Damn, it's hot. No matter what time of year you're reading this, we feel pretty safe in saying, damn, it's hot. So we find great relief in soaking our skulls at Island Ices, a funky place specializing in soft water Italian ices and frozen premium custards. A specialty of the house is ice and custard blended together as an Island Ice Shake.

It's as good for us as it tastes. Ices are made with real fruit, and custards are 90 percent fat free. Ice flavors are bright and refreshing, like cherry, lemon, mango, watermelon, pia colada, blueberry, grape, prickly pear and cotton candy. Custard comes in chocolate or swirl. And though we had to wonder when we heard about it, we're now devoted fans of the Island Breeze, a gelato combination of Italian ice scooped between two layers of custard. How cool is that?

When we're looking to get fresh, we head to Fresh Blenders. We have our reasons.

It could be the two free "super nutrients" blended into each smoothie. And these options are tangible substances -- bee pollen, oat bran, soy protein -- rather than chemical cocktails with vague, fancy names (a bowlful of "Femme Booste," anyone?).

It could be the immense variety. Fruit n' Tea Freezes of juice, fruit, green tea, vitamin C and folic acid. Vegetable blends of beet, carrot and celery juices. Cappuccino served hot, cold, flavored, in yogurt shakes. Non-dairy smoothies for the lactose-intolerant. MET-Rx shakes for the flab-intolerant.

Truth be told, the reason we love Fresh Blenders is this: Smoothies contain the only fruit our intestines ever see, and with flavors such as Orange Creamsicle Delight and Banana-Peanut Butter Yum Yum, this place makes nutritional noshing more score than chore. Plus the counter is piled with 98 percent fat-free cookies and brownies.

We can feel our thighs shrinking already.

Coup Des Tartes
Jamie Peachey
We know these tarts are special, since they're spelled in the très European "tartes." Each little jewel is handcrafted by the bistro's "Tarte Goddesses," and they're to die for (or at least diet for). We're thrilled with the expertly balanced flavors and the restraint in cloying, tooth-shattering sugar. The signature tarte is a symphony of chocolate crust brimming with bananas and coconut cream that's brûléed to order. We're also addicted to the white chocolate nectarine blueberry bread pudding tarte, a luscious mouthful made with homemade brioche, fresh fruit and caramel crème anglaise.

About a half-dozen tartes usually are on the menu, and they may change with the seasons (rustic peach in the summer). Yet whatever the selection, there's something that never changes about these desserts: They're divine.

Best Dessert For An Awkward First Date

Fondue at 6

On the episode wherein he scheduled a date with a deaf woman, Jerry Seinfeld made a fine suggestion: "How about six? Six is good."

While numbers never were our strong point, we can appreciate a simple mathematical formula now and again. Here's one: Gooey fondue plus swanky lounge plus tiny pitchforks plus sticky fingers equals sexy with a capital SEX. No matter the flavor -- Grand Marnier-Chocolate, Godiva White Chocolate or Butterscotch-Caramel -- this fondue formula liquefies first-date tension.

Like the mixed messages that make our dates so very frustrating, the nibbles are both nourishing (strawberries, raspberries, bananas) and naughty (cubes of cheesecake, bites of brownie, squares of sponge cake). And how enticing that, once the morsels are gone, there's no way to get to the remaining chocolate without plunging our fat fingers right into the pot. Sure, the room is filled with Scottsdale's thinnest and most beautiful. All the better to parade around with chocolate smeared across our ever-loving faces.

No one's looking -- just fondue it.

Hobe has been with us for 42 years, though the last decade has been a bit of a bumpy ride for the purveyor of fine meats, seafood and poultry. About 10 years ago, it was sold from its original family, and a roller coaster of quality ensued. Now, though, it's back in the hands of someone who really cares, Eric Fritchen, former assistant manager of A.J.'s Purveyor of Fine Foods. That means we have found -- again -- our fix for the best in prime and choice beef, ocean-fresh seafood, Young's farm turkey and chicken (absolutely the best in the world), lamb, and Arizona-raised shrimp.

It's fun to wander the shop and see what's new and exciting. If we want exotic game, we can ask for, and get, pretty much anything on special order. But we're captivated by that succulent steak, so thick and firm, blood red and singing with juices.

Woo-hoo, Hobe!

Let's be clear: This is the best place to get a pig. This is not necessarily the best place to actually be a pig. Because Smokey O's specialty is whole roast pig, delivered hot and ready to serve (or raw, for people who have a hankering to dig their own pit and fill it with flames). What's the use? Why, a luau, of course.

Smokey O's marinates its porkers in special seasonings, then roasts them for 27 hours over applewood smoke. The poor pig is then defiled with an apple in its mouth and a lei around its neck, but it sure tastes good. It's not even all that expensive -- $7.95 a pound for a big cooked pig, $3.50 raw. Poor pig, lucky us.

Mary Elaine's rates tops in our foodie books partly because of the fact that its dishes are all printed with capital letters. Not just lobster, but Butter-Braised Maine Lobster With Grilled Apple and Heirloom Tomato Fondue, with a suggested wine pairing of Messmer Muskateller Kabinett Halbtrocken, Pfalz, Germany, 1996. Prices are spelled out, none of those tacky numerals (A Service of Caspian Beluga Caviar in the Traditional Fashion, 2 oz., One Hundred Seventy-five). No simple iceberg salad, but a toss of Romaine and Aged Parmesan Custard, White Anchovies, Violette-Mustard Vinaigrette (Nineteen).

The thing is, the food warrants the pretension, because it's all outstanding. Jackets are required for men, almost unheard of in this casual town, but the requirement is fitting for such European elegance in decor, table settings, ambiance and service. Who wouldn't dress in the company of a $3 million wine collection offering more than 44,000 bottles and 1,800 labels?

PepperSauce Cafe
Our handyman knows how to fix anything. He also knows how to eat: hearty, heaping portions of he-man grub like chicken-fried chicken, meat loaf, chili, burgers, and breakfasts big enough to fuel him through a hardworking day. His favorite place to fill up when on the run for more building materials, and now ours, is the Peppersauce.

It's pretty much a truck stop, parked among industrial yards, massive warehouses and salvage dumps. But it's pretty, like a country farmhouse inside, and flowing with serve-yourself coffee, fountain drinks and good cheer. The food is the real deal, too, homemade and hearty (the charbroiled chili-size burger is tops, flooded with spicy chili, Cheddar cheese and onions; the meat loaf is like Mom's, served with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and a dinner roll). Any of the breakfasts start the day with a smile, like the $4.25 specials (ham and green chile scramble, hash browns and toast on Tuesdays). Thanks to our handyman, we've got a fix on the best working fella's lunch in town.

When we were in college, we saw lots of things spinning through the air. But now that we have a firmer hold on reality, we realize that, yes, a pizza actually can come from some far-away planet. If it's crafted by the creative cooks at Cosmic Pizza.

The place is tiny (order through a cutout in the wall), yet the menu is massive, almost galactic. More than 50 toppings. More than three dozen pizza combinations. More than two dozen subs, plus calzones, salads and appetizers. All with an otherworldly theme. Check out the names of the dishes: pulsar, axiom, quark, Apollo 13, full moon, alien, Sputnik. It's almost as much fun ordering as it is eating. No surprise, Cosmic caters to the ASU crowd, staying open until midnight on weekends with $1 delivery.

The moon isn't made out of green cheese. Here, it's a pie topped with breadcrumbs, prosciutto, garlic, Romano and basil.

Mickey's Hangover
We love to party. Who doesn't? Yet we have still to figure out why, the more we abuse our bodies, the more our bodies cry out for even more rough treatment.

Places like Jack in the Box or Denny's are quick fixes, but we can never respect ourselves in the morning. We rub our blurry eyes the next day, see that crumpled sourdough Jack wrapper by the side of the bed, and dread sets in -- what have we done?

So now, we head over to Mickey's Hangover, a fun dive bar that serves its full menu until 2 a.m. on weeknights, 3 a.m. on weekends. It's trailer-trash food, but well-prepared trash, like Santa Fe rolls of four fat taquitos stuffed with chicken and chiles in a thin, potent jalapeo sauce. Or "Jesus on the Mountain," mounding hefty shavings of ham with crisp bacon, melted Cheddar, two fried eggs and potato chunks on a bun. Or Mickey's Monster, an enormous pizza piled with every topping offered in this universe. And miniature hot dogs are cute, tucked in little-bitty buns, topped with Cheddar and chile, with a tiny bottle of Tabasco served alongside.

Hey, it's not high cuisine. But at least we won't be ashamed when we awake.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of