READERS' PICK: Pretend you're in Paris and walk to that favorite little family-run market every day to buy what's fresh. Except that in Tucson your destination is really Rincon Market, where you can pick out a neatly trimmed cut of meat or fresh fish flown in on a daily basis. In October the Saturday farmer's market will reappear with fresh produce sales (organic and non). With incredible coffee, great service, fresh everything, and even the New York Times, Rincon Market takes the doldrums out of the grocery store experience. You can even get your groceries delivered. Rincon carries great selections of gourmet foods, and even keeps a kosher meat counter, while still supplying a surprising amount of good old plebian foods, often at unexpectedly low prices. It's been a Tucson tradition since 1926. Be sure and get there early before the great breads are gone.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: 17th Street Farmer's Market, 840 E. 17th St. Seven reasons to shop at 17th Street (there are more, but you have to stop somewhere):
1. The organic produce prices beat everyone else in town.
2. Unusual cookies await your next tea party. Try the grapefruit flavored chocolate marshmallow pies from China, in the psychedelic green box. We ate a whole package in one sitting.
3. Staff and other shoppers are generous with their esoteric knowledge about obscure vegetables and can tell you how to prepare those parsnips, lotus root or pea tip.
4. What a fish market! A pound of baby octopus, please.
5. Durian ice cream, an acquired taste, sorta like orange blossom custard strained through old socks, is purported to have aphrodisiac qualities.
6. A killer seaweed selection beckons at a fraction of what those hippie stores sell it for.
7. Great camping food options include canned stuffed grape leaves, Giant Beans in Sauce from Greece, heat-n-serve Thai lotus and red bean dessert, and preserved duck eggs.
LOOSE CHANGE: The Food Conspiracy Co-op, 412 N. Fourth Ave. Over the past year that old Fourth Avenue mainstay, the Co-op, has taken a leap into what has come to be known as the technological era. That's right, the Co-op has bar-code reader thingies and computerized cash registers to help expedite your purchases of mostly locally produced organic produce, dairy, bulk items and groceries. A bastion of good old-fashioned communism in the capitalist swamp of Arizona, the Co-op lures smelly hippies and hip septuagenarians alike to its no-Frankenfoods fare.