Best Knife Shop 2009 | Phoenix Knife House | Shopping & Services | Phoenix

The only confusing thing about this amazing pointy emporium is its name: Phoenix Knife House is located in Scottsdale. Geography aside, everything about Eytan Zias' knife shop makes perfect sense. Zias is a former chef whose love for all things sharp led him to open a store that also offers cookbooks, whetstones, and chef's uniforms. But it's the dozen specialty lines of cutlery — including rare Masahiro and Misono knives — that most folks come here for. That and the even rarer service of by-hand knife sharpening that Phoenix Knife House offers. Which makes this place (dare we?) a cut above the rest.

After Googling the daylights out of "where to buy smoked paprika," imagine our delight in discovering that the most-recommended online spice shop boasts one of its 41 worldwide retail outlets right here in Scottsdale. With soft green walls and clever crate displays housing spices from around the world, Penzeys Spices has created a playground for cooks. From three varieties of saffron to whole star anise to "double vanilla" extract, there are aromatic samples of every item throughout the store.

Who knew Ceylon cinnamon smelled so vastly different from its Vietnamese counterpart? Peppered throughout the store are notepads free for the taking, serving up recipes like "Festive Mural of Flavor Turkey Dinner" and "Tsardust Chicken Thighs." We expected the location and the specialty nature of this shop to equate to stress on the wallet, but au contraire. Penzeys' spices and extracts come in a variety of sizes and in bulk, and weigh in cheaper, ounce for ounce, than the blander grocery store stuff.

If Viagra isn't your bag, maybe damiana leaf is. The Mexican-grown herb's one of many supposed aphrodisiac herbs available at Chakra 4, a shop chock-full of bulk herbs for just about any ailment. Patrons can pick from hundreds of herbs, including astragalus root (supposedly an immune booster), lycii berries (an alleged anti-inflammatory), chrysanthemum flowers (for tasty teas), and deer-antler powder (for God-knows-what). And if you don't know what herbs you need, the staff at Chakra 4 is well versed in New Age medicinal brews and tinctures and will be more than happy to help out. The store also includes a variety of mushrooms, dried berries, and ready-made tinctures and teas.

There are just a few tasting grounds for serious gourmets in the Valley, and we've discovered a new hot spot. Cucina Olive Oils does just two things but does them with panache: gourmet olive oils and vinegars. Huge vats line this quaint, Tuscan-themed boutique, and there are tiny, plastic shot glasses for tastes. How about a Meyer lemon olive oil blended with a fruity black currant balsamic for a fresh summertime vinaigrette? Owner Chrissy Guglielmo encourages customers not only to sample the vast international selection but to combine flavors for the full experience. Cucina also offers regular cooking classes and demos for a small fee. Learn how to make a strawberry balsamic chocolate truffle and take home the tangy main ingredient.

Not only does this indie serve some of the best-brewed pick-me-ups in the Valley, but it also offers its bomb-diggity coffee beans for sale. Some of our faves include the fancy-pants Black Market Espresso, with its hint of grapefruit (sounds yucky, but it's fantastic), and roasts from Brazil and Guatemala. The shop, housed in a warehouse-like space, also sells goodies for the home brewer, such as straightforward French press coffee makers to more elaborate espresso machines.

Evie Carpenter

If Lola Coffee seems familiar, that's no surprise. It may remind you a bit of Lux, a coffeehouse down the street that originally was owned by Daniel Wayne, the same guy bringing you this latest offering. Lola's got big tables, comfortable chairs, lots of light and delicious, fresh-roasted coffee. The cherry on this coffee-flavored sundae? Fresh baked pastries from Danielle Librera, formerly of Sweet Pea Bakery. Her peanut butter and jelly cookies are the best, and we bet you can talk the friendly baristas into forgoing the coffee and selling you an ice-cold glass of milk.

We go there every Sunday morning, for a bunch of different reasons: We love the massive remodel of the place, which turned the former hippie-dippy Willo House into a sleek-but-still-cozy coffee shop that feels like someone's well-appointed home. We're crazy about the quiche and the tasty baked goods and the private rooms where we can drag a group of friends for a quick, caffeine-fueled wake-up party. Did we mention how good the coffee is? Strong and dark and always available in tasty blends and two strengths. You'll find us draped over one of the big leather sofas in front of the fireplace on any Sunday, and occasionally we sneak back during the week for one of Hob Nobs' yummy salad-and-sandwich combos.

Appearances, as they say, can be deceiving. For proof, look no further than Cabin Coffee. Before walking into this north Glendale java place, we expected the usual coffeehouse decor pastiche of leather easy chairs and faux cherrywood furniture, with maybe even a few Ansel Adams framed photos hanging on the wall for good measure. Boy, were we mistaken. As its rugged-sounding moniker portends, the interior resembles a rustic mountain lodge, complete with a fireplace, actual logs, and mounted deer heads. (It's quite a difference from the taupe-drenched, desert-landscaped Fry's strip mall that houses this demitasse den.) Mercifully, you won't have to choke down a tin cup of muddy, foul-tasting cowboy coffee, like you'd get at your family's cabin. Instead, the myriad espressos and cappuccinos are presented in artful — even elegant — fashion (their baristas actually won awards for their joe-making skills). More than a dozen varieties of beans are ground hourly, with just as many brands of teas also served. The standard selection of iced and blended beverages is also available for purchase.

A bustling yet intimate gathering place that attracts an eclectic crowd of old cowboys (or city slickers pretending to be old cowboys), businesspeople, tourists, hipsters, and other riff-raff to the main drag in this small-town oasis. Open every morning at 6:30, the popular java joint offers a front porch with a great view of things, as well as leather couches and chairs on which to kick back and work on your laptop, courtesy of the miracle of wireless. The coffee, which is roasted right in Cave Creek, is delicious, as is a breakfast menu that features oatmeal and their aptly named "Big Ass Burrito" — eggs, green onion, potatoes, cheese, salsa, and a meat of your choice in a tortilla. As for the "wine" part of this shop's name, well, you'll have to wait 'til 5 p.m. before we get to that.

Oh, brother! There are a few reasons we fell in love with this place from the moment we saw it. First, it's run by easygoing 40-something siblings Bruce and Brian Bergeson, whose personable nature is kinda infectious. Then there's the fact they chose a deliciously enchanting cottage located smack dab in the middle of Gilbert's historic downtown (practically inches away from Joe's Real BBQ) in which to house their caffeinated cooperative. Oh, yeah, and the coffee's pretty damn good, too. And it should be, considering that they roast and grind their own freshly imported beans — which are organic, to boot — on the premises daily. The result: the richest cup of joe or café Americano we've tasted in a long time. After a few cups of the Bergesons' brand, we're ready to re-organize our CD collection, repaint the house, and take a brisk round-trip walk to Prescott.

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