Best Asian Market 2012 | Mekong Market | Food & Drink | Phoenix

Colorful parrot fish? Check. Purple yams? Check. Asian stink fruit? Check. Whatever you're looking for in the way of exotic Asian goods, Mekong's got it. The Vietnamese market has one of the most beautiful displays of fish in the Valley, plus loads of exotic produce, and the shelves are stocked high with various fish oils, spices, dried snacks, and canned goods from coffees to sweet milks. The supermarket also has an extensive frozen food selection that you may need a translator to navigate, and next door you'll find a small Chinese bakery that produces delicious meaty steamed buns and flaky pastries. The best part of this market is the super-low prices – everything starts off cheap and then they give you 10 percent off at the register. Score!

If you're looking for all-natural hormone-free meat, then look no further than this old-fashioned butcher shop. The Meat Shop brings in fresh pork from its farm in Palo Verde and sources its fresh chickens from Ridgeview Farms in Paulden. The shop's grass-fed beef is brought in from Colorado's Black Mountain Cattle Co. and aged 14 days before it's handed over to you in rib-eye form. And the bacon — it's the best in town. So good that it practically flies out of the case. Call in your bacon order ahead of time to make sure you don't miss out!

There's making a cake (grab a box of store mix and a tub of frosting) and then there's making a cake. If you've ever wanted to try your hand at making one of those as-seen-on-TV fabulous cakes, ABC Baking should be your very first stop. Offering everything from decorating classes to get you started on your masterpiece to the perfect-size cake box in which to wrap things up, ABC has anything and everything you will ever need to get your bake on. Shelves are stocked full of edible cupcake decorations, delicious cake filling and frosting, every size cake pan imaginable, and hard-to-find baking staples like Fluid Flex, Sweetex, and high-quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder. It's a baker's heaven!

From nationwide retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond to restaurant suppliers like Standard Restaurant Supply, there's no shortage of places in the Valley to stock your kitchen cabinets and drawers with pots, pans, and utensils. But when you need locally handcrafted glasses, knives, and cookware, there's only one place to go: Practical Art. There you can find steak and chefs' knives crafted by Phoenician Lee Ziertan alongside natural-edge woodcutting boards hand-sanded and finished by James K. Rogers. There's no telling what local wares Practical Art might have for your kitchen at any given time: turned-wood rolling pins and salt cellars, ceramic oil pourers, forged iron cheese cutters, wood and glass bottle stoppers, wine bottle holders, blown-glass drinking glasses, and recycled glass coasters, plus other utensils and accouterments.

Excitement over housewares is the surest sign of adulthood-inspired domesticity. Though some fear this development will result in terminal boring-ness, others who embrace the way of the KitchenAid will find kindred cooking spirits at Kitchen Switchin', a consignment boutique full of gently used bakeware, appliances, cookbooks, and almost anything else your inner chef might need. Kitschy pieces in vintage color schemes such as pistachio, baby pink, and avocado sit next to covetable brands like Le Creuset and Jenn-Air on the shop's shelves — but not for long. That means you'd best make like an egg and beat it over to the Seventh Avenue bungalow before someone else snaps 'em up.

Some people can make do with any old kitchen knife. For others, seeking out a perfectly honed blade with the ultimate weight, tang, grip, and balance is a lifelong quest. Those in the latter category ought to be regulars at the Phoenix Knife House, a culinary store that specializes in Japanese and custom-made professional-quality cutlery and also provides sharpening and repair services. We're not talking about J.A. Henckels or Shun knives here. Phoenix Knife House sells premium Japanese brands of such high quality that you might not have even heard of them, including Sugimoto, Yoshikane, Takeda, and Mcusta Zanmai. And the selection doesn't stop at knives. Take home professional accessories including knife rolls, sharpening stones, chef jackets, utensils, books, and if you're lucky, a little bit of knowledge from the friendly staff.

Best Science Experiment on an Ice Cream Cone

Sub Zero Ice Cream

Forget those slow-churned, soft-serve, frozen confections of the past. If you're in the mood for dessert and a show, get your ice cream flash-frozen at Sub Zero Ice Cream in Gilbert. The folks at this national chain claim their ice cream is the creamiest around because it's made without ice — just liquid nitrogen, which freezes your ice cream in dramatic, fog-filled fashion. We're not so sure about Sub Zero's marketing campaign — the saying "Cryogenics + Mixins = Delicious" is frankly not too appetizing. But we do love the show, which you can see for yourself during our conversation with Sub Zero's Gilbert operations manager at

Despite what we may have learned in human anatomy, we consider the stomach and heart to be directly connected, which would explain why we're so enamored with Kevin Binkley. Executive chef and owner of the award-winning Binkley's Restaurant and Café Bink in Cave Creek, Kevin Binkley delivers food at its finest — and its most creative.

Admittedly always playing with his food, Binkley constantly is conducting culinary experiments, whether it's turning olive oil into a solid, using transglutaminase to create two-sided surf and turf, or freezing blackberries to shatter them into powder. Many of his deliciously deviant dishes are created with the help of liquid nitrogen, which Binkley stores in a large tank in the back of his kitchen and refills weekly. It's something you'll find in only a handful of kitchens in the Southwest. To Binkley, its potential is limitless. To challenge himself and his team, Binkley changes his menu daily. At least three times a week, Binkley and his chefs visit Two Wash Ranch to collect fresh farm produce so that, ultimately, what they take out of the ground each morning is sitting on your plate at night (albeit in a different form or texture than you would normally expect). It's his use of fresh ingredients fashioned into fresh concepts that's been giving our taste buds goose bumps since 2004 and getting him James Beard Award nominations since 2005. Now if only he could ease our long-distance love affair by opening up a location closer to Phoenix. Ah, well, we can dream. See a slideshow here.

Suspended horseradish with local hydroponic micro-shoots, dehydrated Pacific Ocean water, nonenzymatic caramelized fork-tender short ribs with red-injected veal reduction, viscous coconut milk emulsion.

Doesn't sound like your typical wine dinner, does it? Well, all those things and more were served by chef Justin Beckett and crew at the first-ever Feed Your Dreams Dinner and Awards ceremony, presented by The Up Agency and hosted by the Arizona Science Center. The five-course dinner sounded like a somewhat creepy science experiment, but the end result was nothing but pure culinary deliciousness. Chilled shrimp were served on top of black beans with crunchy corn nuts and creamy avocado, extra-tender short ribs were bathed in savory red wine juices, and dense coconut cake was blanketed with golden brown shredded coconut. But the evening wasn't just about food — it was also about helping local entrepreneurs with a passion for sustainable locally grown food and a drive to help make the world a better place. Beckett's Table and The Up Agency gave away $10,000 cash and a $10,000 marketing package to the lucky winners of the Feed Your Dreams contest, Bruce & Tina Leadbetter of Stone Hoe Gardens. Their plan to create lush vegetable gardens in parking lots, prisons, and vacant spaces beat out dozens of contest entries. All in all, it made for an educational dinner complete with wine pairings and plenty of plant sciences.

Dennis and Danielle McClung purchased their first home in the 'burbs of Mesa in 2009, hoping to transform their sparse backyard while teaching themselves how to grow/raise their own food. By mid-2010, they'd turned their backyard garden pool into a completely self-sufficient mini-farm that provides almost 100 percent of their family's food, 365 days a year. The solar-powered, aquaponic greenhouse has their backyard pool at the base of the farm providing a constantly replenishing supply of tilapia swimming around the bottom, with vegetables, fruits, and herbs growing under their greenhouse atop. Egg-laying chickens and milk-producing goats roam the rest of the yard. These urban farmers are really making a splash.

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