Sportsman's Fine Wines & Spirits
"It doesn't matter how a wine is drunk, as long as you are."

So said legendary culinary writer M.F.K. Fisher. She was kidding. Great wines are serious stuff, and no one knows that better than the oenophiles at Sportsman's.

The Staff here is the most knowledgeable in town. We've never been able to stump them, even when it comes to arcane vintages. All the fancy labels are here, like Romanée-Conti and Yquêm (France), and Trockenbeerenauslese (Germany), as well as rare sherries, vintage ports and champagnes.

Sportsman's also has the largest selection of wines in the Valley, and if what you want isn't on the shelf, someone will get it for you. If money is an object, the staff at Sportsman's will help you find a luxurious choice for the few pennies you have to rub together. If you're not sure what you want, you can sample more than 60 wines by the glass at the tasting bar.

We'll drink to that.

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.

Schreiners Fine Sausage
Kyle Lamb
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.

Taste of India
Indian cuisine is renowned for its creative use of spices, and Taste of India doesn't hold back. The seductive scents hit us as soon as we walk in the door -- onion, cumin, garlic, turmeric, coriander, chili powder, mustard, fenugreek and ginger root.

Whether we're there for the bargain-priced lunch buffet, or for the equally affordable dinners, the smell has us salivating before we sit down.

Try the lamb kashmiry, resting in an ethereal cream sauce blossoming with apples, pears and almonds. Chicken makhni is another blissful dish, bringing tandoori-baked chicken simmered in velvety tomato sauce. It's all the better that Taste of India believes in huge portions.

This is also where we go for a broad selection of great seafood dishes, such as shrimp sagg, a decadent ocean treat of jumbo shrimp with spinach, broccoli, herbs and yes, spices.

Readers' Choice: Delhi Palace

Four Peaks Brewing Company
New Times Archives
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

The road to health -- like that to hell -- is paved with good intentions. Not to mention scads of diet-busting restaurants and fast-food joints serving up nutritional no-no's guaranteed to steer you off course.

But thanks to the good -- and good-for-you -- eats at the Green Leaf Cafe, you may finally make it to the finish line in fine fettle.

An international food bazaar of body-beneficial provender, the cafe serves up healthful dishes accented by the cuisines of Persia, the Mediterranean, Italy, America and Mexico, as well as Cajun and the Orient. Vegetables are everywhere, tofu shows up here and there, and brown rice with lentils (a fully balanced meal in itself) comes with almost every dish. The magic, though, is in the fresh herbs and spices -- oregano, basil, mint, dill, fennel, cumin, garlic, capers, parsley, ginger, fenugreek, cilantro and more.

All is not green, however. Despite a menu with a heavy vegan slant, the kitchen also offers entrees containing chicken, turkey, fish and eggs -- but no red meat. There, don't you feel better already?

Readers' Choice: Blue Burrito Grille

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

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.

Hiro Sushi
Jamie Peachey
Yearning Japanese?

Then head east to Hiro Sushi, home of the Valley's most inscrutable eats. Fourteen lunch combinations present a dizzying array of teriyaki, tempura, gyoza, katsu, sushi and sashimi. Dinner combos, meanwhile, are a veritable feast of build-your-owns, conveniently priced per how many items you order. Your customized meals are prettily laid out in red lacquer trays and decorated with rice, miso and salad.

Specialties include salmon teriyaki, sanma (pike), saba shioyaki (mackerel), fried oyster and ginger pork. Sushi gets creative, too: Arizona roll (asparagus, scallop, avocado, cucumber); crazy roll (spicy tuna, avocado, smelt roe, fried shrimp, wrapped in pink soybean paper); and ribbon roll (spicy tuna, salmon and avocado).

Hiro's selections are beautifully fresh -- just ask the man himself. He'll happily bring out an entire fish for you to inspect, proudly claiming, "We just got this in today."

For topflight Japanese food, it's our Hiro.

Readers' Choice: Ra Sushi Bar Restaurant

Mary Coyle Ol' Fashion Ice Cream Parlor
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

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