Tag - Tucson

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Meet the Beauty Industry’s Newest Game Changer- NipLips
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August Rhodes Market – Elevated Comfort Food
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Agave Pantry- Tucson’s Hidden Culinary Gem

Meet the Beauty Industry’s Newest Game Changer- NipLips

Renae Moomjian and her daughter Helena are the beauty industry’s newest game changers. Imagine- not having to walk into your neighborhood drugstore and spend countless minutes, waffling over the large variety of lipsticks, their ingredients, and trying to find your true lip match. I know that feeling all too well. Well, the time has come where you don’t have to do that anymore. Enter: Tucson-based clean beauty brand- NipLips. Renae and Helena perfected the ingenious way of finding your true lipstick shades, and that is through the color of your nipples, which you can scan through their app (the image is not saved, just the colors).

So here’s the story of how the idea came about… Helena was reading Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader one day, and was mulling over an article about a woman’s nipple color being the perfect color of her lipstick. So she told her mother about it, and they both agreed that it was pretty cool. The next day, they took pictures of their nipples and went to Walgreens, going through the lipstick aisle, and holding up the pictures to each lipstick. They each got five lipsticks, went back home and drew on themselves to see which one fits the best. After finding this idea beneficial, Renae then asked some of her girlfriends if they would go figure out what their nipple color is and lipstick, then try it on and see if it works? About 90% of them absolutely loved it. The people that weren’t so sure, their perfect color ended up being the next shade darker. The duo did more research, and found articles in Cosmopolitan, Allure, and The Doctors show that talked about the concept two years ago, but no beauty companies picked up on the idea. So that got Renae to thinking that there’s got to be a better way besides taking pictures of your nipples and wondering endlessly around the lipstick aisles, wasting money buying all these lipsticks trying to find a match. Then the idea hit her- let’s create an app where you can just scan the color, and then the colors translate to the lipsticks.

Renae comes from a 30-year background in the medical device industry, an industry that is mainly male-dominated. She also has had a medical device consulting firm for the last five years. “I am frequently the only female executive, and usually the only female in the boardroom during meetings. It’s great, but I have had to learn how to communicate like a man, and  it’s kind of a tough place to be. This is all about coming back to being able to communicate, and be who I am in whatever space I show up in. I’ve always tried to figure out ‘ok how do I need to say this so these guys can understand my point?’ I don’t want my daughter and all of you going through that, so if I have to step out of my industry and do something a little bit different in cosmetics to help people get more centered and focused on who they are, and feel strong about how they communicate and they can go back into those fields, then that would be great.”

The lipsticks are made in Tucson and manufactured by Sia Botanics. The current Desert Botanical Matte line is 84% organic, with zero synthetic chemicals. All the packaging is as sustainable as possible, with the tubes being bamboo. All the colorants are natural micas and oxides from Sonoran desert. “Part of our commitment to our customers is that they will always have vegan clean beauty formulations. As much as we can, we will package eco-friendly and sustainable, and we are committed to donating back to underserved causes. In the desert line, there’s jojoba seed oil, prickly pear seed oil, jojoba esters, and natural waxes. Even though they are a matte, they are lightweight and moisturizing. It’s all about looking to you to define your beauty. Your color that you put on your lips comes from you. It’s not like you’re looking at the latest celebrity trend, or what fashion week says I should wear. You’re defining it, which is a big part this brand too. It’s accepting yourself, and being true and authentic to who you are, and that’s important. We’re creating this amazing community of woman and men that just want to buy products that are clean and don’t have bad chemicals in them, that aren’t tested on animals, that are respectful of the environment, and also give back.”

When I first heard of NipLips, I thought, what a great concept! Who knew that the answer to finding your perfect lipstick shade, would be from one of your most important assets?! Normally, I’d go for a red hue when picking out a lipstick, but after scanning through the app, I realized that that may not always be the case. But Renae did mention that nipple colors do change due to hormone levels changing throughout the month, after a workout, etc. Every time I’m at one of their events, and I see the other folks wearing their color, it ALWAYS looked great on them; which goes to show you how well the concept works. I love supporting brands that empower women, care about the environment (while also providing helpful information about sustainable living and environmental issues on their social media), and are so clean that you can practically eat them!

Be sure to also look into getting a lip facial or buy the Lip Transformation Kit to do it yourself at home. I did a lip facial, and it was life changing! My lips were insanely dry and chapped, but after doing that, they were as smooth as butter. In fact, it’s been several months since the facial, and my lips still don’t get as chapped as before. It also only takes up to fifteen minutes. For a list of where you can find NipLips in Tucson, you can go HERE. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August Rhodes Market – Elevated Comfort Food

August Rhodes Market- a new artisan sandwich concept within the celebrated Ares Collective (think Prep & Pastry and Commoner & Co.) family, recently opened its’ doors on Campbell Avenue. I unfortunately wasn’t in town to attend the grand opening, so I immediately made a beeline for it once I got back. The space is bright and welcoming, complete with an Instagram-worthy tropical print wall. You order at the counter, grab your number and then take a seat (either inside or on the shaded patio). I had the Vegan BLT with Tomato Basil Soup, as well as the Iced Madagascar Coconut White Tea. The Vegan BLT consists of: tofu, romaine lettuce, the reddest tomatoes I’ve ever seen, vegan aioli and sandwiched between to delicious slices of their baked in-house sourdough bread. The Tomato Basil Soup was creamy and comforting. The tea was the perfect refreshing punch of flavor. After taking that first bite, I was hooked.

Upon my most recent visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Nate Teufel- partner baker behind the drool-worthy bread. When it comes to a melt-in-your-mouth sourdough loaf, Nate is pretty much THE man to go to. He loves old-world breads that have a long fermentation period, and have nice crusts and open textures. “Our sourdough is fantastic. Our baguettes are really great. I’ve made these breads for years, but taking them into a new environment with new temperatures and humidity, and different ovens and everything; so it takes a while to dial all that stuff in. But now I feel that our baguettes are something that I’m proud to serve…  Bread had gotten devalued for so long, that it became just a commodity, and just a thing that comes from a factory and you don’t really have your local bakers. It’s nice that there’s a movement in the last fifteen years that there’s enough people that recognize that they want good bread, and that I can be able to make that bread, because without an audience, I can’t do it.” It was after living in Spain for a couple years about twenty years ago that was the pivotal point that he wanted to figure out why the bread in Europe was so great. It wasn’t until he was back in the States and working at Canyon Ranch and with their bread making program, when he spent time observing the bread makers and understood what the difference between making a sourdough versus making a loaf of bread that you could bake in two hours. “To me, that’s also why those long fermented old-world breads are the ones that I like. They have that signature ‘bready’ flavor that you can just taste and process.”

Nate fills me in on the restaurant’s concept, “Sandwiches are a go-to food when you’re on the run. When you go out to eat for lunch and you’re in a hurry, oftentimes, you sacrifice the quality of the food you’re getting for that short amount of time you have, so we wanted to fill that niche. Kyle and I have both spent a lot of time in the south, so a lot of the cuisine draws from those experiences…The Smoked Brisket… The Japanese Milk Bread is supposed to be the answer to Texas Toast… I think that the people really respond to the Japanese Milk Bread (it’s a loaf of pan bread, it’s square, it looks like your grandma’s bread) and I think it’s because it’s soft, it’s white, it’s the opposite of an artisan bread, except that it’s not. I still make it with the same care and same quality of ingredients.” Speaking of ingredients…”All that attention is paid to each of the ingredients. When Kyle and I designed the menu, we wanted to try keep it as simple as possible, and really just focus on making sure that the things that were put into sandwiches are of high quality, and it’ll speak for itself. Customer faves: The New Jersey Joe- we smoke the brisket here in-house, we make the coleslaw, the Russian dressing from scratch… Everything that we are capable of scratch-making, we do; and anything that we can, we’re moving in the direction of scratch-making…That’s just the way you control quality and you can taste it… In a lot of places, I feel that vegetarian and vegan options are an after-thought. (I was vegetarian/ and vegan for many years). Then you have veggie friends that got out with their meat-eating friends… We wanted to be able to accommodate all of those tastes. The Vegan Bahn Mi- I’m very happy with. I make the vegan mayo in-house… The only thing we don’t make is the Sriracha. Our eggplant sandwich is supposed to be an answer to a grinder – eggplant, hummus, kalamata olives… It’s also vegan.”

Vegan Bahn Mi

The New Jersey Joe

Nate and his awesome team are also responsible for making all the breads for Prep & Pastry.  Here are some helpful hints for if you decide to buy a baguette or sourdough loaf from the restaurant. The bread’s shelf life is at least three days at room temperature. The sourdoughs can go for a week if you don’t cut into one. A week later, you can cut into it, as it won’t mold and it has extra onboard moisture because of the process. Bread also freezes really well. It does almost nothing to the structure of the bread, as long as it’s in a freezer, and not thawing and re-freezing. If you just put in a freezer, it’ll last a few months.

What sets Ares Collective restaurants apart from the average restaurant? “The customer experience- the service. I credit Nate (Ares) with creating a culture with his front-of-the-house staff. For being inclusive and treating people like they’re actually guests, and not just customers. People will come here at eight in the morning before we’re open, and Nate will open the doors for them, bring them in, and we’ve made impromptu breakfasts. This is my house, and all these people are guests in my house. That’s what we’re trying to put across- when you come here, we’re going to treat you like you’re guests in our house. What do you want? What can I get for you? How can I make this nice for you? Because that’s what everyone wants… To go somewhere where people are going to treat them nice, and help them get the things that they want, just like you would help your friends at your house. I think that’s what really sets us apart … that, and the quality of food. I want my bread to be the best you’ve ever had.”

So that lovely piece of fall heaven in the photo above is a new dessert that they are rolling out just time for the holiday season. This is the Traditional Colonial Pumpkin Pie. “There’s no crust. The pumpkin itself becomes the crust. I bake the pumpkin itself, and then cool the pumpkin a little bit, then fill it with custard, bake it, and let it sit. The pumpkin basically becomes the serving dish for the custard essentially. You get the sweet and savory, because the pumpkin is not sweet sweet, it still has a little bit of that fleshiness of the pumpkin, but you get the sweet custard with it. To me, that juxtaposition is more interesting to eat than just a regular pumpkin pie.”

August Rhodes Market has plans on hosting a farmers market on Saturday mornings (stay tuned). They also eventually plan on selling all the breads at retail. Need catering or any special orders? Be sure to reach out to them! They are on Instagram and Facebook. The restaurant is located at: 3073 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719. Their phone number is: (520)447-8873. They also deliver through DoorDash!

 

 

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?

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