Posts Tagged ‘firefly living’

Firefly Hot Spot: Pane Bianco Serves Up the Best Food Using Simple, Locally-Sourced Ingredients

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I met with Marc Bianco late on Tuesday morning while customers were just making their way through the doors of Pane Bianco as they opened for lunch. Within moments of greeting me I was in the far back, where their stock of local ingredients resides. I sat at a baker’s table while Marc shared his deep love for the Phoenix community, the science behind baking bread and his dedication to sourcing simply the best ingredients possible.


Who are the owners?

Marc and his brother Chris Bianco, the owner of the Bianco restaurants, grew up in the Bronx watching their mother and aunts make handmade pastas. Marc shared with me how cooking from scratch has always been part of their lives. Although Chris went to the Scottsdale Culinary Institute for 6 months, the two brothers’ most effective training has been through trial and error. Marc is responsible for making the breads and dough for all the Bianco restaurants and he and Chris constantly work together to develop recipes and perfect their product.

Marc hasn’t always baked or even worked in the restaurant industry. In fact, before joining the family business, he had never worked in a restaurant. At the time Chris opened Pizzeria Bianco Marc was still living in New York. He was working as a graphic designer, primarily designing labels for beer and wine. When his brother set the date for opening the restaurant, Marc flew to Phoenix to be the very first customer. He sat in the window in their original location in Heritage Square, was handed a menu, ordered, and became part of history.

After the pizzeria had been open for a few years, Marc’s hands-on involvement with the family business began. He moved to Phoenix and started reaching out to local farmers at a time when local farmers were few and far between. Marc recalled how he would go to a customer’s home to pick peaches from their tree. He recounted another story where he visited an heirloom tomato grower in Tempe to handpick tomatoes for the restaurant while mistakenly wearing a white shirt. When he arrived at the Pizzeria with the delivery, Chris stopped him. His white shirt was now green from picking fresh tomatoes and Chris had him walk through the restaurant with his delivery rather than taking it through the back door. The customers cheered and clapped as he walked through. Moments like this have separated the Bianco’s and have shown their customers first hand the lengths they will go to bring them the best ingredients.


How did it start?

After 6 years of success with Pizzeria Bianco, Chris wanted to open another restaurant. Pane Bianco was born out of two desires. Chris and Marco had spent a great deal of time at Lux Coffee Bar and loved the community that was forming in that neighborhood. They wanted to be apart of it and they wanted contribute to it. They also had a strong desire to open a fast paced lunch spot where you could take items to go or eat lunch on the outdoor communal patio, a spot to enjoy beautiful weather and connect with the community. The location on Central Avenue and Campbell was a no brainer.

When they originally opened, their hours were limited and they only offered food to go, though there was the outdoor patio right outside the restaurant where people enjoyed the sandwiches and was almost always packed while Pane Bianco was open. After functioning this way for nearly a decade, they made plans to expand their location into what used to be Lux’s old location to accommodate indoor seating as well as table service. While completing the expansion they used as much as they could from the original design; you will even find outlets in the floor in their back room from the beauty parlor that was originally in their space. They have kept the bare bones, with Chris still adding his personal touches. Marc tells me how Chris designs all of their restaurants, and how their father’s artwork hangs in each of them. The brothers really have their hands in every small detail and it shows.


As Pane Bianco expanded, so did their original menu. They not only serve the sandwiches and salads they started with, but also their pizzas and what they call their “big plates.” Some of my personal favorites on their menu are their house made mozzarella with local tomato and basil, their sopressata sandwich with aged provolone and wood roasted onions served on their homemade wood fired focaccia bread, or their famous Rosa pizza with red onions, Arizona pistachios, rosemary and parmesan.

The Bianco’s philosophy is clear: Keep things simple and do things well. They do this by having a strong connection to their farmers, many of which even attended Chris’s wedding early this year. By having this connection they are that much more confident in the ingredients they serve. As I sat and chatted with Marc, local vendors and farmers made their way through the back door to deliver produce. They were at home, and that is how they want everyone who comes through their doors to feel.

The Bianco’s success is astonishing. They currently run three Phoenix based locations. One at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix, another at 20th Street and Camelback, Pane Bianco at Central near Camelback, and their location in Tucson that is on its way to opening. In addition to their local locations Chris is involved with Union Jacks, a restaurant he opened with Jamie Oliver with multiple locations overseas. Bianco’s pizza has been awarded the best pizza in the country by Bon Appetit and Rachel Ray. They have been recognized by Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, GQ, Food and Wine Magazine, and Andrew Zimmern for their exceptional recipes. On top of all of this Chris has been awarded the James Beard award for the best chef in the Southwest. We are incredibly lucky to have the Bianco’s restaurants in our home city.


Why we love it!

We love the execution of their philosophy. When I met with Marc, he explained to me the science behind bread baking. He taught me the variables that can make bread change. He explained fermentation times, hydration, different types of flour and how their properties mix and don’t mix, and how important salt and pepper is. It is apparent he loves the science of food and the social aspect of running restaurants.

The quality of their food is exceptional. The Bianco’s dedication to sourcing the best ingredients is equally translated to the best taste and presentation. The wood fired flavor you experience with each sandwich, pizza and baguette is un-paralled to any other I have tasted. Their handmade mozzarella, locally sourced tomatoes, and fresh seasonal toppings make for an experience unlike any other. While their success is world renowned, Bianco’s steady flow of regular local customers plays a large part in their continued success. Their regular customer base proves that their recipes not only impress the food critics, but keep the average Joe returning weekly, if not daily.

Marc tells me that though he’s from New York, he is proud to be in Phoenix because Phoenix is growing and has so much talent. At Firefly we are so happy to have pioneers like the Biancos, who are successful across the world, to bring culture and and the best quality to the Phoenix community.


Hours and Location

Pane Bianco is located at 4404 North Central Avenue in Phoenix. They are open daily for lunch from 11am to 4pm, and for dinner from 4pm to 9pm Monday through Thursday, and for dinner from 4pm to 10pm on Friday and Saturday.

View their website for their other locations hours of operation.

What else is in the neighborhood?

A couple of Marc’s favorite restaurants are FnB on 5th Avenue in Scottsdale and Nobou located in Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix directly across from Pizzeria Bianco.

What’s coming up for the Bianco’s?

Stay tuned for the opening of their newest location of Pizzeria Bianco in Tucson near Congress and 5th Avenue this fall. Also keep your eyes peeled for Chris’s cookbook he is co-writing with Gary Nabhan scheduled for publication this fall as well.

Photos by author. 


Firefly Hot Spot: Tammie Coe Cakes & MJ Bread Continue to Wow Phoenix with Their Decadent Goodies

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Who are the owners?

Photographed above is Tammie Coe. Tammie and MJ Coe have a deep passion for creating items that are undeniably beautiful and delicious. The two met in culinary school and married after graduating. They continued the development of their craft by working in established and well-respected restaurants and kitchens. They have lived in Phoenix for nearly twenty years and have made a name for themselves within the community for their enchanting fondant cakes, delectable pastries, famous sugar cookies and their nourishing handmade breads.

How did it start?

Tammie Coe Cakes & MJ Bread began eleven years ago with a pastry case in Arcadia’s La Grande Orange Grocery. Here they developed their menu of signature pastries and breads, which made their everlasting mark on the Phoenix community. When the demand for their quality products became more than they could keep up with a pastry case, they opened their first standalone bakery. Over the years they have moved and expanded to a total of three locations.

They operate three successful bakeries and coffee shops, work with wholesale vendors, cater special events, consult with restaurant owners and chefs, and are able to work with any and every special order. Tammie and MJ are constantly evolving by producing unique baked items through research and development.

Collages3Why we love it!

Tammie explains this to me in the context of trying new recipes and perfecting classics. As we sat and conversed in her newest location on Central Avenue, surrounded by her mother’s, Ina Moss’s, and long time hairdresser’s, Pierre Hambur’s, artwork, she told me a story from a few mornings prior. Tammie decided to experiment with seven different recipes for chocolate chip cookies at home. These seven recipes were compiled of numerous types and measurements of butter, flour, sugar, and chocolate chips. Tammie did this all in the name of creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie that is unmatched. You can taste this devotion in each baked good Tammie and MJ craft. Their menu is extensive, but I would be remiss if I didn’t share some of my personal favorites with you.

My first introduction to Tammie Coe Cakes was at my bridal shower. My Aunt searched for the best red velvet cake. It was no contest, it had to come from Tammie Coe Cakes. The fondant cakes Tammie creates are unlike any other cake I have ever had. The cake was so stunning we almost didn’t want to cut in to it, but when we did our taste buds were delighted. The contrast between the gorgeous yet durable fondant and the moist and lightweight cake made for decadent experience. Tammie and MJ have created desserts that play a key role in making the personal moments in our lives exceptional.

My second experience with Tammie Coe came when I was working for Giant Coffee in downtown Phoenix. There I assisted the incredible owners, Ernie and Matt Pool, as they opened their first ever coffee shop. Before ramping up their own in-house bakery, they purchased all their bread and baked goods from Tammie and MJ. This is where I had the opportunity to try nearly all of their exceptional staple pastries and breads. Their unique apple oatmeal cookies, ooey gooey cupcakes, blueberry muffins and thick cut sour dough toast with Cotton Country Jams were just a few of my favored baked goods. My husband would always be eager to see what I would bring home each day from work. We got spoiled.

A year later I began to work for Lux Coffee, which had been around for nearly a decade at that point. Their bakery was established, but even today Lux turns to Tammie Coe Cakes and MJ Bread for items they feel can’t be done better. The items they receive daily are their sticky bran muffins, brioche, as well as ciabatta and levain breads.


In addition to providing their local wholesale accounts you can find all of my personal favorites and many more at all their locations in Phoenix. I have frequented each of their local locations and can tell you it’s a perfect place to get a heartwarming cinnamon roll, a fantastic cup of coffee (roasted at Lux) to either stay and enjoy with a friend or to take with you if you’re on the go. We highly recommend Tammie Coe Cakes and MJ Bread!

We love Tammie Coe Cakes and MJ Breads because each of the baked goods they create are individual, edible pieces of art. You can taste the passion they have for their business. We love that even after being in business for about a decade they wake up in the morning and want to experiment with baking just because they love baking.

Tammie Coe’s success is remarkable. Their investment in the Phoenix food community is made clear as they collaborate with other restaurateurs to help them establish or improve the quality of what they serve. At Firefly Living, we appreciate Tammie and MJ’s philosophy of “rising waters raise all boats”. Tammie Coe and MJ Bread continue to improve the Phoenix community every day by producing consistently top-notch baked goods and by sharing their expertise and commitment to quality with other businesses.


Hours and Location

Tammie Coe Cakes and M.J. Bread have three locations. Their location at 610 E. Roosevelt has been closed for the summer, but will reopen November 1st. Their location on 5210 North Central Avenue is open Monday through Thursday from 8am to 5pm and Friday and Saturday from 8am to 8pm. Their location at Phoenix Sky Harbor in Terminal 4 is open morning to night opening 30 minutes before the first flight of the day and 30 minutes before the last flight.

What else is in the neighborhood?

A few of Tammie’s favorite local restaurants are The House, Pino’s Pizzeria, and all of the Upwards Project restaurants – Federal, Windsor, and Postinos. It goes without saying that she is a great supporter of the local Phoenix community and appreciates the talents of her favorite chefs.

Photos taken by author. 

Firefly Hot Spot: Gadzooks Redefines the Enchilada

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By using ingredients like modelo braised bison, scratch-made crema and honeysuckle vinaigrette Gadzooks is redefining the enchilada. With a love stemming from childhood for enchiladas and Mexican food, Aaron Pool opened Gadzooks this April.


Who are the owners?

Aaron Pool is a Phoenix native who began cooking with his mother at a very young age. He especially loved baking and even had an Easy-Bake Oven as a child. His palate for spicy food developed at a local Phoenix restaurant that has since closed called La Fonda’s. Here, he would order cheese crisps, enchiladas and experiment with different salsas. His mother was famous for her green chile chicken enchilada casserole, and on a family trip to Tahoe during his freshman year of college it began to click. Although Aaron’s family was made up of dentists, and while there was a time he thought he wanted to join the same line of work, it was reaffirmed on this trip what he wanted to do. It was here that the idea for a fast casual restaurant involving enchiladas was born.

How did it start?

After graduating from Arizona State University in 2009 Aaron began working out the plans for Gadzooks. He worked with Navin Pathangay of Pathangay Associates to complete the build out of the space on the corner of 7th Street and Osborn where the business now resides. They began by stripping the building to the bare bones of the 1950’s gas station it once was. With the aid of the Adaptive Reuse Program at the City of Phoenix, Aaron and Navin were able to design the space creatively with the city on their side.


The name Gadzooks is German and means an exclamation of surprise. While what they are cooking up and serving is in no way German you can certainly expect surprising ingredients. Aaron told me stories of him experimenting with braising new meats and working with commercial kitchen appliances for the first time ever while he was building his menu. He even found himself in the restaurant at 3am at times trying to get recipes right. Aaron has worked very hard to implement family recipes that maybe wouldn’t fit it to the traditional Mexican restaurant by making minor tweaks.

At Gadzooks they make everything from scratch in house and source local ingredients whenever possible. An item that stood out to me in particular on their menu is their homemade tortillas. They offer two options – hand pressed, in house corn and scratch-made half and half corn and flour tortillas. The half and half are perfect for enchiladas because they give you a buttery softer taste and texture without becoming soggy like most flour tortillas do. You will find multiple recipes from his mother on the menu including their soup, cornbread and homemade cookies.

Aaron met a lot of opposition from restaurant veterans with starting his own business at such a young age, but his success speaks for itself. He is doing far better than he could have ever imagined and is loving every minute of it.


Why we love it!

We love that Aaron has developed his business in a very sustainable way. We love that he has reinvented a classic he has always loved, and that despite facing opposition he pursued his dream of owning and operating a restaurant. His dedication to creating a menu that is out of the box is admirable. By making everything in house and from scratch, including their tortillas, his menu options are unique and cannot be found anywhere else. We appreciate Gadzook’s sourcing local ingredients whenever possible and for working with the city of Phoenix and their Adaptive Reuse Program when completing their build out. We highly recommend this new local gem!

Hours and Location

Gadzook’s is located at 3313 N. 7th St. at Osborn St. in Phoenix and is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 10pm.

What else is in the neighborhood?

After working twelve plus hour days, Aaron’s favorite local places to grab some food and a drink after work are St. Francis located on Camelback near 2nd st, Chelsea’s Kitchen on 40th Street near Camelback, and Rokerij on 16th Street near Maryland.

What’s coming up for Gadzooks?

They are participating in the Arizona Taco Festival on October 19th & 20th, and over the next couple weeks they will be expanding their hours to be open on Sundays for brunch. Aaron’s plans are to have a slightly modified menu more specific to the brunch crowd, but their fast casual businesses model will stay put, creating a very unique brunch experience.

Photos taken by author. 


Firefly Hot Spot: Short Leash Opens Their First Bricks & Mortar Location “Sit…Stay”

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After operating as a successful food truck business for three years Brad and Kat Moore opened their first Bricks and Mortar location in downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row neighborhood this July. With dedication to creating a business and life they can enjoy together, this husband and wife duo have developed a Phoenix staple locals truly enjoy.


Who are the owners?

Photographed above is Brad Moore. Brad and Kat Moore are a husband and wife team who love everything about running their business together. Before starting Short Leash their backgrounds ranged in art, design, soccer, retail and banking. With goals to leave the corporate world behind and start a creative business together they started Short Leash in June of 2010.


How did it start?

The business began with one truck that they parked at the Phoenix Public Open Air Market. Brad and Kat each set humble goals for their first day of business. Brad’s goal was to make and sell 5 hot dogs, and Kat’s was to make and sell 30. They happily surpassed Brad’s goal and met Kat’s. Their business only grew from there. Over the past 3 years their success has been become well known all over Phoenix. They still operate out of their very first truck and you can find them at locations all over the city. View their calendar here. In addition to this truck they have another that the public can reserve for special events.

They opened their first ever bricks and mortar location last month. Brad and Kat were always passively looking for a space they could open a more permanent location. The spot where Sit…Stay now resides was once Tedibertos, and before that it was a catering company which left them with no major construction. Kat was able to design the space flawlessly with her experience in interior design and this shows when you walk in to their location on Roosevelt. After speaking to Brad he informed me that the space was meant to be theirs. In addition to the location being at the core of where they began, he says the landlords of their building are great.

For Brad and Kat community has always been the essence of their business. They involve the community by sourcing ingredients that are seasonal and local whenever possible. In addition to their original menu they have added appetizers, salads, entrees and local beer and wine to Sit…Stay’s dine in menu. All of the “dogs” on their menu have been named after friends and families dogs. You will even find photos of their two family dogs, Igby and Oliver, as well as other local dogs hanging on the walls in their new space. They speak highly of their customers and the relationships they have developed with the neighborhood.


Why we love it!

We love Short Leash because of the ways Brad and Kat transformed their lives by making a conscious decision that you don’t have to do something you aren’t happy with. In addition to this they constantly incorporate family and community in to all that they do. As Phoenix locals at Firefly Living we support any business who supports our community in the way Brad and Kat do.

We believe that their dedication to reinventing a classic is a large contribution to their success.  While the bulk of their menu is fairly straight forward, they offer something unique for everyone. (yes, vegans too!) Being creative in the way they operate, develop recipes and menus, and their presentation has made their product in high demand for Phoenix locals. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit them at the Phoenix Public Market, or at their new location Sit…Stay we highly recommend it!


Hours and Location

Sit…Stay is located at 110 East Roosevelt Street near our newest listing at 212 W. Portland St. in the heart of downtown Phoenix. They are open Tuesday through Friday from 11am to 10pm, and Saturday from 10am to 10pm. They serve their full menu during business hours and are open an hour earlier on Saturdays for brunch.

What else is in the neighborhood?

If you’re looking for local food and drink in the neighborhood stop by the Phoenix Public Market for coffee, cocktails, and all things local, Matt’s Big Breakfast for scratch cooking and friendly service, or Tammie Coe Cakes for some of the greatest pastries around. If you’re interested in shopping swing by GROWop boutique for vintage and local goods, for one of a kind jewelry, pottery, books and magazines visit Made Boutique, and for a quality haircut drop by Mercantile.

USA Today is calling Roosevelt Row one of the 10 best neighborhoods that tourists haven’t found yet. Brad and Kat are contributing to the culture of this neighborhood daily. We support their successful efforts and suggest you take the time to stop by Sit…Stay!

Photographs taken by author. 


Developer Rob Anderson on Greenhabbing Existing Homes

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Below is an interview with developer Rob Anderson who is behind a recently completed project with Firefly Living – a greenhab of a mid-century home in the Devonshire neighborhood in Central Phoenix.  Read why Rob believes that greenhabbing existing homes brings value not only to the homebuyer but to entire neighborhoods.

Come check out this project at the first open house tomorrow (Tuesday the 24th) from 4:30-6:30pm at 4241 N. 10th Street!

Taz Loomans: What value do you think the average homebuyer gets from a green home?

Rob Anderson: I think that the buyer of a green home gets value in two forms: measurable economic value and what I’ll call self-fulfillment value.

The measurable economic benefit is pretty obvious-a decreased annual cost on utilities. For the project we just wrapped up in Central Phoenix, we took the estimated annual utility cost from $3,418.00 to $2,451.00.  This represents an annual savings of almost $1,000.00.  In this economic climate, almost a thousand dollars to your annual bottom line can make a big difference. That savings translates into around $80 per month.  That’s $80 per month that is freed up for life’s necessities or maybe doing something nice for your spouse, your kids or yourself.

The self-fulfillment value is a little more nebulous, but in my view, just as important.  I believe that people can and should take pride in doing their part for our environment.  By owning a house that consumes less resources, they’re playing a role in decreasing the consumption of said resources.

My sincere hope is that people get a sense of pride and happiness from knowing they’re taking an active role making our world better.

Taz Loomans: Why did you get into greenhabbing?

Rob Anderson: I believe that now more than ever, people are aware of the fact that we need to be cautious with our consumption of the planet’s resources. Thankfully, the movement to consume less and be more environmentally conscientious has gained momentum. With this, we see an increased demand for things which dovetail with that conscientiousness.  It’s far beyond cliche at this point, but just look at the overwhelming success of the Prius. The demand for green housing is in its infancy right now and should grow in the coming years.

I feel sure that the sentiment in the previous paragraph comes off as wholly capitalistic and money-driven, but there’s more to it than that. We have an obligation to create homes that consume less, use sustainable materials, and perform and look better than their counterparts.   If we want to leave something behind for our kids and their kids, we need to have a look at how we’re going about things. I believe our planet is in for a hard time if we don’t start making better decisions about how and what we consume.

These two notions taken together represent the crux of why I got into green-habbing:  I wanted to prove that we can reconcile the capitalist side of our brain and the environmentalist side of our brain. We can make business decisions that have an immediate positive impact (making money on your flip), have a longer term economic view (early servicing of a market that is sure to grow) AND do right by our environment.

Taz Loomans: What is your commitment to making a positive impact on neighborhoods?

Rob Anderson: Our commitment to making a positive impact on neighborhoods manifests in two ways:  being the first to go into slightly less desired neighborhoods and by doing repeat deals in those neighborhoods.

The project in Central Phoenix that we are just wrapping up sits on a horseshoe shaped street.  It probably encompasses about 1.5 miles. At the time we purchased this home, there were approximately 6 bank owned homes on the street. I drove down the street week before last, and all but one of those houses had sold. The majority of those that have sold appear to be getting remodeled in some way. I can’t say for certain that our purchase and subsequent remodel caused those other houses to sell, but I’d like to think that maybe it played a tiny part.  As those houses are completed and brought to the marketplace, the quality of the neighborhood will improve.

We’ve also had great luck in purchasing consecutive deals in the same neighborhoods. We’ve had scenarios where we purchase a house, do the remodel, sell it, then find that there is a similar house down the street.   By doing that next deal in the same neighborhood, we can take a far more active, hands-on approach to improving the quality of the housing in that neighborhood.

If you want to check out Rob’s project in Central Phoenix, make sure to attend the first open house tomorrow (Tuesday the 24th) from 4:30-6:30pm.  The address is 4241 N. 10th Street.  Here’s more information about the house.