McClendon's Select Farm
The benefits of buying organic are plentiful, but we're often disappointed by small tomatoes or wilted greens. Thankfully, we can rely on McClendon's Select to offer up something ripe and gorgeous, whether it's crisp arugula or the plump, fragrant pink grapefruit we bought during this year's citrus season. Everything grown on the 25-acre family farm is now organic, a switch owner and pharmacist Bob McClendon made in the early '00s. Their juicy dates, delicious honey, and fresh fruits and vegetables speak for themselves, but if you have any doubt of their quality, chefs such as Kevin Binkley, Chryssa Robertson of Rancho Pinot, and Eugenia Theodosopoulos of Essence Bakery Café have been spotted using his products to create gourmet meals.
Since Tempe's Gentle Strength Co-op bit the dust a few years ago, we've had to get creative to find cheap produce. Good thing we stumbled upon Bountiful Baskets, a volunteer-run service that offers produce at less than dollar-store prices. It's quick and easy — just pre-order a basket online for $15 ($25 for organic) and pick up your fruits and veggies at one of the listed sites. We love their concept of mystery baskets, which force buyers to try foods they might not otherwise eat, like pygmy pineapples and rainbow chard. The fruits and veggies need to be washed well before eating, as they come in their natural state. Otherwise, the biggest problem with the baskets is how much food you get. We say invite a few friends over and share, or have an Iron Chef-style throwdown with those pygmy pineapples as the secret ingredient.
Momma's Organic Market at Park West
Once a month on Saturdays from September through April, the open-air outdoor area of the Park West shopping center is transformed into a fresh produce and local artisan heaven. Located west of Loop 101 on Northern, the west-side market stocks all sorts of beautiful fruits and veggies from Pinnacle Gardens and Crooked Sky Farms, a book exchange table, and live entertainment ranging from music to face painting. Hours for the monthly seasonal market are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Momma's also holds it down during a weekly Thursday-night market (also from September to April) from 4 to 7 p.m.
February 18 was a red-letter day for many folks in Tempe. On that day, the Thursday Night Market on Mill officially launched its weekly open-air market featuring locally made food and artsy products. Since then, the shindig has showcased a constant rotation of interesting vendors and products, such as Cortez Coffee, Udder Delights, pet treats by Sisters 3 Biscuits, and jewelry from Lucky Monkey Designs. The kid- and pet-friendly market, located steps away from the Mill Avenue and Third Street light-rail station, is open year-round every Thursday from 4:30 to 8 p.m.
Ahwatukee Farmers Market
You probably thought farmers markets were only about fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Ha! Think again, at least if you're at the Ahwatukee Farmers Market. While there are healthful foods to be found here, the balance of good versus evil has shifted to the dark chocolate side. Tucked between handcrafted jewelry and produce are vendors selling cookies, brownies, toffee, cupcakes, and crepes. We make the trip to the Ahwatukee market every week for locally made cheese and salad fixings, but somehow end up adding Hallie's Apple Butter and a few of Sherrye Chapin's Caramel Addiction Brownies to our reusable shopping bag. Trust us, once you get a sugar high going from all the samples they dish out, you'll forget all about your organic, healthful goody-goody diet.
Old Town Farmers' Market
Short of dedicated dog parks or your own street, there aren't many public places in Scottsdale that welcome pooches larger than a Gucci purse. That's why owners with four-footed pals in tow adore the Old Town Farmers Market, where Fido can walk the streets with his furry head held high. Water bowls are placed throughout the market, and several vendors offer homemade organic dog treats or toys. Once we even spotted Labradoodles for sale at Double Blessing's lotion and soap booth. But there was one product featured at the market this past spring that shows how dog-friendly this farmers market truly is: Bowser Beer, an alcoholic treat for dogs. If you want Spot to be man's best friend, forget the chew toys and rawhide bones. Stroll him over to the Scottsdale Old Town Farmers Market and buy him a cold one.
Frank & Albert's
Tearing down the old Biltmore Grill and starting anew with Frank & Albert's was perhaps the Biltmore Resort's smartest move to get noticed in the local dining scene. In its previous incarnation, it was never much on anyone's radar, but now it's a restaurant for more than just a captive audience at the hotel. Savvy Phoenicians are getting to know Frank & Albert's for its contemporary take on Southwestern comfort food and just as much for its gorgeous patio. Sit out here, sip a prickly peartini, and bask in the glow of a fireplace and two fire pits that make the outdoor space feel cozy. With lush landscaping and the wide-open sky, it's our favorite spot for enjoying a meal al fresco. They even have tableside s'mores for a whimsical finish.
Lon's at the Hermosa
Jackie Mercandetti
Without a doubt, the kind of brunch that really romances us is one where the food is better than run-of-the-mill breakfast, and the setting transports us to a different time and place. Such is the charm of brunch at Lon's, located at the historic Hermosa Inn. This is pure Southwestern beauty, inside and out — beautifully manicured desert grounds, and rustic but classy Southwestern décor in the dining room. The brunch menu features some seriously impressive dishes, from tasty brioche "monkey bread" (fresh out of the oven, with an irresistible cinnamon and pecan aroma) to perfect sliders made with beef tenderloin and scrambled eggs. Got a sweet tooth? Then don't miss the lemon ricotta pancakes, stacked like sculpture and gilded with huckleberry compote. Although we're glad brunch is available Saturday and Sunday, Lon's has live jazz only on Sundays. You know when to find us here.
Matt's Big Breakfast
Matt's Big Breakfast
The name only becomes more ironic as time goes by — Matt's Big Breakfast feels smaller with every new customer who discovers the place (often courtesy of The Food Network) and makes the wait here that much longer. But what's impressive is how the quality has stayed so consistent in spite of Matt's popularity. The from-scratch pancakes are still fluffy and perfect, the egg dishes are just as mouthwatering, and they still use quality local ingredients, from the citrus juice in your glass to the jam on your toast. At this point, the crowds will only get bigger.
Lo Lo's Chicken & Waffles
Did somebody say chicken and waffles? Yeah, that'll get us right out of bed. You'll never need to twist our arm to start off the day with Lo-Lo's crispy, otherworldly fried chicken and a hot pile of waffles, but even if we weren't in the mood for that (impossible, honestly), there's still so much to love about this favorite local hangout. Ivan's chorizo and eggs, served with warm flour tortillas, gives a nod to that Southwestern spice that we're hooked on, while steak and eggs with hash browns hit the spot when we're craving an old-school breakfast. Factor in rich, creamy grits, chicken gizzards smothered in gravy, and perfect red velvet cake for dessert (oh, yes, we'll have dessert with breakfast when it's this good), and it's easy to see why Lo-Lo's really makes breakfast the most important meal of the day.

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