Best Cochinita Pibil 2010 | Barrio Cafe | La Vida | Phoenix
Allison Young
There are few greater tributes to the glory of pork than how chef Silvana Salcido Esparza does it at Barrio Cafe. Yes, her cochinita pibil is one of her most famous dishes and, no, it can't be bested by anyone around. Slow-roasted for 12 hours — until it's falling apart and truly does melt in your mouth — the pork is smothered in achiote rojo and sour orange, just the way they make it in the Yucatán. If you have the time and appetite, we recommend just ordering the cochinita platter, which is piled with enticing meat. Trust us, you'll go overboard and enjoy every bite. We also like it tucked into small, street-style tacos for a satisfying lunch. Pig out!
We figured we were in for some good tacos as soon as we spotted the salsa bar at this hip little 16th Street hangout. Freshly made pico de gallo, smoky chipotle salsa, luscious cilantro crema, strawberry salsa, and kicky tomatillo salsa were just a few of the offerings, all intended to dress up tacos so good they hardly need any embellishment. Zesty chicken tinga, carne asada, deep-fried dogfish shark, savory Oaxacan black mole, and juicy, slow-roasted cochinita pibil are among the stellar fillings available, tucked into freshly griddled tortillas that you can inhale in just a few bites. Mix and match for maximum enjoyment.
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
This teeny neighborhood joint has been around for more than 30 years, which may come as a surprise to the uninitiated. How can owner Rosemary Salinas get a line of people out the door when her restaurant has no seating (except for a few picnic tables outside), no sign, and a limited menu? The answer's simple if you've ever eaten her food: These burros just rock. It doesn't matter whether you're obsessed with the spicy red chile burro, plump with moist shredded beef, or the amazing green chile version, packed with chunks of pork so tender you hardly need teeth. They're made with excellent tortillas, they're made with love, and they've gained enough word-of-mouth fame locally that we're sure we'll be writing about them forever. (We can only hope.)
Lauren Cusimano
Anyone who complains about the lack of good seafood spots in the middle of the desert has obviously never frequented our city's many fine mariscos joints, where a bite of cool ceviche can transport you straight to the ocean. Mariscos Playa Hermosa feels beachy even in its colorful décor, and the way folks here know how to keep the cold Corona flowing. Seven seas soup (brimming with clams, mussels, shrimp, fish, crab, and octopus), refreshing, cilantro-tinged seafood cocktails, grilled or fried fish, and entrées like octopus and shrimp in garlic sauce make us forget all about living in a landlocked city. Eating here is like vacation at the shore, if only for our taste buds.
We were heartbroken when chef Aaron May closed Sol y Sombra, his swanky tapas spot at North Scottsdale's DC Ranch, but May's Iruña swooped in this summer to ease the pain with a lot of old favorites and just as many delectable new dishes. Stop by this stylin' eatery for a lively scene and a slew of mouthwatering small plates meant for sharing. Go light, with garlic-and-tomato-rubbed pan con tomate, refreshing gazpacho, chilled rice salad with tuna, and a Bibb lettuce salad with Manchego, spiced almonds, and Rioja vinaigrette, or go naughty with savory-sweet pollo colonia (chicken in a spicy glaze), lamb chops with whole grain mustard vinaigrette and fresh mint, and sliced filet mignon with chunky salbitxada sauce, made with tomatoes and Marcona almonds. Whatever you get, be sure there's a glass of sangria in your hand.
Jackie Mercandetti
After digging in to lusty plates of stuffed poblanos and chorizo-stuffed pork chops and green chile stew, we're aching for mercy at this charming New Mexican spot in Ahwatukee. The spicy, flavorful fare shifts our taste buds into overdrive. But we always need to rein it in with something sweet, something delicate to soothe our palate at the end of the meal, and that's why we love Secreto's incredible flan. Smooth as velvet, cool on the tongue, and oozing sweet caramelized sauce, it's everything we could hope for in this classic custard dessert. Save room for a few bites, if not the whole thing.
Our wish came true! We wished for gourmet paletas and Betty Alatorre arrived on the scene, armed with her grandmother's recipes. You'll still have to hoof it to downtown Chandler to get flavors like mango con chile, naranja (orange vanilla cream) and durazno (peach, ginger, and honey), but, hey, that's better than traveling all the way to Michoacan, the Mexican state where Alatorre was raised — and, coincidentally, the paleta capital. Until now. We're decreeing Chandler the new paleta HQ. Viva las paletas, Betty!
Hey, kids, want to fill that piñata in style? Then steer Mom and Dad to the funky purple building on the east side of 16th Street. In the back of this party store, you'll find aisle after aisle of bulk Mexican candy — peanut-y marzipan, hot chile, and chocolate-covered marshmallows. Forgot the piñata? No worries, there's a large selection of perfectly serviceable papier-mâché hanging from the ceiling, and helpful staff to get them down. Sweet!
Michael Braden's Margarita Sensations margarita mix is used to create the perfect margaritas at nearly three dozen restaurants and gathering places throughout Arizona, including Mountainside Office Bar in Scottsdale, My Florist Cafe in Phoenix, Padre Murphy's in Glendale, and Tiburon Aquarium Restaurant in Litchfield Park.And while it's always relaxing to pull up to a bar and order a freshly blended margarita served in a glass with a perfectly salted rim . . . it can also get pricey. Margarita Sensations margarita mix is available at your local BevMo so you can enjoy delicious and hangover-free margaritas in the comfort of your own home.Just pick up a gallon of Braden's fresh and balanced combination of organic lime juice, filtered water, and 100 percent Weber blue agave nectar. There aren't any artificial flavors or colors or preservatives in this premium mix. At only 100 calories per serving, you can enjoy several of these popular summer drinks guilt-free. Braden recommends pairing his mix with 3 Amigos Organic Blanco Tequila (made from 100 percent agave) for the perfect organic margarita. The beauty of Margarita Sensations mix is that it eliminates the need to add triple sec or any other liqueur to your margarita. It also doubles as a Sweet and Sour mix and can be enjoyed straight as a refreshing limeade or mixed with iced tea for a "Lee Trevino special" — half limeade, half iced tea.The only thing that this margarita mix doesn't have is that too-tart or too-sweet aftertaste found in many mixes.
Without a doubt, one of the finest and smoothest tequilas you can treat your palate to is 3 Amigos Tequila. This premium, 100 percent agave tequila is handcrafted at a family-owned distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. The blue agave plants are harvested by jimadores with a talent for selecting only the healthiest and most perfectly ripened agaves.3 Amigos is an affordable alternative to the high-priced tequilas and rivals their flavor. It comes in several varieties, including Organic Blanco, a USDA-certified organic tequila. They also have 3 Amigos Blanco, which is double-distilled and bottled, 3 Amigos Reposado, double-distilled and aged for 11 months in charred white oak barrels; and 3 Amigos Anejo, aged in oak barrels for two years, giving it a distinct and balanced flavor of agave, oak, vanilla, and a light caramel body.

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