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What changed in your kitchen when you moved to Phoenix?

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We're less than a week away from our move from Colorado to the Phoenix area. In fact, I'm writing this from a hotel lobby while my husband is still asleep. First let us observe a moment of silence for my gas cooktop; our new home is in an area where natural gas isn't available, boo hoo.

I know some things will change when I'm in my new kitchen:

1) Everything I learned about baking after moving from Atlanta to Denver I must now unlearn.

2) I'm leaving behind a wonderful spice shop in Littleton CO. It's something like Penzeys but with about a zillion individual spices and herbs available by the ounce in addition to spice mixes by the bottle. Is there anything like that in the Phoenix area?

3) I'm looking forward to fresh local produce all year round, in contrast to Colorado's growing season of about seven minutes. Any recommendations for farmer's markets? (We'll be just west of Goodyear.) I've already read about the Glendale evening farmer's market and that sounds as though it's well worth the drive. I've also done some research on localharvest.org but tell me if there's one resource that's your very favorite.

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  1. There's a Penzeys in southern Scottsdale. I can't think of an independent shop in the Phoenix Metro Area that rivals Penzeys for spice selection.

    Here are some threads on Phoenix-area farmer's markets.Keep in mind that we have a sort of inverted growing season. The most varied local produce is generally obtainable in the winter. During the summer, there are some local crops available, but the variety narrows and focuses on items likes melons which do well in the heat.

    http://bit.ly/bjw1TG

    3 Replies
    1. re: exit2lef

      You know, I do believe that is the store that Barbara Fenzel was referencing. Did not put it together for the OP, until I saw your "North Scottsdale" reference. Knew that sounded familiar.

      Thanks for jogging the old-guy's memory.

      Hunt

      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Penzey's
        3310 N Hayden Rd
        Scottsdale, AZ
        (480) 990-7709
        Mon.-Fri.: 9:30AM - 5:30PM
        Sat.: 9:30AM - 5:00PM
        Sun.: 11:00AM - 5:00PM

      2. re: exit2lef

        Our kitchen is never without key limes, which we buy in the Mexican-themed markets such as Food City or Ranch Market.

        I, too, had to learn to use an electric stove. After six years I still have occasional mishaps due to thinking a burner is off or on when it's not, but most of the time it's adequate.

        We find it too hot to cook outside during the very hottest part of the summer unless it's something that grills really quickly like sausages.

        For the most part I stopped cooking Mexican food because it's everywhere and so easy to access.

        -----
        Food City
        1940 W Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ

      3. - You can grow a lot of herbs/spices here...especially is you have a place that gets morning sun but afternoon shade. There are some plants like basil and rosemary, however, that do fine in the hot spots.

        - some of the ethnic markets have a good variety of spices. There are several Hispanic chains, for example, where you can get loads of dried chilis and unique spices to create your own mixes.

        - get yourself a grill (or two). You can cook outside year-round here and you don't have to heat up the house.

        1. We came here from Seattle about ten years ago now. Some of the changes I've made include:

          I don't cook nearly as much fish as I used to. We still eat a lot of it but not like we did and not as much variety as we used to buy and eat

          We cooked outside a lot up there but during the summer months I almost cook exclusively outside here. My kitchen, with too many poor south facing windows, gets very warm and I do all I can to keep that situation from getting worse. I"ve learned how versatile our outdoor cookers(a gas grill and a big green egg) can be.

          If I do cook indoors in the summer I try to do it in the morning when it's cooler.

          I eat more cold food than I used to, again especially in summer months

          I've learned to lovetomatoes in the spring, peaches in May, corn in june, and chile peppers in the late summer and fall months

          I used a LOT of citrus during hte months of the year when my trees are loaded. I may miss the fish and summer produce in the northwest but fully embrace the citrus available here. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert...you can pretty much find citrus on our table at some point everyday when our trees have fruit.

          And I've learned to cooked on an electric stove. I'd still prefer gas but I think you'll find once you learn to adapt(I typically have a couple burners going to manage temperature changes for instance) there won't be a noticeable change in your cooking. The first thing I did when we moved in was replace the range that was here and that helped a lot as well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ziggylu

            "I eat more cold food than I used to, again especially in summer months"

            For me, it means more Sauvignon Blanc, than we normally consumed in DEN.

            Also, we do grill every night of the year. However, though I had to often dig the grill out of a drift, I did that often in DEN too... Now, I just make sure the misters are going full-tilt.

            "I eat more cold food than I used to, again especially in summer months"

            My wife shares this thought. Some years ago, we bought a "toaster-oven," and I will admit that it gets used more often in the Summer - even with the misting system.

            PHX does have less gas, than does DEN, or NOLA. Still, we've usually had electric, so this was not a big deal for my wife. We'd have gas, but we'd have to pay for a 15 block connection, so none.

            Hunt

          2. I'll reiterate what's already been posted. It's very easy to grow herbs here. You can also find fresh herbs in Asian markets like Lee Lee for next to nothing. Spices can also be ordered online, but places like the Ranch Market and Lee Lee have a pretty good selection as well.

            Like ziggylu, I cook outside almost all summer long to avoid adding more heat to the house. We're also on the electric company's Time of Use plan which charges a high rate during on-peak hours (usually early evening) and a super low rate during off-peak hours. Cooking on the gas grill outside keeps me from using my electric appliances and keeps the a/c from working even harder than it already does.

            I love the peaches that I pick at Schnepf farms. They are like little drops of sunshine. The citrus can't be beat. Local tangelos are exquisite and make divine OJ. Grapefruit are sweet and juicy. The lemons....oh my the lemons...my mother's lemon tree grows some heavenly lemons that we turn into delicious lemon pies, lemonade, lemon juice for cooking all year, etc. You can get excellent local olive oil from Queen Creek Olive Mill. The Blood Orange Olive Oil makes amazing salad dressing. Right now I have a forest of dill growing in my garden that is 6+ feet tall. It's so fragrant, I've been using it in all kinds of stuff. I have an abundance of shelling peas too that are plump and sweet. Dates are fairly plentiful as well and make a great snack. There are all kinds of local honeys too. I think most people go for Orange Blossom honey, which is very fragrant and lovely, but I love the darker, richer mesquite honey.

            I love it here (was born/raised in Milwaukee). I even love the hot summers. It can be an adventure. Good luck on your move!

            -----
            Queen Creek Olive Mill
            25062 S Meridian Rd, Queen Creek, AZ 85242

            2 Replies
            1. re: Jen76

              I hate to tell you this but I'm the Bird of Ill Omen for peaches. When I moved to San Antonio TX in 1981, the Hill Country peaches available at roadside stands were the best ever. You could have dabbed a little nectar behind each ear and had all the boys swooning. From 1982 until I left in 1989 I never had another good Texas peach -- too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too something. Georgia peaches, of course, all come from South Carolina so those don't count. When we moved to Denver we had years of heavenly Western Slope Palisade peaches -- those crops have been miserable for the last two years. Hopefully Arizona will escape the Curse of the MandyCat.

              We opted for the Time of Use plan as well. Since we're now both retired and also early birds, that sounded like a winner. Our old grill wasn't worth moving but we'll be shopping for a new one quick smart.

              Thanks for the tip about local honeys and olive oils. The Blood Orange Olive Oil and the mesquite honey sound wonderful.

              Our backyard faces east so I'm hoping that morning sun/afternoon shade as recommended by another poster make for a good herb garden. I had good luck with herbs in Denver with raised planter beds and afternoon sun so I'm looking forward to even better results here. A six foot dill plant would be worth a trip to see; have you thought about offering it as a Chowhound tourist attraction?

              1. re: mandycat

                Ha! Unfortunately, the rest of our back yard leaves much to be desired, so no tourists in my back yard. ;)

                I hope you don't curse our peaches either! I love them!

                Hope your move goes smoothly.

            2. Interesting. We moved from New Orleans to Denver, and lived there for 20 years. My wife learned about high-altitude baking and the total lack of humidity.

              Twelve years ago, we moved to Phoenix, and she had to start all over again. Recipes with heavy annotations came back into alignment.

              You will miss the Rocky Ford cantaloupes, and the Palisades/Cedaredge peaches, but one can often get them down here too.

              We also found some very interesting AZ wines, from the Sonoita/Elgin area. Look for Dos Cabezas and the Callaghan.

              There is a spice shop, but the name escapes me. Barbara Fenzel, a local chef/cooking school director might have it on her Web site.

              Look into AJ's Fine Foods. Kind of a Tony's, with a bit of the old Toddie's (probably gone, before you moved to Denver - was in Greenwood Village). Not the cheapest, but some very interesting and esoteric fare.

              The PHX dining scene has changed recently, but two places that I feel are "must-dos" are Vincent's on Camelback - think Tante Louise, but with a SW bent, and NOCA. Here, Kevin Taylor comes to mind.

              That about covers it, from my perspective.

              PHX has a beauty all its own. It is vastly different than what we had in Colorado, but grand, none the less.

              One thing to get a bit used to is the extreme geographical size of PHX. It is over 500 Sq miles, so it's like driving from Boulder to Colorado Springs and still being in the same metro city.

              Also, welcome to the PHX board. Lot of great folk here. You will soon feel right at home.

              Enjoy,

              Hunt

              -----
              AJ's Fine Foods
              1836 S Val Vista Dr, Mesa, AZ 85204

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Tony's on Dry Creek is still going strong but, you're right, Toddie's was gone when we moved to Centennial in 2000. (Centennial is just south of Greenwood Village and was cobbled together out of bits and pieces of unincorporated Arapahoe County ten years ago.) I liked Tony's but didn't shop there very much because of their prices. It was one of the few places in Denver where you can get Colorado lamb. Very annoying – we were told that Colorado is one of the top lamb producing states in America but it's almost impossible to find anything in the grocery stores except frozen stuff from Australia and New Zealand. In fact the last time we had Colorado lamb in a restaurant was in Ithaca NY of all places. The chef at the hotel on the campus of Cornell University used to work at the Cliff House in Manitou Springs and did a wonderful dish of lamb with caramelized figs and blue cheese. The wedding we attended at the university chapel is a dim memory but that lamb is still clear as a bell.

                We figured out on our original visit to PHX that we'd have to revamp our driving habits. We got spoiled in Centennial, with everything we needed including work, shopping, doctor, lawyer and Indian Chief within a five mile radius of home. That's okay -- we have plenty of time now.

                1. re: mandycat

                  For us, Tony's had the best pork. We had a butcher, SirLoin on Jewel and Havana, for beef, and for years great seafood, but they could never get great pork. Tony's could, so we shopped at both.

                  Gosh, I miss Toddie's, but AJ's does come a bit close - not really there, but still good.

                  Enjoy,

                  Hunt

              2. Penzey's
                3310 N Hayden Rd
                Scottsdale, AZ
                (480) 990-7709
                Mon.-Fri.: 9:30AM - 5:30PM
                Sat.: 9:30AM - 5:00PM
                Sun.: 11:00AM - 5:00PM
                _____________________
                You won't do as much baking as you did in Denver. When it's hot we don't turn on our ovens. Don't do anything that will heat up the house. My favorite appliance is my crockpot! In the real Summer heat it stays on my countertop and gets used most days. I also use an 6 qt electric oven, it can cook the meat entree and there is room and containers for the side dishes too. Plus of course we used out grill a lot. Or eat cold dishes and salads.

                Welcome to Phoenix Mandy. I was born in Tempe and have lived here for 55 yrs...proof that you can survive the summers!!

                Learn to do everything you can in the very early mornings. Some people will include evenings with that but it's still way too hot at 8 PM. Often on the hottest days, I will do all of the cooking I can possibly do for dinner that night, fist thing in the morning. I also try to do alot of the week's cooking on one day instead of every evening. If I'm gonna heat up the kitchen I may as well get all done at once. I do housekeeping and laundry in the early morning too. My saying is, "if it isn't done by 10 o'clock, it isn't gonna get done".

                Here's a biggie!!!! Don't buy ice cream at the store in the summer!! By the time you get home you will have a mess in your backseat or trunk...better not put groceries in the trunk either. I remember years ago one of the grocery stores had posted a sign by the milk display saying that if it was 100 degrees outside your milk would spoil in 30 mins in your car. Often we put an ice cooler in the backseat to put frozen food, daily and meat in for the trip from grocery to home. We live outside Queen Creek(very Southeast Valley, Mandy) and until recently had to drive at least 15 miles one way to get to a grocery store so this has saved us several times from wondering about the safety of our food. And we use some of those freezer insulated bags. Super WalMarts have insulated brown bags hanging in their freezer section aisles for you to use....for free.

                4 Replies
                1. re: sandragene

                  Great point about summertime shopping habits. I had forgotten that aspect of living here, but it will be upon us soon enough. I buy ice cream year round, but either 1) make sure that the grocery store is the last errand on my itinerary or 2) have a cooler and some gel ice packs with me in order to keep the ice cream cool on the way home. Ever since the Downtown Phoenix Public Market started selling pints of Sweet Republic ice cream, I've been buying them two at a time and bringing them home on the train in the same little cooler I use to bring my lunch to work. It's going to be interesting to see how that works out in the summer heat.

                  -----
                  Downtown Phoenix Public Market
                  721 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

                  1. re: sandragene

                    I hadn't even thought about grocery shopping. Thanks to you and the other posters who brought this up. We're going to Costco tomorrow and I've added "coolers" and "blue cubes" to the shopping list.

                    My crockpot was a favorite appliance when I was working long and stressful hours but I hadn't thought about it as a tool for Phoenix cooking. It makes a lot of sense. You can get your pot roast jones without heating up the house.

                    As far as timing goes, my husband and I are now both retired and we've always been early birds. So we're good with the "get it done by 10am" lifestyle.

                    1. re: mandycat

                      Crockpot makes excellent stock too. That's what I use mine for the most. That and stuffed grape leaves.

                      I use insulated shopping bags from Trader Joe's instead of a hard cooler. They work amazingly well.

                      -----
                      Trader Joe's
                      4821 N 20th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                      1. re: Jen76

                        We were at Sams Club this weekend and they have large, insulated freezer bags that are even better then the ones from TJ's. Less then 9.00 each, with a zippered top and pleated bottom.

                  2. to upgrade an electric cooktop in areas of no natural gas..., , install an "Inductuction Cooktop". Induction cooking is now "de rigueur" in top restaurants....precision cooking, more efficient method of cooking...very clean sealed cooking surface.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mdietrich

                      Its probably worth mentioning that they are quite costly as well but I'm saving for one as I type this :). I would also have to pay for gas to be run almost a whole half city block and it would be more than the induction cooktop. You also need to have the right pans in order for it to cook evenly. No woks or chef's pans.

                      But for someone who loves to cook and try new recipes as much as I do its worth it over time. I do have a propane gas grill with a side burner which I have used with my wok on more than one occasion.

                      1. re: mdietrich

                        For those interested, 2 articles appeared this week in the New York Times regarding Induction cooking:

                        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/din...

                        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/din...

                      2. I don't know your area (west of Goodyear) at all as I am in the far east valley - about 1.5 hours from your location. But we share much of the same climate and this has an enormous effect on my kitchen.

                        As several posters have mentioned, forget what you know about seasons. Our local tomatoes do not grow in the summer, it's simply too hot. Ditto for corn, peaches and the rest of the produce one associates with summer. Spring often begins in January and by February, when much of the rest of the country is covered in snow, our local asparagus is available. There is a decent gardening guide in a local magazine, Phoenix Home and Garden, which can help with the transition.

                        I found that I cherish the short Bread and Braising Season we have. Instead of six months of cool-to-cold weather, we likely have about half that so turning on the oven and filling the house with smells of long-simmered meals and freshly baked bread becomes a much rarer pleasure.

                        In the area where I live, there is also no gas line. We buried a large propane tank and I have a gas cooktop. Granted, it is a tradeoff but one I'm happy to make. We built our home eight years ago. Today, I would give a very long, hard look at induction.

                        Cooking for the summer heat is a challenge. I found that making something in large enough quantities to be used more than once saves me from heating the kitchen daily. EX: when I cook pasta, I'll make more than I need for today so there will be cooked pasta for tomorrow's salad. I don't use the grill as often as many of my friends do in the summer. I don't find it enjoyable to be outdoors when temperatures reach 110 degrees, standing over a fire. I do use it often in other seasons. We eat a lot of summer evening meals in the swimming pool. Yes, in the water. After the sun goes down, sitting on the pool's long step, with wine in hand, it is delightful to have a plate of marinated vegetables, cold steak slices and cheese at hand for leisurely munching. (I don't think "normal" people do this)

                        Errands are run early in the morning and I try to have everything accomplished before 11 AM when possible. People can talk about going from your air conditioned house to your air conditioned car all they want, but when you park for an hour and must cross the black asphalt to reach your vehicle, whose interior temperature will surely melt your lipstick (she says from experience), all thoughts of air conditioning have fled. It is H-O-T in summer. I carried oven mitts my first summer here because the steering wheel was too hot to hold but I've since learned to simply shade it. A towel is another handy item - sit on it when the car seat is scorching. I always, and I mean always, have a cooler in the car. I fill gallon jugs with water and freeze them to carry in the cooler. An extra one is lovely to hold against your face when you think you'll melt. Your ice cream will thank you, otherwise a bowl of vanilla soup awaits.

                        Our local ethnic markets carry a wide variety of spices but you may have to go from place to place to locate what you are used to finding in one shop. Driving long distances is something we simply do in this part of the world. Most of us think nothing of 45 minutes for dinner at a favorite restaurant. We're very spread out and you will find that our public transportation, while better than in years past, is sub-par.

                        After twenty five years in the Phoenix area, I'm getting used to the differences. Welcome to our pretty part of the world. I hope you find your transition enjoyable.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Sherri

                          "After the sun goes down, sitting on the pool's long step, with wine in hand, it is delightful to have a plate of marinated vegetables, cold steak slices and cheese at hand for leisurely munching. (I don't think "normal" people do this)"

                          This sounds delightful and may just be my new leisure activity this summer. Who cares what normal people do.

                          1. re: Sherri

                            I had no clue about the seasons being upside down but this is actually good news from my perspective. In 2009 I started teaching myself about canning and preserving and I was concerned that I'd have to give it up after our move. If the best produce comes on market during the cooler time of year, I can make those salsas, pasta sauces and chutneys when it's not too hot and enjoy them the following August. Hooray -- we didn't haul all those Ball jars from Colorado for nothing!

                          2. I've been here for about 4 years. Here are a few things I've learned so far:

                            1. Make sure you keep all of your citrus fruit in your refrigerator. They dry out really fast otherwise.
                            2. Don't be stupid and try to make croissants in August even if you have really good AC.
                            3. Weigh dry ingredients when baking, everything is so damn dry it messes up your recipes if you just measure with cups.
                            4. Make friends with people who have fruit trees in their yards. Then subtly beg for their extras.
                            5. Plant lettuce in October.
                            6. Learn to make really good margaritas as an antidote to the summer blast furnace.

                            Phoenix and the area in general has been a blast to discover, for me. Hope you like it, too! Don't let the heat get you down... It only lasts 4 or 5 months ;)

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: PopcornSally

                              Sally,

                              Some great tips there.

                              Back when I moved to Denver, I was told that one could not apply for "native status," until they had lived through 20 Winters. I did that, but immediately moved to AZ.

                              When I arrived, I was told that I could not apply for "native status," until I had been here for 5 Summers. This is Summer 12 coming on... !

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                My parents moved here 5 years ago from Milwaukee. It was just recently that my mom finally said she was chilled by the 60 degree temperature one evening.

                                Sally, want some lemons? ;)

                                1. re: Jen76

                                  Yes, that happens too. In Colorado, we "toughed it out." For the first 5 years here, I wore shorts and a work shirt all year long. Now, I wear a big fleecy warm-up top and even a vest, and then turn on the heaters on the lower patio! One's blood does thin.

                                  Hunt

                              2. re: PopcornSally

                                I've actually found neighbors with citrus trees are often begging for people to take their citrus. At my office people keep bringing in bags and bags of citrus for the taking.

                                And i agree with all posters that toaster ovens are key for not overheating the house, my oven gets touched maybe 2 or 3 times in the summer. I could crank my a/c and use the oven but the electric bills are already bad enough and unless you're cooking for a large family most items can be done in the toaster oven.

                              3. Welcome to the desert! You'll love it.
                                I'll add my "amen to the good recommendations already here. By all means get a cooler or two for the back of the car. We have two soft 6-pack size coolers that flatten, and can hold 1/2 gallon containers, or a whole chicken.... Don't hesitate to explore the ethnic markets, especially the Hispanic-oriented Food City. The fresh tortillas and produce can't be beat. Nopales are a fine addition to the fresh-veggie drawer. ... I bake year-round, making good use of the toaster oven that doesn't heat up the kitchen. Benefit of PHX: bread rises REALLY fast! or, plan ahead, let dough rise in fridge overnight, bake early in the morning. ... Also, frozen pizzas bake nicely outside on the grill. .. .. No one has mentioned Iced Tea: get a glass pitcher, and brew Sun Tea on the patio in about the same time it would take to boil water on the stove.

                                re. car: get cloth seat covers and a good cloth or foam steering wheel cover. Those awkward shiny sunshades for the windshield ARE worth the trouble. And don't worry, if you live here more than 6 or 8 years, your body actually will adapt, because "It's a dry heat!"

                                -----
                                Food City
                                2124 E Mcdowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: starrskitchen.com

                                  Ah, the coolers! I do not head to Costco, or elsewhere, without these, especially if I am going to buy wines. Even with a rear AC in the Landcruiser, I keep thermal insulation handy, plus ice packs.

                                  Also, while AZ residents do like to walk, the reason that they park a 1/2 mile from the store is because there is a tiny mesquite tree out there, and they are looking for shade.

                                  Enjoy,

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    I've always said parking here is about the shade, not the distance!

                                2. I moved here 5 years ago from my native Florida. The biggest adjustment for me was learning to prevent items from drying out rather than getting moldy. I'm still shocked at how quickly something will shrivel and become dessicated.

                                  Also, I learned not to keep anything within reach of the sun that comes streaming in the kitchen window- it melts candles, flattens soda, steams hot dog buns in their bag and generally ruins all in its path.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: contemporaryscarlett

                                    I have never lost onions to mold here until this year. All this rain we've been having has apparently caused a rise in humidity. My mesh bag of onions got all moldy in only a couple weeks! It was gross! My husband keeps asking if we've been mysteriously transported to Seattle.

                                    1. re: contemporaryscarlett

                                      Good points. Had we moved to AZ from NOLA, things would have been even more shocking. At least we filtered here via Denver, so we were "eased" into things a bit.

                                      However, in Phoenix, do not be alarmed with the sheen of dust on everything. That is a fact of life - live with it. Now, maybe it is because we live against the Mountain Preserve and the desert, but dust is a fact of life. New Orleans had not dust. Maybe mud fell from the sky, but no dust!

                                      Hunt

                                    2. Great tips from everyone. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. The moving van is supposed to show up in less than three hours, thank heaven. We've been camping out in hotels in Colorado and in Phoenix since March 11th. Our old house sold before we even planned to put it on the market when some buyers fell out of the sky, complete with an approved loan and a tight timeframe, and our new house wasn't ready to close until day before yesterday. Not that I'm complaining in this market about a house selling "too soon."

                                      So if all goes well, we'll be living like human beings again in a few days and I can put all these helpful hints into practice.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mandycat

                                        Mandycat,

                                        Same thing happened to us. Our home in Aurora sold instantly. Maybe we priced too low? We had to get a condo in PHX for 2 mos. and basically move/store more than we wished, but that is life. Good friend is still renting out his home in Highlands Ranch, after 4 years, and it is not even showing. That could have happened to either of us.

                                        Welcome to AZ. Though different than Colorado, it is a beautiful place, in different ways, and a great metro area. It might still be suffering a bit more than CO, but then was still riding a wave, when most of the rest of the US was suffering, it's just an off-set. The community here is great, and while we miss so very much about CO, we love it here - welcome!

                                        Have a safe trip down, and hope that the "move" goes well. That word, "move," is a "four-letter word," in my book, but that is another story.

                                        Hunt

                                      2. The one thing we find most different from Oregon is the terrible water in Az! Maybe because Oregon has some of the best water in the world we notice the difference. We buy lots of bottled water and I resort to wine and beer ;)

                                        The other thing that is different is the huge variety of great restaurants and chefs in the Valley. This place is a foodies dream, I could stay a month and visit a different place for dinner each night and not hit the same one twice, and get good eats.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: duck833

                                          What is the deal with the water here? Usually when water is hard you can tell by the way you feel when showering but I didn't detect that. It does have a bit of an off-taste, kind of salty. One of the things on our builder's "to-do" list will be to get our brand new dishwasher to completely drain. There's water in the bottom even after the cycle is finished. I thought that that might be the cause for things coming out of the dishwasher with a film and spots but perhaps it's the water? We had the builder do a rough-in for a water softener/water filter system. Should I move installing that higher up on our personal to-do list?

                                          1. re: mandycat

                                            The water is very hard here. I don't have a softener system though. I find only certain brands of dishwasher detergent really work well (I like Cascade Complete and Kirkland's liquid). We have a Pur faucet filter on our kitchen sink faucet, and our fridge water is double filtered. I must be used to the water by now as it I think it tastes fine for the most part. We don't buy bottled.

                                            1. re: Jen76

                                              We're Costco members and I usually buy the Kirkland brand dishwasher detergent. I picked up some kind of Safeway discount stuff just to tide us over so I'll see how the Kirkland brand works in our kitchen. Right now things are coming out of the dishwasher not much better than they went in.

                                              I don't like buying bottled water either. The world's landfills have enough to deal with already.

                                              1. re: mandycat

                                                Interestingly, some restaurants have their own "special" water; Four Peaks Brewery alters theirs to resemble that of central England, and I think there are others. Phoenix area water can vary seasonally, too-- someone who worked for SRP once told me it's because of variation in river flow levels. I've also noticed taste differences in different areas of town, although I can't imagine what would cause that. We use a Brita pitcher or refill large bottles at a "Water 'n Ice" store in Chandler, but I thought the Tempe water where I grew up tasted fine.

                                                On the dishwasher topic: make sure your rinse aid doesn't run out, as your glasses will get cloudy-looking much faster in hard water without it. I've never used a water softener, but a lot of people like them.

                                                1. re: bortukan

                                                  Ah yes, "rinse aid." I haven't used one of those since I lived in Texas. I'll have to refresh my memory about what those do and how to use them. Thanks.

                                                  Along those lines: When I moved to College Station to go to graduate school, I was told that the local water was so high in minerals, especially sodium, that most people hauled their milk jugs down to the local plant nursery and got desalinized water for their houseplants. It was reputed to kill delicate plants on contact. After three months of slogging back and forth, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder why, if I was so solicitous about my asparagus ferns, I was drinking that Dead Sea sludge myself. That's when I went to bottled water.

                                                  1. re: mandycat

                                                    I have six or eight one-gallon water jugs that I refill from drinking water vending machines at various grocery and drug stores. It costs 20-30 cents a gallon. I think you'll see these vending machines outside most grocery stores. Don't use milk or juice containers, as it's hard to fully remove residual odors.

                                                    Some people have 5-gallon containers for this purpose, also.

                                          2. re: duck833

                                            Duck,

                                            I felt the same way, regarding CO water vs AZ water. The did not name it the "Salt River," for grins.

                                            Our Bulldogs get only 100% distilled water.

                                            Hunt

                                          3. You should get a water softener. In addition you will find that your hot water heater needs to be replaced within 10-12 years at the most. They will be filled with calcium and who knows what else. If you wait longer they will blow or leak. In Oregon they last over 25 years!

                                            I have to drain my swimming pool every few years also to lower the calcium levels, a real pain. Though in Oregon I have to pump water out every few weeks to keep it from running over the top from all the rain. Every place has its ups and downs.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: duck833

                                              We had a walkthrough yesterday with our builder's construction manager. He suggested checking with our town's (Buckeye) water department to determine just how hard our water really is so that we don't get talked into buying a softener with more horsepower than what is actually needed to do the job. "Water hardness" is apparently measured in grains per gallon. Grains of what, the deponent knoweth not.

                                            2. For our part-time house in Scottsdale I bought a salt unit at Home Depot for around $600. I do not notice the difference in taste for drinking it and have no idea if it makes a difference in cooking. Less hard water spots on glasses and kitchen stuff. (Food related comment!)

                                              1. Lots of good advice here, but finding out what you're comfortable with is part of the process. For example, most people I know grill during the summer, but I absolutely loathe coming anywhere near a hot grill when it's 109, so I don't. I'm much more comfortable cooking inside. If it really gets too hot for me, I might turn the air conditioner down a couple of degrees, but we're fairly conservative with that in the first place so I can do that without guilt. One thing that really helps is cooking a couple of things in the oven when I turn it on, usually on Saturday or Sunday morning. So I might roast up some chicken, cook some meatballs (with the convection on for browning), roast some Brussels sprouts (which we like at room temp), and bake anything else that I can do ahead to save on heating the kitchen that way. I also have a George Foreman grill, which doesn't necessarily add a lot of "grill" flavor, but doesn't heat the kitchen up too much either.

                                                Dinner salads are a very good choice in summer. If you have a brand of deli meat that you like, it's a good way to add protein, or I'll often add my own cooked meat. You can vary the salads a lot depending on your choices of protein or extra veg. Most of my friends eat sandwiches quite a bit in the summer; I'm not crazy about them as a dinner but again you'll come to learn what works for you.

                                                If you come into contact with other human beings at all, ever, you will be given large quantities of citrus in season.

                                                And, if you ever have any reason to go to the east valley (and aren't a major locavore) check out Superstition Ranch market. There's one in Mesa and one in Apache Junction. Produce there is so unbelievably cheap, it's well worth a stop if you're nearby. You may have to pick through pretty aggressively, but if you're willing to spend a little time and be flexible about what looks good/is on sale, you can get some amazing bargains. I bought a ton of really gorgeous red peppers at 5/$1 one week when they looked really good, roasted them, and froze them, and now I have no reason to turn on my oven to roast a pepper this summer.

                                                Also, unless you keep your A/C set very low, things will go bad much more quickly than you think in the summer. I've found it's actually much better to buy onions, garlic, and potatoes as I need them instead of stocking up on sale, since I'm not crazy about refrigerating them.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: ErnieD

                                                  We have a George Foreman grill that I came close to donating but kept in our Colorado basement for several years. I've been practicing on it here and, you're right, while it doesn't turn out "grilled" food it cooks quick and cool. We were thinking about incorporating citrus trees to our backyard landscaping plan but based on several comments in this string I think we'll rely on the kindness of strangers for our homegrown citrus fruits. They sound like zucchini elsewhere; neighbors leave them on your front doorstep in the middle of the night, wipe off their fingerprints and tiptoe away.

                                                  1. re: mandycat

                                                    In my experience, the great citrus giveaway rarely applies to oranges. It mostly applies to everything else because people can only eat so many grapefruit and squeeze so many lemons until you just don't want anymore. But, oranges are easy to eat and drink. ;) I want a tangelo tree someday.

                                                2. Hi all, a great thread and I hope you don't mind my chiming in with a question. We have been considering a move to PHX off and on for several years but haven't made it yet - life gets disrupted when you have a baby, as many of you know. May just end up retiring there instead in another 20 years.

                                                  So many of you talk about not heating up the house further, and AC. I have always, always been a lover of very warm temperatures. We have vacationed twice in AZ during the very hot period when everyone else clears out, including vacationers and locals - no trouble getting a seat at the pool in August!

                                                  Lucky for me, mr. RNR is the same way. In 7 years of marriage, the only time I've turned on the a/c is my wedding day, when it was really important not to get to hot and ruin the dress, and a couple of times when the baby had a fever. But usually, we just love it very hot. We live in the Midwest and are both "cold" about 70% of the year. We have free heat in our apartment and regularly keep it to about 75 in the winter. I have gone jogging here when it's close to 90 out and love getting that hot. I remember being on the balcony of our hotel one night getting ready to leave for dinner and thinking, I'm finally, finally warm, 100% warm throughout all my bones. It was 101.

                                                  How much of an issue would AC and heat be, really, for people like us? I don't want to move there and have to use AC all the time, but I think perhaps as leisure travelers it's different than when you're living there and rushing around getting ready for work or cleaning the house. Mr. RNR insists we wouldn't use it because we don't use it here, I think he's wrong.

                                                  Are any of you the type of folks who just generally like it hotter than other people, and if so, how do you manage in the PHX heat? Love it, like it or tolerate it?

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                    I would guess that you're going to want to turn the AC on at least in the hottest part of the summer. I tend to be a cold person myself, and most places have the temperature much too cold for me in the summer, but I do definitely keep it on in my house. You get hot cooking and cleaning, as you mentioned, and lights and electronics give off a lot more heat than most people realize. Couple that with the fact that a house/apartment is closed off and there's no air circulating, and it's utterly stuffy and miserable to be inside during the summer. The thing with Phx is that it doesn't cool down much at night, especially since concrete retains the heat-it's frequently in the 80s or 90s at night during the summer. So you never really get a chance to cool things down. You just have to look at AC use as being the flip side of winter heater use in other parts of the country-I think we turned our heater on twice this past winter, and both times were after my husband had been on a long motorcycle ride at night at was freezing.

                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                      I don't mind heat and hate A/C. Hate it. That said, there's no surviving Phoenix heat for more than a couple months of the year without A/C (OK maybe with a swamp cooler in the early parts of summer if you happen to find a house with one). 24/7 for parts of the year unless you live on the far outskirts at high enough elevation that it might cool off a bit more at night. Anywhere in town, with increasing urban heat island effects, forget about "cool" evenings.

                                                      This is what drives me to do all I can to not heat up my house more than nature already does. Others mention not wanting to stand over the grill in the heat...i'd much rather keep the heat outside and run out for a couple minutes to check the grill than add heat to the inside of the house over a period of time while the oven or stove are on. I have a toaster oven as well, which many others have mentioned and I agree it does help minimize some of the cooking heat...but I do try to avoid even lighting that up in the hottest part of the day.

                                                      Yes, there are different tolerances. But even for the most tolerant there's no denying the heat requires A/C...and even for the most tolerant by the end of summer is a holiday worth celebrating. For me the first night of sleeping with open windows is like waking up on Christmas morning.

                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                        We don't mind the heat either. After both growing up in freezing cold climates full of snow and ice, we really can't imagine going back to that. That being said, we still definitely use a/c in the summer. We can have weeks of temps hovering around 110+ degrees and everything is just hot to the touch.

                                                        The heat here is *nothing* like the heat in the Midwest. I grew up in WI and even the hottest days there don't come close to the heat here. While it is indeed very dry, it often feels like you're roasting in a hot oven with the broiler turned on. We keep our a/c at 83-85 most of the time and only really lower it to 78 at night because we like sleeping with light covers (illogical, I know). We use the ceiling fans A LOT. I wouldn't want to live in a house with no fans here. You need something to circulate the air. If you have a good swamp cooler, those work really well until the temps go over 100 and the humidity creeps up. But, you may enjoy that. We have one, but it's very old and has never worked well. We also love swimming in the summer.

                                                        I did read an article about a local family that decided to not use a/c for the summer. Actually didn't seem very practical to me (they had to cover all their furniture so as not to ruin it with sweat, etc.). As someone already stated, the heat doesn't dissipate much at night anymore. The city is just too big and has too much concrete. There are nights when the temps don't drop below 90. If you live on the far outskirts, the heat will be less intense. I agree also about cooking outside in the summer. Would much rather stand over a bit of intense heat for a short time than add to the heat in the house. I even bake on my gas grill - made cookies not too long ago in it. They were good!

                                                        1. re: Jen76

                                                          Jen76, ziggylu and ernieD, thanks so much for your perspective. I'm thinking more and more this would not be the best place for us to live. We are very into the outdoors and I get the feeling most of what you do in PHX is try to escape the sun because it's too hot to enjoy it.

                                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                                            No! That's not true at all. If it were, no one would live here. It's really only hot like that for a few months, and even then lots of people enjoy the outdoors. Like I said, we enjoy swimming, I've gone hiking early in the mornings before it gets really hot, my husband goes golfing even in the afternoons (he has high heat tolerance). You can also drive up North to cooler locales that are within an hour or two of Phx. And, when it's *not* hot there is tons of outdoorsy stuff to do! You asked what summer was like; we answered and described the worst cases. Today, it's sunny, breezy and in the upper 80s. Perfect weather. People live here for the weather from October to May. You put up with and sometimes even learn to enjoy aspects of June thru September (like those odd days where it's cloudy and under 90 in the middle of August!).

                                                      2. I am only in the valley of the sun a few times during the summer and then for only 3-4 days at a time.

                                                        I normally get up early, head out and get coffee and paper at local hangout. Then I do whatever I need to outside or take a hike in the McDowell's. Around 11 or so I hit the pool and rehydrate. If I am doing serious outside work I do it in 30 minute shifts and drink lots of water. After 12 or so I head inside and fix lunch, turn on all the ceiling fans and normally set the A/C around 78 (it is a dry heat). Then I spend the afternoon on the internet, reading or doing other stuff inside.

                                                        When the sun goes down over the mountains I will fire up my Big Green Egg to cook something or we headout to a nice patio somewhere for some good eats.

                                                        I know most locals that are here all summer are looking pretty trashed and tired of the heat by labor day.