Best Gelato 2013 | Cool Gelato Italiano | Food & Drink | Phoenix

When it comes to Italy's culinary gift bag of sweet treats, gelato, the Italian version of ice cream, may be the one we enjoy receiving the most. And at this real-deal gelato shop in Scottsdale, from Italian-born husband and wife team Alberto della Casa and Letizia de Lucia, it can be scooped up in 20 varieties. From the fresh and berry-heavy Fruits of the Forest to silky stracciatella with shaved dark chocolate interspersed in creamy fior di latte to seasonal creations like pecan pie, cinnamon roll, and Irish coffee, each is a scoop of luscious indulgence in a colorful plastic cup. The only thing missing is the bow.

Courtesy of Sweet Republic

Sweet Republic is the kind of place that takes us out of our ice cream comfort zone. At this bright, cheery spot, top-notch local and seasonal ingredients artfully find their way into small, handcrafted batches of flavors that encourage us to break free of our ice cream confines. There are made-from-scratch creations like luscious plum verbena, refreshing basil lime sorbet, and decadent honey blue cheese made with aged raw sheep's milk and local desert blossom honey. It's a good bet we may never peer into an ice cream case the same way again.

Jordyn Carias

This family-owned bakery, from Armenian natives David and Rose Kouyoumjian, may have a West Valley address, but thanks to pastries from France, Armenia, Poland, Germany, Italy, and Hungary, the scene's a sweetly international one. When the Kouyoumjians aren't busy filling bakery cases with a colorful display of delicate tiered cakes, fruit-filled strudels, and crunchy cookies, they're making loaves of fresh bread or packing premium cheeses, meats, and veggies into more than 10 kinds of massive sandwiches that won't leave customers from any country going home hungry.

Your dentist will hate us for turning you on to this place. It's literally a superstore of candy. There is a saltwater taffy department, people. Just about everything is sold individually or in bulk, and every item you remember from childhood is right here, stacked floor to (practically) ceiling. There's nothing fancy about Sweeties, but the help is as nice as can be. We guarantee you'll leave on a sugar high — as you drive to the dentist to get those fillings replaced after some time in the gumdrop aisle.

Let them eat cake? You don't have to tell us twice. From the flux of cake trends — red velvet, cake pops, and luxury cupcakes —to the parade of cake cable — Cake Boss, Cake Wars, Ace of Cakes — it's safe to say this country has gone absolutely bat-shit for batter. So where do pastry professionals and would-be wedding cake bakers go when they prefer their desserts DIY? It's as simple as ABC.

ABC Cake Decorating Supplies is an unexpected wonderland of cake-making essentials, from cake molds and candles to miniature newlyweds and marzipan flowers. Need a 20-pound bucket of fondant? How about cookie cutters in the shape of every U.S. state? Not sure where to begin? Try walking down the aisle dedicated almost entirely to sprinkles. ABC also offers cake-decorating classes to help you take your sweet skills to the next level. All the tools you could need and know-how to use them? Now that's just icing on the cake.

If you've got the guts to meander into the rather intimidating-looking Meat Shop on Buckeye Road just south of downtown Phoenix, a cornucopia of meat cuts will be at your disposal. If you don't, Meat Shop could probably supply you with some guts for purchase since all the butchery is done on-site. The shop specializes in additive-free, cruelty-free meats for all you bleeding hearts. It also serves up some of the highest-quality rashers of bacon, guanciale, and chorizo available in Phoenix. It's no wonder that many of the best local restaurants and snootiest foodies frequent the old-school butcher shop. You'll surely be the hit of your next barbecue if you drop into Meat Shop beforehand.

Remember the 1970s? When your mom would drag you to the health food store to buy items she couldn't just pick up in the grocery store — stuff like bran flakes and vitamins? We loved the smell of protein powder and handmade soap, looking at funky cookbooks and health manuals, wandering aisles packed with sprouty bread and energy bars.

Today, you can get all that stuff at the grocery store, assuming you hit up a Whole Foods or Sprouts (even the mainstream groceries like Safeway carry a wide selection) but we prefer a trip to Healthy Habit. Don't get us wrong, there's nothing old here (as in expired), it's just old-school all the way, with Birkenstocked clientele and sweet clerks. We take a deep, vitamin-scented breath and are transported back to a time when health food was exotic.

Like a spicy oasis in the desert, Baiz Market in Central Phoenix is a godsend for folks looking for cheap alternatives to their usual grocery routine. Turmeric, sumac, curry, and other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean spices can be bought on the cheap and in large quantities. Pillowy fresh pita bread, made in-house, is about a buck per bag of eight. You want rose water? Baiz has it. You want orange blossom water? Go to Baiz. You want dill weed water? Really? Okay, well Baiz has it, too. Best of all, the Al-Hana restaurant inside the market makes arguably the tastiest falafel sandwich in town. It's perfectly wrapped, packed with flavor and under $4. The market also makes its own halawa, Turkish delight, and a range of meat and veggie pies ready to grab and go. Basically, if you want to cook and eat like they do in the Middle East, go to Baiz.

The Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market represents a lot to its regulars. It seems Phoenix was a cultureless wasteland, behind the times in a lot of ways, but especially on the culinary scene. Suddenly, in 2005, there was hope for locavores and Valley farmers alike when the DPFM started its operation. Since then, the Saturday morning, Wednesday night open-air market has become a staple for downtowners looking to get a bite from a food truck or buy their produce fresh and from the source. After all, anyone who lives in the area knows grocery-shopping prospects are slim downtown to begin with, so to have the option to buy local and fresh right in the heart of the city is a true (convenient) pleasure. Maya's Farm, One Windmill, Horny Toad, and many other smaller farms all participate in the bi-weekly event, and so should you.

It's necessary to have nighttime farmers market options in Phoenix because once noon hits on a summer day, the other markets become unbearable. Luckily, a quick trip over to the West Valley from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays will bring you right to the Citadelle Plaza Twilight Market. If you've got a sweet tooth, drop by Torched Goodness and get a torched-to-order crème brûlée. However, one of the best gets is a bag of Frantic Foods' mesquite-roasted almonds, as evidenced by the fact that they tend to sell out quickly. Detlaff Farms and TJ Farms also will be there to satisfy your local produce cravings, which is good because the two small local farms aren't always at the other markets. Another Citadelle-specific find is Lebanese treats from Claudine's Kitchen — an ethnic delight rare in the Valley.

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