Farmer's Markets Archives - FRESH Perspective and RAW Conversation

Finding Zen in Mesa

I don’t know why but my heart is drawn to Mesa. We bought our house in Mesa, we got married down the street and when we opened our Café, Mesa was calling to us. Although Mesa is a huge city, we felt it was a town in need of a food culture and healthier options.

To this day (ten years since we moved into our home) you will still find very few upscale sit down restaurants. Merely corporate drive-through chains, liquor stores and little hole-in-the-wall Mexican Café’s. I love Mexican food and it’s probably really good, authentic Mexican food, but certainly not Vegan. We are lucky to have a Sprout’s grocery store nearby but on those days when cooking just seems a bit over the edge of an already overwhelming day, nutritious and healthy food would be a least a 15-20 minute drive away. And you can be sure I won’t be cramming two kids in a 120-degree car to run in somewhere for food. Even food delivery services won’t touch this zip code.

When Sean and I first started The Cutting Board, we knew it had to be more than a restaurant. Of the many things we wanted it to be, at it’s core, it had to be a place to build a community.

We knew somewhere out there were like-minded business and individuals with the same values and products. We wanted more options. We wanted to build something better for our children. Not just a town of convenience and quick service. I’ve learned these luxuries tend to rob people of their culture, of diversity and kindness and most importantly, their ability to be open-minded.

I am proud to say that not only have Sean and I been able to connect with a community of people I was beginning to think didn’t exist in Mesa, but I am also seeing small and wonderful momentum building for the Plant Based, Vegetarian and Vegan community. Never have I met so many passionate, caring individuals with intentions bigger than themselves; amazing people and now wonderful customers and friends. (Stay tuned for my Amazing People blog series where I will be posting interviews with some of these said amazing people.)

This past month I was so excited to discover that Zen Nights, a gathering that originated in Gilbert, was moving to Downtown Mesa! Zen Nights is a family friendly gathering of vendors selling Plant Based foods and Cruelty Free products. Think Farmer’s Market but everything is Vegan!

Zen Night’s is operated and put together by Nadia Khalighi, owner of Zen Comfort and wife of Plant Based and Vegan Body Builder, Will Tucker. She is a woman full nurture and warm smiles and her number one goal with this event is so much at the heart of what I have been wanting all these years; bringing the Vegan community together.

I was particularly excited to hear that she would be partnering with Volstead Public House and The Famous Nile Theater in Downtown Mesa to host these events. The venue seems so fitting and gives so much life to an area of Mesa that I have always had high hopes for.

Volstead has become such a big part of our lives since we discovered it over a year ago but I have known the space much longer. I remember sitting in it with my colleagues in college for our Photographic Exhibition course. The walls were barren, the floor was dirty and a musty smell was prevalent. It was an empty, dreary space trying to come alive as an art gallery and my friend was showing her work there. It then turned into a coffee shop a few years later, which had decent coffee but the vibes just weren’t there. Finally we got wind of a Vegan coffee shop opening in the space and we couldn’t be more excited!

Volstead has brought not only good coffee and a creative, comfort food approach to a simple sandwich menu but a strong sense of what I have been yearning for in Downtown Mesa: character. We have come to know the ladies running it and it has become one of our favorite spots to get some coffee or a delicious scone and watch the kid’s faces light up as the light rails speed by outside the big open windows.

I attended the last Zen Nights on a “girls night out” with my daughter while brother was at a sleepover with Grandma for the night. That is what I called it but it was more like seeing a drive through movie that you couldn’t really give your full attention to.

Baby girl was sick; it was past her bedtime and all she wanted was to be crawling around getting her hands on everything she could. So I treated myself to a chocolate scone and a chai tea from Volstead, drooled over all the food and products I didn’t get because I didn’t want to carry it all while holding an eight month old strapped to my chest and stopped to have quick conversations with people I knew.

What is even more exciting is this months Zen Nights Block Party Event – happening this Friday and it’s FREE! It’s a biggie and I’m even more excited to see what the outcome is and what it brings to the table for the Vegan community. This month they be closing down the intersection of Main and McDonald and will be kicking off the Just Start Here Health and Wellness Campaign.

The campaign is to challenge all the residents and resturants of Mesa to go plant based for the month of July. The Just Start Here team consists of Dr Amish Shah, Chef Jason Wyrick and Fitness Expert Will Tucker and they will be a go-to resource for plant based recipes, tips, motivation and support to help you succeed during the challenge. Best of all it’s free to attend! Don’t forget to stop by the The Cutting Board’s tent! We will be there to represent and will be serving up an amazing dinner of Enchiladas, as well as our new and vastly growing selection of our Homestead Cinnamon Rolls!

It gets better! The night before Zen Nights they will also be hosting a special red carpet screening of “Eating you Alive”. It’s a documentary about curing chronic disease with a whole food plant based diet and afterwards a special presentation and Q&A session with the Just Start Here team. Don’t forget to buy your tickets, they will not be selling them at the door!

It’s a red carpet event, which means… fancy dress, all Plant Based, Vegan appetizers, like-minded company and a much needed and overdue night on the town for the husband and I.




Trip to the Phoenix Public Market

Last Saturday we ventured into Downtown Phoenix to check out the Phoenix Public Market and their weekly Open Air Market.

It had always been on our to-do list, and we finally decided it was time before the Arizona sun unleashed its deadly heat upon the valley. The public market is a nonprofit organization whose mission is, “to grow strong Arizona communities through healthy food from healthy farms.” It was built in 2009 to support local farmers, give small Arizona businesses a place to get on their feet, and increase access to healthy food in an area of poverty. I love businesses and people who devote their lives to such a great cause and I couldn’t wait to dive into the community.

I knew we were in for an adventure when we were greeted by a red, metal 1950′s looking parking lot meter with tiny slots for slipping in money. Whether or not it was an actual meter, it still got a donation for the day. The weather was a blissful 82 degrees, perfect for shorts and flip flops and from the parking lot I could see the white peaks of the vendor’s tents. I couldn’t contain myself (and by the way, how crazy is it to be so excited about that!?) The Urban Grocery and Wine Bar building looked new and very urban, sporting its hybrid-looking logo of a shopping cart tractor and a rolling yellow and black wheel.

We started out at the Royal Coffee Bar

It was a small, purposely cluttered space with wooden benches nailed into the side of the walls and electrical outlet in plain sight; encouraging you to sit and enjoy the space with a warm cup of Joe and your laptop. The smell of fresh roasted coffee beans lingered in the air and clung to the brick walls. We watched as the barristas whipped up our order of a small Chai with soy and a double Americano from an awesome yellow, retro looking coffee machine with an old fashioned handle press. The vendor booths were nicely laid out and labeled with the signs of each business.

We were immediately enamored with pastries from Frog’s Organic Bakery from Tucson.

The gentleman was French and I could have asked him questions all day long just to hear his accent. We bought an almond croissant and a Pain au Chocolat, a pastry filled with rich European, organic chocolate. Then we moved on to a booth where a husband and wife were giving out samples that looked like a gooey orange slice covered in chocolate. I wasn’t a huge fan but the Vegan truffles listed on the menu were on my radar and they were deliciously worry free! Who says you can’t have sweets for breakfast?

Although there were many farms displaying their produce Maya’s Farm had the best display of beautiful spring garlic and onions, mulit-colored carrots, hearty beets, kale and greens packed delicately and intentionally into baskets and crates. Maya herself was checking out customers and we got a few minuets to ask her about her farm and her business.

The nice thing about a farmer’s market is that you always know there will be plenty of Vegetarian and Vegan food. Some of our other great finds from the evening were Dr. Hummus’ Vegan Spinach and Artichoke spread, bean and rice burritos grilled fresh and on the spot (always a staple of the vegan diet… what would we do without burritos?) and free Kind Bar samples. Other precious finds were a heirloom variety melon plant, samplings of local citrus and kumquats, locally made whole grain bread and flour processed and grown locally by Hayden Flour Mills.

We ended our trip with a glimpse around the actual market and a sampling of local Arizona wines from Gallifant Cellars.

Although we aren’t huge fans of white wine their sample of 2010 Chenin Blanc was very refreshing and made me think of making sangria on a hot summer day. We spent some time talking with gentleman about the new winery and how Arizona wines where starting to take over the wine scene and then we purchased a bottle and two cans of coconut water for the road.

When we finally arrived home I couldn’t wait to enjoy our spread of goodies and fun finds.

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For more pictures of our visit to the Phoenix Public Market, visit our Facebook Page!