Schnepf Farms
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!
The ratatouille omelette at Vincent's Market Bistro.
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.
Superstition Farm
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.
Roadrunner Park Farmers Market
Ward Walston arises at about 2 on Saturday mornings to bake his delicious breads — the Black Forest rye, the multigrain sourdough, the salt-free sunflower wheat, and many others. Around the break of dawn, Ward's wife Leslie then drives over from Tempe up the 51 and sets up shop at the farmers market on East Cactus (one of the Valley's oldest), warm, fresh bread in tow. She also sets out a bunch of jars of delicious peanut butter handcrafted in Michigan and shipped to Arizona every week. Leslie is a mistress of the soft sell at the market — she lets her family business' products mostly speak for themselves. That they do. She offers bread and peanut butter samples to the dozens of folks who stop by, and that, far more often than not, turns into sales. That's the American way, right? As for us, we keep on returning to Leslie's little stand week after week.
Healthy Habit
The Valley is filled with health food stores offering food and vitamins. What makes Healthy Habit Health Foods in CenPho the best is the bonus offerings — including a knowledgeable staff, classes, and a live radio show filled with nutritional advice. The website is a superstore in and of itself; get a recommendation for a local practitioner, or browse for everything from low-carb baking goods to organic pet supplies. And food and vitamins, too — naturally.
Mekong Palace
Dirt-cheap produce and a truly impressive selection of seafood (parrot fish!) and meat and poultry (chicken feet!) are just the tip of the iceberg lettuce (one thing you might not find) at Mekong Plaza. This old Target-turned-awesome plaza holds much more than just your typical Asian market — it's home to a handful of great little eateries and, of course, a place to get your nails done. Before you get lost in the market, grab a cheap bowl of pho at the ridiculously named UnPHOgettable (clever) or take your chances at Com Tam Thuan Kiev — over 100 dishes of authentic Vietnamese food (good luck!). You'll also find Thai, noodles, and even dim sum.
Fujiya Market
What's better than Japanese pastries? Almost nothing. Maybe that's why we spend so much time cramming curry and melon pan into our waiting gobs at Arai Pastry, at the corner of Priest and University drives in Tempe. When pastry doesn't suffice, we head right next door to Fujiya Market. Walk in the door and expect to be greeted with a welcoming "irashaimase" from the staff. They're welcoming you to the store and their bountiful stock of imported milk tea, Japanese candy, and bento boxes prepared daily. Next to that is a fast-food teriyaki joint, and next to that is an Irish knickknack shop. Oh, wait, wrong continent. Anyhow, everyone needs a spot to get their Japanese fix. Who would have guessed Tempe is the place to go?
If you're into cooking at home and find yourself in need of anything from paprika to pita, look no further then Tempe-based Haji Baba. The marketplace section is small but packed, so take a chance, buy some, and figure out what to do with it once you are back home. The prices allow for an adventurous spirit. And while you're there, pick up some falafel or other pre-prepared items. Just in case.
Penzeys Spices
Galangal, epazote, mace, mahlab. If you're used to buying your spices from your local grocery store, you probably have no idea what we're talking about. All those foreign words are actual spices — not "spice," spices. You know that stuff that makes food taste better, right? You can find exotic spices like these and more at Penzeys. High-quality whole seeds, cracked seeds, ground seeds, regional spice mixtures — virtually every spice that you never knew you needed is right here at Tempe Marketplace. A serious must-visit for any spice-hound.
Queen Creek Olive Mill
Evie Carpenter
It's no wonder Arizona's best olive oil comes from the happy trees at Queen Creek Olive Mill. For more a decade, the East Valley olive oil producers have been sustainably farming the best olive varieties for our arid climate. The pesticide-free olives are harvested at just the right time and then cold-pressed into extra virgin olive oil. The oils have a smooth nutty flavor, with just a hint of sweetness that you won't find in your average grocery-store brand. And don't even get us started on Queen Creek's balsamic vinegars. The barrel-aged vinegar is made from the highest-quality Modena grapes and imported from Italy; once QCOM gets hold of the vinegar, it makes it better with the addition of strawberries or mountain figs. Look out for unique flavors, like the tangy blood orange olive oil, white balsamic crema, or the spicy chili-infused oil, sure to give a kick to your favorite recipe. If you can't make the trek to visit the mill, you can find QCOM's products at your local Whole Foods.

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