A Friends of James Beard Dinner in Our Own Backyard Last Night

Is a trip to NYC and a dinner at the famed James Beard House on your "bucket list"? Note to self, a taste of the experience and access to James Beard award winning chefs from across the nation is right in your backyard.

Well, it was last night, anyway.

While the James Beard Foundation celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, The Scottsdale League of the Arts, sponsor of the Scottsdale Culinary Festival, and The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa celebrated 10 years of hosting a local Friends of James Beard Dinner. One of only 15 Friends dinners held outside the Beard House, the event raises funds to support grants and scholarships in the Culinary Arts as well as community initiatives in public schools and programs for food awareness.

This year's Friends dinner was hosted by the Westin Kierland's culinary team of talent, Chefs Douglas Rodriguez, Todd Berry, and Roberto Madrid. The team roster was rounded out by visiting chefs Roberto Donna-La Forchetta Trattoria, Michael Ginor-Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Susur Lee-Lee, Levi Mezick-1833, Nancy Silverton-Mozza, and Dahlia Narvaez-Mozza. Hometown favorite Chrysa Robertson was also in the back of the house with Silverton, whom she worked with at Campanile.

Chef Madrid set the expectations high during the reception hour with nuevo latino flavors, exciting the palate for the multi-course meal to come.

Fingers were used to get every last drop of sauce from the plate.

The fraternity of chefs as they man the station and mingle with guests.

Chef Madrid's Apache Beef Tartar and spicy Chimichurri sauce.

Smoked paprika aioli spiked this bite of plantain gnocchi and lobster.

Colorful pinwheels of Peruvian Rellena with purple and white potatoes topped with Osetra Caviar and a braised fennel sauce, one of four appetizers guests were served, made it difficult to restrain ourselves from taking seconds, knowing a seven course meal followed. A tradition at The Westin Kierland, "Bagpipes at Sunset" closed the reception hour as guests headed to the dining room.

Deseo's open kitchen window displays not just food but the jokes and jibes of chefs enjoying the admiration of the crowd.

First on the dinner menu was Host Chef Todd Berry's Lobster Medallions served over a lychee and Fuji apple slaw with a vanilla phyllo round. The coconut syrup granita was a superb refreshing accompaniment. Wine pairing: Trefethen Harmony Chardonnay 2009.

No protesters here! Chef Ginor's plate of terrine of foie gras, duck prosciutto and mostada di cremona was perfectly restrained sensuality on a plate. The plate was enhanced by a tart pickled rhubarb and sweet rhubarb sauce. Paired with La Sirena Moscato Azul 2010.

A beauty of a Basque style stew was served by Chef Mezick. The pan roasted black cod with sable was surrounded by Castelvetrano olive and bell pepper quenelles in a light shell fish broth. Paired with EnRoute "Les Pommiers" Pinot Noir 2009.

Wrapped and roasted in caul fat, Chef Susur Lee's Rack of Lamb Thailandaise was plated with three colorful sauce additions -- green chili chutney, coconut milk and coriander, and tomato curry leaf mustard seed. The dish represented Lee's adept use of Thai, Indian and French flavors. Paired with La Sirena Pirate TreasuRed 2008.

Busy in the back of the house, Dahlia Narvaez, Nancy Silverton and Chrysa Robertson prep dessert, Torta della Nonna-grandmother's tart. The goat cheese, mascarpone and cream cheese tart filling was light, airy, and savory in a crust that could be the standard bearer of crusts-tender, light, flaky. Paired with Mer Soleil Late harvest Viognier 2004.

During the evening of leisurely dining a live auction of art, dinner and travel experiences brought in funds to support The James Beard foundation projects. As guests headed home we heard the chefs headed to Zinc Bistro for a relaxed sampling of duck-chef style-no, not nose to tail but tongue to balls!

Check back for more Scottsdale Culinary Festival coverage throughout the week: 2012 Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame Inductees Announced Shaken and Stirred at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival Wine and Chocolate Not So Chocolatey

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Editor's Note: Chow Bella's admission to this event was comped by the Scottsdale Culinary Festival.

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Carol Blonder