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It's sure not easy keeping kosher. Not with keeping milk separate from meat, as in separate cookware, utensils, bowls and dishes in separate drawers and cabinets, plus two sinks, two disposals, two dishwashers and two ovens (all stainless steel, and blessed by a rabbi).

Even shopping isn't easy. Creatures have to be slaughtered in a prescribed ritual and humane way, with the blood meticulously removed before the flesh is soaked and salted. Eggs must come from kosher birds, and be free of blood spots. This is not your typical stop into Circle K kind of stuff. Never fear, Cactus Kosher is here. Everything in this shop is certified by a rabbi, with traditional staples like gefilte fish, pickles, pastrami, corned beef and deli sandwiches to go. If wishes were knishes, we know where we'd be.

How we celebrate as the Valley slips into fall, and mourn the last days of spring. Not just because blistering summer means we'll no longer be able to touch any surfaces without wearing hot pads, but because summer is the only season we can't spend our Saturdays browsing through the luxury of Vincent's outdoor market.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the cooler months, Vincent's black asphalt parking lot is converted to a slice of Provence, with a gorgeous grouping of stalls filled with the freshest local produce, plus imported exotic fruits and designer vegetables. There are warm, crusty breads, buttery croissants, cookies and pastries. We love the imported cheeses, signature dressings, fresh pastas and pestos, herbs de Provence, homemade mustards, wines. Just looking at all the exciting, one-of-a-kind ingredients makes us believe we, too, could be gourmet chefs. But why would we bother firing up the stove, when Vincent Guerithault and his team of skilled artisans are already on the job for us, creating cooked-to-order treats like crepes, tamales and pizzas that we can enjoy while relaxing at umbrella-topped tables right in the market? Vive la Vincent's!

Readers' Choice for Best Farmers' Market: Sprouts

Real fruit, real juice and non-dairy smoothie mix make chilling combinations like strawberry-banana, peanut butter-banana, pineapple-coconut-orange, blueberry-banana, and raspberry-banana. If we need an extra boost, we can add in such healthful stuff as protein powder, carbo powder, lecithin, wheat germ, bee pollen, ginseng, brewer's yeast, spirulina, wheatgrass, creatine, or multi-vitamin powder. In hot months, we gravitate toward slushies (guava strawberry really rocks), or old-fashioned lemonade with lots of ice. When it cools down, we get an extra kick with the Power Energy Squeeze, a trademark blend of ATP and creatine (when put together, we're told, these ingredients race around inside our body's cells to increase our energy level). Whatever the concoction, it all tastes terrific at Surf City.

Readers' Choice: Jamba Juice

The list of cheeses available at the Duck reads like a phone book, with more than 60 varieties from around the world. We've been stopping in at the place for years, trying different cheeses each time, and have never been able to catalogue all our adventures -- that's how often the cheese whizzes here update their fresh offerings. Every day, it's something surprising and new, like St. Andre, an extravagantly rich triple-cream cheese with a mild, mellow flavor; or the rare l'Explorateur, an incredible triple cream concoction with 75 percent butterfat. Do we know all of the exotic cheeses? Of course not. We just rely on the Duck's experts, and vow to sample them all.

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