Best Meat Market 2013 | The Meat Shop | Food & Drink | Phoenix

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.

If you step into Singh Farms' Saturday market and are instantly filled with a sense of childlike whimsy, don't be alarmed. This market and farm easily could be dubbed the most delightful and magical place to buy local produce in the Phoenix area, with its large teapot sculptures, charming log cabin-style shop, and exquisite pink flowers guarding rows of planted veggies. But if super-fresh produce isn't your thing (you crazy so-and-so), then try out some French-tastic pastries and cuisine made by Chef Aurore de Beauduy of Vogue Bistro. Lavender shortbread, perfectly spiced lentil soup, delicate croissants, and peach bread pudding are just some of the delights in store for you if you drop in, but be warned: Singh Farms feels more like a vacation than a grocery store, and that transportation to a simpler time in a more fruitful place might just make you never want to leave.

There are plenty of reasons to adore downtown Gilbert. Liberty Market, Joe's Real BBQ, and The Farmhouse are just a few of the staples that put the town on the Valley's culinary map. Maybe that's because right on their back doorstep, there's access to the Saturday morning Gilbert Farmers Market. One of the main reasons to drop by this market is that Gilbert has quite a few area-specific farmers and growers that sell here only. Agritopia is one such farm, selling produce that's grown right down the road. Some other wares we adore at this weekly market are Muñeca Mexicana's mole poblano (made by Chow Bella's own Minerva Orduño Rincón) and Seize the Fork's greens-boosted Chew This granola bars. Though the Gilbert Farmer's Market is not as big as some of the others in the area, the vendors all seem to be putting out quality goods.

"Think globally, act locally."

"Farm to table."

"Slow food movement."

You hear the platitudes so often that they start to fade. Let's face it; talking about supporting local food is a lot easier than actually doing it. Thank goodness for the Good Food Allies. Last year, Natalie Morris and Jennifer Woods teamed up to walk the walk and spread the gospel about locally grown food in Arizona. The hallmark of their project, Good Food Finder, is as they put it, "an online directory of statewide family farmers and artisans and resource guide established to promote small food-based businesses, recognize the growth of Arizona's cultural biodiversity and artisanship and encourage sustainable small business practices."

That's a mouthful (pun intended), but what it means for consumers is that with just a few keystrokes we can find out who's growing lettuce locally, instead of buying it in a bag at Safeway. We think that's in very good taste, and we can't wait to see this project evolve and grow.

Countless people around the world go hungry every day — and Valley entrepreneurs Dustin Tessendorf and Joseph Tuson wanted to do something about it. The duo turned to technology as their answer to the problem, eventually creating an app that lets anyone provide a meal to someone in need just by dining or drinking at local restaurants and bars. The MealMatch app partners with dozens of local restaurants, each of which promises to give 30 cents (the average price of a meal in Africa) to a nonprofit organization somewhere else in the world when customers check in at their businesses using the app. It's a social experience, charity project, and loyalty program all rolled into one, since the app also lets diners collect stamps every time they hit a MealMatch spot. We always feel pretty good about supporting the Valley's local businesses — but when we can also help end world hunger by doing so? Well, we can definitely drink (and eat) to that.

It doesn't take a lot to convince us of the importance of eating your vegetables, but when it comes time for Pat Duncan's annual "Farmer in the House" dining series, we'll happily devour every leaf and sprout. Duncan has been hosting the spring dining series for a while now, holding a run of six-course wine-paired dinners with the Valley's top chefs and state's best wineries. Each of the menus, crafted by such notable names as Kevin Binkley and Vincent Guerithault, showcases the exotic fruits and vegetables of Duncan's boutique farm in Litchfield Park. If the veggie-friendly (though not strictly vegetarian) dinner doesn't have you feeling pretty good already, have an extra dose of good karma knowing that a portion of the proceeds from every event go to benefit the Association of Arizona Food Banks. Though not a competition, we have a feeling the chefs enjoy attempting to out-creative each other throughout the season.

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