June 27, 2010

Ode to the french fries of Flagstaff

Oh the glory to the mouth when you take a bite of a good french fry. Crispy exterior with the perfect amount of salt, seasoning and slight oiliness. Then your teeth enter the smooshy, light fluffiness that is the potato’s core. That’s a hard to beat sensation.
Fries have been pleasing American taste buds since the 1800s, though they didn’t take off until after World War I. (The horror that we waited so long to appreciate this beloved side.)
There are plenty of spots in northern Arizona to find fantastic frittes. Here’s a look…

Diablo Burger
120 N. Leroux St (Downtown off the main square with alley entrance behind Pesto Brothers)
At the DB they’re committed to quality and the fries are no exception. The “Frites,” as they call them here, are double cooked in peanut oil Belgium-style and tossed with fresh rosemary. They smell as delightful as they taste! A true piece of poetry for the watering mouths of hungry fry appreciators. These fries also come with a special homemade dipping sauces. I like the ranch. Other choices include Hatch Chile Mayo, spicy honey mustard and pesto.

Oregano’s Pizza Bistro
605 W Riordan Rd
I often get a basket of Oreganos waffle-cut fries as an appetizer because they are irresistible. They’re lightly salted plus seasoned and crispy without being overly cooked. These bad boys are light and fluffy deep-fried goodness.

Bigfoot BBQ
120 N. Leroux St
Bigfoot has some of the best sides in town hands down. Their garlic romano fries are tasty without being overpowering. So you can easily munch and still give your sweetie a big old smooch after lunch. These fries in particular compliment Bigfoot’s tangy barbecue sauce. As good as those are, the sweet taters are my fav here. They are cooked up with a crispy, lightly salted outside and warm sweet soft inside.

Ski Lift Lodge Restaurant
6355 N Highway 180 (at the base of Snowbowl Road)
The Ski Lift Lodge Restaurant may be more known for its fab chicken wings and relaxing patio, but the fries are a must order. They’re airy on the inside and crunchy on the outside with a touch of salt. I like to order these with wings and dip them in the wing sauce and ranch dressing.

Mama Burger
112 E. Route 66
Mama’s fries are made fresh throughout the day. These old fashioned goodies are thin and cooked just right. Nothing fancy but quality. You can jazz them up by ordering cajun-style (at no extra cost).

Sidebar: Mexi Fries
Stop the presses – a not to be missed spot for some fry goodness is Sedona’s Javelina Cantina. Yes. That’s right. Normally just on the menu to please picky kids, the fries at this Mexican joint rock.
Speaking of a taco and fry combination. Check out the California tacos and burritos at Flagstaff’s Tacos Locos. This taco has fries inside it, along with carne asada, guacamole, and lettuce.

(This article was originally written by me for Flagstaff Live in May 2010)

June 24, 2010

Flagstaff Tastecasters: Wildflower Bread Company - Specialty Cakes

Lemon Coconut Torte
If you haven't somehow filled up on the salads and sandwiches at Wildflower Bread Company, you have to try the Lemon Coconut Torte. It is, as the menu calls it, "scrumptious." It's a white cake layered with a light and airy lemon mousse and topped with coconut and a whipped topping. A little happy in every bite. Perfect for a relaxing summer night with a cup of coffee out on the patio.
For you chocolate lovers, try the Ultimate Chocolate Cake. It is rich yet still some how airy. It is a rich chocolate cake filled with a decadent chocolate mousse covered in a dark chocolate ganache. 
Check out all of their cakes HERE.

Flagstaff Tastecasters: Wildflower Bread Company - Salads

The Chopped Salad before it is tossed at your table
The salads at Wildflower are mouthwatering. They are boastable for sure and a reason to come here if nothing else moves you (but it sure should). Check out the full salad menu HERE.
We're currently tasting the not yet on the menu Chopped Salad. This is another must order for summer. It has wild Alaskan salmon, arugula, Israeli couscous, feta, red peppers, dried sweet corn, dried cranberries and sunflower sees tossed at your table (yes - tossed in front of you, a new thing for Wildflower) with a pesto vinaigrette. You can get chicken if you'd rather but it is so good as is. Look for it soon. This one is going on my best of Flagstaff salads list. Mmmmm. I could eat this one everyday I think.
The must-have Honey Passion Frozen Lemonade
Also look out for the Honey Passion Frozen Lemonade. It has fresh squeezed lemonade, mango puree, passion fruit syrup, honey and heavy cream blended with ice.

Flagstaff Tastecasters: Wildflower Bread Company - Sandwiches

Now up... lunch. Trying out the brand new Atlanic Haddock Provencal Sandwich. It is seared, lightly breaded Haddock with sliced hard boiled egg, fresh basil (yahoo), romaine lettuce, tomato and a really delish Provencal tartar sauce on a grilled Brioche roll. This is messy and it is worth every single drop of sauce that gets on your shirt. That tartar sauce is fantastic - it is herby and delightful in every bite. The Cucumber, Feta and Red Onion Salad makes a nice side for this one. Its tanginess melds well with the flavors of that tartar sauce.
This has moved to the top spot on my list of sandwiches to try at Wildflower. Others to try: Turkey Breast & Brie, Braised Beef and Mixed Grill. Check out the full sandwich menu HERE.

Flagstaff Tastecasters: Wildflower Bread Company - Breakfast

Continuing our Tastecasting event at Wildflower... it is on to breakfast!
The Roasted Tomato Feta and Egg Sandwich is light, fresh and tummy warming. That's what I love about all the things I've had at Wildflower - freshness is a key ingredient on everything. This sandwich also has scrambled eggs, roma tomato, feat and fresh basil on a buttered Ciabatta Roll. That basil is genius in the eggs. Really brings a summery and flavorful feel to everybite.
Other breakfast items on the menu that you should try: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes and Stuffed French Toast. Full breakfast menu HERE.
Next up... lunch...

Flagstaff Tastecasters: Wildflower Bread Company

Wildflower Bread Company has been open six months in Flagstaff at Butler and Lonetree. The location is nice and sunny with giant windows, comfy booths and a great patio for enjoying Flagstaff weather.

Founder Louis Basile is leading our event tonight, sharing some of his favorites. He says the Flagstaff location is the busiest of all locations.

Right now I'm enjoying the iced green tea with guava as well as the Raspberry Fruit Fizzie. Nice, light and refreshing -perfect for feeling cool when the sun beats down on you- as Louis shares his story.
He comes from New Jersey where his dad ran a little restaurant. He grew up working in food and loves it. Louis was raised in a big Italian household where bread is the center of everything. He says that every great meal starts with great bread. Which is of course at the heart of Wildflower Bread Company.
The first Wildflower opened in November of 1996 in Scottsdale. They pride themselves in being fast casual dining with customer service being right up there with food quality. I've personally found both are the pride of Wildflower. If you love it - Twitter them @WildflowerBread or Louis himself @WildflowerCEO and let them know if you found something not to your standards or liking. They really care and try to make things right.

June 23, 2010

Profiles: Brookside Chocolate Company in Flagstaff, Arizona

Profiles: Brookside Chocolate Company
  • Nonette Saville, Owner
  • Open as Brookside since 2002, prior to name change since 1978
  • 120 N Leroux, Suite 103
  • Historic downtown Flagstaff, inside the Old Town Shops
  • brooksidechocolates.com
Peak shaped chocolates by Brookside
Examiner: What makes your establishment unique?
Nonette: What makes us unique is our huge selection of candy, imported licorice and handmade chocolates. Over 300 selections to choose from.

Examiner:  What is a little known factoid about your place?
Nonette: Little known fact is that we have been around for so long and we are a locally owned and operated business.  Not a franchise.

Examiner:  What is your specialty?
Nonette: Our specialty is our Peak shaped chocolates we make on site that come in 9 flavors and are named after the mountain peaks in the area.
Examiner:  What is your patrons' favorite thing about your establishment? What's your favorite?
Nonette: Patrons favorite would be the selection we have with a friendly smile always.
My favorite would be the great customer service we offer and all our regulars that come to the store.
Examiner:  What is the top thing you recommend visitors to your city do/see - besides your business, of course?
Nonette: Top things to do - Summer ride the ski lift.  Walk around the historic district.

June 18, 2010

Where to find good summer cocktails in Flagstaff, Arizona

What would summer be without a refreshing cocktail to help relax in the shade and beat the heat? There are so many places in town to kick back and liven your spirits. Here’s a look at some sweet spots, many of which are close together so you can enjoy them on a walking tour of the downtown area and avoid having to drive anywhere.

Picazzos Organic Italian Kitchen
1300 S Milton
What’s not to love on the drink menu at Picazzos, especially during their awesome happy hour when their organic cocktails (and apps) are half off! That’s a reason to celebrate right there. The drinks are made with organic ingredients – from the liquor to the fruit – and they taste goooood. I particularly have enjoyed the Watermelon Mint Mojito with silver rum, lime juice, watermelon and mint leaves and the Raspberry Lavender Limonade with big juicy raspberries and a delightful lavender lemonade vodka. The floral bouquet comes alive in your mouth. Another popular option- the Ginger’s Hot with Corazon Reposado Tequila, fresh ginger, agave nectar, lime juice and the kicker –fresh jalapeños. If a spicy twist is what you’re after, consider the Mango Tango with honey mango vodka, mango puree, lime juice and jalapeños. This one is for anyone who enjoys a mango salsa. The taste buds get the sweet and the throat gets the afterburn. The menu goes on and on with interesting concoctions, which is just what summer is calling for.

Tinderbox Kitchen
34 S San Francisco
Dust and delays on San Francisco adding to your summer heat frustration? Pull over, cool off and chill out with a Shandy or two from Tinderbox. Until that construction is completed, they’re serving up these bad boys “two for one.” Traditionally a shandy is a mix of ale and lemonade (I fell in love with the shandy at the famous Hoffbrauhaus in Germany. Delightful!) TBox’s Shandy puts a twist on traditional, as per their norm, instead serving up 4 Peaks Sunbru with fresh lemon juice and a shot of Tru Organic Vodka. Good stuff to make those construction pains fade away.

Salsa Brava
2220 East Route 66
Salsa Brava has a large selection of margaritas to meet your desires. Many come in regular and super grande sizes for those days you need a little extra relaxation. Among the choices you’ve got your traditional house specialty Salsa Brava Margarita with or without fruit. Or try the Agavero Cadillac made with Hornitos Reposado and Agavero Tequila, which is made with a flower known to be an aphrodisiac. They also have several mojitos from the classic to peach, mango, raspberry and strawberry options. Of course, one of their Pina Coladas will also go a long way to help you chill on a hot summer day. And not to be left out, the house made Sangria crafted the traditional way with burgundy, citrus fruit, and brandy.

Criollo Latin Kitchen
16 N San Francisco
Making a name for themselves on the happy hour circuit is Criollo with their sangrias and margaritas a plenty. These margs are particularly addicting, so make sure someone else is driving. You’re going to want to keep ordering them and there’s no skimping on “the goods.” They don’t even have a blender I’m told, so don’t ask for a frozen one. Their red sangria is smooth, tangy and goes down fast. All signs point to excellent bartenders.

Lumberyard Brewing Company
5 S San Francisco
While you’re probably tempted to go for a good ol beer to beat the heat at the Lumberyard, seeing that it is a brewing company and all… consider the refreshing change of the unique white sangria instead. This house made concoction features white wine with red grapes, lemon slices and a splash of apple juice. They also offer a twist on a traditional sangria sans brandy but instead has blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and a splash of lemon-lime soda.

Altitudes Bar and Grill
2 S Beaver
Sit back and relax on the patio at Altitudes and catch a summer breeze while sipping on one of their popular cocktails. Ones to try… Coconino Lemonade with Bacardi, razz rum and fresh squeezed lemonade and the Orange Crush with vodka, triple sec, freshly squeeze orange juice and a splash of Sierra Mist.

You can also find good mojitos at Rendezvous and good margaritas on the rocks at Cafe Ole.

**This article was originally written by me for Flagstaff Live!*

June 13, 2010

Louie's Chicken Shack finding success on Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona

Louie's Chicken Shack
2116 E Route 66
Flagstaff, AZ
website: www.louieschickenshack.com (coming mid June)
928-714-7097 - they deliver!

Tucked in front of an old motel in between some car repair shops sits the new Louie's Chicken Shack. Painted blue and gold in the spirit of Northern Arizona University after the owners alma matter, this little hole in the wall joint is serving up homemade chicken strips, wings and sandwiches with great success. Louie's opened May 1, 2010.
Inside you'll find Lumberjack jerseys and flags decorating the small space. There's a long counter where 2 liters of off brand soda, lemonade, Tang, and Koolaid currently sit (though they do have a fountain soda machine but they don't have it working yet). The folks working there are friendly and will explain their whole menu to you.
The Grown Man Meal combo
You'd think with a name that has chicken shack in it that they'd be serving up buckets of fried chicken, but that's not the case. The menu is pretty simple: several combos with chicken strips and sides plus some wing and sandwich options.
The chicken strips are good. They're big ol strips of chicken breast dredged in a homemade mix of paprika, spices and flour and fried up in peanut oil. They're light, crispy and quite tasty. The best I've had in town for sure.
Try their homemade Louie Sauce for dipping. If you're from Utah or have traveled there you'll find it similar to Fry Sauce. If you're not, think of it as a special concoction of ketchup and mayo and most likely some thousand island dressing, though I didn't ask what Louie's puts in theirs but it tastes darn similar.
The sides are decent but not crazy good like the chicken strips. The fries aren't hand cut and you can tell but they're still tasty enough, as were the mashed potatoes which tasted like instant but were decent.
The only issue I have is that they call things like their lemonade and mashed potatoes homemade when you ask and while they're made in house, they're obviously made from a mix. Now that may be how grandma makes her stuff at home, but I wouldn't call that a homemade dish. But if you know that going in, it's not an issue because they are still tasty. There's just an obvious difference between something like lemonade and mashed potatoes made by hand from scratch versus making them from a mix.
Wings and Thangs combo
The wings are good too - but watch out that mild is pretty spicy but has a nice taste. Still, I'd opt for the strips instead because they really are fabulous and you can order buffalo sauce for them if you'd like.
Current specials include chicken and waffles. Nice! Other things on the menu include a barbeque pork sandwich, grilled chicken sandwich, chicken salad sandwich, chili cheese fries and mini corn dogs.
Prices are pretty good too, like the plenty big Shack Combo for $5 that includes three strips (which are well porportioned), fries, texas toast and a drink. Or two people can easily share "The Grown Man Meal" with 7 strips, fries, two sides, toast, 2 sauces and a drink for $10.

June 9, 2010

The Earls of Flagstaff Sandwiches

Bread surrounding layers of delectable ingredients that on their own may be decent, but together they become a tasty sandwich. What we now call the sandwich has been around in one form or another since the first century BC, according to What’s Cooking America. The website also says that the creation of bread surrounding fillings is named in modern times after the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montague, who liked to keep his hands clean by wrapping bread around meat while playing card games. Good idea. The notion stuck around and is now one of the most popular sorts of entrees served in America. To get the best ones – you’ve got to have the best ingredients layered in perfect combination. Here’s a look at some of the crown jewels of the sandwich market in Flagstaff…

Orpheum Stage Left Sub Shop
Official address is 15 W Aspen but it is really on N Beaver St  ½ block from Rte 66
The new Orpheum Stage Left Sub Shop serves up a deli-ectable variety of "Brooklyn style" sandwiches. They have a nice selection of cold and hot sandwiches from meat lovers options like the New Yorker and Meatball to veggie choices like Eggplant Parmesean and the Paisan (also known as a Caprese with some extras). All sandwiches are about eight bucks and come with a side of chips, pasta salad or potato salad. This may be the new kid on the block of Flagstaff’s sandwich shops, but these guys taste like old pros.

East Coast Deli and Grill
1300 S Milton
Another small newbie Flag sandwich creator is the East Coast Deli. Co-owned by a 22 year old NAU student, this little deli is quite popular serving up what it calls Pitsburgh style grub. Sandwiches here span the day with breakfast choices to classic Tuna Melts, Philly Steak and Cheese and even Pittsburgh Reubens (think standard Reuben plus cream cheese) and Fried Bologna sandwiches. You can make any “Pittsburgh style” by adding fries and coleslaw on top for a buck more.

Lumberyard Brewing Company Taproom and Grille
5 S San Francisco
Stop in for a beer (I rec trying the new Apricot Ale) and a sandwich at the brand spanking new Lumberyard. Owned by the same folks as Beaver Street, you’d expect good things and you’d be right. So far I’ve tried out the Blackened Mahi Mahi and the California Tri Tip. Both worth getting again. Other hot sandwiches include the popular Hot Italian Beef and Hummus Reuben. Lumberyard also serves up cold sandwiches. The only downside – they come ala carte.

Beaver Street Brewery
11 S Beaver St
With a completely different menu from their little brother (not counting beers), is Beaver Street, which features many popular sandwiches. One of my fav veggie options in town – the Rustic Portabello sandwich with a thick, juicy portabello mushroom basted in “secret, spicy stout sauce” and grilled up, then put on a ciabatta roll with sprouts, tomatoes and an artichoke-olive pesto sauce. Delish. Another fan fav here is their Meat Loaf sandwich made with their “world famous” meatloaf topped with Swiss cheese, salsa mayo and beer mustard. Of course they have ever-popular classic chicken sandwiches and burgers too.

Josephine’s Modern American Bistro
503 N Humphreys St
For lunch, check out Josephine’s unique sandwich selections. My favs there - the Po-Boy Crab-Cake Sandwich and the Caprese which has tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil –of course- plus prosciutto and baby greens all on a toasted garlic ciabatta roll with a balsamic reduction and basil infused olive oil. The flavors in these are as special as they are delectable.

Pita Jungle
320 S Regent Street (Next to New Frontiers)
On the pita side of the sandwich world, Pita Jungle is a tasty bet. My recs here – the Shawarma (aka Mediterranean Roasted Chicken) Pita. It has hot grilled chicken breast with mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, pickles, garlic sauce and tahini. So different and oh so good. You’ll crave this one! Another goodie - the Philly Steak Pita. It has steak, sautéed onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese all wood-fired in a Greek pita. Of course, they have classic beef gyro pitas and falafel pitas worth a try too.

Wildflower Bread Company

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.)
Wildflower has a ton of great selections for sandwiches, both hot and cold. Among their most unique: The Roasted Sweet Potato with roasted sweet potato, fresh mozzarella, fig confit, tomato, arugula, marinated fennel and Balsamic Vinaigrette on Herb Focacci. Other ones to try: the Wildflower Grilled Cheese with swiss, brie, cheddar, arugula and tomato on grilled Nine-Grain and the Chicken Continental with grilled chicken breast, swiss, marinated mushrooms, caramelized onion, romaine, tomato and honey mustard on a Ciabatta Roll.

Crystal Creek Sandwich Company
1051 S Milton Rd Ste A
Crystal Creek is a Flagstaff classic, routinely voted best deli sandwiches by locals and students alike. Among their many beloved is the loaded Grand Rapids and the veggie lover’s Crystal Veggie.

(This article was originally written by me for Flagstaff Live! in May 2010)

June 8, 2010

Profiles: Bigfoot BBQ in Flagstaff, Arizona

Profiles: Bigfoot BBQ
Bigfoot BBQ
Photo courtesy: Bigfoot BBQ
Examiner: What makes your establishment unique?
J. Carnes: Unlike many places selling "BBQ" as nothing more than grilled chicken slathered in a sauce they bought from someone else, Bigfoot has been doing Flagstaff's best BBQ for over six years (don't believe us, just ask the readers of the Arizona Daily Sun!).  To us, that means pork, brisket, chicken, and ribs smoked over real hickory at low temps for a long time--up to 12 hours!  And, we do it all ourselves: nothing is pre-seasoned, pre-smoked, pre-pulled, or pre-sauced.  Bigfoot does it in-house, by hand, with sauces, rubs, & seasonings we make from scratch! 

Examiner:  What is a little known factoid about your place?
J. Carnes: Bigfoot's located in a basement.  In the back of a woman's clothing store.  The clothes may smell like BBQ, but we promise the BBQ tastes better than Yoga Pants. Not kidding. It's tough to simply "stumble upon" this place; rather, you gotta' seek it out.  We promise it'll be worth the effort when you get here.

Examiner:  What is your specialty?
J. Carnes: We're famous for our pulled pork.  Whether as a sandwich or as a traditional BBQ plate w/ homemade cornbread, slaw, and tater salad, pulled pork out sells everything on the menu two to one or better. 
Examiner:  What is your patrons' favorite thing about your establishment?
J. Carnes: The patron's favorite thing about Bigfoot--and they tell us often on our comment cards--is the complimentary box of peanuts, which sits out on an old barber shop chair.  Guests help themselves to a little peanut appetizer.  Feel free to toss the shells on the floor, another little thing the guests love!

Examiner: What's your favorite?

J. Carnes: Perhaps my favorite thing about Bigfoot is the Kids' Corral.  We aspire to be a family place to which parents and kids look look forward to coming.  The kids corral has brightly colored, cushy mats on the floor, along w/ books, toys, and a TV that the kids can control themselves.  We tune it a kids' network, and we hope it gives the little ones, as well as Mom and Dad, a nice break.

J. Carnes as "Bigfoot"/ Photo by: Melissa Dunstan
Examiner:  What is the top thing you recommend visitors to your city do/see - besides your business, of course?
J. Carnes: Go ride a bike.  Whether you're fit or not, Flagstaff has some amazing cycling.  Take a cruiser ride around the Historic Downtown neighborhoods and businesses, from one restaurant or brew-pub to another.  Or get out on a trail--Flagstaff has world-class mountain biking.  Want a real challenge?  Take a road bike up seven-mile Snowbowl Road to over 10 feet altitude.  You'll be hungry for BBQ afterward!  There are 2 shops in the downtown area that rent bikes (AZ Bikes & Absolute Bikes), and both include helmet rentals. 

Check out my reviews of Bigfoot BBQ, including lots of photos of their savory foods HERE.

June 1, 2010

Profile: It’s About Coffee: The Factory Restaurant and Coffee House in Flagstaff, AZ

Profile:  It’s About Coffee: The Factory Restaurant and Coffee House
  • Anne Swanson
  • Co-owner, Marketing and Fundraising Manager
  • 2620 N Steves Blvd, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
  • www.itsaboutcoffee.com
  • Open since 2008
Photos in this story by Anne Swanson
Examiner: What makes your establishment unique?
Anne: A commitment to the highest quality coffee and food at budget friendly prices.  Through research and development  we have created a brewing system that creates coffee with no bitter after taste.

Examiner:  What is a little known factoid about your place?
Anne: We serve a full breakfast, lunch and dinner and have all inclusive dinner deals starting at $7.95.

Examiner:  What is your specialty?
Anne:  High precision roasted coffee and fresh four star quality food.
Examiner:  What is your patrons' favorite thing about your establishment? What's your favorite?
Anne: Patrons' favorite thing about your establishment?  The freshness and value of our coffee and food.

Examiner:  What's your favorite?
Anne: The Eggs Benedict for Breakfast, Kobe Burger with Handcut Red Potato Fries for Lunch and the Wild Caught Salmon with Balsamic Reduction for Dinner.

Examiner: Anything new on the horizon that people can look forward to trying?
Anne: We are adding Lightly Smoked Grilled Chicken to our all inclusive dinner deals. These dinner deals include the entrée, beverage, baked potato and house salad.

It’s About Coffee: The Factory Restaurant and Coffee House
Examiner:  What is the top thing you recommend visitors to your city do/see - besides your business, of course?
Anne: Experience our beautiful hiking trails.
Examiner:  Anything else you want to add?
Anne: We are a pioneer in the field of High Precision Coffee Roasting. We have over 30 Varieties of guaranteed fresh roasted dated coffee beans including 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain, 100% Kona, Fair Trade Organic, and Swiss Water Process Decafs.   We have $7.95/lb weekly roast specials and all of our beans are super fresh (always less than 2 weeks old).  We roast locally in Flagstaff.  We also have a fundraising program that features our roasted coffees.

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