Kitchen Insider: Step Inside Francine With Chef Brian Archibald

Chef Brian Archibald will partner with restaurateur Laurent Halasz, best known for Fig & Olive, to bring a new Mediterranean experience to Scottsdale diners. Francine is set to open Aug. 14 at Scottsdale Fashion Square.

Among the signature dishes guests can expect to see on the dinner menu: Grilled Octopus, Zucchini Carpaccio, Salad Niçoise, Ratatouille Tart, Steak Tartare, Mushroom & Taleggio, Bone Marrow, Bouillabaisse, Striped Bass, and Seared Duck a la Provençal. For lunch and afternoon hours, the menu will also offer a selection of salads, carpaccio, pizza and informal and shareable dishes.

For more information, call 480.690.6180 or visit

I caught up with the chef as he prepares to open, and he shared these insights with me.

Chef’s Pick: Wild Striped Bass, cooked in papillote, with French olive oil, Picholine olives, lemon, fennel and Agrodolce eggplant

In your own words, please introduce yourself:
My name is Brian Archibald, I am a local Phoenican and Arizona chef that has worked around the U.S. in top kitchens with over 22 years of experience.

How did you get into the restaurant business/where were you trained?
While I was in high school, I attended a culinary program called CCAP, which give students the skills and work ethic to enter the culinary world.

This program also awards scholarships in competitions. I was awarded a scholarship to attend culinary school in San Francisco.

From where do you draw your culinary inspiration?
I draw inspiration from other artisan[s], farmers, bakers and chefs. I read many articles on food and actively search for new concepts to try.

How would you describe the flavor profile of your restaurant?
Our flavor profile in Francine is coastal cuisine of the French Riviera — “the food of the sun.” Very crisp, refreshing seafood and vegetable forward.

Chef’s Pick: Branzino with Panisse and heirloom tomato Sauce Veirge

Chef says he takes sourcing his ingredients locally seriously.
I have been supporting Arizona farmers and artisans for most of my entire career and continuously look to forge new relationships.

What is your favorite dish at Francine?
My favorite dish at the moment is the Branzino with Panisse and heirloom tomato Sauce Veirge. It exemplifies the summer season and the flavors we hope to achieve through Francine. Chef says that another favorite is the Wild Striped Bass… Cooked in papillote, with French olive oil, Picholine olives, lemon, fennel and Agrodolce eggplant.

What is your go-to dish to cook at home?
My go-to for the summer for the family is Hoisin Turkey lettuce wraps with sticky rice, black bean chile sauce and lots of lots of fresh herbs.

And, what are the elements that make for a memorable meal?
I feel meals are memorable when the food can connect with you through flavors that surprise your palate but are understandable. Simple but executed well. Another key is the hospitality and service being sincere. |CST

Kathryn M. Miller is editor-in-chief at CITYSunTimes. Do you have a favorite Valley restaurant that you would like us to visit behind-the-scenes? Drop her a line:

CCUSD: Ready for a Return to Learning

Back-to-school season is frequently a time of anxiety for students and parents alike, and that has never been truer than in 2020. While families are weighing their options for the upcoming school year, school administrators and staff have been working diligently behind the scenes to adjust to an ever-changing landscape. But the bottom line for all parties? Creating a safe environment in which the Valley’s young learners can thrive this school year.

A safe learning environment is something that Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman homed in on in a statement in late July.

“Like all educators, I want students back in our classrooms because that’s the best place for learning and growing. However, we cannot ask schools to make decisions that will impact their teachers’ and students’ health and safety without first providing them with the necessary public health data and funding to make safe decisions.”

On a local level, at a July 20 Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) Governing Board meeting, the board voted to extend the in-person start date to Tuesday, Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. Virtual learning begins in the district Wednesday, Aug. 5.

Dr. Debbi Burdick, CCUSD superintendent, shared the learning options that the district is making available for students this year.

“Cave Creek Unified is excited to roll out our Returning with Excellence Plan with two options for our families. Option I is Distance Learning that will transition to Face-to-Face school when feasible; Option II is the Cave Creek Academy of Excellence — an online school.”

To help students and their families make the 2020–21 school year a success — whether learning takes place in-person or online — Dr. Burdick shared these three tips:

  1. Have a great attitude! Although this is not the way we wanted to open our schools, be positive and look at the unusual situation as an opportunity and an adventure, not as a challenge or a problem. We all need to remain flexible and open to new learning for another new situation.
  2. Districts are opening schools online rather than face-to-face so have a dedicated workspace with all your school materials handy, just like you would at your desk in your classroom. Secondary students typically carry everything around in their backpacks so keeping your school materials in a backpack may also be a great way to stay organized and keep everything together where you know you can find it.
  3. Make sure you take mini-breaks when it is feasible so that you get out of your chair and move around to keep your brain fresh and your muscles moving. No one can sit for hours at a time without some movement. Having a small, old-fashioned minute timer or a kitchen timer set can keep you from taking too long a break during your school day.

Dr. Burdick concluded by saying, “We cannot wait to ‘see’ our students, whether it is on the screen or finally face-to-face!” |CST

North Valley Schools Prepared for a Return to Learning

Back-to-school season is frequently a time of anxiety for students and parents alike, and that has never been truer than in 2020. While families are weighing their options for the upcoming school year, school administrators and staff have been working diligently behind the scenes to adjust to an ever-changing landscape. But the bottom line for all parties? Creating a safe environment in which the Valley’s young learners can thrive this school year.

A safe learning environment is something that Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman homed in on in a statement in late July.

“Like all educators, I want students back in our classrooms because that’s the best place for learning and growing. However, we cannot ask schools to make decisions that will impact their teachers’ and students’ health and safety without first providing them with the necessary public health data and funding to make safe decisions.”

At a local level, superintendents at both Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVSchools) and Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) are focused on safety, and flexibility.

SUSD students will return to learning virtually Aug.10. The earliest SUSD campuses will open for full time on-campus learning is currently Sept. 8, but the school district reiterates that the date may change due to evolving health conditions, public health guidance and potential executive orders from the State of Arizona ( [Learn more from SUSD superintendent Dr. Scott A. Menzel in his August CST column on page 6.]

PVSchools will kick off the school year Aug. 5 and will conduct classes in an online learning environment through Labor Day (

“In our heart, we all wanted to start the year on-time and in-person,” says Dr. Jesse Welsh, superintendent of PVSchools. “Unfortunately, for the safety of students, families, and staff, that is not possible. As we prepare to open online in PVSchools, students should know that their teachers all miss being able to see them in-person and are looking forward to getting to start learning with them this August.”

To help students and their families make the 2020–21 school year a success — whether learning takes place in-person or online — Dr. Welsh shared these three tips:

  1. Now is a good time to start getting students into a routine to prepare them for the start of school. With many districts beginning the school year online, it will be even more challenging to get back into those daily routines. Start on a regular schedule of what time to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning. Encourage students to start their daily morning routine with some time on learning activities you can do right now, such as reading a book, or online math practice.
  2. Before in-person classes resume, parents should practice with students on how to properly wear cloth masks. Even if just for short periods of time around the home or on trips to the grocery store, it will help prepare students for wearing masks at school.
  3. While many children may be excited to get to see their classmates again when in-person classes resume, some may have anxiety about being around others, particularly if they have been isolated since March. Parents should talk with their children about how they feel about returning to school and help them understand all of the safety measures that will be in place to ensure a safe environment for them.

Dr. Welsh concluded by saying, “While things are going to look different at schools this fall once in-person instruction can begin, we have been working hard throughout this summer to be prepared and we are excited for the new school year.” |CST

Mix It Up at Home This Summer with Iconic

Summer is here, and with many of us still staying at home, it is the perfect time to hone our home mixologist skills. So, we turned to the experts at Iconic Cocktail Co. for some inspiration.

Led by owners Matt Farrow and Kaylee (soon to be Farrow) Nedley, Iconic creates handcrafted cocktail mixers. The company produces its mixers seasonally in small batches and says that its focus is fully on flavor.

“At Iconic Cocktail Co., every bottle starts with real ingredients,” the team says, “like fresh citrus, local prickly pears, or honey sourced from the Valley (just to name a few!) We’re focused on the flavor of these real ingredients, so we cut back on sugar and leave out the fake stuff. This results in a product that is low in natural pure cane sugar with a clean label. We never use high fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients, or preservatives. Every ounce is packed with flavor so all you have to do is, just add spirit.”

The company also teams up with local winemakers, distillers, bartenders and baristas for inspiration, and Iconic was kind enough to share some of that inspiration with some summertime favorites to try at home.

To learn more about this Arizona-grown company, purchase mixers or for additional inspiration, visit |CST

Melo Rosé Sangria

Iconic says, “This sangria calls for our summer seasonal, Iconic Watermelon Rose Tonic. This mixer is made with fresh melons and fragrant roses, all balanced out with the right amount of quinine. To complement the rose flavor, we are using a Rosé instead of white wine. Garnished with slices of cucumber and melon balls from watermelon and Korean melon, this will be your new favorite summer sipper.”

Makes about 8 servings

1 bottle of Rosé
1 cup Iconic Watermelon Rose Tonic
¼ cup lime juice
1 12oz can sparkling water

Garnish with cucumber, melon balls, and lime wheels
Combine all in a pitcher
Garnish your glasses and serve with ice

Tiki Mule

“A new take on a Moscow Mule made with rum and a little Spiced Honey. This tropical mule is perfect for summer!”

2oz rum
1/2oz Iconic Ginga Syrup
1/2oz Iconic Spiced Honey
1/2oz lime juice
2-4 pieces of pineapple
Splash of sparkling water

Muddle pineapple and lime juice in a shaker
Add Ginga Syrup, Spiced Honey, lime, and rum. Shake all with ice
Double strain into a stainless steel or mule mug over fresh ice
Garnish with a pineapple wedge and leaf

A Walk in Oaxaca

“Sharing one of the three recipes we created with our friends at Provision Coffee!”

1.5oz Corazon Tequila
.5oz Yuu Baal Mezcal
1oz Iconic Prickly Pear Sour
.25oz Creme De Violet
.5oz Lemon juice

Shake with ice
Strain into a chilled coupe
Garnish with a lemon twist

Photos courtesy of Iconic Cocktail Co.

Providing the Essentials for Arizona’s Foster Children

Many hands make it work

Today, in the state of Arizona, there are 14,000 children in foster care. When a family is in crisis, and the Department of Child Safety steps in, it is often another family member who is called upon to temporarily care for children. But all too frequently, that family member may not be able to provide for some basic needs at a moment’s notice, which is where Arizona Helping Hands steps in.

“Arizona Helping Hands is the largest provider of essential needs to children in our foster care system, though our core program is providing children with a safe place to sleep,” says Dan Shufelt, president and CEO.

Shufelt says that in 2013, at what he describes as the height of the foster care crisis, the organization learned that many families in urgent foster situations had no one to turn to for essentials, so, they shifted their mission.

“We stepped in back in 2013 and started providing foster families in that type of situation with twin beds and cribs to give those children a safe place to sleep. And that was our toe in the door of helping children in foster care throughout the state of Arizona. And we haven’t looked back.”

In 2019, the organization provided 2,582 children with twin beds. Cribs were provided for 978 infants, many of whom Shufelt says were released into foster care from neo-natal intensive care units after overcoming substance abuse.

A volunteer sorts items in the organization’s 18,000-square-foot warehouse

In addition to beds, Arizona Helping Hands provides clothing, diapers and personal care items, as well as back-to-school items and even safety items to encourage other families to step up and become foster homes.

The organization also wants to make sure that children know that they are loved, which is why it launched a Birthday Package program.

“We want these kids to have a sense of self-esteem and want them to feel loved and supported and we want them to celebrate their birthday,” says Shufelt. “I’ve had many children in foster care who have never celebrated a birthday, and it’s not right. We have to do better than that.”

A representative for any child in Arizona’s foster care system can apply online for a birthday gift package. Pre-COVID-19, volunteers would head into the office every day and, taking the submitted applications, they “shop” throughout the organization’s 18,000-square-foot warehouse. Whether it is a Barbie doll or craft set, games, books or stuffed animals, volunteers find the perfect items for each individual child. The gifts are then wrapped and placed in bags with special messaging, “to let those kids know that they are not forgotten; that they are loved.”

“In 2019, we provided 3,596 children with a birthday package. Ten children every day of last year received a birthday package because of the work that we are doing at Arizona Helping Hands.”

A volunteer wraps birthday presents for Arizona foster children.

Volunteers are instrumental in the birthday program but also assist in other ways. Last year, 1,400 volunteers donated 13,000 hours of service. Of course, the coronavirus changed everything. After closures in March, volunteers began coming back in early June. The organization hopes to increase the number of participants this month and possibly reopen its doors the first week in August. Residents who are interested in volunteering can complete an application at

Another way that residents can support foster children is to donate to the organization’s Back-to-School Drive. Any donor can go online at and make a $35 contribution, which will buy a backpack stuffed full of educational tools to help kids start the school year prepared for success.

“We rely on the generosity of our community in everything that we do, and everybody has the opportunity to utilize their time, talents and treasure to help others in our community,” says Shufelt. “And that’s what we rely on, generous people who have chosen to support an organization like ours that truly makes a difference for children who have been abused and neglected.” |CST

Photos courtesy of Arizona Helping Hands

Three Thousand and Counting — Area Students Unite to Donate Masks During Pandemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, local students are leading the charge in the battle to slow the spread of the coronavirus and making a big difference in the community.

Established in March by Cactus Shadows High School junior Angelique Cort, the AZ Mask Project focuses on harnessing the energy of a corps of volunteers to mass produce masks and provide them at no charge to critical care workers and compromised populations in the Phoenix area.

“In March, my mom [Corinne Cort] and I started sewing masks on a small scale,” said Cort. “Soon afterward we were contacted by HonorHealth whose needs were much greater. Arizona State Senator Paul Boyer learned of our efforts and expressed a need for thousands of masks. This was clearly beyond our capability at the time, so I started looking into ways to scale up the operation dramatically.”

Her search for volunteers and donors led to a partnership with Cave Creek Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Debbi Burdick, who put the word out across the district.

“Over 70 volunteers answered the call, and the AZ Mask Project was born.”

The homemade, reusable cloth masks are delivered to front-line healthcare workers, emergency responders and community organizations throughout Greater Phoenix, including Banner Health, Cave Creek Unified School District, HonorHealth, Infinity Hospice Care, Mayo Clinic and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, among others.

Cort says that the Project has special meaning to her because her life goal is to become an emergency-room surgeon. She also says that they couldn’t have accomplished this feat without the Project’s dozens of volunteers.

“The heart and soul of our Project are our generous, community-spirited volunteers,” said Cort. “Spanning the range from students to retirees and drawing from every demographic, resilient and relentless, these selfless individuals daily contribute their time, their energy, and their goodwill to make our community a better, safer, healthier place.

“Regardless of whether they cut fabric, sew masks, make pickups and deliveries, maintain our Facebook page, donate materials, or perform any of a host of other services, they quietly make a difference every day.”

Each week, Cort creates and oversees a staged fabrication process that moves materials through multiple phases of production. She coordinates volunteers, works with donors and interfaces with beneficiary organizations. Jeffrey Filer, another Cactus Shadows junior and patrol leader in Boy Scout Troop 15, proposed and implemented a robust system that enlists three Boy Scout troops (Troops 15, 323 and 3323) to fulfill the logistical needs of the project.

Every week, Patrol Leader Filer’s Scouts deliver materials to volunteers across the Valley, move partially completed masks from cutters to the next production location, pick up finished masks and deliver finished masks to beneficiary organizations throughout the Phoenix area. Together, Cort and Filer have sustained an effort that donates hundreds of masks each week, most recently surpassing the 3,000-mask milestone.

And they are not done yet. AZ Mask Project says that it remains committed to maintaining and expanding its efforts as the need exists, and Cort says that the group is continually in search of new volunteers.

“Everyone is welcome into our Fellowship of the Mask. For those who don’t sew, we welcome your help cutting fabric. We will provide the material and support you need to get started. We provide certificates of community service hours for our student volunteers. If you are already involved in making and donating masks, we are eager to partner with you.”
Residents interested in getting involved may contact Cort by email: The Project also has a Facebook group: search “AZ Mask Project.” |CST

Photos courtesy of AZ Mask Project

Editor’s Pick: HOLLYWOOD PARK — A MEMOIR, By Mikel Jollett


Mikel Jollett Photo: Dove Shore

Mikel Jollett broke my heart. And I encourage you to let him break yours, too.

Sadness, loneliness, grief, despair and rage; understanding, gratitude, love, passion, joy and hope — Jollett brings all of this and more to his forthcoming memoir, Hollywood Park.

Full disclosure, this book is not the first time that I have been left heartbroken by Jollett — his words, anyway. I have been a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event, the indie band that he fronts, from the first time I heard “Sometime Around Midnight” on the radio. He has a way of telling a story — raw, unflinching, truthful, beautiful. His ability to share his experiences, which are at once singular and yet universally relatable, entangles readers (and listeners), and they feel it: Every. Single. Exquisite. Emotion.

Hollywood Park begins with Jollett’s early memories of growing up in the cult Synanon as his mother engineers their escape. “We were never young,” he begins, and the reader recognizes that truth throughout the book. Once beyond the walls of the only home he has known, Mikel navigates the challenges of adapting to a world that is completely foreign to him.

Jollett lays bare the toll that family members can exact upon one another. He struggles to understand (and survive) the realities of physical, emotional and substance abuse, poverty, and mental illness, as he seeks to find his place in the world. Along the way, he discovers the true meaning of “F-A-M-I-L-Y,” connection and belonging. And when he finally finds his voice, he discovers his purpose: “Take your pain and make it useful,” he writes. “That’s what it means to be an artist.”

At the end of Jollett’s harrowing journey in Hollywood Park, readers will come away with a sense of hope and perhaps feel just a little less alone in their own struggles. In these unsettling and turbulent times, that is monumentally useful.

Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett, published by Celadon Books, will be available May 26. The Airborne Toxic Event’s album of the same title will be released to coincide with the book release, and, as of print date, a tour is scheduled to kick off in May, including a stop in Phoenix at The Van Buren, May 27 (

For more, visit or

Kathryn M. Miller is editor-in chief at CITYSunTimes. @katsmeowaz

UPDATE: The Airborne Toxic Event announced May 15 that its 2020 tour has been rescheduled to 2021. The group will visit the Valley Feb. 16 at The Van Buren.

Local Band 23 Valkyries Releases Rock EP: DIRE QUESTIONS


23 Valkyries, composed of Cameron Kulik (guitar, vocals, bass) and Chris Kontos (drums, backing vocals), has been writing, performing and recording together since early 2018. Last month, the band released what Kulik describes as one of his “bucket list” items: its first EP.

The duo met in in 2016 as students at Arizona State University.

“Cameron had joined the student club I was the president and co-founder of,” said Kontos. “Super rock and roll, I know. Just through conversion we discovered our mutual love for music. I had already played in other bands, been on tour, and been hired as a studio performer, while Cam was more or less just getting his feet wet.”

“We jammed a few times just for fun but didn’t play shows. I had finished school in December 2016 and moved away for work, but moved back to Phoenix in early 2018 and we started writing and practicing two to three times a week. Once we had some of our own songs and covers, we started playing open mic nights, which led to getting booked for proper shows.”

The band released the digital single “Hypnotist” in June 2019, which led to the 2020 EP, “Dire Questions,” released April 23.

Kontos describes the music as a blend different flavors of rock and roll that create “an honest and raw sound that borrows from the best parts of 70s, 90s, and current music.”

“The four EP tracks take the listener on a journey all the way from gentle melodies to powerful, unapologetic anthems.”

The opening track, “Delgado,” “blasts you back into your seat to a time when rock and roll topped the charts,” and the EP concludes with “Bloom,” an “honest and emotional account of young heartbreak with a touch of hope.”

“Our influences are found in different areas of rock music,” said Kontos. “My playing is very much rooted in 90s alternative and grunge, particularly Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins.”

Kulik agreed, and added, “My music influences were much more classic rock based (Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac) but have constantly shifted over time. If there is a guitar in the music, I’ll listen to it,” he joked.

And the band name? Kulik explained that it is in part inspired by the Jimmy Eat World song, “23.”

“The message of the story is all about how you can’t wait for the best time to do something you want. At some point you realize the perfect time to do something will never come, and that you just have to jump in.” |CST

“Dire Questions” is available now on major streaming platforms. A physical CD is planned for later release. For more, follow the band on Instagram (@23valkyriesmusic) and Facebook ( or send an email to

Editor’s Picks — ‘The Making of Outlander: The Series: The Official guide to Seasons Three & Four’ by Tara Bennett

At our staff meeting today, some of us were lamenting the fact that we don’t have time to curl up with a good book as much as we would like to — and after spending the day at a computer reading emails, writing and editing copy, sometimes we’d rather just give the peepers a rest or maybe zone out with a favorite show on television. Then I received a copy of The Making of Outlander: The Series: The Official guide to Seasons Three & Four by Tara Bennett and decided to make some time.

As fans of the Starz television show can attest, the time between one season to the next can feel like forever. #Droughtlander, anyone? But Bennett’s new book will help viewers bridge that gap and provides some deeper insight into the making of this epic series.

This most recent The Making of Outlander: The Series takes readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of seasons three and four with a recap of each episode and interviews with the writers, directors, actors and other creatives in the production team (hair, make-up, costuming, lighting, locations etc.). Mixed in with the commentary are beautiful photos of scenes from the show as well as outtake photos with the actors. The book also spends time exploring each of the main characters with standalone chapters.

As an original fan of the books that inspired the television show (Arizona author Diana Gabaldon‘s  Outlander series), I’ve enjoyed watching characters that I’ve known longer than my children come to life on the screen (and — SPOILER ALERT — sometimes continue living well beyond their book life…looking at you Murtagh.)

The Making of Outlander: The Series: The Official guide to Seasons Three & Four is an excellent companion to the show and a perfect way to pass the time waiting for season five, which premiers on Starz Feb. 16 and is based on the fifth book in Gabaldon’s Outlander series, The Fiery Cross. The book is available at local booksellers, including The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale and Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix and Tempe.

— Kathryn M. Miller, editor-in-chief, CITYSunTimes


Hermosa Inn Presents Colorful Workshop With Scottsdale Artists’ School

In keeping with its long-standing commitment to offer unique artistic experiences to its guests and community, The Hermosa Inn announced in January a partnership with the Scottsdale Artists’ School. Led by distinguished and extraordinary artists, the workshops will capitalize on Hermosa’s idyllic setting.

With class size limited to just 20, advance registration is required and can be made by calling 602.955.8614. A $75 fee includes all supplies, a mimosa and pastries.

Coming up Saturday, February 17, a 3D Chalk Art Painting workshop will be held from 9:30 to 11:30am.

Participants will transform LON’s Hideaway Patio into a colorful trompe-l’oeil panorama, using pastels on pavement while creating their own one-of-a-kind vibrant and dramatic painting as they are introduced to the magic of the long-time art form that originated in 16th century Italy.  Darlene Curtis will demonstrate how Renaissance art is brought to life, ranging from recreating tightly-rendered realistic photos, to very loose impressionistic works, incorporating professional techniques for masking, stenciling, shading, and enlarging a picture. Every artist will also complete their own 2’ x 2’ masterpiece on wood as a keepsake.

The Hermosa Inn is located at 5532 North Palo Cristi Road in Paradise Valley. For additional information, visit

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