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Saturdays, fall through spring, take on special meaning for gourmets who are looking to score some extra-special treasures for just a few shekels. Perhaps it's a bottle of little-known boutique wine, an obscure blue-veined cheese, artisan breads or organic produce. We find them here, all crafted or grown by independent vendors, and at factory-to-us pricing. Fair-weather Saturdays are when Guerithault operates his farmer's market, set up in the parking lot of his restaurant from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market opens for the new season on October 13.

If all this shopping makes us hungry, we can pause to snack on some of chef Guerithault's mouth-watering creations. Made-to-order crepes always make their way to our mouths, the whisper-thin pancakes filled with any number of delectables, savory or sweet. Duck tamales delight our taste buds, and soufflés satisfy even our most formidable stomach rumblings.

Hey, we may be cheap, but with Vincent's market, we can still be classy, too.

Sportsman's has won our Best of Phoenix so many years now that some might think we own stock in this popular wine shop. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is that Sportsman's continues to surprise and delight with the breadth of its selection, expertise of knowledge, and flat-out friendliness to connoisseurs as well as people who couldn't find their way out of a vat of Boone's Farm. Looking for that perfect pairing for buffalo? Sportsman's recommends a 1997 Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. What's good with spicy Asian food? Select a 2000 Alexander Valley Vineyards Gewürztraminer. And for those stumped about what to serve with shellfish, a 1998 Merryvale Chardonnay "Reserve" is just the ticket (not for lobster, though). Sportsman's is easily the best game in town.
A friend of ours suggested we try losing some extra inches on one of those low-carb diets, but we just laughed. He's lucky we didn't belt him for suggesting we give up our romance with Willo Bakery, our favorite place to load up on the best-tasting carbs in town. Our pal doesn't realize that life without Willo's currant walnut rolls is a life not worth living. Once there, it's tough to decide between Willo's mind-bendingly perfect sourdough loaf and its tasty signature Willo Round. Then there's our favorite crusty Sunflower Bread, hard on the outside, dense and springy on the inside. We usually wind up taking all of these home, with a slice of focaccia thrown in for good measure. (And since we're not reducing, a quick cruise of the sweets counter is always part of our visit.) Everything at Willo is baked fresh daily, natch, and its bakers add no sugar, meat, dairy or preservatives to any of their magnificent breads. This attention to pure ingredients is our idea of sensible eating, and so we suggest a daily diet of Willo baked goods, pronto.

Readers' Choice: Karsh's Bakery

At Litchfield Park Organics, owners Shaun and Cathy Kalos stock a beautiful variety of organic produce from local vendors, and from California (the lettuce is so fresh and beautiful we want to roll around in it naked). Primary shoppers for fruits and veggies are co-op members, but for the rest of us, they also stock organic pasta, cereal, canned goods, milk, cheese and butter. Beef comes from natural (what a word!) cows in Goodyear, smoothies are all preservative- and chemical-free, and Cathy even makes 100 percent healthful takeout sandwiches in her spare time. Even when we're not hungry, this place makes us feel better just knowing it's out there.
When we say, "Pass the cheese, please," it's no easy proposition. It takes several trips to cart over the more than 60 varieties the Duck brings in from around the world. This is a virtual tour of the classiest cheeses from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, England, Belgium, and, of course, the good old U.S.A. Exploring for l'Explorateur, a triple-cream cheese with almost as much butterfat as butter? The Duck's got it. Salty, spicy Mimolette Cheddar is on the menu, too, along with Port Salut (made by Trappist monks), Bruder Basil, Chevagne (goat's milk) and gorgeous, hard Parmigiano Reggiano.

Not sure which is your favorite? The Duck offers free samples. If you like it, buy a pound, and they'll simply put it on your Duck bill.

We had to walk out the front door of this place and take a peek down Central Avenue to be sure we really were still in Phoenix. With mismatched furnishings and concrete floors, Lux evokes the urban grunge vibe of Austin or Denver, but here it is, nestled in a small building that used to house -- well, that's not important. Nothing could be as cool as Lux.

The coffee's rich -- "like butter," one regular insists. The art is better than what hangs on the walls of many Phoenix galleries, and the clientele makes for hours of people-watching. Step into Lux and you'll feel like there's a scene in the Valley -- and you're part of it.

There's a buzz in this place, and it's not just the caffeine.

There are those who still mourn the (d)evolution of Gold Bar Espresso, the funky Tempe coffee house that sprawled in an old bank on Southern Avenue, using the vault for poetry readings and the drive-in to make business boom. Gold Bar moved last year to an old TCBY across the street, a victim of landlord battles, and the regulars swore they'd boycott the replacement. But even some of the most loyal Gold Bar patrons haven't been able to curb their curiosity, and have ventured into the new establishment. Gone are the tchotchkes, the wicker and the posters lining the walls that made Gold Bar more like a lived-in dorm room than a place where you'd want to eat and drink.

In fact, everything funky is gone, and we have to admit we don't mind so much. Xtreme Bean is clean and sleek, with beautiful wood tables and Internet access. The front counter is beautifully appointed and the employees wear headsets. The coffee's even pretty good.

Sometimes, sterile's not such a bad thing.

Readers' Choice for Best Coffee House: Starbucks

We used to think that a worthwhile place to enjoy the British tradition of midday tea was as hard to find as a cool patch of shade in our town -- until we discovered Teeter House. Tucked away in downtown's Heritage Square, this posh spot offers several different tea ceremonies five days a week. We go straight for homemade scones and Devonshire cream, and always order traditional finger sandwiches and a pile of the candied walnuts made fresh here every day. Dessert is fussy, just the way we like it: teacakes, petit fours, and wee éclairs just like Mum used to make (or would have, had she been British). Teeter House also serves a four-course evening high tea on the fourth Thursday of every month; otherwise, it's open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.; reservations are recommended.
Back in 1990, Meng Truong took a gamble and opened a 2,000-square-foot Asian grocery store. His risk paid off, because today, he is owner of a thriving 52,000-square-foot international bazaar. We've tried to take inventory of all the exotica carried here, and it's impossible, sort of "It's a Small World" of foods and accessories. Besides, we find it difficult to pry ourselves away from the seafood, which is an absolutely incredible display of live and fresh frozen varieties -- some we've never even heard of. Those googly eyes are watching us from their tanks, wondering which of them will be our dinner. Perhaps it'll be live crab, mussels, clams, tilapia, catfish or carp. It could anchovy, flounder or barracuda. Might be salmon belly and head, gaspergou, squid, cuttlefish or massive shrimp. Possibly, we'll just sample them all, like our own private sushi bar. Here, fishy fishy...
Many of the specialty breads here are wonderful -- the olive bread is a standout -- but if a bakery's all-important baguette doesn't deliver, then all the chocolate-cherry loaves in the world don't make up for the failure. The simple baguettes at Arizona Bread Company -- and the slightly larger and terribly useful sandwich-size baguettes -- display all the hallmarks of a good loaf of bread: thick, crisp crusts; chewy, airy centers; and a vaguely nutty, but never yeasty, flavor. Serve them with soup or salad, and call it a meal.

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