Best Coffee House, West Valley 2011 | Ground Control | Shopping & Services | Phoenix
Tucked away in the Southwest Valley, Ground Control serves up delicious coffee drinks from beans that are roasted and ground on site. Ground Control has the usual suspects — Americano, cappuccino, and iced mocha — and signature drinks such as Cafe Sisu (a white and dark chocolate drink); or Cafe Roma, a flavor that mixes dark chocolate, caramel, and praline. The shop offers a variety of blended coffee drinks, including a lactose-free CocoMochaNut and a Blended Fruit Blast with mango, strawberry, peach, banana, sour green apple, and wildberry, a super-fruit antioxidant. Don't look for Wi-Fi at this old-school gathering place, which encourages you to bring a book or a friend instead of a computer. Check out Ground Control for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and don't leave without trying the homemade gelato.
One of the best things about Coffee Rush in Chandler is the view — where else in the Valley can you sip a hot, fresh cappuccino while cooling your heels next to a big blue man-made lake? And it's not just the cappuccino and lake that make this place awesome. Just walk in and get a whiff of all the delicious mochas and lattes. There are almost too many menu items to choose from. But if figuring out whether you want a scrumptious caramel nut latte or a strawberry vanilla java or a tiramisu mocha or a regular ol' Americano is the hardest decision you'll make all day, that's not so bad. The atmosphere here is cool, too, with free Wi-Fi for costumers, a pet-friendly patio, and a friendly staff that treats even newbies like regular customers.
There's a reason many other coffee shops in the Valley use beans from Cartel Coffee Lab: flavor, baby. Lots of it. Cartel's beans create rich and nutty espressos, smooth and sweet iced toddies, and chocolaty mochas. Baristas at Cartel roast their coffee beans on site, which means everything is super-fresh. And if you want to know every little detail of how your coffee is made and what's in it, the baristas at Cartel can tell you. This is a place for coffee connoisseurs. In fact, the baristas are so confident in the absolute perfection of their coffees that any request to change up the recipe is likely to be met with rolling eyes or a raised eyebrow. So if you want to order a coffee with "one pump caramel, one pump white mocha, two scoops of vanilla bean powder, with whipped cream and caramel drizzle on the top, no ice, double-cupped," go to Starbucks. But if you're just looking for a damn good cup of coffee that doesn't take five minutes to order (but, be warned, might take a good long time to make), then Cartel's got you covered.
Yes, we have coffee in the Valley — and good coffee, at that —but, more important, we have a lot of great coffee shops with great neighborhood vibes. The very best of Scottsdale is found at the local neighborhood hangout Echo. It is totally okay with your setting up a laptop and camping for the day. Echo will make delicious coffee treats or brew a cup of black drip for you. It also serves food, so after hours of staring at the screen, when the belly starts to rumble, Echo will help you take care of that and make you an afternoon espresso drink, the best we've found in these parts.
While the coffee at Cup O' Karma is decent, there are three things for which this place is better known. First, the iced teas are to die for. Patrons can choose from a wide variety of teas (hot, cold, or even blended like smoothies) and fruity flavors like tangerine. The place's green and chai teas are particularly delectable. Second, there's plenty of seating and the Internet Wi-Fi signal is super-strong (it's rare to go into Cup O' Karma and not see at least three people pounding away on their laptops). Third, proceeds from the sales of Cup O'Karma's beverages goes to a charity called Seeds of Hope, which works with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Throw in the local artwork on the walls and live acoustic music, and Cup O' Karma's got their recipe for success.
Bountiful Baskets is one of the largest volunteer-run co-ops in Arizona, with well over 100 locations from Sahuarita to Bullhead City and just about everywhere in between. In Phoenix alone, there are about 18 locations. It's entirely volunteer-run with no requirement to opt in every week. Decide on Tuesday whether you want a basket full of produce the coming weekend — 15 bucks for the regular basket or 30 bucks for the organic offering — and you're good to go. They also offer weekly deals on bread, cases of produce (peaches, tomatoes, whatever's in season), Asian/Mexican/Italian packs, and lots of holiday fun, such as DIY cookie kits. Just make sure you show up every once in a while to volunteer!
Eating locally grown, fresh produce is nutritious, delicious, and good for the economy and environment, but sometimes acquiring the aforementioned produce is just so . . .  difficult. There are more farmers markets and local food outlets than ever before. Desert Roots Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) in Queen Creek, makes getting farm-fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs super-easy. Twelve-week seasonal memberships (or six-week during the summer) come in whole and half sizes. More than 10 pickup locations span the Valley. If that's not convenient enough, for an extra five bucks a week, they'll deliver the seasonal eats directly to your home or work.
Out in what used to be a rural part of the Valley sits this wonderful 70-year-old farm, where the organic peaches are there for the picking (for a price), and so much more. Talk about agri-tourism. This hardworking family has a lot on its plate, running a country store and bakery, working a seven-acre vegetable "patch," giving grand tours, looking after a campsite with 25 full hookups for the motor-home set, and hosting weddings, birthday parties for the little ones, and other big-time life events. Even Muhammad Ali has checked things out on the farm — we hear he had a great time. But it's those peaches that pull us back year after year, basket after basket, bite after bite. Sweet!
Lauren Saria
The ratatouille omelette at Vincent's Market Bistro.
Baby artichokes the size of your thumb. Tiny carrots, in little bundles, that taste somehow like they've been dipped in brown sugar. Beets so fresh they still have dirt clods stuck to their roots. No gourmet repast is done right without fresh ingredients, and we always find them at Vincent's weekly farmers market during the cooler months. We sometimes have to elbow well-known chefs and restaurateurs out of our way to get to the high-end cheeses (sold by the hunk or in entire wheels!) at this casual, European-type outdoor market, but that only makes us feel more gourmet, somehow. Dig the locally grown, organic vegetables; the delicious just-baked pastries from Vincent's own pastry chef; and one or another of the Valley's best-known chefs, preparing a stunning gourmet entrée right before your eyes. Our only complaints are that parking is a bit tricky (although lately there's been a park-for-pay lot nearby) and that it's best to arrive really early — the place usually opens at 7 — because when the good stuff is gone, it's gone.
Every Thursday, we make the journey out to Mesa (we're talking deep Mesa, as in Queen Creek Mesa) for Superstition Farms' weekly SuperFarm Market. Not only because the market's held inside a nice cool barn but because — it's on a real farm! Not in a parking lot. This is a real live dairy farm. Stock up on fresh meats and seafood, straight-from-the-farm eggs, milk, cheese, butter, locally made breads and sweets, and delicious gluten-free, lard-free tamales from Tamal le Cuisine. Hayrides and a petting zoo are in full effect for the kiddos, and if you don't feel like cooking, you can always grab dinner on the farm from Chef Matt or one of the visiting food trucks.

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