You can bet a ticket to the nearly sold-out Devoured Phoenix Culinary Classic that as soon as we got our hands on a 2014 calendar we marked the dates for these ten events. The ones that have set dates already, that is. For the sake of fairness we didn't include events that we, Chow Bella, and/or Phoenix New Times host or sponsor. That list includes Pie Social (but come on, who doesn't love pie) and the upcoming Street Eats Food Truck Festival and Check Please! event.
Devoured Phoenix Culinary Classic Phoenix Art Museum Saturday, March 1 and Sunday, March 2, 2014 www.devouredphoenix.com
Held at the Phoenix Art Museum, this annual event showcases the very best of the Valley food scene. Every year more than 100 local restaurants, chefs, food producers, wine makers, distillers and craft beer makers come together to share their talents. And unlike at other festivals, Devoured is limited to 4,000 guests, meaning you actually have a chance of tasting the food and drinks you want. It's definitely one of the pricier culinary events in town, but the combination of unique food, drinks and beautiful atmosphere have made this a favorite festival for true food lovers.
Strong Beer Festival Steele Indian School Park Saturday, February 15, 2014 www.arizonabeerweek.com
This event kicks off the Arizona Beer Festival each year with an afternoon celebration of the strongest -- as in, have the highest alcohol content -- brews around. Though the heavy beers are the stars, the event also brings a variety of other types craft beers to the table including specialty styles of beer and not uncommonly, unique brews made specifically for the event. A reasonably priced ticket gets attendees a commemorative four-ounce tasting glass (that's right, you even get a souvenir) as well as 15 tasting tickets. There's always food and live music to set the mood, so don't be surprised if you're drunker than you meant to be before you know it. After all, they are some pretty strong beers.
James Beard Benefit Dinner Deseo at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa March 13, 2014 www.scottsdalefest.org
No, this is not an everyman event. Tickets start at $200 a person and tables will set you back about two grand. But this Scottsdale Culinary Festival-related event is a truly memorable experience. The dinner usually takes place about a month before the actual festival and is organized in conjunction with the James Beard Foundation. Each year local and regional Beard award winners come to town to cook with James Beard award-winning chefs from around the country. It's a collaborative meal where each chef prepares a single course and addresses diners to explain the dish. Between the delectable food, big-name chefs, and swanky resort location, you might even forget you're in Phoenix for a night.
Arizona Cocktail Week Various locations February 14 through 21, 2014 www.arizonacocktailweek.com
There's a little feud going on between Arizona Cocktail Week and Arizona Beer Week, which have fallen on the same week for the past three years -- so true booze-hounds will probably face a dilemma or two when deciding which events to attend. Cocktail Week brings some of the state and country's top mixologists and drink experts (think Travis Nass, Ryan Margaian, and Dave Johnson) together for nine days of educational seminars, interactive tastings, cocktail competitions, and booze-filled parties. The best part may be the AZCW wristbands, which entitle the wearer to drink specials at participating bars, restaurants and lounges across the state. And the proceeds benefit C-CAP, a nonprofit organization offering a culinary arts program and job opportunities to Arizona's underserved youth, so you can feel extra good about the purchase too.
Scottsdale Culinary Festival: Best of the Fest April 8 through 13, 2014 www.scottsdalefest.org
When it comes to size, the Scottsdale Culinary Fest reigns king with a week of events at various restaurants and resorts around the Valley. But if you're looking for the festival's truly knock-out event, you'll be wanting to save up for the Best of the Fest dinner. It's the grande finale for the whole event, bringing ten of the city's best restaurants together for a five-course, wine-paired dinner made table-side by the restaurant's chef. Each chef cooks for two tables allowing for a unique interactive experience for diners and promising a memorable meal in a beautiful setting. In the past, participating chefs have included Gabrielle Bertacini of Il Tocco, Matt Carter of The House Brasserie, and Josh Hebert of Posh Improvisational Cuisine.
Phoenix Brewers Invitational Heritage Square www.phoenixbrewfest.com
Since the first Phoenix Brewers Invitation in 2012, this event has been bringing craft beer fans together to generate awareness about beer culture in and around metro Phoenix. And that's a message we can really get behind. The event, which began as a two-day fest but cut back to one day last year, was created specifically to highlight craft breweries in Phoenix and throughout Arizona, though the event also includes vendors and brewers from all over the country. But drinking beer isn't the only thing you can do here. There's also beer-related vendors, beer memorabilia displays, beer writers and publishers, and home brewing demonstrations. In short, a one stop shop for authentic beer fans.
Arizona Spring and Fall Restaurant Weeks Various locations www.arizonarestaurantweek.com
We'll admit there are definitely cons to Restaurant Week but at it's core the event is a real boon to the industry in that diners who might never make it out to try new spots can do so at a (sometimes deeply) discounted price. Sure, you're going to have to make a reservation weeks in advance and yes, there's probably going to be a limited menu, but it's a small price to pay to get your picky friend to try something new. Since 2011 Restaurant Week, which is organized by the Arizona Restaurant Association, has been a biannual event with one iteration in spring and another in the fall. And we're not in a position to complain about getting $30-$40 prix-fines menus from some of our favorite spots twice a year.
Roosevelt Row Chile Pepper Festival ARTS Market www.rooseveltrow.org/events/chile-fest
Since 2012 this fall fest has been bringing the heat to Roosevelt Row. We love the fact that the event draws out downtown Phoenix residents and business owners for a day of casual salsa tastings and judging. It's a friendly competition between such local eateries as Welcome Diner, Jobot, and the Cafe and the Phoenix Public Market -- and as you can imagine means there's a pretty large variety of dishes to try. It's still a fledgling fest for sure, but also one of our favorites.
Arizona Taco Festival Salt River Fields October 2014 www.aztacofestival.com/
We're not the only fans of the Arizona Taco Festival; in 2011 USA Today named it one of the "10 great places to feast at a festival." The event comes from humble beginnings and was first held in 2010 in a dirt lot outside Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. But since then it's grown to a giant two-day event that takes over the spacious Salt River Fields. There are always more tacos than you'll probably care to eat in day and each available for just $2 each. The booze flow freely (Tequila Expo, anyone?) and when you're looking for entertainment while you digest, you'll find plenty of eating contests, live music, and Lucha Libre wrestling.
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The Arizona Wine Growers Festival at The Farm The Farm at South Mountain Friday, November 14 and Saturday, November 15, 2014 www.azwinefestivalatthefarm.com
You never need an excuse to spend a day at the picturesque Farm at South Mountain, but when you can also rub elbows with the state's top wine producers it makes for an extra sweet deal. This two-day event kicks off with a Celebration of the Arizona Wine Growers Reception at Quiessence. The dinner pairs the restaurant's signature local and seasonal cuisine with the 2014 Arizona Grower's Cup Medal Winning Wines. On Saturday the general admission events begin with educational seminars, a picnic lunch, live music and of course wine tastings from dozens of Arizona wineries.