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Scottsdale Culinary Festival Wraps Up With Cooks & Corks and the Great Arizona Lushfest

Some guests were up front about their sins.
Some guests were up front about their sins.

This year's Picnic was all about drowning your sorrows in a stiff one. The proof was in the pudding -- or rather, the Blo-Safe breathalyzer station and "don't drive drunk" ads posted at each gate. The Absolut tent and beer garden were packed to capacity and the wine was flowing profusely over at Cooks & Corks.

The Blo-Safe girls you want you to blow in their box.
The Blo-Safe girls you want you to blow in their box.

Then again, maybe the festival was counting on the recession to ease drinking. At 5-10 tasting tickets per drink (each ticket costing a buck), most attendees probably didn't have the cash to buy enough drinks to put them over the legal limit. Especially when you consider it was up to 20 tickets for a meal at the Picnic's food booths.

More on Cooks & Corks after the jump.

Butter & Me Cupcakery's sexy Mexican chocolate cupcakes.
Butter & Me Cupcakery's sexy Mexican chocolate cupcakes.

Butter & Me Cupcakery's sexy Mexican chocolate cupcakes.

​At $65 a head, it's no surprise the economic downturn had an effect on the Cooks & Corks event held on Saturday and Sunday inside the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. According to vendors, attendance was sparse in comparison to previous years.

There were fewer food booths and more desserts than entrees on the tables. Most of the booths weren't even for restaurants, but instead for products like olive oil and cheese or social programs.

Best olive oil related shirts ever.
Best olive oil related shirts ever.

One of the most interesting aspects of Cooks & Corks was Chef Alain Roby's sugar demo, where the famed chef sculpted pulled sugar into swans and free-form shapes to create a food sculpture in the style of Dale Chihuly's glass chandeliers at the Bellagio hotel in Vegas. The finished piece was a swirling, free-form mass of shapes and colors that was elegant yet whimsical.

Alain uses a fan to cool down a sugar swan.

Alain uses a fan to cool down a sugar swan.

The finished sculpture.
The finished sculpture.
An oyster virgin samples Fat Cat's shellfish -- and likes it. 
An oyster virgin samples Fat Cat's shellfish -- and likes it. 

"If you complain that one of my recipes didn't work, I will hear you," quipped Hall. "Wherever I am in the world, I will hear you." As she whipped up a quick and easy pea pesto sauce, Hall explained the difference between seasoning and overseasoning with her signature down-to-earth style. "A jar of salt is like a jar of compliments," said Hall. But she cautions you need to be careful with those compliments.

New Day Gourmet's tasty offerings. 
New Day Gourmet's tasty offerings. 

perfect line to sum up my opinion of the festival's last day. The entertainment and workshops were excellent, the drinks were solid and the food was palatable, if not stellar. It wasn't the best culinary festival I've been to, but as Hall would say, "too many compliments is like an insult."    


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