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.
Rocket Fizz
Gone are the days when kids would pop by the local candy shop for penny candies and licorice whips on their way home from school. Now, they're more likely to be purchasing iPhone apps than Hershey bars. But we still can get our nostalgia fix at Rocket Fizz, where owners Brad and Kim Fry and their kids offer up Gobstoppers, saltwater taffy, and Twix bars with as much zeal as Sammy Davis Jr.'s Candy Man. The Frys stock more than 600 varieties of pop (we don't dare use the modern vernacular of "soda" here), including Brain Wash cola, Flathead Lake huckleberry, and the many crazy flavors of Jones Soda Co. You'll also find a ton of old-school and rare candies such as Bueno bars and Twin Bing. One look at the wall of saltwater taffy and the coolers of ice-cold birch beer and cola and it's hard not to squeal like, well, a kid in a candy store.
Have you noticed how all the cool parties have those DIY candy buffets, where you can fill cute bags and cups with brightly colored confections? Feeling as if you may not have the skills to pull it all together? That is where Chandler-based Couture Candy Co. comes in. They have it down and will do all the work for you. Think tables full of glass jars loaded with candy and colorful lollipops scattered about. If it involves candy and you want it looking cool, the best place in town to tap is Couture Candy Co.
Cupcake stands, you say? How very 2010 of you! The "it" way to serve up cupcakes is on floating, light-up, or suspended towers. Cake Hole Project is the combined brainchild of an architect and a surveyor. These funky contemporary designs come in all shapes and sizes, from tabletop models to twirling, ceiling-mounted numbers. Throwing a small tea for four? No problem, because Cake Hole Project has displays for eight cupcakes. For bigger bashes, the company makes crazy towers for up to 40 cupcakes. Have something else in mind? Reach out to these creatives, because they offer custom designs too. Cupcake lovers, unite!

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of