Hundreds of you came out to lick, crunch, chew and otherwise gobble caramel confections prepared by 18 of the Valley's finest chefs Friday night, all part of the third annual Caramelpalooza, co-sponsored by Smeeks and Chow Bella.
We might be a little biased, but we think it was our best 'palooza yet.
Big thanks to our collaborators at Smeeks/Frances, to Stinkweeds for awesome music, and to Short Leash Hot Dogs for providing some much-needed savory relief after the sugar. Chow Bella-ites Caitlin McQuarrie, Shelby Moore and Lauren Saria were a terrific help, and we're always beyond grateful to Jackalope Ranch's Claire Lawton.
Our blind tasting judges -- Shannon Armour, Dominique Chatterjee, Denise Clayton, Christopher Gross and Sheila Krueger -- risked life and
limb dental work to painstakingly choose their favorites, and of course the crowd did, too. Thanks for braving the lines, people! We tried something new this year, spreading out the tables. Some of you loved it; others not so much. Either way, we appreciate your feedback.
The biggest thanks of all goes to the 18 chefs who slaved in the kitchen to create some truly amazing caramel. Later this week, Dessert First's Dominique Chatterjee will give a more detailed rundown of the sweet stuff; for now you can check out our slideshow. (And if you'd like more info about any of the 18 chefs who competed, check out our profiles here.)
Oh wait, you want to know who won, don't you? Well, why didn't you say so?
The winners of Caramelpalooza 2012 are:
Best in Show -- Beatriz Alatorre de Hong, Paletas Betty, for Bananas Foster Caramel Paletas Best Traditional Caramel -- David Duarte, Hyatt Regency Phoenix, for Dulce de Leche Praline Crunch Bars Best Non-Traditional Use of Caramel -- Tammie Coe, Tammie Coe Cakes, for Concord Grape Caramel Tadpoles People's Choice -- Monica Castillo, Churn
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Best in Show -- Slade Grove (second), Tammie Coe (third) Best Traditional Caramel -- Churn (second), Virginia Senior of Urban Beans (third) Best Non-Traditional Use of Caramel -- Paletas Betty (second), Slade Grove (third) People's Choice -- David Duarte (second), Brendan McCaskey (third)
Which was your favorite?