If you've eaten an organic salad during the winter in snowbound cities such as New York or Chicago, then there's a good chance you've eaten lettuce grown by none other than Arizona's own Duncan Family Farms. With more than 8,000 acres of organic farmland in Arizona and California, this giant farm produces massive amounts of lettuce and greens to processors who sell the produce as bagged salads. And Valley residents have probably seen some of the greens as they're growing; head west on the I-10 and you'll drive right by the farm's headquarters in Buckeye, where Arnott Duncan, a fourth-generation farmer, and wife Kathleen head up operations for one of the leading organic farms in the country. Duncan Family Farms grows everything from romaine to tatsoi, as well as beets and herbs — a fact that's sure to impress those who thought Arizona offered only drought-resistant plants.

www.duncanfamilyfarms.com
FnB Restaurant
Debby Wolvos

You say "desert" and people picture cacti and tumbleweeds, but the truth is you can grow a hell of a lot of veggies in this state. If you don't believe us, just look at the menu at FnB Restaurant in Scottsdale, where James Beard Award-nominated chef Charleen Badman crafts seasonal cuisine that showcases the very best of the Arizona terroir. Sourcing local ingredients from top farmers and artisans around the Valley and state, Badman proves that Southwestern cuisine is about a lot more than just nopales. When in season, she showcases Arizona's excellent heirloom tomatoes and pristine peppers, and she pairs squash blossoms with halloumi, chermoula, lemon, and olives. The bold flavors, tinged with international influences, take Arizona cuisine to a whole new level.

Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
Natalie Miranda

From what we can tell, pastry chef Country Velador gets inspired by everything and anything around her. That, of course, includes our desert landscape, an influence you can taste in creations such as Super Chunk Sweets and Treats' Mesquite Chocolate Chip cookie. With the addition of just a hint of smoky Mesquite flavor, Velador, who owns and runs the shop with her husband, Sergio, takes a classic cookie and turns it into something uniquely inspired by the Southwest. In fact, local flavors are peppered throughout the shop's offerings, including the fig and blue cheese caramels, pepita and cayenne brittle, and honeycomb made with local honey. The couple searched far and wide for the perfectly flavored honey, which they also use to make honeycomb ice cream. We think they're sweet.

There's a reason everyone's talking about Couscous Express, a new restaurant in town. Everything about it evokes the unexpected, from its focused regional North African cuisine to its bulk couscous available by the pound to its peanut butter-based date shakes — all of it packed into a quirky little space on 19th Street and McDowell. The date shake in question is unlike any other; no ice cream here, just a drink highlighted by natural date sweetness, peanut butter, and nutmeg. It's different. Somehow, it works, always leaving us wanting more.

Talavera
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Arizona's desert landscape is gorgeous. We don't think there's anyone who could argue against that. But where is the best spot to gaze upon the desert's beauty? One visit to the patio at Talavera Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North and the answer will be clear. If the sun is setting just beyond the mountains to the west, and the sky is filling with pinks and reds, you won't even have breath to say anything. Phoenix's skyline will be visible in the south — just enough to remind you of where you are but far enough away that you could also easily forget.

Readers Choice: Sanctuary on Camelback

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of