Ten Hits and Misses (Including One Thing That Really Sucked) About the Pretty Good Great Arizona Picnic

Grilled Bliss: Roka Akor's robata grilled skirt steak and grilled mushrooms with soy sauce.
Grilled Bliss: Roka Akor's robata grilled skirt steak and grilled mushrooms with soy sauce.
Skippable: Spicy tuna on crispy rice from Sushi Roku
Skippable: Spicy tuna on crispy rice from Sushi Roku

The Scottsdale Culinary Festival's signature event, the Great Arizona Picnic, is happening this weekend. And because this year features 100-degree temps along with picnic pickin's from more than 80 restaurants and beer vendors, it's probably a good idea for those who plan on attending the event's second day of festivities to have a solid game plan in order to make the most of the day.

Here are 10 quick ups and downs from Saturday's Great Arizona Picnic that should help -- or, just make you hungry.

1.) MISS: Not-Ready Vendors -- For an event that starts at noon and when the lunchtime hunger pangs are in full swing, it was disappointing to see many food vendors sans, well, food when the gates opened. I was told by Scottsdale's new SOL Cocina when I walked up to its offering-empty table, "We're keeping you in angst so that you'll be excited to come back and see what we have later." Really?

Orange Table's chef/owner Elizabeth Meinz grilled up some dreamy pancake perfection (jalapeño and pecan pancake.)
Orange Table's chef/owner Elizabeth Meinz grilled up some dreamy pancake perfection (jalapeño and pecan pancake.)

2.) HIT: The Layout -- Scottsdale's Civic Center Plaza made for a sprawling scene with plenty of walking room. For seating, grassy areas were available to park one's picnic keister and enjoy some live music and munchies, and a beer section with tables and chairs helped to party up the picnic, brewski-style.

Cathy Bua of Cathy's Rum Cake Caterers
Cathy Bua of Cathy's Rum Cake Caterers

3.) MISS: Waiting for Water -- Thanks to technology, an unseasonably hot day can be planned for in advance. To bad this wasn't the case at the picnic, whose guests could have benefited from additional water and beverage stations instead of sweltering in long lines.

4.) HIT and MISS: Cathy's Rum Cake- - After shuttering her Chandler location last November, it was sure nice to see the lovely Cathy Bua of Cathy's Rum Cake chatting with picnic guests. The now-catering-only Bua told me her friends wanted to make her famous. Too bad they didn't think to try her strawberry French vanilla cake they were serving -- the strawberries were frozen and rock solid. 

Barbecue Bliss: Q UP's pulled pork barbecue sandwich with a wonderfully spicy and refreshing Southwestern slaw.
Barbecue Bliss: Q UP's pulled pork barbecue sandwich with a wonderfully spicy and refreshing Southwestern slaw.

5.) HIT: Two Restaurants Who Brought It -- Some folks simply show up for the game and others bring the ball. Roka Akor and food truck Q UP! Barbecue not only served up some damn tasty fired-up fare, they loaded up the plates, kept the lines moving while enthusiastically chatting with guests, and cooked food like they meant it by bringing their grills out front so guests could watch the magic happen.

6.) MISS: The Johnsonville Brat's "World's Largest Grill" -- How do Wisconsin-based sausage products arrive at the Great Arizona Picnic? Apparently in the form of a huge, over-hyped semi. More bathrooms in that spot would have been a better idea.

Picnic leopard on the prowl.
Picnic leopard on the prowl.

7.) HIT: This guy's hair >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

8.) HIT: Organization -- Have a question? Need to find something? Thanks to tons of knowledgeable workers, a map for planning, and well-placed signs, guests could enjoy the event in relatively free confusion and frustration.

9.) MISS: The Food Truck Area -- The parking lot location for the Picnic's food trucks may have been a good idea planning-wise, but with zero seating or shady sitting areas, consuming food was sweaty and uncomfortable at best.

Not worth it: Distrito's four dollar camerones cup.
Not worth it: Distrito's four dollar camerones cup.

10.) THE THING THAT REALLY SUCKED -- Poor Caballero Grill. The casual American eatery that opened in Goodyear in January was one I was eager to try -- unfortunately, their Picnic got rained on proper. After spending 12 hours the day before preparing their picnic selections, the health inspector put the nix on everything Saturday morning. "I went to check on our food, which we were keeping in a refrigerated truck, "one of the Caballero's devasted team members explained to me. "Something happened with the temperature inside [it got too warm] and the health inspector said none of it could be served."

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