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What changed in your kitchen when you moved to Phoenix?

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