Greater Phoenix is a titillating town if you're a foodie. Distinctive flavors permeate menus; restaurants, and bars offer indoor/outdoor eating and drinking areas; and a slew of thrilling chefs slave over sizzling stoves throughout the Valley of the Sun.
Don't miss ultra-hip Fez's (3815 N. Central Ave, Phoenix; 602-287-8700; entr?es $11-17) "American fare with a Moroccan flair," served in stylish surrounds, or gay Senator Ken Cheuvront's bistro Cheuvront (1326 N. Central Ave, Phoenix; 602-307-0022; entr?es $20-40) for wonderful wines, great ambience and Southwestern and Mediterranean flavors. Another favorite is Ticoz (5114 N. 17th St, Phoenix; 602-200-0160; entr?es $8-16). You've got to love a resto-bar with a Mojito menu and Latin-inspired plates.
Zest (4117 N. 16th St, Phoenix; 602-274-7442; entr?es $13-35) is an upscale, neighborhood eatery that attracts a hip crowd and has won awards for best use of eggplant. Order the eggplant cheesecake and find out why. Top spot for shopped-out fashionistas in Old Town Scottsdale, Canal (7144 E. Stetson Dr, Scottsdale; 480-949-9000; www.canalaz.com; entr?es $11-30) specializes in contemporary American fusion fare, served in a super-chic room that is bisected by an illuminated catwalk. White walls, minimalist d?cor and health-conscious fare star at organic bistro, I AM (21 E. 6th St, Tempe; 480-491-5591; entr?es $9-12) at friendly college town Tempe's The Center. Spirulina and banana smoothies are on hand for those fresh out of the upstairs yoga studio, and organic wines, beers, sandwiches and salads adorn a simple but appetizing menu.
For an out-of-this-world brunch, head to Scottsdale's upscale mega-resort The Phoenician (6000 E. Camelback Rd.; 480-941-3755; $60) and dine out on the patio -- the buffet includes an entire room of desserts; or face similar sustenance quandaries at The Buttes' Top of the Rock (The Buttes, 2000 Westcourt Way; 602-225-9000; $40) in Tempe or at Southwestern-flavored SWB at the Hyatt (7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Scottsdale; 480-444-1234; entr?es $18-28).
Raising the Bar
It's dimly lit and the entrance is hidden, speakeasy-style, out back, but it's worth making the effort to sidle into Scottsdale Kazimierz World Wine Bar (7137 E. Stetson Dr, Scottsdale; 480-946-3004;), home of a 2,000-bottle wine cellar. Also in Scottsdale, join the stellar crowd at celebrity hotspots, Mondrian Scottsdale (7353 East Indian School Rd.; 480-308-1100), retro chic Hotel Valley Ho (6850 Main St.; 480-242-2000) and jade bar (Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, 5700 E. MacDonald Dr.; 480-948-2100).
Tempe's best Italian food and a stylish haven away from the milling hordes along Mill Avenue, Caffe Boa (398 S. Mill Avenue; 480/968-9112) is a casual, gay-popular Euro-style wine bar, boasting live jazz, a perfect people-watching patio and an impressive wine list. There's plenty of room at Arizona's largest brewery, Four Peaks (1340 E. 8th St, Tempe; 480-303-9967). A 72-foot bar spans the former creamery and award-winning food is served to hordes of students, academics and in-the-know locals, including local gay couples.
If you want to take the tastes of this delicious desert town home with you, seek out a bottle of Queen Creek Olive Oil. Arizona's first working olive farm and mill presses Arizona's finest extra virgin olive oil from nine different varieties of olives. Never mind stocking up on cactus-shaped souvenirs. Not only is the prickly pear cactus full of unexpected uses for desert survival, but it's available as jelly and jam at the store in the Desert Botanical Gardens and as vodka. Didn't get a chance to pick up anything while you were in town? Grab a few scorpion suckers at the concessions at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport for a taste of the Valley of the Sun that you definitely won't forget.