Caramelpalooza 2012: The Winners!

Hundreds of you came out to lick, crunch, chew and otherwise gobble caramel confections prepared by 18 of the Valley's finest chefs Friday night, all part of the third annual Caramelpalooza, co-sponsored by Smeeks and Chow Bella.

We might be a little biased, but we think it was our best 'palooza yet.

Big thanks to our collaborators at Smeeks/Frances, to Stinkweeds for awesome music, and to Short Leash Hot Dogs for providing some much-needed savory relief after the sugar. Chow Bella-ites Caitlin McQuarrie, Shelby Moore and Lauren Saria were a terrific help, and we're always beyond grateful to Jackalope Ranch's Claire Lawton.

Our blind tasting judges -- Shannon Armour, Dominique Chatterjee, Denise Clayton, Christopher Gross and Sheila Krueger -- risked life and limb dental work to painstakingly choose their favorites, and of course the crowd did, too. Thanks for braving the lines, people! We tried something new this year, spreading out the tables. Some of you loved it; others not so much. Either way, we appreciate your feedback.

The biggest thanks of all goes to the 18 chefs who slaved in the kitchen to create some truly amazing caramel. Later this week, Dessert First's Dominique Chatterjee will give a more detailed rundown of the sweet stuff; for now you can check out our slideshow. (And if you'd like more info about any of the 18 chefs who competed, check out our profiles here.)

Oh wait, you want to know who won, don't you? Well, why didn't you say so?

The winners of Caramelpalooza 2012 are:

Best in Show -- Beatriz Alatorre de Hong, Paletas Betty, for Bananas Foster Caramel Paletas Best Traditional Caramel -- David Duarte, Hyatt Regency Phoenix, for Dulce de Leche Praline Crunch Bars Best Non-Traditional Use of Caramel -- Tammie Coe, Tammie Coe Cakes, for Concord Grape Caramel Tadpoles People's Choice -- Monica Castillo, Churn

and the runners up are:

Best in Show -- Slade Grove (second), Tammie Coe (third) Best Traditional Caramel -- Churn (second), Virginia Senior of Urban Beans (third) Best Non-Traditional Use of Caramel -- Paletas Betty (second), Slade Grove (third) People's Choice -- David Duarte (second), Brendan McCaskey (third)

Which was your favorite?

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at