Food, Glorious Food: The 16th annual Scottsdale Culinary Festival gets under way in a couple of weeks, running from April 12 to 17. It doesn't look like anyone will leave hungry. The festival, presented by the Scottsdale League for the Arts, benefits the arts education programs in Valley public schools. Last year, the league raised more than $100,000. Several events promise some great eating fun. At the Phoenician, the focus will be on Southwestern cuisine. Five buffet stations will offer five types of regional specialties, prepared with Southwestern flair: wild game, poultry, beef and seafood, as well as native vegetables and grains. And you won't have to slosh it all down with Southwestern tap water, either. Each station will be paired with a different local microbrewery, pouring Southwestern suds. The Cooks & Corks program looks tempting. Robert Pritikin will open this event with a talk titled "Don't Eat Your Heart Out," a healthy-eating, low-fat message that the audience will probably diligently ignore over the next five hours of food sampling and wine tasting. Once guests have had their fill, they can watch a parade of well-known chefs do cooking demonstrations, or stare at culinary art exhibits like "Food Descending the Staircase." Oenophiles haven't been forgotten. Four wine tastings, each hosted by a different California wine maker, will take place in the Phoenician's Praying Monk Room. Only 11 guests can be accommodated at each session. On a larger scale, there's the wine country brunch at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale. Guests can mingle with ten wine makers, whose wines will be matched to the food. If you like to eat and run, the Tour Culinaire is a good option. During the course of the evening, 175 black-tie-clad gastronomes will travel around the Valley in ten private trolleys, each trolley pulling in at three different high-end restaurants along the way. Among the 30 restaurants on the tour are Marco Polo, Chaparral Room, Vincent Guerithault on Camelback, Rolands and RoxSand. As you might expect, some of these activities can be pricey, if tax-deductible. The Southwestern buffet runs $50 per person; Cooks & Corks, $20; wine tastings, $50; the wine country brunch, $45; and the Tour Culinaire, $175. But the hungry poor haven't been forgotten. They can view for nothing the Arizona Beef Cook-off, the Gourmet Hamburger Cook-off or the sausage judging at the "Best of the Wurst" competition. The really great plebeian lure, as it is every year, is the Great Arizona Picnic, held at Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. It runs from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, and from noon to 7 p.m. the next day. Admission is free, and you can buy tasting coupons to sample the delights of more than 50 local eateries. Look for Honey Bear's BBQ, Pink Pepper, Reay's Market, Top of the Rock, California Pizza Kitchen, Coyote Springs Brewing Company and Cafe and Vagara Bistro to show up. Look for lots of empty bellies to show up, too. The organizers expect about 25,000 people each day. For festival info or tickets, call 994-ARTS (2787).
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