Friday, April 21, 2017

Keep On Poppin' On: Pop-Up Shops Gain Popularity in Tucson as Entrepreneurs use the Concept to Reinvent Their Craft

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 9:30 AM

  • Elena Gonzalez

The “pop-up” trend has gained much attention in Tucson in the last few years thanks to an up and coming chef, an innovative restaurant owner, and a couple of creative entrepreneurs. Pop-ups—temporary shops or events that typically last anywhere from a day to a few months—have been popular in big cities, but Tucson has recently become a hub for a variety of inventive pop-ups.
Traditionally, pop-ups are retail stores offering a variety of goods for a short amount of time.

Cultivate Tucson co-owners, Claire Seizovic and Kristin Tovar, saw Tucson as the perfect location for pop-up shops and decided to start their own shop brand in 2015.

“Tucson is definitely going through a creative renaissance right now,” Seizovic said in regards to why it is the right time for these unique markets in Tucson. Cultivate Tucson’s shops feature local artists and designers and are hosted in under-utilized spaces. Seizovic said the benefits of having a pop-up shop in comparison to a regular brick-and-mortar retail store include cost, momentum, and marketing. She said since the markets are a once a-year, one-day event the need for constant marketing isn’t there and the temporariness adds a hype aspect that encourages people to attend. “If you know its always available, it becomes less exciting,” Seizovic said.

Though Seizovic and Tovar weren’t the ones to create the pop-up concept, they’ve come up with ways to innovate the idea. An important part of Cultivates mission is donating to local non-profits.

By participating in the pop-up, all vendors agree to donate 20 percent of their sales to either a non-profit Cultivate highlights at the event or a non-profit of their choosing. Seizovic said that incorporating non-profits into the pop-up was “there from the very beginning.” At their December 2016 market, they were able to donate $10,000 to non-profits. Cultivate also stands out by the spaces they use. Their pop-ups are hosted in unused spaces that were not originally meant for retail stores. They used an old tire shop south of downtown for their last pop-up. By utilizing these unused, perhaps forgotten spaces, Seizovic said it is “a way to highlight a space for someone else to permanently buy.”

Cultivate Tucson recently announced their first spring pop-up shop. “The Flash” pop-up shop will be on Saturday, May 20 from 9am to 4pm. The shop will take place at an old appliance store, Flash TV and Appliance.

Chef Riley Chandler has also used location as a way to reinvent the concept of pop-ups. Chandler created his business, Pop-up Tucson, to bring pop-up dinners to Tucson. He first got the idea from Scottsdale chef, T.J. Culp. Culp had been successfully hosting pop-up dinners throughout the Scottsdale area and Chandler thought Tucson would be a good place for the concept. Since his first pop-up in May of 2016, he has hosted a total of 5 pop-ups in Tucson and 5 in different U.S. cities. Chandler has had success in bringing pop-up dinners to Tucson and said it is largely because people are attracted to the uniqueness of the event. “You’re not confined to four walls inside a restaurant, you’re literally outside the box,” Chandler said.

Besides the inventive location, Chandler uses other unique elements like collaborations with chefs and entertainment for guests. Collaborating with other chefs is one of Chandler’s favorite aspects of the pop-ups because it not only benefits him but the guests as well. He said it brings in other influences and allows him to learn from other culinary minds. “It elevates my style.”

He often brings in chefs from Phoenix, which allows the guests to taste their food without having to go to Phoenix. As for the entertainment aspect, Chandler always incorporates the arts into the dining experience. He says though it is not a necessary element, it is something important to him. “It ties the knot around the whole vibe,” he said. Past pop-up dinners have featured a jazz trio and a live painter.
Restaurant owner, Scott Stiteler, revamped the pop-up trend to fit his passion for history and restaurants. Stiteler opened up his pop-up bar, Martin Drug Co., in February as a way to utilize an old building while he creates his long-term plan for the space. Stiteler hopes that by first using the space as a pop-bar while he plans the restaurant, he can reintroduce the space to the public and bring it back into people’s lives. The pop-up bar is only utilizing about 1,000 square feet of the space. The inspiration for the pop-up bar came from an old drugstore that used to reside in the building in the late 1880’s to mid-1960s. When Stiteler discovered this he knew it made sense to respect that history while also adding, “a dose of fun.”

The space gives ode to its history through black and white images of the Martin family and their drug store that hang on the walls of the pop-up. The traditional black and white pictures are met with funky and modern décor, giving the space the perfect blend of old and new. Stiteler said that since the bar is temporary, there was a lot more latitude when it came to interior design. Unlike most pop-ups, Martin Drug Co. will remain open for a generous 6 months. It will then be reinvented again into a more family-friendly, traditional eatery Stiteler said.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Quick Bites: Tour de Cookie

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 10:00 AM


What’s better than riding your bike through a scenic route? Eating cookies while you do it.

The second annual Tour de Cookie is coming to Tucson to support the Marana Rotary Club as they help fund international community service projects such as special needs playgrounds, access ramps, and water projects in Africa.

On Saturday, April 8 from 8 a.m. to noon, Tour de Cookie will take over the Rillito River Park bike path where 11 organizations in Tucson will hand out homemade cookies to all riders.

Dan Contorno, self coordinator at Marana Rotary Club, said the idea wasn’t original and happened about four or five years ago. The Rotary Club decided to bring it back because a lot of members participated in the original event.

“It used to be almost like a scavenger hunt where there were six or seven stops but this new Tour de Cookie is different, it’s safer and not a race,” said Contorno.

The path is about 29.5 miles and each organization will hand out a different type of cookie every two miles passed.

Contorno said some of the organizations include youth organizations, churches, breweries and insurance companies.

He said the Marana Rotary Club hopes to get 13 organizations by the time the event happens so that participants can have two more stops of cookies.

To sign up for the event, participants can visit the website and fill out the waiver form to bring to the event. People riding with a group of 10 or more can get a $5 off discount on the registration fee.

All ages are allowed to participate and the entry fee is $40 but children 12 and under can ride for free. The only requirements for this event is to bring your own bike, your appetite and to leave your competition at home.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Local Danish Bakery Serves Up Savory Desserts

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 9:41 AM

Steve Hashemi greets customers at the register, while Sherry Hashemi prepares a coffee drink. The Hashemis named their business after their daughter. - HAILEY FREEMAN
  • Hailey Freeman
  • Steve Hashemi greets customers at the register, while Sherry Hashemi prepares a coffee drink. The Hashemis named their business after their daughter.

With their light, flaky exterior surrounding gooey insides, Danish pastries are as close to perfection as it gets.

Luckily Tucsonans don’t have to settle for the semi-stale, packaged varieties found in warehouse clubs across town. For authentic, baked Danish goods, locals need look no further than the Catalina Foothills area.

Mona’s Bakery (4777 E Sunrise Dr # 113) is Tucson’s only Danish bakery. Owners Steve and Sherry Hashemi opened Mona’s in 2001 before settling into their current location. 2017
marks its tenth anniversary in the Swan and Sunrise area.

I remembered to snap a shot midway through devouring my  Danish pastry. - HAILEY FREEMAN
  • Hailey Freeman
  • I remembered to snap a shot midway through devouring my Danish pastry.
“Danish pastries are very popular in all parts of the world,” Steve says. “If you go to Africa or Asia people still ask for these pastries.”

According to Steve, the Danes are unique in the way they fold dough for their pastries. A typical pastry contains 28 layers of Danish dough and 27 layers of butter, according to Steve. At Mona’s, Steve makes his own dough from scratch. Their pastries require the use of special butter, which is imported from Europe. Mona’s also gets its cheese and other raw ingredients from Denmark.

Steve, who graduated from culinary school in Jutland, Denmark, begins baking each morning at 4 a.m. By closing time, Steve says that “80-90 percent” of the product is sold. The bakery sells sandwiches, breads and coffee drinks, but their cinnamon rolls and cinnamon flats are the most popular menu items.

“We’ll sometimes run out of the individual cinnamon rolls by two in the afternoon,” Steve says. “They are very, very popular.”

These cinnamon rolls are customer favorites. - HAILEY FREEMAN
  • Hailey Freeman
  • These cinnamon rolls are customer favorites.
Another favorite, especially during the holidays, is the kringle. Danish kringles are pastries filled with nuts, cheese, or fruits. Pretzel-shaped kringles are sold in Denmark, while American bakeries generally offer oval-shaped ones.

Steve mentions how some of his first customers were winter visitors from Wisconsin and Michigan looking for kringles. Today, his bakery attracts people from all over the U.S.

I first tried Mona’s after returning home from a family trip that included a stay in Solvang, California. Otherwise known as the Danish Capital of America, Solvang boasts numerous delicious bakeries. I was looking to satisfy my craving for a good raspberry-filled Danish pastry. Mona’s didn’t disappoint.

Having Danish heritage, I’m naturally also a fan of ebelskivers. I generally top these spherical, dough delights with powdered sugar and pair them with a healthy glob of berry jam. Unfortunately, Mona’s doesn’t sell ebelskivers, so locals are left to get their fill during the Tucson Meet Yourself weekend or take on the baking venture themselves.

For all other Danish dessert cravings, Mona’s Bakery has got you covered.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Get Lost in the (Buffalo) Sauce

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 12:30 PM

The competition will be fierce, but only one can be the Lord of the Wings.

  • Tucson Media Works

40 local restaurants and 30 breweries will be coming together at this year's Tucson Wing Festival on Saturday, March 4, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Rillito Park Race Track to provide the best wings and beer the Southwest has to offer. The chefs will be able to compete for the Lord of the Wings title by whipping up their finest creations for a panel of judges. Not only will guests be allowed to sample wings from every booth, but they can also learn about the best pairing techniques from the brewers.

Two bands and a DJ will also be there to encourage guests to resist the inevitable food coma by moving, dancing and staying active after feasting. As if this event needed any more entertainment options besides booze, food and music, there will also be carnival rides and interactive games on site.

As much food and beer samples your heart desires are included in the ticket price. General admission is $40 and VIP admission, which includes a private seating area, servers, exclusive beers and extra food, is $85. You can purchase tickets on this Eventbrite page. Guests must be 21 years old or over.

click image GIPHY

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Fiamme Pizza Napoletana Restaurant Now Open

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 9:05 AM

Grab your Valentine's Day heart-shaped pizza for that special someone. - GABRIELLA VUKELIC
  • Gabriella Vukelic
  • Grab your Valentine's Day heart-shaped pizza for that special someone.

Fiamme Pizza Napoletana isn’t just wheeling their way around Tucson anymore. Scott Volpe, owner, opened a restaurant of his own at 4706 E Sunrise Dr.

The restaurant has been open since Feb. 1, and is still getting in the swing of things. The restaurant fits about 25 people right now and they only have one built-in stove.

“I do have a couple ideas for the future, I definitely want to expand more,” said Volpe.

As a kid, Volpe grew up working in restaurants and said he always embraced the culture in pizza making after learning from his mentors, who have over 30 years of experience.

Volpe travelled to Italy, New York and California to learn more about the ingredients and to gain knowledge of how to make a mean slice of pizza.

He said his father’s side of the family is from Naples, Italy and that is where he began his training for three months before starting a business.

Since he and his staff didn’t have enough money to open a restaurant just yet, they built their own mobile pizza ovens and travelled to farmer’s markets in California. Volpe has been in Tucson for the past three years.

Now, along with their grand opening, they have a permanent spot at the Rillito Park Farmer’s Market every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Some customer favorites are the margherita and bianca pizzas with their arugula salads.

During the Valentine’s day season, they create heart-shaped pizzas for couples upon request and are thinking about making a delivery option but said they are too busy at the moment.

Every Monday, the 13 inch margherita pizzas are half off.

On top of it all, Volpe competes in pizza aerobic competitions. One is usually in March in Las Vegas and another is an international competition in May in Parma, Italy.

What is pizza aerobics, you ask? Well, it is exactly how it sounds. People from around the world compete in who can spin and flip the pizza dough in the best way.

“I’ve actually come pretty close to winning before and I’m planning to go again,” Volpe said.

If anyone is looking to have a pizza oven in your backyard, Fiamme Pizza Napoletana builds ovens for customers too. How about that?

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Quick Bites: Drowning in Love—and Wine

Posted By on Mon, Feb 6, 2017 at 4:57 PM

The theme of this year’s Valentine’s Day is to be intoxicated by both love and fine wine, and some of Tucson’s best establishments have laid out Valentine’s Day menus that will make you want to daydream about more than just that special someone.

  • Woops! Bakeshop

Woops! Bakeshop

This small shop in Main Gate Square transports you into an adorable bakery in France, and if you need any more convincing than that, its treats are even better. Help your sweetheart satisfy his or her sweet tooth with a rainbow assortment of macarons, freshly baked croissants, Belgian waffles and other pastries, while being surrounded by a crisp, white interior and fresh flowers.

The shop will also be debuting its new Dream Cone this Valentine’s Day, which is an espresso drink served in a chocolate-covered waffle cone or mug. Can you say, “best buzz ever?” You can also pre-order limited edition gift boxes of their macarons starting at $20 with any flavors you desire, although Woops! recommends chocolate, raspberry, rose, red velvet, strawberry and strawberry milkshake as their most romantic flavors.

Hotel Congress

Cocktails: The “My Little Peach” drink is made with Stoli peach, fresh lemon juice, Simple Syrup, house-made compote, sparkling float and a blackberry garnish for $9.

Appetizers: Start off the feast with your choice of a mushroom flatbread with roasted wild mushrooms, Arizona pecans, baby greens and more for $9 or a vegetarian onion soup for $7.

Entrees: The main show of the entrees include a 14-ounce grilled New York strip served family style with Brussels sprouts, duchess potatoes and Oscar sauce with jumbo lump crab for $39 or venison osso bucco braised in Riesling with brown butter and sweet potato risotto, pomegranate, squash blossom and pan sauce for $25.

Dessert: Indulge in red velvet crème brulee for two with Nutella biscotti, chai whip and fresh berries for $12.

North Italia

The fixed cost for the meal is $55 per person not including drinks, tax or tip.

Raspberry and Roses: Enjoy a drink of muddled raspberry, Tito’s vodka, elderflower, prosecco and rose petals for $10.

Apple Blackberry Smash: Sip on apple vanilla bourbon, muddled blackberry, clover honey and fresh lemon for $12.

Appetizers: Satisfy the munchies from your drinks with one of the following tasty options: roasted sweet potato soup, black truffle and artichoke lasagnette, beef carpaccio, leafy Italian salad, prosciutto bruschetta or arancini.

Entrees: Load up on either grilled branzino, diver scallops, Bolognese, rosemary chicken, burrata tortelloni or red wine-glazed short rib.

Dessert: The sweetest part of the menu includes your choice of salted caramel budino, a dark chocolate tart or tiramisu.

Wildflower American Cuisine

The fixed cost for the meal is $55 per person not including drinks, tax or tip.

Cocktails: Get your buzz on with nine different tasty drinks, such as sangria or a black and blue mojito. Prices range from $7- $11 a glass. There’s also a variety of wine, beer and champagne on deck.

Appetizers: Start to curb you and your sweetie’s hunger with clam chowder, cold-smoked salmon, farmer’s market salad, pan-fried edamame dumplings, crisp calamari or spinach salad.

Entrees: Dine on either Chef Kevin Handt’s market fish, steelhead salmon, wood-grilled New York steak, bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, butternut squash agnolotti, Spanish paella or pan-roasted chicken.

Dessert: Choose from a key lime tart, cinnamon doughnuts, chocolate decadence or New York cheesecake.

Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink

Spend your Valentine’s Day in Little Italy with this gourmet pizza joint. You can order from the regular winter menu or choose one of Chef Tyler’s Valentine’s specials. You can also pregame or wash down (or both) your delicious food with one of six holiday cocktails for $9 each. The list includes: the Champagne Cocktail, 2 Heartbeats 1 Fire, a Hopeless Romantic, an Airmail, a Kir Royale and an Unrequited Love.

Kingfisher Bar & Grill

Curb your seafood cravings this Valentine’s Day from 5-11 p.m. at Kingfisher with an expansive spread of an oyster bar, first courses and main entrees. The first courses include your choice of New England clam chowder, charred eggplant, seasonal Mesclun greens, Caesar salad, spinach and Bibb lettuce salad, fattoush with chopped greens, blue crab “Louis” salad, fried calamari, baked oysters Rockefeller or steamed black mussels with Sriracha hot sauce. Dinner courses include pan-seared Arctic Char, macadamia-nut-crusted Hawaiian fish with fried sweet potatoes, grilled sea scallops with Forbidden Rice pilaf, roasted pork tenderloin with potatoes, grilled sea bass, pan-seared and carved duck breast, grilled Scottish salmon with artichoke-swiss chard-parmesan risotto, Bluefin Bouillbaisse or a grilled New York Steak with potatoes.

Downtown Kitchen

Feast for $55 per person for three courses or $75 for four courses. The first courses include your choice of a greens, watercress, apple and macadamia salad, sherried black bean soup, tartine of duck rillettes or relleno with mushroom and smoked poblano. The second course options include the choice of U of A roast king oyster mushrooms with creamy polenta and Madeira or Sicilian Lifeguard calamari.

The main courses include the choices of grilled pork tenderloin with mushroom Marsala, grilled salmon in an Asian setting, Yucatan-plantain-encrusted chicken, steak tampiquena or winter vegetables with creamy polenta, mushroom brood and basil pesto. For dessert, take your pick between a passion panna cotta with almond cookies and pink grapefruit supremes or Ibarra flourless chocolate cake with Kahlua ice cream, chipotle honey and spiced peanut brittle. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available in the menu.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Scented Leaf Tea House and Lounge Adding Location Downtown

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 9:11 AM

Scented Leaf's iced Ginger Peach Black Tea with Medium Sweetener is refreshing even in January. - GABRIELLA VUKELIC
  • Gabriella Vukelic
  • Scented Leaf's iced Ginger Peach Black Tea with Medium Sweetener is refreshing even in January.

Everyone’s favorite tea place at the UA is opening a second location in Downtown Tucson and  believe me, it’s going to be a hit.

Scented Leaf Tea House and Lounge will be located between the store fronts of Diablo Burger and the former Proper restaurant at 308 E. Congress Street. Since their original location on University Boulevard has become extremely crowded and busy—especially during the afternoon class rush—this new location will be a lounge area for customers to kick back and relax whenever they want.

Shane Barela, owner of Scented Leaf, said he doesn’t have an exact date on their grand opening but his goal is to open on March 1. This new location will be slightly different than the original, with a more modern and organic feel, more tables, chairs, and fewer couches.

Scented Leaf is known for their organic teas on tap (iced or hot). Don’t want a tea that’s on tap? Have your loose tea leaves steamed. Customer’s have the option to add sweeteners, milks, honey, lemon, and can even blend your tea into a smoothTEA. Ha, get it?

Downtown’s location will feature four more teas on tap than University Boulevard’s original 12 and will have 32 loose leaf teas available instead of 65.

The taps will include Chai, Yerba Mate, Raspberry Rose, Green Tea Mango, Moroccan Mint, Papaya Passion, Hibiscus Breeze, House Black, and the seasonal favorites such as Blueberry Bliss and Prickly Pear in the summer months.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Quick Bites: Gimme Shelter

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Imagine this, but tent-ier. - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • Imagine this, but tent-ier.

Here’s a very quick bit of news for frequenters (or would-be frequenters) of The Coronet: This Fourth Avenue–area café and bar now has a cozy tent around its patio—and will keep it up at least through the rest of December.

Says co-owner Gregor Kretschmann, via Facebook (hyperbolically, in case you don’t get it): “We’ve lost more than a few loyal, flip-flop-clad, t-shirt-wearing customers to hypothermia and frostbite in the apocalyptically sub 50 degree arctic blast. Never again, we say, now we have a tent! Yes, come relax in sultanate luxury in our heated, orientally appointed patio tent. Palm fronds, kaftan, tonics made of dissolved pearls, cylindrical hats, palace intrigue, live music.”

The live music part, at least, is true.

The Coronet is located at 402 E. Ninth St. Call 222-9889 or visit for hours and more information.

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Sons of Orpheus, 26th Annual Gala Spring Concert

Founding Artistic Director, Prof. Grayson Hirst, UofA (retired) features contemplative, inspiring, whimsical and fun pieces from Beethoven… More

@ The Highlands at Dove Mountain Sun., April 30, 3-5 p.m. 4949 W. Heritage Club Blvd.

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