Monthly Archives: March 2018

THUMBNAILS 2: Food, Art and People


The Fusion of Food, Art & Music

Sometimes an idea comes to a person in the middle of the night, bypassing dreams, interrupting sleep, defying logic — an idea so persistent and powerful it demands our full, waking attention.

On a cold winter’s night just about a year go, such an event happened in the brain of septuagenarian Ken Erickson. The idea: Open a restaurant in Sedona. More specifically, buy and bring back to life a restaurant that had been closed for two years.

“Whaaaaat?! That’s crazy!” So said his wife Marilyn when he shared the idea with her at breakfast in their Village of Oak Creek home the next morning. This was a perfectly natural and predictable response to such an idea.

[…] He persisted and followed his dream, thinking a restaurant would provide an opportunity to live a slightly different lifestyle.

After months of cleanup and extensive renovation — a total makeover, really — Ken’s Creekside restaurant opened to the public on September 1, 2006. The place was — is — tastefully elegant, pastel colors accented by forest-green linens, Marilyn’s beautiful paintings of Red Rock Country adorning the walls, the cozy building bordered by Oak Creek and its lush vegetation. The red rock views, especially from the outdoor dining area, are stunning.

In short, Ken’s Creekside is breathtaking. It was an instant hit with locals and tourists and remains so to this day.

Salsa Brava Mexican Grill: As Hot as It Gets in Flagstaff

I love great Mexican food.

In fact, I can remember the first time I had really great Mexican food—it was in Mexico, down in Baja California somewhere, circa late Sixties. I was bumming around in my yellow VW van with my hippie girlfriend, just enjoying life and fine food on a dollar a day.

The more southern you get on the coast the better the food, and more of a tropical flavor. There was this little restaurant near Cabo San Lucas, just a little shack near the beach. I had fish tacos, made with red snapper so fresh you knew it had been caught that morning, and delicious rice and beans.

Fresh, fresh, fresh. I’ll never forget that meal. It was simple yet elegant and the owners, husband and wife, were friendly and the cerveza was cold. Our bill was $1.50 U.S. Over the years, I have thought about that meal and the wonderful feeling of satisfaction and fullness it brought. I thought it could never happen again.

But life is full of surprises. Thirty-some years later I have found a Mexican restaurant, right here in Flagstaff (!), that brings back those warm and fuzzy feelings. It’s called Salsa Brava. “Brava” means hot, as in hot sauce, or salsa. Salsa Brava is Flagstaff’s hot spot in more ways than one.

Mime, Music, Magic: Experience the Trickster Café and Blue Vortex

It was just past midnight. I had been wandering around Uptown Sedona, craving a tall cold one and something to sink my teeth into, like a big, juicy hamburger. But everything was closed up tight and the streets were empty. Just my luck; bad karma, maybe.

Then up ahead, at the crossroads of Jordan Road and Apple Avenue, I saw the sign: “Blue Vortex Tiki Lounge.” What the—?! I stumbled in; fortunately, the door was open. This was a happening scene.

It was a lounge with intriguing lighting and cool colors, all grays and blues, filled with beautiful people, chatting and drinking and snacking, locals and tourists, cool music as a backdrop, soft jazz and blues, just what I like. Richard, the bartender, greeted me. “Welcome to the Blue Vortex Tiki Lounge.” “Got anything to eat here?” I blurted.

He handed me a menu. I gaped. “Build your own 3/4 pound burger from 30 different items,” it said. And, omigod, oysters and chili and Cajun turkey and crab cakes and stuffed jalapenos and and—. My luck had definitely changed. “And you’ve got 50 different martinis?? I asked. “Yup,” “You have 25 kinds of vodka?” “Yessir.” “And this Blue Vortex Iced Tea, with tequila, vodka, gin, rum . . .” “Not for the meek,” said Richard.

Long story short: The Blue Vortex Tiki Lounge is open till 1 a.m., serving delicious food and great drinks, and is part of Robert Shields’ Trickster Café, certainly the most unique and creative restaurant to come to Sedona in years.


Zen and the Art of Improv

Tony Carito bustles into the kitchen of Kerry Biondo’s home in Uptown Sedona. He is nearly beside himself with excitement.

“Oprah!” he shouts. “I just saw Oprah at the health food store!” His friends try to calm him down. But it’s no use: Tony has just had a for-real Close Encounter of the Celebrity Kind at New Frontiers.

Oprah Winfrey is passing through Sedona in late May on her most recent road trip, accompanied by her entourage. She browses the organic produce at New Frontiers because “there’s nothing to eat in this town!” Tony is there.

Kerry Biondo is the founder and director of the wildly popular Sedona improv group, Abandoned Minds. Tony Carito, Sedona’s unofficial mayor, poet, bon vivant and performance artist, is one of the original members of the improv troupe.

Twenty minutes after Tony’s dramatic entrance, Tony and Derek Dujardin, another player in the ensemble, are acting out a surreal scene in Kerry’s living room: Derek is Oprah, carefully picking out produce; Tony is the sound man for the video team, which tracks Oprah’s every gesture. It is wild, it is hilarious, and it is what these people do with reckless abandon. They use everything. Life becomes art.

It is a balmy evening in Sedona, and I have been invited to Kerry’s Tuesday class to help me understand what makes this group tick. Or, I should say, click. I have seen Abandoned Minds performances. I was, and still am, amazed at their seamless professionalism.

Sedona couple’s makeover project lands them on HGTV’s “Landscaper’s Challenge”

Nearly every day, about half an hour before sunset, Sedona’s red rocks put on an incredible light show. It’s a psychedelic, other-worldly event, a dance of color and texture that turns the normally awesome red hues luminous shades of crimson, scarlet, reddish-purple, bright orange and right off the color charts.

It doesn’t last long, maybe 10-15 minutes. But it’s an unforgettable sight, one of Sedona’s least-kept secrets.

This is the story of a Sedona couple who live in the Broken Arrow subdivision and have one of the best views of not only the red rocks but the above-described nightly event. It’s a story of why their view — or rather the rebirth of their view — will cause them to be on a national TV show called “Landscaper’s Challenge.”