This is what spring in Arizona is all about, people. Fresh air, sun, smiling happy guests and some rockin' Arizona food at the Devoured Phx Culinary Classic. Here's how it went down on Saturday with our favorite booths and people.
Parking in the lot at the Phoenix Art Museum was already full at the opening time of 11 a.m. No matter. It was very easy to park across the street at the Viad parking garage up on the 3rd and 4th floor. There was a police officer there helping manage traffic so that Devoured patrons could walk directly across the street into the Phoenix Art Museum even though there wasn't a crosswalk -- awesome.
There was a bit of a line to enter the museum/show at the entrance, but you have this lovely piece to gaze at while imagining how good the food and drinks will be once inside.
We immediately found Kimber Lanning of Local First Arizona directing traffic to the booths outside, the dessert lounge and the beer and wine happenings inside the Great Hall, and the additional restaurants featured inside Palette Restaurant. She also mentioned that this year they have 50 percent more wineries attending.
We made our way counterclockwise outside first and said hello to Aaron Chamberlin and crew at St. Francis. It was a delightful pile of secret garden dainties that tasted and looked like spring. They called it the Arizona Vegetable Garden and mentioned the farms who they sourced from including 2 Wash Ranch, Maya's, Duncan Farms, and McClendon. The blood orange slice, amazing glacier lettuce leaf, and other delicacies were a perfect start to the festival as well as their not-too-sweet virgin local citrus verbena punch.
The Parlor had lamb meatballs with Sicilian lentils and mint pesto. It was a little tricky to scoop a bite from the meatball, but the work was worth it.
Sushi Roku served up a steamed chicken salad with yuzu citrus sauce and New York steak with Japanese sauce. We didn't find any chicken in our salad but didn't mind at all. The fresh ginger and crunchy wonton strips added nice flavor and crunch.
Arroyo Vodka, owned by sisters Morgan and Lauren Clump, offered samples of their apple pie vodka, jalapeño-infused Arroyo En Frego cocktail and the horchata that won them the grand prize at the bartending competition at The Vig this week. They made the horchata with rice milk, almond milk, and vodka infused with coriander, cinnamon, peppercorns, and even apricot buds. It didn't have the texture of traditional horchata but was a thin cocktail version containing the same flavor profile. Very nice.
Postino offered bites of its signature bruschetta, always enjoyable, but with so many booths offering new tastes, we'd hoped to find one here, too.
Talavera's lemon raspberry macaroon sandwiches dusted with edible gold glitter were one of our favorite desserts of the day.
Grateful Spoon offered samples of their vegan strawberry (could've fooled us -- so creamy) and pistachio gelato.
District American Kitchen's booth was a real looker with cotton candy clouds luring guests. Underneath the cotton candy was some house-made cashew cracker jacks. We had to have a second helping of those -- so light and crunchy.
Timo Wine Café brought an interesting truffle Brie soup that was surprisingly good and had a nice balanced flavor.
Province had albondigas, an apple jicama slaw wih candied olives, marcona almonds and an apple cider vinaigrette and roasted pineapple cupcakes with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.
True Food Kitchen's Kale Aid was a fantastic palate cleanser and a nice break from all the meat-based dishes.
Sens Asian Tapas' Papaya Shrimp Salad on a Prawn Cracker was outstanding. We loved the crispy cracker and the tangy crunchy salad and soft sweet shrimp.
On the way to the restaurants inside Palette, we stopped by Tonto/Cartwright's and were happy we did. The creamy jack grits and quail and tampranillo blackberry sauce was very high-style Southwest -- we loved it. We were in such a hurry to try it that the picture came out blurry. Sorry.
We weren't quite sure what to find inside Palette but were lured in with the live band playing familiar songs like "Me and Julio" that got everybody mouthing (if not singing) along. Santa Barbara Catering had a knockout favorite with their Red Velvet Ding Dongs. They were the only participants to request guests to only help themselves to one. We thought that was unnecessary -- until we tried it. Do not leave the festival without getting one.
House at Secret Garden, also in Palette, had the most pretty plating of a dish. The Phoenix Meat Shop seared pork belly with maple mascarpone, mint, figs, pistachios, and balsamic honey gastrique. Sweet and smoky with the fresh mint, the flavors were meant to be enjoyed together in one bite. This was a favorite, as was the smoked steel heat trout with roasted beets served on a baguette with Fuji apple, Crows Dairy goat cheese, and Queen Creek olive oil.
We noticed some of the food festival "gear" that some guests had with them. One had an around-the-neck-type of wine glass holder and another had a bamboo plate with a wine glass holder notch built into it. We overheard someone ask about the plate, and the plate's owner shouted "Amazon!" Some of these food festival folks mean serious business. They don't want to miss a thing -- understandably so.
We swung by Windsor for an outstanding peanut butter sundae. We loved the bright red lipstick on Windsor/Churn server Sherry Newnom.
The Great Hall elicited oohs and ahhs from the guests wandering inside. Actually, we overheard "oh my god" and "holy shit" as we walked in. It really is a grand space. It was chosen to present the dessert booths as well as additional wineries and a silent wine auction. This is where JJ's Brownies, Urban Cookies, Wei of Chocolate and AJ's Dessert Lounge was set up. Urban Cookies' cookies were nicely packaged in paper sleeves so as to take home for an after dinner treat later on.
The Great Hall was also a place to find a comfortable seat indoors and regroup (use the restroom and such) and plan out last bites.
We didn't want to miss Lon's oozy salted chocolate caramel bites on a stick and indulged in one last bite before heading out. It was the perfect last treat.
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Today should be another gorgeous day. You will also get a chance to visit your favorite spots again, as well as a few differed participants, too. You'll find a stellar demo lineup with chefs Bernie Kantak, James Porter, Michael O'Dowd, and Justin Beckett at the stage. Also, mixologist Richie Moe from Citizen Public House will be sharing his secrets in the Great Hall.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $79. For the full list of participants and details visit devouredphoenix.com.