
Miz Zip's CFS

Granny's CFS

CFS from Pine Country C
Crown Railroad Café
3300 E Route 66 and 2700 S Woodlands Village, Suite 600, Flagstaff
Looking to carb up with a big ol’ breakfast that’ll fill you up for the day? Then order up the chicken fried steak served with two eggs any way, two giant biscuits, potatoes and gravy at the Crown Railroad Café. This breakfast belly buster is not for the skiddish. But sure does taste good.

Miz Zip’s Cafe
2924 E Route 66, Flagstaff
For a taste of the Route 66 glory days, try Miz Zips homemade chicken fried steak and gravy any time of day. For breakfast they serve it with two eggs any style plus hashbrowns and toast. At dinner the CFS comes with soup or salad plus potatoes, beans and a hot roll. These tasty dishes are a true throwback to mom’s home cookin’.

Pine Country Restaurant
107 N Grand Canyon Blvd, Williams
Pine Country is a must stop when craving country classics like chicken fried steak. They have delish CFS served as both a breakfast and lunch dish. Pine Country's white gravy is the best around. It compliments the salty crunchiness of the CFS perfectly by adding a smooth, rich creaminess that is hard to beat. Don't forget to add on a slice of their homemade pies while you're there too.
Ski Lift Lodge CFS

Other spots to find Chicken Fried Steak in Flagstaff:

Ski Lift Lodge Restaurant
Hwy 180 at the base of Snowbowl Rd

Downtown Diner
7 East Aspen Avenue

April 8, 2010

Eco-eateries: Where to eat "green" in Flagstaff

This month is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Celebrate by making Earth Day everyday from here on out. A simple way to start – support local restaurants who strive to use/serve local, organic, pesticide free products. Open Green Map has made it easy to find eco-friendly businesses and activities around the world, including here in Flagstaff. Here’s a look at the Flagstaff eateries that made their list…

Diablo Burger
120 N Leroux (on the square behind Pesto Brothers)
The DB is all about local. “We try to be as ecologically sustainable as we can be, and we consider sustainability, local benefits, and eco-friendliness in all of our management decisions, big and small,” says Derrick Widmark, owner of Diablo Burger.
They do this by serving open-range beef raised here in Northern Arizona, not using a dishwasher to save water, and recycling used fryer oil for bio-diesel plus other things.
The local beef is more than tasty. “Supporting the producers of that beef sustains the stewardship of almost half a million acres in our very own backyard, and perpetuates the long-term health of ecosystem services like healthy watersheds and wildlife habitat that are critical to the quality of life we enjoy here in the greater Flagstaff area. The same goes for our decision to buy as much of our produce from local and regional farmers,” Widmark adds.

Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar
413 N. San Francisco
Again local, homemade, sustainable foods are at the heart of this upscale Flagstaff restaurant. The meats come from smaller farms. The seafood is all wild, line-caught in domestic waters. Most of their produce is organically grown between Flag and Phoenix. “This not only serves to reduce the amount of carbon used to grow and transport the food, it is a healthier product for both people and the environment. In addition, the economics of using local foods and supporting local farmers/growers is such that the money spent stays within the local economy rather than moving out to other regions/countries,” says Paul Moir, co-owner of Brix.
Brix uses rice oil when frying then donates it to a local bio-diesel producer. They use no processed, pre-packaged products. Everything is house-made including cured meats, pastas and pastries. 
The same folks own the new Criollo Latin Kitchen (16 N. San Francisco) down the street. Criollo uses the same farmers/growers as Brix plus The Hook/Spear Cattle Company outside of Wickenburg which raises 100% grass fed, range raised Criollo Beef. They’re not on the Green Map yet, but I’m sure they will be there soon.

New Jersey Pizza Co.
2224 East Cedar Ave.
New Jersey Pizza has some of the freshest, most delish pizza you’ll find in town. It’s saucy, cheesy and super thin. They use local and organic ingredients when possible and even make their own mozzarella cheese. “Our efforts are dedicated to the small family farmers, ranchers, artisan cheese makers, laborers and cooks of the world, whose endless work, wisdom, and passion make it possible to bring this food to the table,” their menu boasts. Now that’s the kind of motto I like to see on the front of the menu. Someone with a passion for food who also cares about how it’s grown and the people who grow and make it. That motto shows in the taste of their foods.

Morning Glory Café
115 S San Francisco
Morning Glory has a 25 year legacy of eco-friendliness. This vegetarian/vegan restaurant has zero waste – donating all good food and composting everything else. Even their serving/dishware is compostable or recyclable. Morning Glory uses Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to buy, sell and support local farmers/growers. 80% of their offerings are organic as well. Morning Glory has a hip vibe and sustainable goodness in their meals which is why customers keep coming back year after year.

Pesto Brothers Piazza
120 N Leroux
Pesto Brothers is a little shy about bragging about their commitment to local. But this quaint restaurant serves classic rustic Italian food using as many local, pesticide-free products as possible in their dishes. Pesto Brothers also serves up some of the best tasting Arizona-made wines, including my fav Arizona Stronghold's Mangus. The food here is so fresh and delectable you can tell it’s made by people who care about our food, our area and the planet. Even if they’re not one to boast about it I sure will!
UPDATE: The owner of Pesto Brothers just got back with me about all of the "green" things they do. They include:
  • recycle glass, cardboard & oil for bio-fuel
  • use corn based bio-degradable to go containers
    no ice in their water
  • use local products when available

Simply Delicious Full-Service Catering and Daily Fare
408 E Rte 66
Located in a small and really cool rock-walled building on the outskirts of downtown you’ll find this small eatery and its catering companion. They specialize in eclectic seasonal cuisine… the kind of things you won’t find too many places like duck tacos, quail or lamb. Almost all the foods at Daily Fare Café and Simply Delicious catering come from within 150 miles of Flagstaff and all of their to-go ware is biodegradable or recyclable.

These coffee houses also made the Flagstaff Green Map:
•Flagstaff Coffee Co
16 E Rte 66
•Macy's European Coffeehouse, Bakery &Vegetarian Restaurant
14 South Beaver Street
•Late for the Train Coffee
107 N. San Francisco
1800 Fort Valley Road
1200 N. Beaver

*Note: I originally wrote this article for the April 8, 2010 of Flagstaff Live!*

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