PHX Ranch Market essentials
I'm planning on making a trek down to Phoenix Ranch Market (III) when I have some time in the next couple of days. I know what MY favorite items are from what I've tried, but am hoping to benefit from everyone else's experience. So, what are your favorite standouts and "must-buy" items from Ranch Market? This includes the food court (best food, meat, aguas frescas, etc.), and the market itself for take-home goods.
Haven't eaten at the Ranch Market yet, but some items we buy to take home: Great bargains with produce (Wednesdays are additional one-day specials - this week things like limes 4 lbs/99, cherries .89/lb, canteloupe 6 lbs/.99), dried chiles, jamaica, tortillas, fresh tortilla chips, dried beans, fresh masa, cheese/queso (panela, asadero, cotija, Oaxacan string cheese), crema, mole paste (in plastic tubs), fresh lard, Tapatio hot sauce, fresh salsa (especially the salsa de molcajete roja), and in the meat department, always stock up on ranchera/flap steaks - great for stir-fries and carne asada - and pork shoulders to make carnitas when they're on sale (this week .78/lb). Thursdays are additional sales in the meat department where they run one-day specials. If they're grilling outside, we always get the pollo asado special - two whole grilled chickens, a dozen warm corn tortillas, and containers of salsa verde and salsa roja for $10.00.
I buy crema con sal in bulk. Tortillas, chorizo, queso fresco and the smallest chickens that I can find anywhere in the valley -- perfect for Zuni roasted chicken. I always buy beef cheeks, pork shoulder and flap meat when I'm there and hit the produce section pretty hard. All this shopping is made even better with a papaya-pineapple agua fresca in hand as well as a take-out container of rajas con crema from the food court.
Yup, just grilled up 4.5 pounds of those flap steaks this weekend. My carne marinade needs some work.
I am crazy about their salsa verde and salsa roja -- used to prefer the molcajete, but either they have changed the recipe or I've just tired of it. I like to get a tub of those dolce crystallized fruit things; they keep forever and make interesting garnishes or snacks. I never fail to get an assortment of New Mexico chile powders from the spice aisle, for my salsa blend, and a bunch of tropical flavored yogurts, and an assortment of cans of fruit nectars to satisfy my bellini obsession. Oh, and the little shaker-bottles of chile-salt for sprinkling on sliced fruit, if I'm out.
Last time I went, I could not find those fist-sized pink and white marshmallows that so thrill my nieces when they visit. Are those a seasonal item? Do they have a traditional use, beyond delighting the young at heart and making massive luscious S'Mores?
Foodwise, I am fond of the tortas and my favorites are the Cubano and the Mexicano. Both sandwiches are very large. As others have posted, there are very good deals on fresh produce and I usually pick up some nopalitos which are great on salads. Their selection of Mexican cheese is outstanding and my favorite agua fresca is the tamarindo.