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BEST NEW PHOENIX CHARM Phoenix 2003 - La Grande Orange

La Grande Orange

La Grande Orange

4410 N. 40th St.

Phoenix, AZ 85018

602-840-7777

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Time was, not so long ago, that it was difficult to find even basic ingredients like cilantro in local grocery stores. Fennel was a plastic doohickey we used to change our car's oil, "greens" meant iceberg lettuce, and pizza came from Domino's. But Craig and Kris DeMarco have taken our fair Valley into the big leagues, with La Grande Orange, a Berkeley-esque grocery/deli/pastry shop/sit-down cafe/coffee house/wine store and pizzeria. They've divided the shop into a culinary co-op of independent local food artisans (a pastry and cake wizard, a master bread baker, a produce expert, a fruit genius, etc., all share the space). A highlight is the on-site pizza god, handcrafting pies from natural sourdough fermented crust; organic, seasonal vegetables brought in daily by local growers; homemade meats and cheeses; and herbs so fresh they're plucked in bunches from silver tubs in the store's produce section.

We can buy retro candy (Pop Rocks!), and select from a dizzying array of olive oils or pestos. We can feel oh-so cosmopolitan lounging with our pooch on the patio of the adjacent Java Garden coffee shop. We no longer even blink to find simple breakfast fare composed of once considered ultra-luxe smoked salmon on an English muffin with cream cheese, capers and onion. Lunch is modern and magnificent with a croque monsieur, layered with ham, tomato, spicy mustard, Gruyère and egg. Dinner, of course, is pizza, perhaps Wednesday's special of fennel, organic greens and goat cheese.

This is the new, cutting-edge Phoenix we know and love, and we say thanks to the Orange for making our lives so grande.

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