From cocktail-centric celebrations to a wine country brunch, there was no shortage of events for the food lover during last week's Scottsdale Culinary Festival. One final event ended the week with a bang last night at the Scottsdale Hyatt Regency, an intimate dinner experience to showcase the talents of ten of the Valley's best culinarians.
See also: - Scottsdale Culinary Festival's Wine Country Brunch: We Ate, We Drank, We Bid, We Judged - Eat, Drink (and Drink and Drink) and Be Pretty at Last Night's Scottsdale Culinary Festival - Scottsdale Culinary Festival Burger Battle: The Results Are In!
Guests arrived to take their seats at one of twenty tables, two for each of the chefs that contributed to the event. (Attendees chose a chef/wine pairing in advance.) Everything from the centerpieces to the chairs varied from table to table.
We were seated at the table for chef Josh Hebert of Posh, whose improvisational cuisine is well-known and one-of-a-kind in the Valley. The table was decorated with dozens of different types of seashells, all of which we later learned were from seafood that's been served at the restaurant. Though you might have taken the shells' presence as a hint that the meal would be mostly seafood (we did at least), they more likely related to Hebert's tendency to use Japanese techniques in his cooking.
Hebert's food was paired with Arizona Stronghold wines, one of the state's most recognizable labels.
Hebert didn't hold back on the first course, serving a trio of chilled soups that were far from ordinary in almost every sense. He suggested diners start with the popcorn soup, then move to chili and finish with pea. The popcorn soup was surprisingly delicious and by far the most eagerly discussed at the table. As for the second of the trio, to say it "packed a punch" might be understating its spice but the cool, minty spring pea soup did a lot to even things out. It all paired well with the white blend called "Tazi," made from Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Reisling. It's a very fruity wine and not too sweet.
Next Hebert offered an uni "cheesecake" with nori (seaweed), ginger and salmon roe. Taking Japanese ingredients -- uni is Japanese for sea urchin -- and presenting them in a totally unique way is one of the signature ideas behind Posh's cuisine, Hebert said. He also said the "cheesecake" idea can be a good way to introduce diners to uni, which can be hard to eat for some because of the texture. The crunchy seaweed was a perfect texture combination and the Stronghold Chardonnay, with a light and clean taste, complemented it well.
From there we moved away from seafood and into the more meaty (literally) fare. The third course was veal with pickled ramps and grapes. Then came lamb with chili risotto.
To finish the meal Hebert presented a yuzu (more Japanese influence) panacotta that was light, sweet and completely addicting. Though we thought we wouldn't be able to eat anything else after the four couses, we finished every bite. As did everyone else at the table.
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Other chefs at the event included chef Gabriel Bertacinni of Il Tocco paired with Astrale e Terra Vineyards, chef Matt Carter of The House Brasserie paired with Jerome Winery and chef Mel Mecinas of Talavera paired with O'Connell Family Vineyards. To see the complete list of chefs visit the Scottsdale Culinary Festival website.