Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
11: Peach picking at Schnepf Farms
It's officially peach-picking season in Arizona. That means, of course, that thousands of peach-loving folks will be making their annual trek to Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek this weekend for the farm's ultra-popular Peach Festival.
Schnepf Farms is the biggest peach-growing operation in the state, boasting somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 peach trees spread across 50 acres. Starting in the 1960s, founders Ray and Thora Schnepf planted palm trees, shade trees, corn, and peach trees on more than 5,000 acres in the southeast Valley, in what was then the small, tight-knit desert farming community of Rittenhouse.
Today, Rittenhouse is better known as the Town of Queen Creek. The area is not the far-flung farming village it was once, but Schnepf Farms remains a family-run operation. In the 1990s, Mark and Carrie Schnepf helped transition Schnepf's from a large commercial farm into a thriving agritourism business.
Schnepf Farm is now home to a country store, bakery, and multi-acre U-pick organic garden. It hosts several seasonal festivals throughout the year, including one of the Valley's biggest fall festivals, the Pumpkin and Chili Party.
The farm is also a popular outdoor wedding venue, and more recently, Schnepf Farms got into the glamping business. The Cozy Peach, which launched earlier this spring, is the farm's new hotel rental park, featuring eight fully restored vintage airstreams available that are available for nightly rental.
But the biggest spring signature event at Schnepf Farm's remains the Peach Festival, which draws thousands of peach-lovers every May. The event is packed with peach-related activities, including the annual peach pancake breakfast, a peach-tasting pavilion, and of course, hayrides out into the orchards so you can pick organic peaches until your heart's content. It's always crowded, and not nearly as cost-effective as buying peaches at your local supermarket. But there's something immensely satisfying about biting into a firm, sweet, tree-ripened peach that you picked yourself.
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You can find out more about the Peach Festival and buy tickets on the Schnepf Farms website. Apart from peaches, right now you can also pick summer squash, spinach, lettuce, carrots, turnips, beets and, turnips in the farm's garden, along with several fresh herbs.
There aren't many places in the Valley where you can drop in and pick fresh peaches off the tree, clip some fresh larkspur and lavender from the garden, and then wander into a country store for some fresh peach-blackberry pie. Even when you have to fight the crowds, Schnepf Farms is a breath of fresh air.
Schnepf Farms. 24610 South Rittenhouse Road, Queen Creek; 480-987-3100.
Thursday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Monday through Wednesday.
The Essentials So Far:
50: Soul food platter at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts
48: Grilled squid and other specialties at Andreoli Italian Grocer
47: I-10 Nachos at Cocina 10
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans
45: The Haturo Sub Sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff
44: Zookz at Zookz
43: Jade Red Chicken at Chino Bandido
42: Tasting menu at Quiessence at The Farm
41: Single-origin Papua New Guinea Bar at Zak's Chocolate
40: Green chile at Casa Reynoso
39: Brûlée burger from Paradise Valley Burger Company
38: Hand-pulled noodles from China Magic Noodle House
37: Carne adovada sliders at Dick's Hideaway
36: Crispy Pig Ear and Amaro cocktails from Crudo
35: Chile-laced specialties from Cafe Ga Hyang
34: Martinis at AZ88
33: Nooner at Duck & Decanter
32: Eggs Maximilian at Harlow's Cafe
31: Beef Tacos from Asadero Norte De Sonora
30: Orange Blossom from Huss Brewing Company
29: Rye bread from Yasha From Russia
28: Scotch Beef and Mashed Potatoes from Tarbell's
27: Griddled Corn Cakes and Ramona Farms Super Food Salad at Phoenix City Grille
26: Soup from Reathrey Sekong
25: Lamb tongue sandwich at Haji Baba
24: The Special at Grand Avenue Pizza Company
23: Red chile at Elmer's Tacos
22: Marranitos at La Purisima Bakery
21: Kronuts from Karl's Bakery
20: Beef pies at Chou's Kitchen
19: Bavarian pretzels & schnitzel at Haus Murphy's
18: Red chili burro and sopapillas from Los Dos Molinos
17: Camelback Soda at The Sugar Bowl
16: Brisket Sandwich at Chelsea's Kitchen
15: Taco Hazz from Ta'Carbon
14: Barnone at Agritopia
13: The Jazzy from Emerson Fry Bread
12: Flour Tortillas from La Sonorense Tortilla Factory
11: Peach picking at Schnepf Farms