Best of Phoenix

Best of Phoenix 2019: Top Food Stories of the Valley Restaurant World

The Desert Botanical Garden was a beautiful venue for 2019's Devour Culinary Classic.
The Desert Botanical Garden was a beautiful venue for 2019's Devour Culinary Classic. Jacob Tyler Dunn
A lot has happened in 2019 … so far. Good festivals, bad festivals, comeback stories, and a connection to the Caesar salad. From zero-waste initiatives to name grabs, these are the food stories winning Best of Phoenix 2019 awards.

Best Culinary Festival

Devour Culinary Classic

In February, the two-day Devour Culinary Classic celebrated its 10th anniversary with a whirlwind of a weekend food festival. The Desert Botanical Garden continues to be the ideal setting for such a showcase of local food and drink, as attendees are able to weave through the garden's many sections and pathways, browsing vendors busy plating and pouring. Memorable offerings from the 2019 event included mega shrimp from Bourbon & Bones, wagyu brisket from Roka Akor, toasted head cheese from Welcome Diner, and jamon iberico ice cream from Talavera. Devour's complimentary wine glasses did not stay dry for long, especially when passing booths manned by Pillsbury Wine Company or The Shop Beer Company. Beloved chefs were also in the mix, including Silvana Salcido Esparza, Lori Hashimoto, and Christopher Gross. In addition, the weather was ideal — sunny and chilly, even for February. We're excited to see what organizers Kimber Lanning and Local First Arizona have in store for the 11th annual Devour Culinary Classic.

click to enlarge Bao were a little too popular at the first Arizona Bao Fest. - MICHAEL STERN / FLICKR
Bao were a little too popular at the first Arizona Bao Fest.
Michael Stern / Flickr

Best Food Festival Catastrophe

AZ Bao Fest

Many had high hopes for the first-ever Arizona Bao Fest, held on March 24 at Unexpected Art Gallery, so much so that people were lined up for samples of steamed buns, noodles, takoyaki, rice bowls, skewers, boba, and desserts from more than 10 local eateries. To stave off long waits, organizers implemented staggered admission, with half-hour entry times throughout the day. But lengthy delays ensued, as did sunburns. More than 3,000 people tried to attend, cramming into the parking lot on Polk Street. People complained on social media about the long lines, the lack of food, the number of actual bao vendors, the parking, the way tickets were presold, and so much more. However, we don't mean to be entirely bitchy. We sincerely mean it when we say better luck next year, because bao are the bomb.

click to enlarge You're encouraged to reduce, reuse, recycle, reconsider, and reimagine. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
You're encouraged to reduce, reuse, recycle, reconsider, and reimagine.
Lauren Cusimano

Best Food Waste Initiative

Zero Phoenix

This year, we've tried our hardest to highlight how food waste is a big issue. And in the spirit of offering solutions along with problems, we've written about what regular folks can do — both at the restaurant and household level. Phoenicians may choose from a couple of new habits to reduce food waste, including smarter grocery shopping, practically ignoring expiration dates, and loving leftovers. These are all forms of waste diversion, and part of the Reimagine Phoenix initiative — a Phoenix Public Works Department program designed to increase the city's waste diversion rate to 40 percent by 2020, then, hopefully, to a big fat zero by 2050. The Reimagine Phoenix program hopes to do this through educational outreach on the five pillars of waste diversion (some of which may sound familiar) — reduce, reuse, recycle, reconsider, and reimagine.


click to enlarge Fate Brewing Co. snagged its name back and a new spot in Tempe. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Fate Brewing Co. snagged its name back and a new spot in Tempe.
Lauren Cusimano

Best Name Change

Fate Brewing

Fate Brewing opened in Scottsdale in 2012, but there was an issue: There already was a similarly named brewery in Colorado. So, in 2016, Scottsdale's Fate Brewing Company had to reopen as McFate Brewing, a nod to founder Steve McFate. Eventually, a second Scottsdale location opened. But actual fate intervened. The Boulder, Colorado-based FATE Brewing Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2018, and McFate jumped on the chance to reclaim the original name. McFate Brewing Company was rebranded as Fate Brewing Company just in time for the opening of its third location and beer garden, this time in Tempe. The new name couldn't feel more appropriate.

click to enlarge The Farish House has made the most out of this historic home. - FARISH HOUSE
The Farish House has made the most out of this historic home.
Farish House

Best Fresh Start

The Farish House

Few restaurants in Phoenix have ever gotten as much bad publicity as The Monocle. The restaurant and bar was set to open in 2017 until Phoenix New Times revealed that co-owner Arthur John Bachelier was a convicted sex offender who served six years for having sex with a minor. That prohibited him from obtaining a state liquor license. Bachelier went on the lam after he was convicted of probation violation. Law enforcement officials finally caught up with him in Seattle, where he was working at another restaurant, and he is back behind bars. But there's a happy ending for the historic Phoenix building, at least. It finally reopened this year as The Farish House, taking the original name of the 1899 brick home near Roosevelt Row. And early reports on the neighborhood bistro are quite promising: Our food editor called it "ideal for a date night or a quiet family dinner."
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