All posts by Chey

Jerome AZ

I’ve been meaning to visit Jerome for a few years. Finally did it this last weekend with Merrissa. 

It’s only a couple hours north of Phoenix, so we came upon it about 10 am. My first impression as we drove through the upward winding road was how cute this old ghost town was with all its old buildings set on the hills. We parked and made our first spot Flat Iron.

This spot came recommended by my friend for their brunch and coffee. We walked in the door to the tiniest room that served as kitchen and restaurant. It was the cutest. Their kitchen does not have a stove top or open flame: everything is cooked in a toaster oven, conventional oven or panini grille, and the eggs are scrambled by espresso machine steam wand. 

We both ordered iced vanilla lattes, that we loved, and brunch. I got the breakfast tacos: corn tortillas stuffed with scrambled eggs, cheese, red peppers and onions, and salsa. The green chile salsa was absolutely the best! Merrissa got the breakfast burrito that had scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese, turkey sausage and green chiles in a toasted homemade tortilla.

Afterward we explored the town: hiking by the creek, antiquing, swinging in the park, and photographing all the historic architecture. It’s a cute town to explore and all the brick and metal walls make it a must for any photographer.

Southern CA – Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach


I recently went on a trip with Sarah down Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to her home in Long Beach.

By the time we made it back to Long Beach, we were exhausted and for about 24 hours, we did nothing but lay at her house and recover from out travels haha. Our first venture back outdoors was to meet her friend Luke at a new coffee shop: Rose Park Roasters. Before he arrived, we walked through the neighborhood and photographed.

So we met Luke at Rose Park Roasters and I loved the space. It had become his new spot since it had opened a couple, weeks before, and I was glad he was introducing us. 


I say this a lot, but my favorite part of travel is meeting new people and making friends. It was fun to meet Luke. He was definitely one of those people who makes a complete stranger feel comfortable. It was interesting to hear about his life in music and his desire to be a barista.

I got two coffees. First I started with their Ethiopian cold brew, and then I had their molasses, ginger and Rosemary latte which might have been a special for the day. Both were phenomenal.

Another thing I say a lot is always get a local’s suggestion on where to eat. Luke  mentioned that as Rose Park Roasters had become his go to spot for coffee, his go to spot after was Taqueria La Mexicana #2 down the street for their California burritos. California burritos (french fries, carne asada, cheese, salsa and guacamole) are my favorite, so we took the two minute walk to get some, and it could not have made me happier. 


Later that week me and Sarah met our mutual friends Emma, Kristen and Lydia at Aosa for a reunion. It was really fun to be all together again. 

Loved that our friends took us to Aosa, one of their favorite local coffee shops.  It was super cute and they serve Stumptown coffee which is a favorite of mine.


After Aosa, we went down to Emma’s hometown of Seal Beach. It’s a super quaint downtown right off the beach. 

Emma took us to a Mexican spot. Their shrimp tacos were delicious. 

Then we walked through Seal Beach. Amy met us there and it was nice to just be there laughing and catching up with old friends while walking through this adorable town. 

We went shopping through a couple super cute boutiques that I completely recommend if you visit: Stitch & Feather and Isabelle’s Cabinet. 

A couple other spots worth mentioning are the Italian grocer and The Crema Cafe, a brunch spot Emma grew up going to. 

The day in Seal Beach was absolutely perfect. I believe travel is never about where you go, but who you go with, who you experience it with. The moments and laughs you collect with those friends. Whether we are in Italy or Southern California, these friends are the reason the places I travel to mean so much. 

Tucson AZ

Spent my Sunday day tripping to Tucson with Cadence. It was a great way to weekend.


Cadence had been craving prep & pastry so that was the excuse for the trip, which I was glad for as I’ve heard so much about this spot and have been wanting to try it. So upon arriving in Tucson, it was our first stop. As with most popular spots on the weekend, we were put on a 45 minute waiting list. Absolutely fine with us: we spent the time well exploring the area on foot and by camera.



We arrived back to prep & pastry ready to brunch. I got the breakfast poutine based off seeing it on another table. It was a great choice: house made fries topped with pork belly, duck fat gravy, cheese and two over easy eggs. This spot does rich well. They have not so heavy fare as well: my friend got a sweet potato hash that she had drove all the way from Phoenix to get, so I assume that means phenomenal. And the rest of the menu looked like must try’s so I’m sure that’s more excuse to come back once again.



After brunch we grabbed Cadence’s friend London. I always go by the rule “always always hang with a local” when traveling. London was one of those people you become friends with instantly. No awkward. And really, Traveling is all about the new friends you make, plus, the local knows all the spots and can give you perspective on the city. I learned the draw for locals to the grunge of the appropriately named “Dirty T.” I had never understood this before so it was absolutely fascinating to learn the Tucson culture.


Our first stop was coffee, so we went to Cartel, which I was glad for as this was the last Cartel I had never been to. And now my new favorite from the wood, exposed brick, deer heads, succulents and lots of natural light.



We grabbed our coffee to go and walked Downtown Tucson’s Congress Street for a photo adventure. If it hadn’t already been a favorite from the food and pretty spots, it now would be for the abandoned alleys and stumble upons.






Afterward we went to Time Market. Another spot I heard a lot about and needed to visit. It was a neighborhood market grocer. Included in the building was a restaurant serving brick oven pizza, a coffee bar serving Verve espresso, and selling retail coffee greats such as Intelligentsia, Verve, Stumptown and Heart. We headed back to Congress Street for Diablo Burger. My favorite item here is the Señor Smoke: ancho grilled onions, grilled avocado, bacon, cilantro and Sriracha mayo. Definitely a must try.



We sat at the window with a view of Congress Hotel. (Another great spot for eating by the way.)


We headed to the other Tucson Cartel location for more caffeine to energize our late night adventuring in Tucson with London and his friend Ian, and our drive home later that night.


Phoenix AZ – Welcome Chicken + Donuts


Welcome Chicken + Donuts has just opened by the owners of Welcome Diner, and I’ve been trying to find the opportunity to finally try it. Saturday morning with Cadence and Emma was the perfect invite.

The first thing I noticed was the super cute interior. While I waited in line, a local mentioned to me that the mission that is on the wall, is actually across the street. He pointed, and it was one of the views from the window.



The donut selection was phenomenal. From Wisconsin cheddar apple fritter to chocolate rose pistachio to maple bacon. I got to chat with one of the guys who worked there on his donut input. He mentioned that there were a couple varieties that had just been created the day before. Such as the dark chocolate pudding filled with red wine glaze. We grabbed that one in our half dozen box, along with a half dozen wings in each if the three sauce options.


We went outside to eat on the large patio with community seating. I love these two for getting the whole photo before you eat concept! You can check out their perspective on their post at: .


We tried each of the three sauce varieties: Korean Chili, Vietnamese Herb, and Japanese BBQ. We all agreed that the favorite was the Korean Chile. Our favorite donut was the dark chocolate pudding with red wine glaze. Everything was so so good. Chicken and donuts totally go together. And Welcome does it so well. I definitely want to go back.




I want Welcome Chicken + Donuts to be as much apart of my regular life as possible. So yesterday I paid another visit to introduce Kristine and Michelle.


And while we were there, we had the pleasure of running into a couple other friends of ours, Ash and Bryan. Love when community supports local business and there is opportunity of having spontaneous hangs over meals with friends. Ash’s recommendation was to just get a dozen of donuts for yourself so you can try them all. It’s the best idea.


The special for the day was ramen. So glad for it as I had been craving ramen this week after hearing good things about the ramen here when it had been a special here the week before. It was delicious, and as paired perfectly with my try at the salted key lime donut.


Afterward we photo adventured in the nearby fields and neighborhoods of south Phoenix. It was all such a good morning.



Pasadena CA


On my last day visiting my friend Stephanie, she had me meet her at a favorite coffee shop of hers in Old Town Pasadena. I was glad for some more hangs… The whole trip was last minute and it was so nice to be welcomed into Stephanie’s daily life with her friends and her local lifestyle of her favorite coffee shops for a few days.


So we met at Copa Vida, definitely a coffee shop with classic style vibes, for some last convos.



Of course, I got coffee, and this Nutella croissant that the barista recommended to me.


After coffee, we parted and I explored the area. I’ve come to appreciate exploring on my own in travel. I prefer experiencing a place with someone for the memories it makes, but a lot of time, travel means no alone time to have your thoughts to yourself and relax, so it was extremely nice to see this new place alone for a few hours.


I found an Urban Outfitters… A favorite of mine. So I bought some “souvenirs.” Haha. I feel like during travel you have to pretend money isn’t an issue. It’s kind of nice to live like that for a few days before going back to reality.


There were lots of great stumble upon spaces that day . Everything had great style, architecture and light. Like these shops with warehouse-esque style featuring high ceilings at Intelligencia, and her neighbor of various vendors selling pies, juices, etc.



Before she left, Stephanie had recommended wandering the alleys, so I did. Down one of the alleys, this juice bar was hiding.



And from this moment on, I was really into ginger lemonade. Seriously, the best, and I recommend it if you ever discover it somewhere. So glad I took that advice and looked through the alleys.


Definitely loved Old Town Pasadena. One of Stephanie’s favorite cities became one of mine that day.

Costa Mesa CA – The Lab Anti-Mall and SoCo

I had come to town for a wedding of mutual friends of me and Emma. It was a great opportunity for a reunion with friends I had lived in Italy with. It was exciting to see Emma again since it had been six months since we were together in Italy. We started our few days together at The Lab: Anti-Mall. A small outdoor vintage boutique and restaurant mall.



We ate lunch at The Lab’s Gypsy Den where my old roommate from Italy, Amy, met us. It was so refreshing to be with both of them again. I had missed all our travel memories together so it was so great to reminisce and laugh together. And I should have gotten the nachos like Emma haha.


I love going to Urban Outfitters and can’t get enough of it especially on vacation. Definitely hit it up a couple times with Emma, including after lunch at the Gypsy Den, where it was next door. It was such a surreal experience to shop with these friends that I had met and lived with in Italy. Urban Outfitters is such an American experience I had missed in Italy, and it was fun to have this American experience with these friends I’ve never experienced American culture with.


On Saturday, we did the best thing possible: farmers marketing. Emma was the best host and local to welcome me into her daily life for a few days and take me around to her favorite cute spots. For our morning, we went to SoCo for their outdoor farmers market and indoor boutiques.


We went through the farmers market booths and bought plums since Emma is obsessed and shopped through cute succulents.



Then we went indoors. A super cute space! We got coffee at Portola Coffee Lab, sat down to read for a bit (love friends to do that with!), and shopped through the boutiques.




This vacation was the best for trying new pretty local craft coffee shops. Portola Coffee Lab was definitely a pretty one with good coffee.




Berkeley CA

Berkeley was one day on a fourteen day vacation visiting friends around California.

And it was one of my favorite days. Because it included small downtown life walking and exploring with friends.


Some days don’t go as planned in travel. This day had been such. I had Monterey on my list of travel plans, but due to schedules and availabilities, plans changed. And changed. The day of, we had the chance to go to Monterey, but I remember feeling so lazy and tired that day haha. And I’ve learned to not force things. Especially in travel. Enjoy the moment. Miki was super great and looking up places for us to go that were closer than Monterey to us. I remember being unconcerned with what we did that day. Even giving her final decision. She had found a festival in Berkeley and decided we could try that.

The festival was small, but the chance to explore this town by foot made some of my favorite memories of my whole vacation. I’ll fall for any small downtown city life, that comes with lots of locals who’s lifestyle is walking, and where the chances on stumbling onto a gem, are countless and often. I love everything about downtowns. And when I get the chance, I try to take on that lifestyle for a few months at a time. I would add Berkeley to that list if I had ever had the chance to study there.


The festival was cute, and entertained us for 10 minutes with live music. Then we moved on and stumbled on some vintage global stores. Berkeley was soon obvious to be all about a hippie style.


My friend Mallory had heard of a popular market that was set up on the other side of Berkeley so we got directions from someone on the street and walked the fifteen minutes to get there. It’s was an outdoor market that had booths with handmade arts set up along the street, all in hippie style with crocheted hats and handmade earrings, and such.


Along the road were tons of cute bookstores and vintage shops.


We even stumbled on an Asian bakery and made a spontaneous decision to stock up on egg tarts and pastries. Egg tarts have been a recent obsession of “must try” as I’ve been into Korean shows, and they had come up a lot in the last month. I developed a craving for them, though I had never tried, simply because I could imagine what they tasted like and seemed so culturally popular on the other side of the globe. Food is a great way to experience another culture when you haven’t had the opportunity to make it that far yet. And these egg tarts were nothing to disappoint, if anything, they confirmed the fact that Asia is a place I need to make it to, soon.


But California is a great place to get a taste of Asian culture, as I discovered the large scope of influence, even in our next stop, which was mostly directed to my recent insomnia and dependence on caffeine.


So on the way to Cheese Board Pizza, a place on me and Mallory’s list every time I visit, but never make it to, we stopped at Asha Tea House. I basically just looked up some local coffee places in the area on Maps. I try to go to places with a good reputation and good atmosphere, which from Yelp, this place had. And it definitely did. The spot was so classic and appealing visually.


I got a Hong Kong iced coffee: iced coffee with condensed milk. As anything with condensed milk, it was delicious. And as with most coffee, it was totally efficient in waking me up for our last venture as we wandered into the gourmet ghetto. After all this time and finally making it to the Cheese Board, they were closed, so check their hours before you go, but I wasn’t left disappointed as it meant an unplanned dinner at Grégoire.


Grégoire is a hole in the wall kitchen done well. Lots of great presentation, French inspired menu, indoor kitchen, and outdoor seating. All done right.


Especially the garlic and parsley crispy potato puffs: deep fried mashed potato puffs. They are famous for their potato puffs.


It is also worth noting that everything is offered as take out and the menu rotates monthly.


Grégoire was the perfect end to our experience in Berkeley, especially as a foodie experience. I totally recommend it, and to find your own adventure there.


Phoenix AZ – Latte Art Throwdown


The coffee culture in Phoenix is growing and it’s exciting to watch. There’s usually a latte art competition once a quarter that always draws quite a crowd, as in this last week’s competition on November 6, 2014.




Thirty-two local baristas came together to throw down for some amazing prizes sponsored by local and national coffee companies.



The event was organized by Perry Czopp who works hard at developing the Phoenix coffee culture and community. (If you are a Phoenix area local, he also partners with a couple friends in a cold brew delivery company called Silent Flight Coffee, that you should check out: www.SilentFlight.Coffee .)


I had the privilege of being asked by Perry to judge at this competition. Such an honor to get to participate in this local coffee community event. I got to see first hand all the talent, and drink the cappuccino results along with all those who showed up.



Seriously, endless free cappuccinos made by the best of the best in Phoenix is reason enough to show up.



But it goes further. It’s about community.


Showing up to this event meant for some of us hanging out with your coworkers who share the same passion as you, and for all of us, a reunion of all your barista and local friends.



One of my goals this year was to become more apart of the local community and coffee community, and since my first throwdown I attended in January in which I knew no one but those I came with, this goal has become a reality.


I’ve made a lot of friends along the way, and this past week made some new ones.


Friends that visit me while I barista, and friends I visit at my favorite specialty coffee shops that make me feel like Phoenix is home.


The event also draws local photographers who are passionate about coffee and capturing other art forms. This article features the photography of the very talented Kristine Morgan (


Another local photographer capturing the night and worth mentioning is a close friend of mine that is a talented film photographer and videographer: Will Fryar (


It’s exciting to see our local community grow as we bond and support each other over our artistic expression. Definitely a sight in Phoenix I love seeing.


Phoenix AZ – The Henry

The Henry is easily one of my favorite spots in Phoenix. I love a recent visit I had with a couple of my friends Diamond and Augustina.


Diamond herself is a an amazing blogger and I recommend you check it out her blog  . We did a collaboration on this post. Here’s her introduction:

An Inventory of Classics

The Henry, An American Brasserie

The salon of “The Greatest Neighborhood Restaurant” exhibits an inventory of classics. Above a Davy’s Gray and Carolina Blue patterned settee hang five frames of abstract art evocative of Damien Hirst’s “spot paintings.” Metal Tolix chairs border a polished wood table aglow under the lights of burnished antique two-arm table lamps. An emerald velvet booth extends to an entryway, which reveals an Arcadian terrace that offers a generous cue of shade. This American brasserie, dubbed The Henry, exemplifies a Roaring (Twenties) sophistication.

A remarkable accomplishment is discovered in the duality of the culinary cues at The Henry. Where classical dinners are supplied in the evening, contemporary breakfasts are enjoyed in the noontime. In his book, American Food: The Gastronomic Story, Evan Jones, the late food writer famed for his efforts to bring the winning accents of American cuisine to the fore, references this mealtime character called brunch. He traces its culinary heritage to 1930s’ America. This dynamic that sees a harmony amid design and cuisine at The Henry is one that advances the restaurant as a space of fulfillment and gathering for family and friends.

Article by Diamond Troutman


So The Henry is broken into two sections. If you walk to the right, there’s a coffee bar and casual dining, and to the left is a sit down restaurant. My first experience at The Henry was in the coffee shop, and I remember thinking, “I just found my new favorite coffee shop.” It’s all so classic and worth returning to and introducing friends to in the months that followed.


The menu at the coffee bar offers The Henry speciality coffee drinks and classic coffee drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos, pastries, plus a casual dining menu.




As per my tendency, my experience with Augustina and Diamond was to coffee and lunch in the coffee space.


We ordered some salads and drinks at the coffee bar. The Kale and Apple salad comes with clementines, bacon, Amish cheddar and almonds.


My favorite salad is the Shrimp and Quinoa with black beans, corn, avocado, citrus, and apples. When I can, I go weekly just for this salad. I’m obsessed.


If you want to sit down for a nice meal, the space to the left that serves as the restaurant is gorgeous. The atmosphere is overwhelmingly attractive. The space itself is worth returning for, if not for the food that is up to the same quality.


I’ve only sat down to the fine dining area once. I got the Wild Mushroom Tortellini and it was phenomenal. It’s served in a white sauce with Brussels sprouts, butternut squash and Parmesan.


Give The Henry a visit! It’s a must to anyone in the Phoenix area.



Phoenix AZ – Roosevelt Row

Roosevelt Row is the arts district of Phoenix. Its one of the first spots I explored when I started photography and getting into local community a few years ago. And the memories I’ve made here over the years makes it one of my favorite places in Phoenix. Even this last Saturday, I discovered three spots I had never known about. It’s an easy area to wander and stumble upon street art or cute boutiques and galleries, and this article is for the purpose of encouraging you to do just that: wander.  There’s so much in Roosevelt Row that it would be impossible to feature and give just impression of each spot. So here’s some highlights from my weekend on Roosevelt Row.

I’d have to start by informing you of First Friday. It’s well known by Phoenicians as a night to be on Roosevelt Row for free art galleries, and pop up local art tents, local musicians playing on the streets, and food trucks. Because it’s a popular event, I recommend going for your first experience, as I enjoyed mine, but not everyone likes how crowded the streets, galleries, and coffee shops can get.

I prefer to explore Roosevelt Row on a morning or afternoon. And walking it anytime other than an Arizona summer, is so nice and there’s lots of street art to see. The art galleries rotate with local artists, the boutiques are set in neighborhood homes, as are a local coffee and ice scream spot. Let me highlight some of my favorite stumble upons.

Let’s say you want to walk in a loop. You could park on Roosevelt and 4th Street. There’s a cut out semi-truck with a piano and wood Arizona flag designed by a local artist.


On the same corner is the Modified Arts gallery. They rotate featuring local artists, and are free. I really loved the current local artist Christine Cassano.


Behind the gallery and semi-truck is an alley with every wall and dumpster covered in  murals.


If you walk further on Roosevelt Row and turn south on 5th Street, there’s a cute boutique on the corner in the first house called Made Boutique.



The second house is Jobot. A local coffee shop open 24 hours. Three years ago, when me and my friend were trying to discover Phoenix and our local community, this was the first local coffee shop we tried. And the back alley was where I took my first photos as a film student. I remember we were a little sketched out, but the alley and semi were covered in murals which were perfect for my project. The semi is still there too, but the mural on it changes every so often.


And after that, in a pink house is a ice cream shop called Melt.


They have flavors like salted caramel, Jobot coffee, and fruity pebbles… I tried those three and they were so great. Seriously though, the fruity pebbles one is just too fun and unique to not go back for.



On the same street are more boutiques and a bookstore. Easy to stumble upon, if you turn East on the next street Garfield, and then head North on 6th Street, the first two boutiques are really cute. I adored GROWop’s space.





We met Josh, the very friendly and stylish owner, who said he designed the space in Madewell style. He told us a little about the concept of the boutique, including some history on how he had once lived in the house before it was GROWop. He offered to work with me on any photoshoots I did, meaning that I could borrow items at no cost. How fun! And exactly why I love connecting with local community: there’s so much kindness and interest in supporting local artists and a sense of working together.


At the end of 6th Street, on the North side of Roosevelt is a gem I just recently, and finally discovered, named Curious Nature. I fell in the love with this unique themed boutique. We met the owner Mason and he was super friendly and funny. I love connecting with others involved in local community. And that moment at Curious Nature was exactly that. Mason was well informed on what Roosevelt Row offered in local community, and was the reason I found some new spots in the area.




This shop was absolutely fascinating. The space is small but there was so much to captivate one’s interest for a length of time, which I say from my personal experience: I was there for a length of time. Let’s just say there were bats, spiders, jarred and framed pigs. And then I’ll say it’s a must that you discover this spot for yourself.  I’ve never found such a unique shop in Phoenix, so as a rare find, I definitely label it as a gem that should be paid a visit.


If you stay on the North side of Roosevelt and walk west and just past your car, there’s a coffee shop named Songbird. It’s a popular place know for it’s photogenic space. And there’s greenHAUS gallery boutique. The first time I stumbled on this boutique, I was all about it.



Also, there are a couple of popular food spots on Roosevelt Row. Short Leash hot dogs and Welcome Diner.  Short Leash has made a good name for themselves, and from the only chance I’ve had to try them, it was just as delicious as I had heard. Welcome Diner is outside the arts district in another residential neighborhood just East on Roosevelt Row.


I love their vibes and that they are open for late night comfort food cravings. I honestly don’t have enough Welcome Diner in my life and that needs to change.




One of their most popular items is the Big Jim: a biscuits and gravy sandwich with fried chicken, bacon and cheddar cheese. It’s like the epitome of comfort food.


And another coffee shop option on Roosevelt Row is a cute spot called Lola. I need to snap some updated photos to post. A couple years ago I was always frequenting this spot and introducing everyone I knew to it, so I’ll pass that on to introduce YOU next. It’s definitely a coffee shop that’s made a name for itself.

This definitely isn’t a comprehensive list, but I’m hoping you will go and find some stumble upons for yourself!