Chow Bella

90: Christina Barrueta

From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.

Today, a woman who arrived in Phoenix with cream pies in tow.

Tastemaker 90: Christina Barrueta

Although a picky eater when young, Christina Barrueta's love affair with food started in her teens with PBS cooking shows and a subscription to Gourmet magazine. A Boston transplant, she is devoted to exploring the fabulous food, wine, and cocktails that Phoenix has to offer. We follow her food explorations on Twitter, chowhound and in her writing for Arizona Vines and Wines magazine, where she spotlights her favorite local restaurants.

I arrived in Phoenix with... my husband, a car overflowing with houseplants, and a cooler full of tasty souvenirs picked up along our cross-country trip, including green chili from Duran Central Pharmacy in Albuquerque and cream pies from A Slice of Pie in Rolla, Missouri.

If sitting down to dinner for six, my five companions would be... Hmmm . . . too many current heroes to name, so I will go with a fictional couple, the witty cocktail lovers Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man, world travelers and gourmands Vincent and Mary Price (authors of one of my favorite cookbooks), and my husband. We met in a restaurant, naturally.

One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat... is FnB. Not only am I a huge fan of the cozy atmosphere, wonderful food, and friendly owners -- Pavle Milic and Chef Charleen Badman -- but it's the perfect spot to bring visitors who want to sample our local bounty prepared in delicious ways and then wash it down with excellent Arizona wine.

One menu item this city could do without... bland Mexican food.

My last meal in Phoenix would be... at family-owned Hana Japanese, where I would ask Lori Hashimoto to ply me with dish after dish of pristine seafood until I can eat no more.

The Tastemakers so far: 100: Tracy Dempsey 99: Craig DeMarco 98: Lara Mulchay 97: M.J. Coe 96: Betty Alatorre de Hong 95: Eric Schaefer 94: Hanna Gabrielsson 93: Shinji Kurita 92: Silvana Salcido Esparza 91: Mike Pitt

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