Chow Bella

The 10 Best Things I Ate in Metro Phoenix in 2014

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Polenta Board from Crudo

If there's one thing Crudo has going for it -- besides great cuisine, excellent cocktails, and top-notch service -- it's that the restaurant constantly offers fun dining deals and specials. Crudo's twice-a-week family-style polenta boards are a perfect example. Chef Cullen Campbell serves wooden platters full of creamy polenta made from Hayden Flour Mills cornmeal along with themed toppings and meats. On any visit, you might get hay-smoked pork butt or Tenderbelly pork jowl, always with an array of house-made sides including sweet pickled garlic or a spicy giardinere. (3603 E. Indian School Road, 602-358-8666,

Vietnamese + Herb Fried Chicken from Welcome Chicken + Donuts

The second restaurant from Michael Babcock and Jenn Robinson -- the couple behind the already-successful Welcome Diner -- just opened in mid-November, but it's already become a destination for those seeking finger-lickingly good fried chicken and excellent artisan doughnuts. On the savory side of things the Vietnamese + Herb fried chicken has become a personal favorite. The combination of pungent sauce and fresh herbs makes this a well-balanced guilty pleasure made up of light, crisp batter and moist chicken meat. (1535 E. Buckeye Road, 602‑258-1655, chickenanddonuts)

Pineapple Li Hing Mui Ice Candy at Super Chunk Sweets and Treats

Certain flavors are hard to find here in Arizona, which may be part of the reason why Super Chunk Sweets and Treats' Pineapple Li Hing Mui Ice Candy resonates so strongly with me. The combination of sweet, fresh pineapple, and tart li hing powder is nothing new, but it brings back memories of time spent in Hawaiian paradise. During the summer, owners Country and Sergio Velador keep their candy shop's fridge stocked with these simple frozen treats. I'm already counting the days till next year's batch debuts. (7120 E. 6th Ave., #19, Scottsdale, 602-736-2383,

Sous Vide Octopus from T. Cook's

At T. Cook's at the Royal Palms, Chef Paul McCabe puts together beautiful and thoughtful cuisine that's probably best experienced through #PM31, the restaurant's weekly improvisational multi-course dining experience. Months later, I'm still thinking about the chef's Spanish octopus dish, which paired tender tentacles with black-eyed peas and a side of crunchy corn bread. The play on classic barbecue flavors and perfect execution make this my favorite octopus dish to date. (5200 E. Camelback Road, 602-808-0766,

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria