Personal Best: A Look Back at Our Summer of Love

Categories: Personal Best

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With the scent of Best of Phoenix in the air (our biggest issue of the year final hits newsstands -- and the Internet -- later this week) we set out this summer to ask some of our favorite food folks to list their "Personal Bests." We came up with everything from Pavle Milic's favorite spots to take the kids to Christopher Gross' preferred Scotch-drinking haunts in town.

Check out our slideshow, recapping the summer of Personal Bests.

And in case you missed any of the Personal Best lists, here they are:

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Helen Yung's 5 Best Chinese Restaurants in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Personal Best

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Helen Yung
Dimsum at Great Wall.
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week Helen Yung of the artisan ice cream shop Sweet Republic shares her favorite Chinese restaurants in metro Phoenix.

By Helen Yung

Eating has always been a family affair. I grew up in Hong Kong sitting down at the dining table at home every weekday night at 7pm with my sister and parents and on Sundays with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Every meal consisted of at least a long-boiled soup, rice, stir-fried dish and maybe something steamed, braised or fried.

As I grow older, I increasingly crave Chinese food, in particular Cantonese -- the kind of food I grew up with in Hong Kong. Cantonese food is all about highlighting the freshness of ingredients with quick high-heat wok cooking and minimal sauces. And the best way to eat it is to order up a storm and share the spread with a big group of friends. So with that bias in mind, here's my list of favorite Chinese restaurants in Phoenix.

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Greg Esser's 5 Best Places to Take an International Artist to Dinner in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Personal Best

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Katie Walter
Prickly pear lemonade at the Heard.
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week, Greg Esser -- director of the International Artist Residency program and the Desert Initiative at Arizona State University -- offers up his five favorite spots to take an artist to dinner.

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Greg Esser
An amazing chalk drawing by visiting artist Bassim Al-Shaker on a recent Friday night at Combine.

By Greg Esser

One of the many tasks for my day job is figuring out where to take new visiting international artists, sometimes arriving in the United States for the first time, to create the perfect first impression of Phoenix. The ASU Art Museum International Visiting Artist Program brings artists from around the world to develop new artwork in collaboration with diverse individuals and community organizations throughout Arizona with support from the expansive research and other resources of Arizona State University. Artists live in downtown Phoenix at Combine Studios from a few weeks to a few months while developing projects.

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Natalie Morris' 5 Best Soups in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Personal Best

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Tab Sylvester
Noodle soup from A Touch of European Cafe.
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week Natalie Morris -- the founder/owner of Good Food Finder (a statewide directory promoting the growth of small farms and food, telling the stories of those who make it and creating a place for those who want to gather around it) lists her five favorite soups in town.

By Natalie Morris

It's 110 degrees outside and yes, I'm thinking about soup. I crave it all: The facial cleansing kind of steaming goodness that comes from a hotpot, the I-just-ate-all-my-vegetables-and-loved-it cold and refreshing kind and everything in between. Soup is the fill-you-up that doesn't tear you down. If I could put out a special request, it would be for some consistent ramen options and a soulful ribollita. In the meantime, give me some bread (and, in some cases a beer!) and let's go.

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Country Velador's 5 Best Sandwiches in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Personal Best

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Tab Sylvester
Goldman's Reuben tops Country Velador's list.
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week Country Velador, pastry chef at Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale, shares her favorite sandwiches around town. (And we promised to mention that she's also crazy about the grab 'n' go sandwiches at Cowboy Ciao's new airport location.)

By Country Velador

Nothing makes my heart sing like a good sandwich (well, except for good fried chicken or a well-made breakfast). I grew up on sandwiches and to this day, there's nothing like going to my mom's house, having her pull out some good bread and making a sandwich with a big pile of BBQ potato chips on the side, or if I'm lucky, some Ruffles with ketchup. These are some of my favorite sandwiches around town.

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Pavle Milic's 5 Best Restaurants for Kids in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Personal Best

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Heather Hoch
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week FnB co-owner Pavle Milic shares his five favorite spots to dine out with the kids.

Although I was ambivalent about writing about this subject, I decided to do it. So here's the situation: Lorenzo is 4, Oliver is 6, and Hannah is 14. You would think all my kids are "restaurant brats," meaning they'll eat anything. Truth is, they have a dynamic range of tastes and dislikes. Lorenzo is near-vegetarian; Oliver is a die-hard carnivore; Hannah will eat most things. Almost always, the house is the best option to please everyone in the comfort of my own kitchen and stretchy pants. Besides, the house is a controlled environment, and if a meltdown by any were to occur, then I can yell without getting accusatory glances from anyone -- other than my own kids.

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Georganne Bryant's 5 Best Sunday Breakfast Spots in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Personal Best

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Tab Sylvester
The "Sandwich with an Edge" from Zookz.
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week, Georganne Bryant of Frances and Smeeks shares her favorite spots in town for Sunday breakfast.

By Georganne Bryant

Aaah, we made it through the week and now it is time to reward ourselves with a nice quiet, leisurely, delicious Sunday breakfast. Some weeks this is how my husband and I feel and the first opportunity we have to complete a full conversation. Breakfast is one of our favorites, and when we travel, we love to seek out the dives or the most local in a town or city to get a true sense of the people and local flavor. Here are my favorites in metro Phoenix and a very diverse list to try.

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Joe Johnston's 5 Best Spots for AZ-Mex in Metro Phoenix (and Beyond)

Categories: Personal Best

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Joe Johnston
In this week's Personal Best we're taking a bit of a field trip.
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week Joe Johnston -- the guy who put the "Joe" in Joe's Real BBQ and Joe's Farm Grill -- shares his favorite spots to get AZ-Mex food.

By Joe Johnston

Rating Mexican restaurants is dangerous business since there is an incredible diversity of Mexican regional styles available in the Valley and everyone has their own secret hole-in-the-wall. What I proffer is Mexican restaurant food in the lineage of the comfort food "we" grew up with ("we" being longtime AZ residents for whom Mexican food is not their traditional home cuisine). Sort of like Chinese restaurant food from the 1960s and 1970s, it is rooted in the culinary traditions of the mother country but modified for the local clientele and available ingredients. It is essentially a blend of food from the state of Sonora and ingredients and tastes of the state of Arizona.

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Jeff Kraus' 5 Best Things to Eat with Your Hands in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Personal Best

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Tab Sylvester
Onion rings at Joe's Farm Grill in Gilbert.
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week Crepe Bar's Jeff Kraus shares his favorite finger foods.

By Jeff Kraus

As Snoop Dogg (now known as Snoop Lion) would say, "Drop it like it's hot."

The flatware, that is. As a diner and as a culinary artist, hand-to-mouth eating has always been at the forefront of my philosophy of eating and cooking. The additional sensory stimulation elevates the overall dining experience.

The top five favorite places I go to get "flatware-free fare" are shown in no particular order, other than Joe's Farm Grill, because it is the most interesting place to wash your hands before dining.

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Christopher Gross' 5 Best Places to Drink Scotch in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Personal Best

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courtesy of Christopher Gross
The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week Christopher Gross of Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge in Phoenix shares his favorite places to get loaded -- er, to sip Scotch.

By Christopher Gross

Scotch was a drink that I could not stand. When I was 21, I thought I liked whisky on the rocks, and while working in London, we had a very busy night and the chef offered all the cooks a drink, and I asked for a whisky rocks. When he gave it to me, I sniffed it and said very politely, "Chef this is scotch," and he said, "Yes" and then I said, "But I really wanted a whisky," and after a few go arounds of this he finally said, "Sorry, all whisky is scotch here and we don't have any of your bloody American or Canadian stuff here so drink it" -- which I did.

It wasn't till about 10 years later I was given a glass of Islay (the area where these whiskys are from) whisky and with all the things that you smell in it, I suddenly liked it.

Here are some of Laphroig's tasting notes:

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