Best Piñata Shop 2015 | Importaciones Valentinas | La Vida | Phoenix

If you're not happy with the thought of smashing into a traditional star-shaped piñata, with colorful streamers flying from each of its cones, the folks at Importaciones Valentinas are here to make your custom piñata come to life. Bring in a photo, sketch, or just describe the piñata of your dreams and browse the impressive selection of imported Mexican candy with which to stuff the papier-mâché creation. Time to get that blindfold, stick, and first aid kit ready; it's going to be a smashing good time.

There are yerberias that focus largely on the mystical aspects of healing, and then there's Yerberia Botanica Gloria 2, an incense-perfumed shop heavily stocked with obscure herbs, barks, and seeds, as well as high-quality nutritional supplements, tinctures, and essential oils. Have a question as to what is best for an upset stomach, allergy attack, or unsightly rash? The two knowledgeable ladies behind the counter are there to help. And just in case you need an extra level of healing, there is an ample selection of religious votives for every need, as well as rosaries and religious imagery.

Best Place to Buy Mexican Furniture

Casa Decor

If your hacienda-style house seems empty, this dense store has large, darkly stained antique and new wood dining tables, comfortable and sturdy carved chairs to match, glazed and colorful talavera pottery. With an in-house repair and design team, Casa Decor can fix anything or create a custom furniture piece to suit your need — though it's hard to imagine this shop with a huge mix of Mexico- and Southwest-inspired furniture and décor won't have exactly what you need.

Best Place to Buy Mexican Tchotchkes

Mercado Mexico

The space may be a little dusty and a bit warm on a summer day, but inside this 30-plus-year-old shop is one of the Valley's best selection of traditional talavera pottery to fill the grandest of tables, clay pots for every kind of traditional Mexican cookery, and volcanic stone molcajetes and metates. The shopping doesn't have to stop there. Outfit yourself with straw hats or browse the extensive selection of pottery and steel sculptures found in the large patio.

Best Place to Buy Day of the Dead Treasures

Purple Lizard Boutique

Looking for the elusive Day of the Dead sugar skull? Or how about authentic embroidered Mexican clothing to dress up as a calavera? This jam-packed store has everything Day of the Dead-related, from calavera-adorned greeting cards to earrings, sugar skulls, and ceramic skulls, as well as colorful decorative calavera catrina dolls, elegantly and beautifully dressed. Spend an hour or two browsing this well-stocked boutique and see what other colorful treasure you can find.

Imagine this: cheese, chorizo, and cactus. We know what you're thinking. Who would dare to put cactus in something you eat, right? Well, a lot of people, actually. It's more commonly called nopales and is a staple in Mexican food, especially that of central Mexico. If you look carefully, you can find it on the menus of many Mexican restaurants around the city, but our favorite use has to be in the queso fundido at Asi Es La Vida. It acts almost as a green chile in the cheesy dip and it mingles well with the spicy chorizo and hearty mushrooms. Grab a chip, take a dip, and prepare to be a convert. And we promise there won't be a spine in sight.

Readers Choice: Barrio Cafe

The agave spirit revolution is coming, as the smoky mezcal variant rightfully becomes more and more familiar to tequila drinkers, leaving room for plenty more curiosity for what's next. "What is next?" is a question best fielded by Travis Nass at the Last Drop Bar at the Hermosa Inn, in Paradise Valley. Here, Nass explores categories of agave spirits previously unknown to anyone even fairly well-versed with the territory, with spirits like sotol, distilled from baked, mature Desert Spoon plants in Chihuahua — essentially, a single-varietal spirit. Try his El Ultimo, which mixes sotol with green chartreuse and Chareau, an aloe vera liqueur.

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