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But those days are long gone, especially now that Queen Creek Olive Mill's on the scene. Known for its extra-virgin olive oil, made from Spanish and Italian varieties grown in its own groves, the Mill also sells the best variety of olives around plump green ones filled with garlic and soaked in vermouth, marinated in balsamic vinegar and Tuscan spices, or stuffed with different kinds of cheese, including Maytag blue, feta, and Asiago. We're especially keen on the mesquite-smoked, almond-filled olives, which we couldn't get enough of when we visited Queen Creek Olive Mill's facilities. There, visitors can sample everything that's for sale in the on-site retail shop.
If a trip to the far reaches of Maricopa County isn't in the cards for you, don't stress. You can get your fix online, or from gourmet retailers around the Valley.
That's pretty poor representation for the culinary traditions of an entire continent, dontcha think? Yeah, we do, too. Which is why we head to Lee Lee when we're in the mood to cook something more exotic than a no-brainer stir-fry.
Who knew there were so many kinds of tofu, so many varieties of noodles? And better yet, a seafood department that looks like an aquarium, with fish so fresh they're still swimming? We're not sure what's more appealing about Lee Lee the novelty (quirky candies, snacks, and drinks), or the sheer variety of goods from Vietnam, China, Japan, Korea, India, and beyond. The à la carte foods aisle is a feast of sights and smells, while the produce section is a gorgeous sea of green, with heaps of leafy greens, sprouts, peppers, and unusual vegetables that you definitely won't find at your corner market.
Baiz has everything we need aisle after aisle of grains, nuts, exotic spices, and an incredible selection of imported olive oil that fills a section from floor to ceiling. In the back, there's a small produce section, an impressive deli featuring halal meats and a variety of cheeses and olives, and a dazzling case full of cookies, pastries, and an assortment of goods from the in-house bakery.
By the time we circle around to the housewares and cooking utensil aisles on the far side of the room, our cart is overflowing and we're ready to empty our wallets. But if we'll make room for anything, it'll be one of the fancy-schmancy hookahs on display.
Surprise! There's a weekly farmers market in Surprise. And one in Florence. And several across the East Valley, including three in Mesa. Talk about acting locally.