Healthy Roots Cafe- Phoenix
Agave Pantry- Tucson’s Hidden Culinary Gem
World’s Smallest Target

Healthy Roots Cafe- Phoenix

Compassionate eating” – is one of the many values that sets Healthy Roots Cafe apart from other eateries. The recently opened Phoenix-based cafe is entirely plant-based, but most importantly, it is run by students at V.H. Lassen Elementary, as well as the community.

It was founded by Krystal Harris- a personal chef who has a more holistic approach to cooking (I had first met Chef Krystal at a past Zen Nights event). The Phoenix native was one of eight siblings, and had always loved to watch her parents cook. “My mother is from Thailand and I was intrigued at a very young age by the different techniques she used in making authentic dishes. My father was from Alabama and brought his love of southern soul homestyle cooking into our house on many occasions,” Krystal explained.

After moving to South Phoenix, she became involved with the folks that run Spaces of Opportunity, which is a 10-acre incubator farm that helps to enable families in the area to have access to healthy food. One of the people she met- John Wann, who is the Director of The Orchard Community Learning Center, told her about an opportunity to remedy a school culinary program that had lost its’ funding. The opportunity was to take on a role as Healthy Community Coordinator and to create a plant-based restaurant that would be run by the students. She knew she’d be perfect for that role, as she had decided that her next step in her career would involve serving her community in some aspect.

So Healthy Roots Cafe was born, and June 7th, 2019, was its’ grand opening day. Krystal goes on to talk about the concept, “It’s a labor of love. The kids are dedicated and choose to be here on their non-school hours. They are learning culinary and life skills that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives. They understand that the impact of our food choices will make a difference in our communities and for the planet. We use recycling and composting practices while in the restaurant, which translates into the kids being more environmentally mindful at home…Most of the food is organic and hyperlocal, meaning it comes from within a 5-mile radius. It’s ran by students ages 10 and up, who all have their food handlers card. The food is made fresh daily and we offer a rotating seasonal menu. All the recipes are low in sugar, fat and salt but big in flavor. The recipes are internationally inspired and rooted in a variety of cultures.”

I visited the little cafe back in June. The concept was still fresh and exciting; and the kids did a good job. I loved that the menu had a list of the major ingredients, along with their cultural influence and scientific health benefits. I had the Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice and the Juniper Ash Pancakes, which were wonderful! They, along with the Seasonal Tamales, Toast of the Day, and the Chia Seed Pudding have been their best-selling dishes so far. The menu is set, but there are rotating specials that are offered weekly on items like: tamales, soup, agua fresca, and sometimes a chef’s special (which features a recipe/dish from a guest chef).

The cafe is located at V.H. Lassen Elementary (909 W. Vineyard Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85041), and is open every Saturday through May (unless otherwise noted to accommodate school holidays) from 9AM – 12PM. They are also hoping to be open an additional day, which would be Friday nights for a family-style dinner (stay tuned on their social media for an announcement).

If you are in Phoenix and would love a pleasant and unique dining experience, paired with great food, you MUST plan a visit to HRC! Be sure to follow along on their Instagram and Facebook for announcements and such, as well as ‘liking,’ sharing, and posting about your experience. If you aren’t local, but would like to donate to the program, go online to orchardlearningcenter.org or healthyrootscafe.com (website coming soon). You may also give a school tax credit donation to V.H. Lassen and note ‘Healthy Roots Cafe.’


Agave Pantry- Tucson’s Hidden Culinary Gem

After biting into the saffron and cardamom rose amaretti, I immediately sat back in my chair and savored the beautiful flavors as I chewed. They were rich, yet subtle and exotic. Have small cookies ever put you in such a state where you have not a care in the world? Well, these did; and Shazieh Gorji is, pardon my language, a fucking genius.

Shazieh is the sole owner behind the Tucson-based cottage industry brand- Agave Pantry. I had recently heard of the brand on social media, but then had the pleasure of meeting her during this past Cultivate Tucson market. Earlier in June, we met up and she shared some insights into her world of small batch and handcrafted pastries, infused salts, spirit pots, and an AirBnB.

She has always loved baking, even before she graduated from culinary school in 2014. While in culinary school, she did an externship at Acacia. After having her son, she decided to take a step back, and while at home with him, was baking and honing recipes and skills. She knew she wanted to still be in the food industry, and had heard about the cottage industry license (cottage industry means that you can make goods in your own kitchen, however, you cannot make anything that needs refrigeration).

So she worked on getting her license and figured out what she wanted to create, as she wanted to find her voice and do something that no one else was doing. She experimented with an amaretti, which is normally a crunchy Italian almond-based cookie with no flavor. She used the same ingredients, however, changing it up a bit and made it more marzipan-like. She then added flavors that are typical of her Middle Eastern background (she grew up in Pakistan to an Iranian family), such as cardamom, rose, and saffron. The mainly gluten-free menu has since expanded to other goodies, such as Lemon Tea Cake, Carrot Cake (also comes in non-GF), Chocolate Almond Torte (also available are Spicy Chocolate and Cardamom), Raspberry Lemon Cake (non-GF), Rosemary Cookies (non-GF), Vegan Chocolate Cardamom Brownies, and much more! All of her baked goods are made from non-GMO flour, free range eggs, and organic spices. She will start incorporating more locally-sourced ingredients after this summer. She grows her own rosemary, but will be adding Hayden Mills flour and dates and citrus from Urban Grove.

It was December 2018 when she officially launched Agave Pantry- the culmination of her baking, travels, and experiences. Her first market was the Fourth Schmourth Handmade Market, followed by Cultivate Tucson and other little pop-ups around the city.

Aside from the edibles side of her business, she also creates functional pottery that includes: platters, dipping/salt bowls, small spoons, as well as jars to hold just enough coffee beans so that they won’t go stale. “The act of using coffee helps you to slow down a little because you don’t want to be too rough. Making things that let you slow down and just appreciate little moments. For me, scooping out coffee from something handmade is beautiful… Creating beauty of the mundane of every day life.”

Another best-seller is the spirt pots. She considers them “food for your soul because they are affirmation pots. They are very intimate and personal. You don’t share your pot with somebody else, and using it adds the emotional and well-being of where you are, and that adds to the emotional well-being of everyday.” Be sure to check out her Spirit Pot Workshops , which you can book on Tucson AirBnB Experiences.

Be sure to also check out her Tucson AirBnB listing- Purple Desert Heart Guesthouse if you are in Tucson and need a place to stay and don’t want to be in a hotel. Also, check out her Instagram and Facebook page for new events and such!

Look for Agave Pantry at the MSA Annex Summer Night Market in September!

Have you been fortunate to try one of Shazieh’s amazing goodies? If so, what are your favorites?

World’s Smallest Target

(Vintage Vest as Top- Mercy Vintage, Vintage Lee Jeans- Cottage Shop Houston, Vintage Sunglasses- Nostalgia Knoxville, Hat- thrifted, Belt- the Mr’s, Vintage Shoes- thrifted)

There is an art installation just west of Marathon, TX on U.S. 90 that bears the famous bullseye logo and name. Don’t expect any merchandise here though, as it’s just one of those old abandoned cinder block buildings next to the railroad. It’s a quirky place to stop for some photos while traversing through the Big Bend area.

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