Yusef's is the one-stop-does-it-all shop for exotic Middle Eastern cooking ingredients -- so essential if you're in the throes of planning a big Ali Wood-style bash.

Though it may be short on veiled belly dancers, Yusef's does manage to cram in hundreds of fresh, frozen, canned, bottled and dried supplies your regular grocer would never dream of stocking in a thousand and one Arabian nights.

Like bulk packages of powdered sumac and Jordanian zaatar, a classic spice combo of thyme and sesame seeds used with pungent olive oil for warm pita bread dipping (Yusef's offers a nice selection of oil and various ethnic breads, too). Or kadaifi, shredded phyllo dough used to make Middle Eastern desserts just like Aunt Arpina used to whip up.

In fact, it's doubtful there's anything Yusef's doesn't carry in the way of hard-to-find North African and Middle Eastern culinary components -- except, maybe, bleating, ready-to-slaughter lambs for shish kebab.

Better cancel that flight to the Bavarian Alps you booked because you're craving authentic, homemade European-style sausages. They're being stuffed and cranked out right here in the Valley by Schreiner's, whose funky smokehouse store has remained virtually unchanged since it opened in 1958.

On the off chance you can't find anything you like from more than 100 different international recipes owners Gary and Nancy Schiller use regularly (including ones for Polish kielbasa, German brat and bockwurst and Hungarian kishke), give Schreiner's your own secret recipe. For a price, you can get brats just like Grandmutti used to stuff. Or you can opt for Schreiner's special line of low-fat, high-flavor chicken sausages that rival its fat-filled kind.

And what to do with that wildebeest you shot on your last African safari? No worries -- Schreiner's will even make fresh or smoked sausages from any prepared game you deliver to them.

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!

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