We have a dream: Our favorite local chef rings the doorbell, enters our humble home with coolers full of fresh food, and proceeds to cook a five-course meal in our kitchen as we look on, sipping wine, then sit down to dinner in our own dining room. (With more wine, of course.) The chef's kind assistant serves us dish after dish -- gigantic prawns, delicate won tons, sweet chicken and rice. Sated, we stumble into the kitchen to find more wine, and it's cleaner than when the chef arrived.

The dream came true when Johnny Chu, proprietor of Fate, the funky Chinese eatery that's a favorite of the downtown lunch crowd and First Friday scenesters, happened to mention that he moonlights, happily accepting the assignment of cooking in any kitchen. The meal wasn't cheap, but it certainly didn't cost more than a feast at Fate, and the food was even better, if that's possible.

Our compliments to the chef!

Pane Bianco
Heather Hoch
From the caramels at Pane Bianco to the paintings in the restroom at Pizzeria Bianco, the attention to detail at the Bianco establishments -- run by Chris Bianco with help from his partner Susan Pool -- is exquisite. Bianco and Pool are the most gracious of hosts; diners will happily wait hours for a table at the pizzeria, or roast in the summer sun to enjoy a market sandwich from Pane Bianco. Bianco and Pool wisely leased a building near the pizzeria and opened a perfectly appointed, shabby chic bar, with a beautiful selection of wine and beer, and a first-rate cheese plate to ease the hunger pangs. And the picnic tables outside the sandwich shop are handcrafted, the paper napkins tied with a sprig of rosemary, a chocolate in each perfect brown bag, stamped with the Pane Bianco logo.

We only wish we had such good taste -- at least, for a meal, we can have such good tastes.

The Rock Springs Cafe & Saloon
Jackie Mercandetti
With the spectacular backdrop of the Bradshaw Mountains looming above, the Rock Springs Cafe and General Store offers travelers a perfect respite from the road. Located about 45 miles north of downtown Phoenix, the cafe serves up tasty and hearty meals. If a cool cocktail is what you're after, check out the adjoining saloon that features off-the-track horse race betting.

Once a stagecoach stop, the cafe attracts a wide variety of guests, from grizzled prospectors and cowboys to glittery Scottsdale divorcées on the prowl; from families packed into the minivan for a trip to the Grand Canyon to bikers out for a Sunday ride. The coffee is strong, and don't forget to try one of Penny's amazing pies and enjoy a slice of old Arizona before it disappears under the relentless wave of development that's steadily marching north along the Black Canyon Freeway.

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