Best Place To Buy French Pastry Where They Actually Speak French

Au Petit Four French Pastry and Bakery

Au Petit Four
There's something decidedly unromantic about having your éclair handed to you by a person wearing a cowboy hat or a teenager who repeatedly uses the word "like" as a modifier. Rest assured that this will never happen to you at Au Petit Four French Pastry and Bakery, located between a pair of escalators on the ground level of the Camelback Esplanade. Recently opened by a newly arrived Frenchman, Au Petit Four offers delicious, authentic pastries, salads, sandwiches and quiches with a flourish and a friendly (and correctly pronounced) "Bonjour!" Whether you crave a croissant, a brioche, a "Parisian salade," or just an earful of wonderful French accent, Au Petit Four is pure Gaul.

Greekfest Restaurant
Diana Martinez
If Helen had a face that could launch a thousand ships, then Greekfest serves entrees that can launch a thousand tips. Greekfest has been our favorite for too many years to count, and somehow, it keeps getting better. Owners Susan and Tony Makridis have built an empire of the senses, with stunning flavors, a Grecian palace setting, and personality so charming we can't help but shout "Opa!" when our saganaki arrives. How could we restrain, as the mild kefalograviera cheese is soaked with brandy, then dramatically flambéed at our table? If we want exotica, we slurp oktapodi skaras (grilled octopus in cabernet sauce). When we're feeling a little more traditional, we go for the moussakas (slices of baked eggplant and ground lamb with béchamel and cheese), or roasted rack of baby lamb dressed with pine nuts. Greekfest is a festival of flavors we're happy to attend all year long.
There are those days when nothing will satisfy your culinary cravings like oyster omakase. You know the feeling. Hey, when that mood hits, head for Hapa Sushi Lounge. Omakase, of course, means a multicourse chef's choice dinner (in Japanese). And at Hapa, depending on the bounty of the day, it can be an upscale orgy of mollusks exquisitely paired, if you like, with wine, sake, sparkling wine and champagne. Perhaps the selection will include a trio of Washington State oysters, served in-shell on a long sushi-style tray. Different varieties are presented hot, in a sauce of sake, soy, grape seed oil and chives; or cold as palate refreshers, in varying baths of ponzu, spicy daikon and green onion or lime and chile. Playing the perfect partner is wonderfully smooth Kurosawa Daiginjo sake. In this Valley's shell game, Hapa Sushi Lounge is a guaranteed winner.
Haiku, the poetry, tries to capture life's emotion in a few simple lines. Haiku, the restaurant, is -- as its menu gushes -- a blend of "poetic food and art." And it succeeds in capturing the best of local Japanese dining experiences in a tiny, 10-table spot with a brief, uncomplicated menu and always-fresh ingredients. Like its namesake, Haiku embraces simplicity with only the finest elements represented. Tonkatsu comes as only authentic tonkatsu should: with shredded cabbage. New Zealand mussels are stuffed with real crab and a creamy mushroom sauce, then slid under a broiler. Salad is spectacular, with cucumber, seaweed strips, daikon sprouts and smelt roe tossed in ponzu. The signature Haiku steak is topped with grilled asparagus and shiitake mushrooms under a drizzle of enoki mushroom sauce. Memorizing poetry in high school was no fun. Today, we can't get enough of it, served as it is at Haiku.
El Chorro
El Chorro Lodge is a Valley landmark, lauded for its historic roots, graceful foothills setting and famous sticky buns -- massive cinnamon rolls that come with every meal. But just as worthy of fame are the most delectable eggs Benedict anywhere in Maricopa County. El Chorro doesn't underestimate the power of these beauties, featuring them at Sunday brunch, but also daily at lunch and dinner.

The classic needs no improvement: two eggs, lovingly poached to a hot liquid center, stacked with grilled Canadian bacon atop crisp English muffins, then smothered in heavenly rich hollandaise. El Chorro even offers an alternative: How about a turkey Benedict, the breast arriving juicy and bacon-wrapped? Or filet mignon instead of Canadian bacon? Even vegetarians are considered, with a sunny-flavored mix of grilled tomato, asparagus, eggs and hollandaise. Eggscellent!

Sushi on Shea
Sushi is sushi, right? Really, it's just rice, mixed with vinegar, and topped with stuff. Raw tuna. Yellowtail. Maybe some nori (seaweed), or, for a splurge, a quail egg. It's not even cooked. So what makes a sushi chef a chef? A few minutes watching the professionals at Sushi on Shea is all the answer you need. It's art in motion, watching these guys craft a simple California roll. Ask them to surprise you, then watch them let loose on their own artistic creations, as they flash knives, slice fish and vegetables into impossible shapes, and arrange a colorful plate worthy of hanging in a museum. But what makes the true difference, of course, is taste. And nobody is more consistently superb than Sushi on Shea. Only the freshest seafood -- ruby-red tuna, sparkling smooth hamachi, and silky salmon -- is used. Any of the daily specials, posted on the chalkboard above the sushi counter, are spectacular. Oh Shea, can you sea? You bet.
You don't have to travel to France to enjoy crepes. Instead, stop in at our favorite bistro right here in town for a spectacular selection of entree and dessert crepes.

Crepes salees are very thin, lightly salted buckwheat packets, folded around some of the most seductive stuffings imaginable. We ascend the French Alps, packing in fresh spinach, Swiss, béchamel sauce and nutmeg. We know the way to St. Tropez, stocked with tomato, zucchini, bell pepper, onion, garlic and herbs du Provence. And the Forest crepe marries fresh mushrooms in a white wine sauce with plenty of cream, garlic and herbs. The Normandie crepe is a sweet invasion of warm apple slices, caramelized with cinnamon, while the French Riviera crepe is an orgy of homemade light custard crème and fruits.

There are plenty of places to get cheap sushi; fast-food Japanese shacks abound in our town. But you get what you pay for: flabby, skimpy fish rolls that have been sitting in their plastic trays for hours before you order. And there's usually little choice in these bargain joints; maybe a California roll, sometimes a tuna roll or cucumber roll, perhaps some salmon. Then there's Origami's. While this place serves its food fast, you'd never know it to sample the sushi. All selections are hand-rolled to order, right before our eyes. The variety is magnificent, competing with our better full-service sushi shops. And the portions are unparalleled: An order of spicy tuna rolls, at just $3.99, brings a platter of eight jumbo pieces -- more the size of California rolls than the traditional teeny tekka maki rolls -- and stuffed with fish the thickness of our thumbs. At Origami's, we say sushi, good buy.
Brisket can be a thing of beauty. Basically, it's beef, but beef that's been seared, seasoned and roasted with vegetables and red wine for hours on end until it's tender and oh-so-sumptuously infused with flavor.

Frankly, though, all that cooking jive is way too much work. So we're thrilled that the folks at Scott's Generations do it for us -- and better than anyone else. No dried-out meat here -- this carved bounty is juicy even without gravy. No fat, either (we hate blubber on our brisket), just lean, carefully trimmed slabs -- and no extra charge for extra lean here, by the way, as if a better cut could be found. We like to build our brisket into a sandwich, stacked a full eight ounces, served on a fresh-baked onion roll alongside coleslaw and pickle spears. It's a brisket worthy of bravo.

Kona Grill
Meagan Simmons
Jean Paul Sartre opined that "Hell is other people." For those who agree, heaven must be a sushi happy hour so tasty and affordable that you don't mind being surrounded by that most annoying variety of Other People: shoppers at Scottsdale Fashion Square. On weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m., and from 9 to 11 p.m., Kona Grill offers select half-price sushi rolls, $4 sake bombers, and half-price appetizers -- including Sweet Maui Onion Rings, among the best onion rings in the Valley. For folks who hate a crowd, this is a Faustian bargain, since Kona Grill's bar is ever-jammed with sunless-tanner-loving androids discussing condo interest rates. After some tuna wasabi and a few rounds of sake, however, the crowd will seem positively existential.

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