It was a Dark and Stormy. . . day

…a day of thick dark clouds, heavy with rain…What better time for a cup of rich aromatic coffee – especially at a funky, almost indescribable, “hole-in-the-wall” coffee house?

Our son, who is becoming a fan and almost elitist (or is it a ‘snob’?) of coffee houses that roast and grind their own beans on-site, was eager to share his newest discovery with us: the Cartel Coffee Lab.

This dark rainy day was the perfect backdrop for our introduction (or was it an ‘induction’?) to what appears to be a new phase of specialty coffee houses  in which “green sourced” and fair trade coffee is roasted and prepared in-house using both drip and espresso brewing methods. This sophisticated ‘funk’ is also described as “high-end coffee with a global conscience”.

This ‘new’ era coffee house reminds us of the 50’s era ‘Beatnik’ or Greenwich Village coffee houses, (shades of Jack Karouac and the like —  or how about  Maynard?!). The clientele is similar to the ‘beat generation‘ with students and frat boys (& hipsters, pretentious yuppies, casual drinkers and coffee snobs in the mix) espousing religion and various philosophies. The smokey interiors have been cleared by the Clean Air Act and now cater to computers and offer WiFi connections (free but ONLY with the purchase of a drink – no WiFi freeloaders allowed!).

The Cartel Coffee Lab is located in the back of a small nondescript business plaza (strip center) bordering a tree-lined residential neighborhood just off campus (ASU-Arizona State University in Tempe). Perseverance and courage might be needed to locate, enter, and experience this unique little ‘dive’ but the effort is worth it! The fresh roasted coffee seems strong at first but finishes with a nice taste. The ambience isn’t as cozy and inviting as I enjoy, but it’s ‘funk’ is fun, and a great place to observe the new coffee culture.

On my son’s recommendation, I ordered a Cappuccino (only available for in-house drinking…”no matter how much you complain or beg” reads a sign on the wall!)  Supposedly unique to the Cartel Coffee Lab, the espresso process is fascinating, as I watch the preparation of my Cappuccino, complete with a lovely frothy ‘latte art’ and detailed explanation by the barista.

On our second visit, which was on a much brighter and sunnier day but an equally appropriate ‘coffee day’,  I was more comfortable with the ‘scene’ and the coffee tasted even better, perhaps because of the tantalizing aroma of fresh roasted coffee beans in the air?

On my third visit, which happened before I could finish getting this post written and published, I felt very comfortable and relaxed, enjoying a rich cappuccino in this (now quaint) little ‘dive’.

The bright red ‘San Franciscan’ roaster, dominating one end of the shop, was in full service offering an up-close and personal view of the roasting process… the Cartel sells truly ‘fresh’ roasted coffee. I am quickly becoming a fan and can see myself becoming an aficionado – maybe even a snob?

For you fellow coffee fans and aficionados,  I encourage you, while in the Phoenix area, to make the effort to seek out the Cartel Coffee Lab at 225 W. University Drive, Suite 101, in Tempe or downtown at 1 N.1st Street, for the experience, a fun time…and for a great cup of delicious ‘fresh roasted ’

Luxurious Belgian Chocolates

If you are an 8 year old with money in your pretty pink purse – money to spend any way you want- on a fun day off from school and a lovely warm day in Arizona’s ‘Valley of the Sun’, what would you do?

My granddaughter, who eagerly joins me in my pursuit of great food and fun places, chose to spend her money on a special treat at Leonidas Chocolates and Café. at the new SanTan Village in Gilbert, Arizona.

Anticipating a cool refreshing smoothie, we quickly changed our minds when we  walked in and saw the cases  filled with delectable choices of chocolates, gelato and sorbetto, Italian pastries with options of rich coffee or fragrant organic teas.

Leonidas Chocolates and Café offers a “new way to enjoy fine chocolate”, combining a Leonidas Belgian Chocolate shop with a café featuring “deluxe coffee and chocolate drinks, freshly brewed organic teas, rich gelato, refreshing sorbetto and sumptuous pastries “. The luscious chocolates are shipped in each week directly from Brussels, Belgium and can be ordered online for shipping to yourself and others.

This delightful discovery comes on the tails of my post “Party in the Pantry”  asking what savory souvenirs you have experienced. Are you ready to add these luxurious Belgian Chocolates to your pantry?

Leonidas fine products are a tradition of quality and freshness since 1913 and are available all over the world. To find stores near you or where you are visiting, check here. (language translations available!)

Party in the Pantry?

I was hoping to share with you a couple of new ‘favorites’ entrees I just discovered at Pita Jungle, but since a picture is worth a thousand words…well, you will just have to wait… since at the time, I was so hungry and eager to dive right in that I forgot to take any pictures!  Ok, ok …if you must know, it was Wood Fired MahiMahi served over jalapeno hummus with pita chips AND the Island Shrimp Pizza, a lavosh base topped with feta cheese, roasted peppers, pineapple, and a mango glaze with the shrimp. Get the picture? Okay, I promise to return to Pita Jungle , if I must, just so I can take pictures of these tantalizing entrees!

Meanwhile, how about exotic culinary items from travels abroad, a potential “orgy of gustatory delights” ?  Enjoy this fun “Party in the Pantry” post. It is a delightful read with great pictures and definitely feeds my wanderlust to travel abroad.

The author, it appears, has in her pantry many gifted foods from other’s travels as well as from her own. Perusing my own pantry, I realize that I have, over time, been blessed with a bounty of gifts exotica from other’s travels: chocolates from  Belgium; Cherry BBQ sauce from Michigan;  paprika from Hungary. I have even sipped on Burundi coffee…

Read this entertaining post with me. What savory souvenirs do you have or remember having?

Sunny Delights

Coffee is always a good excuse to make a stop especially when quaint little houses and shops beckon while driving through picturesque little towns like Hopland on California’s Highway 101 . So it was when we spotted Sunny’s Donuts. It was the Espresso sign, not the donuts, that attracted us — AND the bright yellow building dappled with early morning sunshine! The donuts were basic and not very interesting but the coffee…ummm…organically grown from Big River Coffee Company, “Purveyors to the wine country–” delicious and definitely worth lingering over while also ‘drinking’ in this pleasant setting.

OH MY GOODNESS…..the Tiramisu!

OMG!…. The Tiramisu…..


Poofy clouds of delicately sweetened mascarpone cheese with just a hint of espresso simply EVAPORATE in my mouth.

Light and airy, yet rich and satisfying.  Only a few bites into it, I am so thankful we are sharing it! Still, it isn’t difficult to finish and it is all I can do to keep from licking the plate!

From past experiences, we have learned to share these rich yummy desserts even without eating anything else first, and this one is definitely a sharing-sized serving!

Paired with their rich Italian coffee, we are are in heaven and have all but forgotten about other dessert options as we linger over this experience of finding an exquisite Tiramisu at Buon Appetito in San Diego!

A Lovely Lunch on a Lovely Arizona Afternoon

It is perfect patio-sitting weather and we take advantage of doing just that while enjoying lunch at Urban Beans in Phoenix. Starting with a refreshing iced Green Citrus Mint Tea, and finishing with a chewy Cherry Oatmeal Cookie, we decide to try the savory Goat Cheese Torte (smooth creamy goat cheese, topped with a layer of fresh ‘in-house’ made pesto crowned with finely chopped sweet sun dried tomatoes and served with crispy lavosh and thin slices of Ciabatta bread).

And we must have a repeat of the delicious Pear Arugula Melt!  A lovely lunch on a lovely Arizona afternoon.

We learn that a new menu is soon to be unveiled with a few changes and additions, enticing patrons with more variety for meals.  Watch for our announcement!

Meet Your Australian Coffee Mates: Flat, White, Skinny and More

I haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand and currently have no immediate plans for a trip there, but I thought this was a fun read and will take notes so I am prepared when I do get to travel to those destinations!

Slashfood Tweets.

Savories and Lunch at Urban Beans Coffee

With some of our family living there now, we continue to discover fun places in the Phoenix area.  And since I have fun experiencing different coffee houses, I was curious, after acquiring a discount coupon, to visit Urban Beans Coffee.

With coupon in hand, we head out, eager to discover what Urban Beans Coffee is all about.  Located in an art district in  ‘midtown’  Phoenix just north of the Phoenix Country Club on 7th Street, Urban Beans is easy to spot with their unique logo and bright yellow-gold building.

They offer the usual coffee and tea menu while featuring their signature ‘bold and smooth’ house blend of locally roasted beans, organic teas, a variety of  ‘smashes and smoothies’ (their unique versions of frozen drinks.) and a tempting menu of ‘Sweets’ (pastries made by various chefs in town).  In addition they offer ‘Savories and Lunches’ –a menu of familiar and creative ‘savory delights available all day’ such as bagels & cream cheese, spinach & onion quiche, and a fruit & cheese plate.

While perusing the case, we discover more savory items on the ‘Small Plate’ menu offered us by the barista: Goat Cheese Torte, Warm Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Bruchetta Crostini….mmmm, such choices!

We enjoy the ‘house made’ Hummus and Tabouli served with lavosh as a first course while the ‘Pear Arugula Melt’ is being ‘created’. It takes a little longer to prepare as the flat bread is baked to order. Both are scrumptious and we practically lick the plates clean!

Feeling quite satisfied and pleased with our ‘find’, we linger enjoying the bright friendly atmosphere and plan our next visit!

Urban Beans Coffee

The Mercury Building

3508 N. 7th Street Suite 100

Phoenix AZ 8501


“Sustainablility, Compassion and Love, It’s in there!”

I was cruising the internet highway when this delightful logo came into view.

The clever design depicting an aroma of delicious coffee (or tea) swirling into a heart-shape of steam and touting ‘Sustainability’, ‘Love’, and ‘Compassion’ immediately intrigued me. Rogers Gourmet Coffee & Tea Market seemed like a friendly place and the offer of ‘free beans’ added to my curiosity.

So I clicked in and discovered a fun online market for coffee beans from the Rogers Family. To my knowledge, I have never had any of their coffee, so I can’t vouch for it; however, the testimonials are enthusiastic, the website is friendly, and their ‘compassion and love’ seem believable–what I expect from the inviting logo! I invite you to try it yourself and let me know what your experience is.  I will do the same and report later. Meanwhile…isn’t this a delightful and aromatic logo?!

Lola Coffee –

Ummm — the aroma of freshly brewed coffee delights the senses as we step inside Lola Coffee. We are introduced to this fun and funky rustic place in the Historic Gold Spot of Phoenix on a fresh and bright, sunny Arizona Saturday morning. Early enough to be ahead of the crowd this morning,  the local patrons filter in, bringing their books, newspapers, or other companions for Saturday morning coffee time.

After reading a basic menu from a rustic ‘door’ board — literally an old weathered door complete with doorknob, hanging above the prep counter, we place our orders, then peruse the delicious looking baked goods cluttering the equally old and weathered serving counter, convincing ourselves into sampling a couple treats.

Known for the “latte’ art” , we are enthralled by the barista’s talent and expertise as he deftly creates intricate designs in the frothed milk which HAVE to make the drink taste even better, don’t they?

We learn that organic fair-trade coffee beans are used and roasted on the premises with a theory that slow, low-temp roasting makes for a smoother, richer, less bitter taste. We also discover that the bakery items are also prepared on the premises…almost ‘homemade’ and definitely worth the treat.

We enjoy our coffee and treats inside, but there are chairs lined along the sidewalk out front, and option outside seating of tables and chairs in a bare but inviting courtyard of sorts in the back. With limited parking available on the street, free parking is offered across the alley.

Lola Coffee at 1001 E 3rd (& Roosevelt) is delightful experience definitely worth another visit. And it is easy to find just off I-10. We also plan on visiting the original Lola Coffeebar location downtown at 4700 N Central Avenue, Phoenix, as well as Lola Tapas & Coffeebar, an intriguing little restaurant, located downtown at 800 E Camelback Rd.