This is getting annoying. Four Peaks is the Tiger Woods of Valley brew pubs, consistently topping every local publication's "best of" lists despite facing ever-increasing competition.

This year, the Tommyknockers Brewery & Pub chain opened a franchise near Bank One Ballpark, and damn, it was a close call. But Four Peaks' malty stout, its airheaded blonde and smoky-smooth amber triumphed once again. How do they keep winning? One year -- and beer -- at a time.

Readers' Choice: Four Peaks Brewing Company

With its high alcohol content and low cost, a 40-ouncer of malt liquor is simply the cheapest way to get tanked. So it's no surprise that this bitter, golden blend is readily available in areas where most pants pockets jingle with welfare coins, minimum-wage earnings and the grimy coin of hard-earned handouts.

Near downtown Phoenix, the malt shop of choice is Roland's, a Van Buren market that offers a staggering array of decisions for those with few choices to make. Behind the cold glass, the 40s stand at attention like diabolical soldiers, their manly brand names stenciled across specious, stark labels: St. Ides and St. Ides Ice, King Cobra, Old English 800, Colt .45, Schlitz Malt Liquor and on and on.

No brand costs more than $2, and Roland's even tosses in a paper bag "coaster" for free.

Readers' Choice for Best Beer Selection: Timber Wolf Pub

Best Home-Delivered Certified Organic Produce

Boxed Greens
480-557-7060

Remember when deliverymen brought glass bottles of milk and fresh loaves of bread right to your doorstep? Neither can we.

But even if you aren't old enough to conjure up those comforting memories, you can indulge your nostalgia for the Good Old Days you never knew existed by calling Boxed Greens. They'll put you on their home delivery route for fresh, in-season, certified organic produce, most of which is grown right here in Arizona. The pesticide-free produce and herbs you'll receive are straight-from-the-earth, including exotic items you'll rarely see in the local supermarket produce section.

Deliveries are scheduled on a weekly or biweekly basis -- a Seasonal Box of preselected veggies runs from $30 to $65, depending on the size of your family. To tailor your order to more specific greens, choose your non-poison from the Boxed Greens Web site (www.boxedgreens.com) that's updated daily.

Everyone's heard of the proverbial "golden oldie." And if you've lived in the Valley any length of time, you're already well aware of our own "colden oldie."

That would be Mary Coyle Ice Cream parlor, the local ice cream standard by which all others are judged. For 50 years, Coyle's take on everyone's "I scream, you scream" frigid dessert has ruled the Valley's roost, whether served up in cones, sundaes, sodas or the you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it "The Mountain," a seven-pound Himalaya of various flavors, sauces, nuts and toppings that sell for $49. All flavors are made on the premises and most have an artery-clogging 19 percent butterfat content.

Freeze!

Readers' Choice for Best Ice Cream/Yogurt Shop: Cold Stone Creamery

Readers' Choice for Best Smoothie/Juice Shop: Jamba Juice

Man does not live by bread alone. He needs a good bagel, too.

For more than two decades now, Chompie's has been surpassing our bagel expectations with always -- always -- the best bagels we've ever found in this town.

Chompie's was king of the bagels before the doughy works of art were cool (remember the bagel explosion in the '80s?). While many of the wanna-be bagel bakers in the Valley have gone extinct, Chompie's is still going strong.

Why? It's got 35 varieties of New York-style bagels, in our favorite flavors like salt, poppy, sesame and sourdough. But it's also got designer choices, like zucchini, Cheddar, banana nut, jalapeño and chocolate chip bagels. Most important, all bagels are handmade, baked fresh and smothered on both sides with their toppings.

You can't build a better bagel than that.

Tired of cheese choices at your local grocery store being limited to Cheez Whiz, Velveeta and boursin-in-a-box? Cheeselike food substances are conspicuously absent at Duck & Decanter, whose long list of not-for-the-lactose-intolerant dairy specialties would turn the head of even a hardened Wisconsin Cheesehead.

This place is the only one we've found around town that seems to always stock manchego and mahon, two nutty, semi-hard Spanish cheeses craved by hard-core cheesephiles. They've also laid in a good store of Old Brugge, chevegne and Père Joseph, all made by Belgian Trappist monks -- and don't pass up the double-crème Brie layered with pesto and toasted pine nuts. Duck & Decanter's helpful cheese-department head, Christopher LaFollette, is known to pass out samples, so there's no question as to what you're buying. The only thing Duck & Decanter doesn't stock is Metamucil, which you will certainly need if you shop here on a regular basis.

K-Rico Cafe & Bakery is tiny, but those with a nose for things sweet should keep sniffing 'til they find this tropically appointed strip-mall storefront. Owner Elsie Lara, a native of Puerto Rico, packs a lot of fabulous Caribbean-style pastries into her shop. It's worth a cross-town trek to bite into one of K-Rico's flaky quesitos, made of buttery puff pastry and stuffed with sweetened cream cheese; or a tembleque, a cinnamony Puerto Rican coconut pudding that's a Caribbean classic.

Most people go to Wild Oats for the organic fruits and vegetables. We go for the potato chip samples.

During a recent visit, five different flavors were presented for our gustatory inspection: sweet potato chips, cheese puff chips, garlic-flavored chips, blue chips and corn tortilla chips, all proffered with a generous helping of sample salsa. Which should we buy? Hmmm, better have another chip.

But if there's really a judgment day, rest assured the honor system gang upstairs will know when you've made unnecessary third and fourth visits to the vinegar-flavored chip bowl in aisle two and they have the incriminating store video footage to prove it.

Betcha can't eat just 27!

When the dinner hour is approaching and we have to stop off at a grocery store to pick up a few things anyway, we welcome the grab-and-go meal ideas designed to make our hectic lives easier. But since discovering that some AJ's feature hand-tossed cooked-to-order pizzas, we have taken those other plastic-wrapped pizzas off our in-a-pinch menu list.

At AJ's you'll pay more, but those hot, gourmet-style pies are well worth it. For the traditionalists, the stores offer tasty pepperoni, sausage and the like. Those with more discriminating palates (why else would you be shopping at such a chichi store?) will love the delectable specialty pies, like spinach feta, garlic chicken and the Monte Carlo, featuring artichokes, goat cheese, red onions and fresh basil.

Another plus? Call your order in ahead of time, and your pizza will be ready when you're finished shopping.

Fish don't get much fresher than when they're flopping around in a tank of water, like they do at 99 Ranch Market. This upscale Asian supermarket's large aquarium tanks virtually teem with live catfish, tilapia, freshwater blue eel and Dungeness crab.

And if you just can't bear the thought of ending one of our piscine pal's lives prematurely, there's always the option of choosing something already caught and packed in ice, like red snapper, robalo, carp and sheephead. But no matter what creature from the deep you end up selecting, 99 Ranch Market's experienced fishmongers will clean and prepare (and even execute) your finny favorite with samurai-like skill -- all at no additional cost.

Go, fish!

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