All posts by Chey

Northern AZ – Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Route 66

I think anything can be a good reason to take time away from work to travel. Driving out of town for a wedding, for example, can be turned into a three day weekend to explore a town. I recently went to a wedding in Flagstaff for two friends that I’ve had the pleasure to watch meet, befriend, engage and wed. It’s beautiful to see two people who are so genuine and full of life commit themselves to one another. The ceremony was in an adorable country chapel, and the reception to follow was outdoors in the forest at sunset. It was all too adorable to even capture, so here’s the only shot that a new friend captured that I love.

image

So this is my roommate from Italy that I reunited with at the wedding. Having not seen her since Italy nine months before, made the wedding all the more special, especially since we had planned on spending the weekend together in flagstaff.

FRIDAY

So coming up early for the wedding, I spent the day in Downtown Flagstaff at some spots that I had been recommended to. Since I’m not much of a breakfast person, I arrived around noon starving. I didn’t have any plans, so my plans became to find a good breakfast spot. I decided on La Bellavia. They are known for their eggs Benedict, of which there were about 10 options for on the menu, so naturally that’s what I went for, going with the artichoke and avocado Benedict. The sauce definitely proved that La Bellavia knew what they were doing with their Benedict’s, but honestly, my favorite thing about this place was sitting outside on their mini patio on the breezy day that was perfect for people watching.

image

image

La Bellavia is located right by Macy’s European Coffee House which is like tourist central, that being the only reason I would try them, and having heard they were over-rated, they were too packed on the weekend for me to go in and form my own opinion.

image

I’m a firm believer that coffee, especially black, is great for digestion and increasing the metabolism – though some would tease me for thinking so – so after my heavy brunch, I moved to Firecreek Coffee Co.

image

Not knowing the area well, I reparked closer to the Downtown Flagstaff area, but I could have easily walked. It was never hard to find a spot or two, but most places are marked for two hours or with specifications, so just be sure to be aware.

Firecreek Coffee Co. is an adorable space with friendly baristas and in the know for what they are doing with their coffee. I got a Papua New Guinea cold brew.

image

image

image

Afterward I acquainted myself with the Downtown Flagstaff area. It was an easy town to navigate.

image

I found the Basement Marketplace which was recommended to me and which I would pass on the recommendation. Here you will find the famous Diablo Burger, and other boutiques and gift shops, but my favorite is the actual Basement: an underground local shop in the style of Urban Outfitters.

image

image

The workers were extremely friendly, including this girl that I took a portrait of, who listed out places for me to try. I always appreciate what locals recommend because they know what they are talking about. She was another to affirm the need for me to try Diablo Burger. She was the sweetest. And really, the best part of travel is meeting new people: there is something special about a stranger showing hospitality and welcoming you to their town.

image

I also stumbled on The Sweet Shoppe. Another spot with extremely friendly and kind staff.

image

image

The girl helping me recommended the Oreos dipped in mint chocolate, and it was just as great as she said they were. I also got a white chocolate and sprinkle pretzel which was great. They let me know a little about their shop, including that they house make their caramel for the chocolates, and that they have a location in the Phoenix area.

image

image

SATURDAY

The following day, my friends wanted to visit the Grand Canyon. I, needing coffee to start my day, drove us out to Williams on the way. We drove past an outdoor flea market, then returned to browse around. Such a fun stumble upon! We found some great items that were so cheap, and eventually figured out that we were on historic Route 66.

image

image

My find was an Italian Moka Pot. I’ve been hunting for one for months since returning from Italy, and they never come cheap or easy to find, so I was pretty excited. The couple selling it to me weren’t even sure how it was supposed to be used, so we got to show and interact with them, and they were so glad that they could sell it to someone who would use and appreciate it. All for only $5! And while taking a photo with my new Moka Pot in front of a blue Ford, a little old man came out joking, “It costs $5 to take pictures with my truck.” His name was Clide and he told us about his service in the Air Force in Okinawa and other life details. He was so cute that I had to ask if I could take his portrait.

image

The drive up to the Grand Canyon is so pretty. The landscape changing constantly. Most of the drive was deserted, but we made a stop at Bedrock and to buy jerky from a car parked by the side of the road.

image

We spent a few hours at the Grand Canyon having time enough for  a few various view points, and stopping to picnic at one of them.

image

Most of the look out points have too many tourists for anyone to get a good view or to feel close to nature, so our last stop was definitely my favorite: Yaki Point.

image

There weren’t many people there, and even so there was a rock plateau within walking distance where there was no one. We climbed up it and had the best view of the canyon. And we were at the top of the canyon so we had the rush of the constant wind. And though we were there in early evening, it seemed like a perfect place to watch the sunset, which having experienced the Grand Canyon at sunset once before, I totally recommend putting in your plans when you visit.

image

We drove back to Route 66 for the evening. We got ice cream and looked through the shops, but there really wasn’t much else to do, unless you want to eat.

image

image

I’d say it’s a good spot to walk through and see and grab food, but don’t plan on being there longer than a few hours, unless you go earlier on a summer weekend when the flea market is open or you hear of an event.

SUNDAY

The following day I took a more relaxed approach and revisited Downtown Flagstaff.

image

Went back to Firecreek Coffee Co. and tried an Orange Lavender Iced Latte. It was unique and totally worth trying. Being obsessed with orange in my coffee, and lavender in general lately, I completely loved his latte. Plus, having been to so many coffee shops in my travels, this coffee shop is the only place I’ve ever seen this flavor. They also have a spicy cardamom syrup that is unique, but I wasn’t as crazy about it.

image

I went in and out of shops, including Earthbound which was recommended to me by a local. So cute for sure.

image

image

Also found a small bookstore, a vintage costume shop, and other boutiques. There’s definitely enough to stumble upon.

image

image

Then I tried Diablo Burger since multiple people had told me about it. The most obvious quality was how kind the staff was in dealing with all the hangry people waiting in a very long line. I had plenty of time to look through the menu, but I quickly knew what I would order: Señor Smoke of ancho grilled onions, grilled avocado, bacon, cilantro and Sriracha mayo. It was delish and I loved that it was a local spot in Flagstaff and Tucson.  There’s definitely enough to do in northern AZ for locals looking to get out of town a few days, or for those traveling from out of state for a Grand Canyon vacation.

image

Phoenix AZ – Phoenix Public Market Café & Open Air Market

I feel like Saturday mornings are special and shouldn’t be treated as ordinary. I don’t know why. It’s just this feeling. I can’t resist the urge to make Saturday morning spent in a unique way from any other day of the week.

One of my favorite Saturday morning traditions is the Phoenix Public Market. I feel like the best time to go really is Saturday morning because the Phoenix farmers market is set up outside in the parking lot. (The market also comes out Wednesday nights.) So this visit I went with a new friend who walked into my life out of nowhere a couple weeks ago, and of which I’m so grateful, Augustina.

image

I remember when the Phoenix Public Market was an actual grocer attached to a tiny hole in the wall coffee shop. That was a few years ago when me and my friend were just starting to explore our local community. I wish I had photos of this spot in that day because it was absolutely adorable and no one I talk to knows the market from that time. In any case, their remodel is gorgeous. I love the brick, black and white tile, wood ceilings, and log tables. The architecture is so classic.

image

image

image

I prefer to start the morning inside getting breakfast and coffee, only because there is no way I honestly can begin to function until I have coffee haha. That first sip of coffee really is the best feeling ever.

image

When you walk in, there are signs directing you straight forward to order food and coffee. (If you come just for coffee or drinks, you can go straight to the bar to your right instead.) Phoenix Public Market serves Cartel coffee in traditional European style which I appreciate and respect them for, so pretend your in Europe and don’t order your cappuccino in a particular size.

image

image

Their menu is definitely appealing. I’ve gotten, and returned for, The Evan’s Churchill: poached eggs, market vegetables, quinoa, pesto and agave syrup. From the plates of other customers, I know for sure I’d want to try their breakfast sandwiches. They serve breakfast until 3 PM, which is ingenious in my mind, but they also serve lunch, dinner, house made pretzels and pastry case offerings, with mostly locally sourced and organic ingredients.

image  

After waking myself up to coffee and breakfast and good conversations with Augustina, we moved outdoors to walk and shop the farmer’s market. Since farmer’s marketing is so trendy right now, it’s a nice way to be apart of and support local community. We shopped for vegetables and herbs, and like all photographers, we photographed.

image

image

image

I would also have to mention that this farmers market location is a decent size and offers a variety of stands such as handmade jewelry and art, plus a crowd of food trucks. So that was my last Saturday morning in Downtown Phoenix, and I totally recommend it for yours!

image
 

As far as other times of day, when I go for lunch, I get the Roosevelt Row bagel sandwich: it’s open face with avocado, hummus, red onions, sprouts and tomatoes. If I go for dinner, I get the Green Chile Pork Pot Pie.

IMG_1904.JPG

Queen Creek, AZ – Olive Mill and Nursery

Queen Creek is a small city on the southeast edge of the Phoenix Metro area. A lot of families will move out to Queen Creek for the affordability of large nice housing, and then commute for work, and even culture. But there is one spot I’ve been hearing about for years that is in Queen Creek, and draws a lot of people to commute out there: The Queen Creek Olive Mill.

image

The Queen Creek Olive Mill is a local olive grove where olives are locally harvested and sold in jars of stuffed olives, flavored olive oils and vinegars, tapenades. They also have a restaurant and coffee bar.

image

I’ve been wanting to visit this place for years, and on seeing that a new friend of mine frequented here, I found the perfect opportunity to finally visit this place and grow a new friendship with Kaeli.

image

We met inside at the coffee bar. When you first walk in you pass through the grocery part of the store and the spot to order at the restaurant on the right, and then the coffee bar is on the left.

image

It’s been hot here in Arizona so we both got iced coffees. I got a caramel iced latte and really liked that they used Ghirardelli sauce. Their espresso was smooth and light, with an enjoyable hint of acidity. We sat at a large community table with stools and talked for hours of who we were and where we had come from. It was a depth to our new friendship.

We continued in realizing we have similar life situations that others don’t often understand us for, as we drove to the Queen Creek Nursery to photograph and look at plants.

image

I don’t remember the last time I have been to a nursery,  but I had been craving it, especially with the recent trend of portraits of people and succulents in nurseries.  Definitely loved photographing here.

image

image

We returned back to the Olive Mill where I bought a sandwhich for lunch.

image

I then browsed through the store while I waited for them to make it. Everything in the store is gift worthy since it is all local, packaged well, and unique. By unique, I mean there is wide selection to buy something you can’t get anywhere else. The selection of tapenades, for example, ranged from Sweet Red Pepper Olive Tapenade, Caramelized Onion and Fig Tapenade, Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Tapenade, to Green Olive Pate, and more. Everything can be sampled. The Carmelized Onion and Fig was definitely my favorite as it was a bit on the sweeter side.

image

The jarred olives also had plenty of variety being stuffed with jalapenos and cheeses and citrus. I came the week before Father’s Day and had been thinking for weeks what to get my dad, and while browing through, I found the perfect gift of jarred olives.

I only waited a few minutes before I was buzzed to pick up my sandwhich. I ordered the Kalamata which is Olive Mill Kalamata salami, Genoa salami, capicola, herb roasted tomatoes, seasonal greens, provolone, red onion with White Balsammic & Herb Cream on grilled baguette. The ingredients were very straight forward, but the overall flavors were rich, much like the food I found in Italy made with quality ingredients. They had plenty of things to try on their menu, so I would like to return and try their other sandwhiches and bruschetta, and try their breakfast menu which uses the tapenades and sauces that they sell in their store.

image

I feel like this is such a great place to support local economy. Apparently in the winter they are packed with business from tourism and those who migrate to Arizona for the winter. I think that as a local, it’s nice to be a tourist in your own back yard. To find what can only be found here, and then enjoy that. The Queen Creek Olive Mill is definitely one of those places.

Phoenix AZ – Postino

Postino is a winecafe known not just for wine, but for their great bruscetta and Italian style menu of meat and cheese boards.  Everything I’ve had here has been good, so when I noticed they had a brunch menu that looked delicious, I asked my friend Amanda to meet me one Saturday morning for brunch at the Downtown Gilbert location.

postino-gilbert-az.jpg

Downtown Gilbert has been built up very well as a destination spot for families and friends to spend time together at any of their great local restaurants. And I feel like more so on a Saturday morning with everyone drawn to the morning farmer’s market.  Going to Postino for Saturday brunch feel so nice: to be outside and apart of the community.  Nice enough that me and Amanda made it a tradition to meet here for two Saturdays in a row.

We got a table outside on the patio facing the rest of the downtown area. The weather has been perfect lately for being outside, and these days were the best with a constant breeze in the air.

postino-gilbert-az.jpg

postino-gilbert-az.jpg

Both times we met here, I got the Farm Scramble which is yukon potatoes scrambled with eggs, herbs, onions, gruyere and white cheddar and served with a greens and tomato salad.  Amanda got the Smoked Salmon item as a scramble with eggs, capers and onions with dill cream cheese on the side. The waiter was really friendly to change the item preparation and presentation to accomodate her allergy to gluten.

postino-gilbert-az.jpg

postino-gilbert-az.jpg

I’ve yet to try the Country Toast with Italian ham, dijonaise, gruyere and sunny side up eggs, but my friend Kristen told me that it’s amazing. She said it’s like a Croque Madame, so that’s definitely on my list to try the next time I’m there.

We also got a french presss coffee, and for a couple hours we day dreamed about travel and updated each other about our lives, while along the downtown streets plenty of families walked by for people watching. It was all so relaxing and a great way to start off the weekend.

postino-gilbert-az.jpg

 

20140510-234528.jpg

Phoenix AZ Heritage Square – Royal Coffee Bar and Pizzeria Bianco

Royal Coffee Bar & Roasting is a local coffee shop in Phoenix AZ owned by a local architect. Their spaces are often small and architecturally unique. There are four Royal Coffee Bars, and as of last week I had only been to the location in Tempe and at the Biltmore. (At the end of this article is a update with the fourth location at the Union.)

TEMPE LOCATION

image

BILTMORE LOCATION: RED DOOR

image

I’ve loved both locations for their atmosphere and coffee. My first experience with Royal at The Biltmore left  such a good impression on me with their pretty teal tiles, great coffee, and adorable outdoor seating area of wood tables and yellow stools, that I was interested in going back to all their locations, especially when I heard last week from some coworkers that there was a location in Downtown Phoenix. Of course I jumped on the idea of actually going when some friends suggested the Downtown Phoenix location at Heritage Square.

royal-coffee-heritage-square.jpg

royal-coffee-heritage-square.jpg

The Heritage Square area is really unique and looks just as it sound: a square block of Victorian vintage homes converted into shops and restaurants. It’s a great location for a coffee bar, especially since the coffee bar is  inside a small converted brick building that usedtobe a carriage house.  We literally walked into a room with four walls, a bar, a wood table and school chairs. That was it. And to it’s benefit. It was a cute space.

royal-coffee-heritage-square.jpg

royal-coffee-heritage-square.jpg

The coffee was being roasted right there behind the bar. And the coffee itself was so good. The whole experience felt like I was discovering a piece of my city with JR and Ashley, and I was glad to have that moment. In between sips of coffee, we were up and down photographing. Heritage Square is a great back drop for photos: brick buildings, unique architecture, and this wall was my absolute favorite.

royal-coffee-heritage-square.jpg

After finishing our coffee, we walked around Heritage Square, eventually ending up at a pizza place that JR knew about. Apparently it was Pizzeria Bianco! A place that’s been on my list for awhile. They are nationally famous for their pizza and  rumor has it that you will have to wait in line to get in. That probably applies more to a Friday night then a Wednesday afternoon, which was when we went. It was the perfect stumble upon on this spontaneous adventure with new friends.

pizzeria-bianco.jpg

pizzeria-bianco-phoenix.jpg

We had a rough time communicating what we would be ordering together, as JR and I were wholly absorbed in looking through our Heritage Square photos haha, but once we ordered, got our food, and taken more photos of our food, the food was really great.

pizzeria-bianco-phoenix.jpg

The Wiseguy pizza (mozzarella, onion and fennel sausage) was amazing and so was the caprese salad. (On a separate occasion at their sister site Pane Bianco, I’ve also tried their Rosa pizza, which is available on the menu here as well. I highly recommend it. It’s red onion, parmigiano reggiano, rosemary, and pistachios.) After living in Italy last fall, I would say this pizza and caprese salad are so legit.

pizzeria-bianco-heritage-square.jpg

Overall, the day just felt great. It’s so fun to discover the hidden spots that make Phoenix great and make friends and memories doing it.

UPDATE : BILTMORE LOCATION AT UNION

I apparently am really into Royal Coffee Bar and their freshly roasted coffee, as I now find myself a barista proud to work for this local coffee bar.

image

This past week I found myself scheduled at the last location I had never been to: Union at the Biltmore. I absolutely loved it and couldn’t stop photographing the space. It’s literally a room, with, sigh, a yellow espresso machine, and a window. Here’s some new shots:

image

image

image

image

Phoenix AZ – Sweet Republic

Sweet Republic is a local ice cream shop that makes everything they serve. So, they are pretty famous, being featured on Food Network and Bon Appetit.

20140505-001518.jpg

20140505-001435.jpg

The lady working that afternoon I went in was very helpful to inform us about their store and answer any questions. She told us that they are even famous enough to have travelers from Europe come in because they have heard about this spot. She told me how all the ice cream, cones, cookies, brittle, sauces, everything is made from scratch by them.

20140505-001456.jpg

When I asked what she would recommend for my first visit, she told me about the item featured on Food Network: Toffee Banofi in a waffle bowl. I’m all about salted caramel, so it was nice that it had salted caramel sauce, but I also swapped out the vanilla ice cream for their salted caramel ice cream. I loved all the texture too with the waffle cone and toffee brittle. Seriously, this was the best thing ever. And, it looked way better than the featured picture on the wall.

20140505-001311.jpg

20140505-001405.jpg

Aside from the ice cream, I think me and Molly’s favorite feature was the collection of childhood games. We kind of got lost for a couple hours reliving our childhoods through Connect Four, Jenga and Shoots and Ladders. All that practice at Connect Four as I was a child paid off, and we played and played until Molly finally won a game. Haha! I do have to give her credit and say that she beat me the first chance she had with Shoots and Ladders. The childhood board games are definitely a benefit to their atmosphere.

20140505-001535.jpg

Sweet Republic is located in Scottsdale and Phoenix AZ. They also have a shop at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Terminal 4. I think Sweet Republic is a great representation of Phoenix AZ to those on layover of what Phoenix has to offer in local eats. You should try them out! But you have to get the Toffee Banofi with Salted Caramel Ice Cream!

Phoenix, AZ – Lola Coffee at The Yard

(UPDATE: This Lola location is closed. You can still find the Roosevelt Row location of Lola, and The Yard is still open.)

Me and my friend Mary have always been all about Lola coffee in Phoenix. They roast their own coffee, are local, and their coffee is so good. So when we heard of their new coffee shop location we had to go together. The new Lola coffee shop is inside the Fox Restaurant Concept called The Yard.

20140503-233644.jpg

20140503-233654.jpg

20140503-233709.jpg

The Lola coffee shop is one of three local restaurants at The Yard located in Phoenix. It was a nice space of wood menus, brick walls, lots of hanging lights, and community tables and bar stools for seating.

20140503-233737.jpg

20140503-233746.jpg

20140503-233759.jpg

We each got iced flavored lattes that were just the best. But this location is way more than coffee and pastries, they have also expanded into a breakfast menu and serve tapas.

lola-coffee-the-yard.jpg

20140503-233819.jpg

20140503-233827.jpg

After seeing that they now had a breakfast menu, I decided to go back the following week and introduce another friend, Jr. He snapped this photo of me in front of Lola.

lola-the-yard-phoenix-az.jpg

Visiting in the morning is nice as most of the space is open to the outside and there’s tons of light.

lola-the-yard-phoenix-az.jpg

lola-the-yard-phoenix-az.jpg

Me and Jr each got omelets.  I got The Adriana omelet which was mushrooms, asparagus and aged white cheddar. Jr got the egg white omelet with turkey, tomato and avocado.

lola-the-yard-phoenix-az.jpg

The breakfast over all was so good, from the food and coffee, to being outside on a nice day chatting about travel and cutures and photography and trusting God. And by the end, right when I was ready to adventure around and photograph, Jr was already speaking the same thought. Downtown Phoenix is a great place to do that. There are so many unique buildings and walls.

lola-the-yard-phoenix-az.jpg

lola-the-yard-phoenix-az.jpg

When trying a new place, it’s always awkward trying to figure out how things work, so here’s some advice on what I learned about parking and entering the building. There is complimentary valet if you enter on Montebello. But going on a Friday night, we came too late and the valet lot was full. You can park north of the street by the brown building or across the street by the white building. There is no parking south of The Yard, so don’t try that like we did. The entrance into the building is on the west (“back”) side of the building where you drop off your car for valet.

20140509-105450.jpg

Phoenix, AZ – Ollie Vaughn

One of my favorite things about traveling is discovering hidden gems of local food and coffee. I’ve been implementing that into my lifestyle here in Phoenix. There are a lot of great places to discover for a foodie.

Me and my friend Melissa discovered this cute local spot called Ollie Vaughn.

20140424-235750.jpg

We drove up to the parking lot and stumbled on a huge mural that covered the side of the building. I love art and love that it feels typical to find so much of it in Downtown Phoenix.

20140424-235048.jpg

I think the greatest appeal of Ollie Vaughn is their atmosphere. The whole store is well lit with sunshine, which mixed with the white walls and blue chairs, feels overall clean, classic, and European. Then there is the back patio. The tables are topped with succulent pots, lined with the same blue chairs, and at the edge of the patio are two stand up gardens. All the sunshine gives this place the mood of feeling like a great place you would want to lunch.

20140424-235330.jpg

20140424-235343.jpg

20140425-000239.jpg

Me and my friend got breakfast items: quiche, French toast and toddys. I’d love to return and try their lunch items, as two-thirds of their menu is salads and sandwhiches, plus their pastry case looked delicious with fresh pies and bars. Even so our breakfast was good. The quiche had ham, spinach and a creamy white cheese and was topped with cheese that had melted when heated. Also, the price was great. For my toddy and quiche I paid $7.50. And the rest of their menu was really reasonable too under $10.

20140424-235605.jpg

20140424-235619.jpg

20140424-235633.jpg

Tempe, AZ – Crepe Bar

I had heard alot of recommendations for Crepe Bar before I finally made my way there. Within two weeks after my first visit there, I had taken six friends who then started taking their friends and family. Crepe Bar is definitely doing something right.

crepe-bar-tempe-az-14

crepe-bar-tempe-az-12

crepe-bar-tempe-az-10

I have a few reason why I recommend Crepe Bar to others:

PERSONAL: The staff will always bring your food and drink to  you, no matter how busy they are.  And everything they hand out reflects personal attention to presentation: latte art on the coffee, sauce drizzled on the plates with the crepes, and samples in jars and flasks.

crepe-bar-tempe-az-7

crepe-bar-tempe-az-2

FRIENDLY. The staff is always kind and friendly. I like to engage, but I don’t expect it, so it’s nice when there’s mutual engaging.  The staff was friendly to chat about Phoenix and travel with me. Even to bring samples to my seat by the window and converse about any input I had on a new recipe. My favorite thing about supporting local business is that there is heart in what they create and connection with their community.

crepe-bar-tempe-az-3

CREATIVE. I love that this place is always creating. And their flavors are unique. Nothing boring here.  First time I came, I had the smokey crepe (turkey, avocado, chorizo and smoked gouda) and a cappuccino and I can’t help but come back to get the EXACT same thing every time. Though the crepe bar would do their best to persuade me otherwise: every time I come in, I get 2-3 samples of something different. It makes me feel secure that if I ever did sway away from my usual, I would find something equally as good. So, here were the three samples I received on this visit: housemade granola, spicy kale chips, and milk and cookies.

crepe-bar-tempe-az-8

crepe-bar-tempe-az-6

crepe-bar-tempe-az-5

COFFEE. From my first visit, I was obsessed with their coffee. For real. It was amazing. I later learned that it’s from heart roasters in Portland. So much sense: from my visit to Portland, heart roasters was my favorite, and I was in love with the fact that Crepe Bar imports heart coffee to right here in Phoenix. I may be wrong, but Crepe Bar is the only place I’ve found serving and selling heart coffee, which would be reason enough for my support, if they hadn’t given me so many other reasons already.

crepe-bar-tempe-az-1

Everything here is worth recommending. I’m all for finding something great locally and then getting support behind it.