Chow Bella

5 Favorite Dishes from Check, Please! Arizona Last Weekend in Downtown Phoenix

The third annual Check, Please! Arizona (co-sponsored by New Times) was a crowded success, with shade, trash cans, and seats at a premium. What wasn't hard to find was good food. We had trouble narrowing it to our five favorites, but that's what we've done here.

One of our favorite dishes came from Cowboy Ciao. The cured pork belly with peach/cascabel compote, agave crema, and mint was delicious. We loved the peach/cascabel compote, and the pork was cooked perfectly. It looked like a lot going on (read: too much) when we read the list on the board, but it was truly a perfect flavor profile. The portion size also was appropriate considering how much food we saw being thrown away throughout the day.

See also: "Check, Please! Arizona Festival: Classic Valley Restaurants and Celebrity Chef Entertainment

The lines were long for most of the restaurants, and Salerno's from Gilbert was probably the longest we experienced all day. It for a good reason, though, because the cheese ravioli with pink sauce was delicious. The sauce was a mixture of alfredo and red sauce. The cannoli was one of our favorite desserts offered at the event. It had a hint of cinnamon in the cream filling, and chocolate chips at each end to give a little more life to the flavor party. Who doesn't like a chocolate-studded cannoli?

We gravitated to the fresh green cups at Vogue Bistro. It wowed us with Its salad. Yes, the salad. Vogue served a Ballentine of pork and chicken with gazpacho salad of baby greens, pickled beets, and white balsamic peach vinaigrette. This dish showcased Vogue in a subtle way, and we enjoyed the light offering in the sea of meatballs being served that day. Meatballs seemed to be the theme of the day, maybe because they're easy to pick up. We counted at least four different restaurants serving them, and let us tell you, not every meatball is created equally. We don't really know how you mess up a meatball, but a couple of those being served were really not worth the stomach space.

Wild Thaiger brought the heat to an already hot day. A super-spicy vegetarian green curry was on the menu as was a milder chicken curry. We already were sweating from the sun, and this dish turned up the heat. It was a good kind of heat, though, and the rice on the side helped to tame the fiery beast.

Betty's Nosh had wonderful stuffed mushrooms. What else would you expect a mushroom bar? Stuffed mushroom chicken alfredo and stuffed mushroom angry shrimp were showcased by Betty's, and though both were fantastic, the chicken alfredo was our favorite. It had that right balance of shredded chicken with creamy alfredo and was topped with cheese.

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