As of press time, James Beard Award-winning chef Nobuo Fukuda's brand-new izakaya (Japanese-style tavern) is the hot ticket in the Phoenix culinary scene, set inside a beautifully renovated historic bungalow built in 1899. As if Fukuda's reputation as the Valley's premier Japanese chef weren't enough of a draw (his cult of devotees remains strong from his days at the now-defunct Sea Saw), he's created a cozy, welcoming space that happens to be right across from another James Beard winner's legendary restaurant: Chris Bianco's celebrated pizzeria. But while Pizzeria Bianco is inevitably a night on the town (lengthy wait included), Nobuo at Teeter House aims to bring you in for a simple lunch, a casual nosh with a cocktail, or a relaxed dinner of shareable small plates like house-cured salmon with basil oil and pecorino Romano, braised pork belly tucked into soft, steamed buns, warm duck salad with yuzu vinaigrette, and okonomiyaki, a scrumptious seafood pancake topped with sticky-sweet sauce, Japanese mayo, dried aonori seaweed, and shaved dried bonito (a beloved street food that goes well with beer). If you need proof that downtown's on the upswing, Fukuda's move from Scotts­dale to here makes a very strong case for the future.
In many ways, chef Kevin Binkley's namesake restaurant turns traditional fine dining upside down. From the humble storefront on Cave Creek Road to the cozy, unpretentious atmosphere, there's nothing stuffy about this place, and there's certainly not an uptight dress code. Nope, the emphasis here is simply the beauty of heirloom produce at its peak of ripeness, luxurious ingredients like lobster, foie gras, and truffles, and Binkley's own distinctive cooking style, which combines impeccable French techniques with a touch of creative whimsy. Although the menu is coursed out as appetizers and entrées, the best way to experience this cutting-edge cuisine is with the customizable, multi-course tasting menus, which are served with a barrage of clever amuses bouches and palate cleansers. Anyone food-obsessed would be thrilled with an experience here.
St. Francis
Evie Carpenter
Where do all the beautiful people go? Where are the city's movers and shakers — politicians, academics, design geeks, DJs — feeding their fabulous faces, watching each other, and maybe even getting tipsy? They're hanging out at St. Francis, apparently, from the looks of the always-busy dining room. If you consider yourself even remotely connected, then be prepared to run into somebody at chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin's stunning restaurant near the intersection of Central and Camelback. With an upbeat indie rock soundtrack, a stunning building renovated by architect Wendell Burnett, and affordable, comforting eats like pot roast, pork chile verde with cornbread, scrumptious flatbreads with different seasonal toppings, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert, it's no wonder that St. Francis is such a happening place.
Milk 'n' More Store
Tempe may be worlds away from cow country, but farm-fresh cheese is closer than you'd expect. Milk from around the state is trucked to the United Dairymen of Arizona processing plant daily to be pasteurized and packaged, and the leftovers are turned into tasty cheese that's sold on site in the Milk 'n' More Store. The store's crowning glory is its cheese curds, the traditional Midwest snack that squeaks in your mouth like a chew toy. How's it made? Milk from the plant is dumped into 7,000-gallon vats and mixed with rennet. The solidifying cheese is then gathered out of the mixture with a rake and cut into bite-size pieces. Milk 'n' More's curds are made daily in plain and jalapeño varieties. If they get stale a few days after opening, just pop 'em briefly in the microwave and you'll have a soft, cheesy treat that doesn't need to be fried to taste good.
The streets of Phoenix feel a little bit more like Paris thanks to the folks behind Truckin' Good Food, a mobile creperie that makes the rounds at local farmers markets in downtown Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Ahwatukee. (Check the website or Twitter for the lowdown on the current route.) What we love about Truckin' Good Food is the quality of the ingredients (ham from local purveyors The Meat Shop, cheese from Crow's Dairy) and the rotating menu. It's hard to go wrong with Nutella, banana, and spiced walnuts, or seasonal fruit with granola and honey. Likewise, the savory crepes are killer — try the "Old Country," with San Marzano tomatoes, tapenade, feta, and herbs, and the "Ham It Up," with ham, cheddar, honey Dijon mustard, and herbs. Thanks to Truckin' Good Food, the local food truck scene is on a roll!
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.

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