Category Archives: coffee

Spring Road Trip to Tucson, Arizona

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Sonoran Desert landscape in Tucson, Arizona

With winter persisting well into April in Calgary, it was definitely time for a spring road trip to the U.S. southwest and its warming sun. The destination this time was all the way south to Tucson, Arizona—a trip involving plentiful hiking, eating and drinking.

But as they say, the journey is often as important as the destination. So before I delve more deeply into Tucson eats and drinks over the coming weeks, here’s a pictorial sampling of road life on the three-day route down and on the way back.

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Road trip breakfast of chilaquiles at MartAnne’s Burrito Palace in Flagstaff, Arizona

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Early April snowstorm in Flagstaff (elevation 7,000 feet), 2 hours north of Phoenix

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Hanging out with the cool coffee crowd at Lux Central in Phoenix

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Two jumpers in the Wave Cave near Apache Junction, east of Phoenix

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Peeking into the kitchen at Porter’s Cafe in Superior, Arizona

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Open-pit mine south of Superior, Arizona

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Outside Oracle Patio Cafe in Oracle, Arizona

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Chalet Village Motel in Oracle, Arizona

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Aquarium fish at the Desert Museum in Tucson

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Sculpture in Metal Arts Village, Tucson

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Homeward bound: Lunch line at colourful Lone Star Taqueria in Salt Lake City

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Tacos Antojitos Naucalpan in tiny Hamer, Idaho: There’s no place like it

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Run by the incomparable Carmen

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Tesla super charging station in whistlestop Lima, Montana on the I-15

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Hills outside one of my favourite U.S. towns, Dillon, Montana

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Hitchin Post, Melrose, Montana

Kickstarting the Day in Ketchum, Idaho

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Bigwood Bread Bakery adds a full menu to its baked goods in Ketchum, Idaho

I’m always a sucker for a good bakery. Especially if it also serves meals featuring fresh-from-the-oven breads and buns.

So I’m happy to discover not one but two Bigwood Bread Bakery locations in the little resort community of Ketchum, Idaho. Besides baking excellent hand-formed, naturally leavened loaves of, say, sourdough or vitagrain, Bigwood also makes breakfast sandwiches, house-made granola and steel-cut oatmeal with gingersnap walnut crumble.

Of course, I have to try something different—a warm croissant cradling a centre of bacon and gooey cheese. Good stuff.

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This gooey, cheesy croissant  hits the spot

Bigwood Bread Bakery
380 East Avenue and 271 Northwood Way, both in Ketchum, Idaho
Daily 8 am-3 pm, with 2:30 pm closing at Northwood location.

A good resort town like Ketchum/Sun Valley also has to keep the active folks well caffeinated. At Java on Fourth, they add a few twists to the usual coffee offerings. Like Bowl of Soul, a mix of coffee, hot chocolate and whipped cream. Or the Keith Richards: Mexican hot chocolate and four shots of espresso. That’ll kickstart your morning.

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Java on Fourth certainly wakes you up with a four-shot espresso

Java on Fourth
191 4 Street West, Ketchum, Idaho
Weekdays 6 am-3 pm, weekends 7 am-3 pm
208-726-2882

Formidable French Bakery in Central Washington State

French toast and strong coffee hits the spot at Anjou Bakery near Cashmere, Washington

French toast and strong coffee hits the spot at Anjou Bakery near Cashmere, Washington

An artisan bakery near the speck-on-a-map town of Cashmere in central Washington has my GPS so befuddled it sends me out to an apple orchard. Finally, I seek directions from a local, who directs me back to Highway 97/2, just west of Wenatchee, where I soon spy a big road sign for Anjou Bakery (which aptly is backed by a pear orchard). So much for high technology.

Inside the lovely cafe is a bakery, which for some two decades has been producing loaves of hearth-fired bread. But that’s just the opening act for an irresistible lineup of baked goodies one might expect in a French patisserie.

There are flaky almandines, airy meringues, mini cherry and marionberry pies. I go for a crispy slice of fruit-filled French “toast” to accompany a good, strong coffee. Formidable!

Why go for a slice of formidable pie when you have the whole thing?

Why go for a slice of formidable pie when you have the whole thing?

Other customers don’t seem encumbered by my directional challenges, as there’s a steady stream of travellers stopping for their morning treats. One simply says to the server: “Give me six of your pastries. You choose.”

Anjou Bakery
3898 Old Monitor Highway, Cashmere, Washington
Thursday to Sunday 8 am-5 pm. Closed Monday to Wednesday
509-782-4360

Cafe + Books = The Perfect Combination

The cafe part of Canmore's Cafe Books is a little station at the back of the bookstore.

The cafe part of Canmore’s Cafe Books is a little station at the back of the bookstore.

I’ve loved the idea of combining a bookstore with a cafe ever since I wandered into Seattle’s famous Elliott Bay Book Company many years ago. Indeed, one of my “must stops” on long western Trans-Canada Highway drives is Bacchus Books & Cafe, in Golden, B.C. The wee cafe—up a rickety flight of stairs above the bookstore—serves great coffee, muffins and healthy soups and imaginative paninis, witness a Nutella/bacon combo.

Actually, I’m surprised this concept isn’t more popular (outside of corporate joint ventures like Starbucks and Chapters/Indigo), though it does come with the risk of pages stained by coffee and sticky jam. So, it’s a pleasure to discover Café Books, on the busy main drag of another mountain town, Canmore, Alberta.

Owner Joy McLean runs this great, eclectic bookstore, with a hallway leading to a room of used books surrounding a small cafe. Here, I enjoy a lovely little French-press pot of coffee (beans from local roaster RAVE), served with a couple of bite-sized cookies.

A shameless promotion of a book signing I was doing at Cafe Books while savouring a lovely French-press pot of coffee

A shameless promotion of a book signing I was doing at Cafe Books while savouring a lovely French-press pot of coffee

The short menu features British-style snacks like Cornish pasties and Welsh rarebit, along with sweets such as cupcakes and macaroons. You can even order high tea, complete with scones, jam and clotted cream. Just be careful not to spill on the books.

A short but diversified menu, with a British bent

A short but diversified menu, with a British bent

Cafe Books
100, 826 Main Street, Canmore, Alberta
Monday to Thursday and Sunday 9:30 am-7 pm. Friday-Saturday 9:30 am-9 pm
403-678-0908

High Seas Coffee on the Alberta Prairie

High Seas Coffee is in the middle of central Alberta farmland

High Seas Coffee is in the middle of central Alberta farmland

I’m not expecting a coffee roaster in a rural Alberta village. Certainly not in a community of 725 souls, with a strong Mennonite heritage.

But then Linden, 100 kilometres northeast of Calgary, has always punched above its weight. Witness a strong agricultural manufacturing industry. And, from a culinary perspective, the longstanding Country Cousins, which attracts folks from Calgary and beyond for its Mennonite meals (think sausage, perogies and cabbage rolls) and legendary peanut butter pie.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find High Seas Coffee serving fresh-roasted java in a little main-street café. It opened this spring, when Krista Boese took over the former Global Grounds, adding it to an existing roasting business she started with her brother Tyler.

Yes, High Seas is a local hangout, with customers chewing the fat around a cluster of tables. But it also has a big-city vibe that includes small-batch roasting of fair-trade organic beans (pick up a pound of Farmers Blend) and cold-brew coffee.

The small-town coffee shop and roastery even has a patio

The small-town coffee shop and roastery even has a patio

The short menu starts with fresh-baked pastries like Danishes, cinnamon rolls and croissants. Heartier fare includes a French toast breakfast sandwich and a lunchtime pulled-pork Cubano sandwich.

You can even text in your order so it’s ready for pick up on your rural road trip. But I’d much rather grab a corner seat, sip an excellent Americano and soak up some small-town character.

High Seas Coffee
107 Central Avenue, Linden, Alberta
Monday to Saturday 6 am-6 pm. Closed Sunday
403-546-2007

Nitro Cold-brew Coffee: A Fabulous Summer Drink

Nitro cold-brew coffee, topped with cream, at Walla Walla Roastery. Yum!

Nitro cold-brew coffee, topped with cream, at Walla Walla Roastery. Yum!

I’ve never been a fan of iced coffee. It’s usually an over-priced, watered-down concoction of espresso/brewed coffee, milk and ice. No thanks.

But when a group of students ahead of me, at Walla Walla Roastery, all order nitro cold brews, I’m intrigued. The barista explains that here it’s a three-day-plus process of cold brewing and filtering the coffee, which is then infused with nitrogen (removing impurities), poured from a beer-style tap and topped with a shot of cream. Continue reading