artichoke tea is a powerful antioxidant
Tucson: 10 best food stores, food markets, farmers markets – 2010 favorites
Every blog worth its salt and pepper has a best of list. Here’s mine.
Best exotic bazaar – Caravan Import Foods
Ah, the heady aromas. Here’s a food store that smells like a food store – bulk spices and nuts with bins of dried fruit and olives. There’s no rhyme or reason for how the store is laid out but nobody seems to mind. If you want fresh goat from Willcox or cans of fava beans and Middle Eastern pastry, you won’t be disappointed. Location: 2817 N. Country Club Road
Best big chill – 17th Street Market
In the winter time, it might not be as appealing but in the dead heat of summer, enter the produce department which is kept at a refreshing 58 degrees. 17th Street Market may be hard to find but it’s worth the effort because of the occasional live music on weekends, enclosed music store, best selection of organic produce including Chinese eggplant which is hard to find but perfect for grilling, and delicious foods from a multitude of countries plus locally produced sauces and spices. Location: 840 E. 17th Street
Best priced farmers market – Santa Cruz
There’s been an explosion of farmers markets and I’m not sure how all can be sustained. Santa Cruz River Farmers Market has some of the best prices and takes food stamps. It has a real community feel with a different theme or focus every week with activities or education for kids and adults alike. Santa Cruz is sponsored by the Community Food Bank; everyone is welcome. Location: West Speedway @ Riverview/about ½ mile west of I-10
Best store for lentil lovers – Indian Dukkan
For lentil novices, the little legume can be kind of scary. The proprietor takes the fear out of cooking Indian food and is happy to provide directions and nuances of each chutney and spice. Location: 2754 N Campbell Ave.
Best fresh produce – Tucson CSA
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s not a store but you pay it forward and then every week go to a locally designated spot, in this case the Historic Y on University Blvd, to pick up your share. The share is comprised of whatever is seasonal and picked that day (AT ITS PEAK) from the Crooked Sky Farm in Glendale, Ariz. If you don’t like vegetables or an element of que sera sera, the CSA is not for you. I like it because I’m exposed to produce not usually in my radar and have learned to love some healthy stuff I never tried before.
Best compact Asian market – Sandyi
Sandyi is nearby and newly painted for more street appeal. You go in for soy sauce or shrimp chips and you go out. The choices are not mindboggling like in other sprawling Asian markets. It’s quick and efficient like a 7-11. Location: 4270 E. Pima St.
Best Mexican grocery store – El Super Market
El Super of course on South 6th Avenue. True, that it’s not locally owned but it’s lively, friendly, and the pinatas stand guard over the produce department which makes for a whimsical atmosphere. You can also watch a simple cake become a work of tie-died-like cake art. Location: 3372 S. Sixth Ave.
Best global encounter – Lee Lee Oriental Market
Yes, it’s true Lee Lee’s is a sprawling market with mostly Asian products but there are entire aisles for Australian, African, Middle Eastern, and South American food too as well as hundreds of teas (artichoke tea, anyone?) and 30 kinds of coconut milk. This is the only place I’ve found frozen plaintains since Tropical Market closed. And live fish plucked from the tank and butterflied to your specifications. Location: 1980 W. Orange Grove @ La Cholla Blvd
Best unique grocery store – Trader Joe’s
I live at Trader Joe’s. I lust at Trader Joe’s. I spend too much money at Trader Joe’s. It has everything this foodie wants – roasted tomato-red pepper soup in a carton, free foods samples with recipes, already chopped mirepoix, 85% Valhrona chocolate noir bars, chimichurri rice, green eggs and ham, fresh flowers, 99cents greeting cards, pumpkin butter, yadda yadda. It is for foodies what ESPN is for sports fanatics. Locations: 4 in Tucson
Best bakery – Nadine’s Bakery
I try to avoid bakeries at all costs but Nadine’s is walking distance and convenient. What draws me in is the freshly baked rye bread, marble rye bread, and pumpernickel. What occasionally seduces me are the cookies and lemon bars and brownies. Some day I’ll get a custom cake. They have one now on display that looks like a giant cupcake. Location: 4553 E Broadway Blvd
Okay. There’s 10 but let me add one more — my favorite wine store. Wine is made from grapes which is considered food.
Best local wine shoppe – CataVinos
I like CataVinos because it’s locally owned. It’s not a big box wine store where you need a GPS to find the zinfandel. The folks who work at CataVinos know their wines as well as what to serve with prime rib or fried chicken. All the wines cost less than $15. The wines of the month are the most amazing deals that sell out fast. I had my birthday party there a few years ago and it was a blast, blast, blast. Location: 3063 N. Alvernon Way, one block south of Ft. Lowell