Downtown Phoenix Public Market
This new public market offers an eclectic and always-changing range of Arizona-grown products. Choose from foods such as organic fruits and veggies from Queen Creek's One Windmill Farms, cactus jellies over at Cotton Country Jams, and diabetic-friendly sweets from TJ's Good Cookie -- and that's just a start. Navigate around dog owners and mothers pushing strollers to the beat of a rotating cast of musicians and check out a number of booths offering handcrafted jewelry, photographs and ceramics. Lisa Takata is just one artist who has offered original art prints and other unique items each week. Other tables feature flower arrangements from Maya's Farm, on-the-spot customized leather belts, and the occasional specialty product such as handcrafted cigar box purses. Tents shade a majority of the blacktop parking lot, and giant coolers are brought in during the summer. It's a breeze to create a morning full of activities with Circles Records and Matt's Big Breakfast nearby. Hours are every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, and from 4 to 8 p.m. during First Friday's cooler months. Parking is plentiful, and admission is always free.
This tiny parking lot market closes during the hot months (June through September), but when it's up and running, it's one of the best reminders of why we live here. Where else in the country can you relax outside on a sunny morning in, say, March, contemplating the state of the world over coffee and some chocolate soufflé, or a glass of wine and a pesto-drenched panini? Camelback Market capitalizes on simple pleasures, with a handful of vendors peddling all the necessities of the good life: gorgeous, ripe produce; a strong selection of imported cheeses; some well-priced, good wines; and more varieties of olives and honey than you'll find in almost any gourmet shop. A big highlight is the homemade crepes -- savory ones with veggies, chicken or shrimp, or sweet ones with Nutella -- that are cooked to order and big enough to share. Just don't party too hard the night before you go; the market only runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Az 88
Natalie Miranda
When the weather's just right, we like to sip a vodka martini on the perfectly appointed patio at AZ 88, with the rest of the beautiful people. When it's too hot, we'll crowd up against them at the bar. Last time we were there, it drizzled, but instead of ushering the B.P.s indoors, the staff handed out black umbrellas, a charming touch, and not surprising, given that attention to detail -- from the ever-changing art to the coffee bean in the espresso martini -- is a hallmark of this Scottsdale establishment. We held our breath, hoping no one skidded on high heels or leather-soled loafers on the slick marble floor. But everyone glided.
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa Hotel Review
Every year, the sunsets in the Valley just seem to get better and better. We'd tell you that's because of the increase in pollution, which, at twilight, lights the sky on fire with pinks and oranges. But that would be a buzz kill. Better to simply send you over to the jade bar -- the bar adjacent to elements, the restaurant at Sanctuary -- and let you ponder your existence over a cantaloupe martini and the prettiest sunset view in town. From the patio of the jade bar, you can see Mummy Mountain and the twinkling lights of Paradise Valley. That's right, Paradise.
Thousands of people head to Tempe each year to learn. Arizona State University's campus is a hotbed of artistic and engineering ingenuity. Just think, you can even learn something new on the free ride around campus. The Tempe Free Local Area Shuttle (FLASH) is the perfect spot to get an education on ligers. Now, during the time it takes you to travel between University Drive and Apache Boulevard, you can learn that the cross between a lion and a tiger is renowned for its skills in magic -- or so says Napoleon Dynamite in the film of the same name. The FLASH is the ideal place to make commentary on cult films and hit it off with other Napoleon aficionados. After all, everyone knows a liger is just about Napoleon's favorite animal ever, but you're so smart you probably knew that.
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
For a first date sure to set you apart from every other yahoo who attempted to impress your paramour before you, hook up with the concierge at the ritzy Westin Kierland Resort in north Scottsdale for a semi-guided ride on the hotel's fleet of $5,000 Segway scooters. Merely stepping on the high-tech gyroscopic "human transport" devices is instant fun -- the space-aged machines respond to your slightest touch, zipping off on two big wheels in whatever direction your mind seems to suggest. After a short lesson from a hotel staffer, you'll be free to zoom about the sprawling grounds like a New Age George and Jane Jetson. Don't stop this crazy thing!
The Clarendon Hotel
Downtown Phoenix's answer to Scottsdale's James Hotel snags the above category not because you might get busted by the po-po if you have one too many of Carson Quinn's martinis at the Camus bar/restaurant and then try to drive home. There's another reason. In the lobby of this newly renovated, baby-blue boutique hotel is a lifelike bust of AZ's legendary journalist-martyr Don Bolles, whose white Datsun sedan was torn apart by six remote-control-detonated sticks of dynamite on June 2, 1976, while parked in the Clarendon's lot. Bolles was in the car, and died from his wounds 11 days later. The crusading reporter was at the hotel to meet a source for one of his many exposés of the corruption in Arizona business and public life. The meeting never took place. It was a setup to draw Bolles away from his car while the bomb was planted underneath. To this day, questions linger about the assassination and who was involved, but there's no question about Bolles' bravery and his doggedness as a reporter. So the next time you stop by the Clarendon for a drink, pause a moment at the Bolles bust and raise a glass to a reporter who showed us what journalists should be like, even if they rarely live up to the standards Bolles set.
Roaring Fork
Courtesy of Roaring Fork
What's that sexy look in Roaring Fork proprietor/chef Robert McGrath's eye? Yeah, baby, Chef Robert knows what you want and just how you like it: His signature 12 oz. Big Ass Burger with roasted green chiles, long horn cheese, bacon, grilled onion, and fries, served only at the restaurant's saloon. That burger alone would be enough to net McGrath top honors in this category, but McGrath slays us with the other items on the bar menu, like the Green Chile Pork Stew with jack cheese and buttered flour tortillas, or the "Frito Pie," consisting of "Buzzard Breath" chili, diced onion and Cheddar over Fritos corn chips. Robert, if you think you can serve food like this at your bar and then have your way with us, you're . . . you're absolutely right. We surrender! As long as you give us one more burger for the road, and let us come back whenever we want, we're all yours, bubba.

BEST PLACE TO GET COFFEE WITH A POLITICO

Starbucks

Starbucks
Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot has long been seen as a civic booster, advocate of the local arts scene, and patron of mom-and-pop businesses. So why the heck does the friendly official, who represents Phoenix's District 4, regularly grab a mid-morning java jolt at the Starbucks outlet located in Park Central Mall? Don't worry, Simplot hasn't sold out to the corporate coffee-house chain (at least not yet) in exchange for a year's supply of Frappuccinos. In reality, he's there to grip 'n' grin with numerous local pols who've also come for some overpriced Joe. While waiting in a lengthy line for a straight-up cup of decaffeinated coffee, Simplot conducts unofficial business with folks like former state attorney general Grant Woods (we think this place is Woods' official business address -- quick, someone check his card) and state Senator Ken Cheuvront. He also gets a few words in with officials from the Phoenix Unified school district who've stopped by. "This place is great," Simplot says. "I return 10 calls just by coming in here."
At $179 for a year's subscription, former state senator Stan Barnes' biweekly newsletter is no bargain. But the deftly titled West Washington is a good source for inside-the-statehouse gossip, particularly if you're looking for the skinny on Barnes' GOP pals and the political minutiae of who voted which way, and why. Barnes, who most recently lost a bid to take out fellow Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, currently runs the Copper State Consulting Group, which means lobbying for everyone from the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association to Philip Morris. And while his newsletter occasionally strains a bit too hard to crack wise, considering the tedious political coverage we're used to, that's something we can forgive. We've also gotta give the guy props for his Q&As: Somehow, he makes our state legislators sound human.

Best Of Phoenix®

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