Best Of :: Goods & Services
All About Books and Comics has been a go-to for Valley readers and collectors for over 30 years, so when Marsha and Alan Giroux faced a serious rent hike at their Central Avenue location, they turned to Kickstarter to finance a move around the corner to West Camelback Road. That the campaign quickly blew past its $33,000 goal by more than $4,000 says a lot about the relationship the Giroux have cultivated with their customers, who show up for current superhero books, indie titles, action figures, and other toys. Moving the store's massive catalog of back issues (more than a million comics in stock) was no easy feat, but it was hardly surprising to see loyal comic fans show up to help out for store credit. Few shops can boast that kind of dedication.
Readers Choice: Ash Ave Comics & Books
Giant Coffee is the sweetheart of the downtown Phoenix coffee scene. Casual, comfortable ambiance? Check. Well-crafted coffee drinks? You know it. Breakfast burritos and house-baked pastries are just the icing on the cake. The space is open and airy, with huge open windows that sweep in sunlight and fresh air (a welcome and generally unfamiliar phenomenon for the laptop crowd). It's really the small things that make Giant so great in our eyes; its dedication to using simple, quality ingredients puts Giant a step above the rest. Local organic eggs are the heart of the breakfast burritos (warmed slowly in the oven). Giant's tableside tea service feels luxurious but is presented free of pretense. Rich, buttery Straus Creamery "Barista Milk" is the perfect complement to Four Barrel Coffee's espresso blend — only barely homogenized, it retains remarkable complexity of flavor and lends a creamy texture to the shop's milk-based drinks.
Readers Choice: Cartel Coffee & Beer House
Our pick for Best Iced Coffee is a newcomer to the metro Phoenix coffee scene — and we can't wait to see where its maker takes us from here. Despite being open for less than a year, Peixoto Coffee has managed to bring delightful innovations to the table. Owner Julia Peixoto Peters imports coffee grown on her father's farm in Brazil, which her husband, Jeff Peters, then roasts in-house. Cold brew has become boringly ubiquitous, but Peixoto's iced coffee is — for lack of a better word — thrilling. Ground beans are steeped in cold water until the mixture is heavily concentrated. The concentrate is then diluted to a more drinkable — but still full-bodied — cold-brewed coffee. What happens next is what sets Peixoto's iced coffee apart: It stores its cold brew in nitrous kegs and feeds it through a tap system (yup, just like beer). The resultant cup — served with or without ice in a chilled pint glass — has a silky texture, smooth, malty body, and beautiful cascading visual effect.
Pardon the pun, but Press Coffee Roasters continues to im-Press us. Despite their diverse origins, Press Coffee Roasters' offerings demonstrate the company's unparalleled commitment to coffee clarity and balance. Each one waltzes gracefully between sweetness, acidity, and bitterness. The company's approach to roasting is exceptionally nuanced, and it's managed to maintain a high level of quality despite recent expansion. As a rule, we don't want to be made to taste how a coffee's beans were roasted. Too light and even the sweetest coffee will taste little more than grassy or sour; too dark and complex and cups become little more than ashy, bitter lumps of charcoal. Press takes great care to ensure that its coffees' natural sugars are perfectly caramelized and that each cup is flavorful, unique, and free of overt roast influence.
Back in 2013, Arizona Distilling Company made history with the release of Copper City Bourbon, the first spirit to be made legally in the Phoenix area since Prohibition. Not long after came the Tempe distillery's Desert Dry Gin, a distinctly Arizonan spirit made with local botanicals (it earned a double gold medal this year at the San Francisco Spirits Competition this year), and in the years since, the childhood friends behind the craft distillery haven't let up — in fact, they're just getting started. We love the line of limited-edition whiskeys the distillery has been making with local grains, and we can't wait for the debut of the company's line of tequila, made in collaboration with a distillery in Mexico. Soon they'll be moving the whole operation to bigger digs, with room for a larger tasting room. We can only imagine what they'll do with all that extra space.
Yes, Total Wine and BevMo are just around the corner, but it's worth the trip to this South Scottsdale wine shop. Here, you can find great deals on bottles from all over the world, and the knowledgeable staff will be more than happy to help you pick out the perfect bottle for the occasion. There are shelves and shelves of French, Italian, and, of course, Arizona wines, and if AZ Wine Co. somehow doesn't have what you want, it'll be more than happy to order it. Every Thursday at 6 p.m., the store hosts weekly wine tastings, which are great gatherings for wine geeks who want to talk shop and compare notes.
Readers choice: Total Wine