For 2020, Devour the World — the initial culinary event of Devour Week — was held in Centennial Plaza at the Peoria City Hall Complex. And whoever made the decision to move the international food festival west deserves just one more sincere clap on the back. Devour the World 2020 was a well-paced, well-organized showcasing of Phoenix's global restaurant offerings.
Finding the place was easy, parking was a snap, the weather was perfect late winter, and the grounds were ideal. Devour the World was like a mini Devour Culinary Classic, the perfect amuse-bouche to the anticipated week of food-focused events planned by Local First Arizona.
Present were just north of 20 food vendors, with about 10 beverage booths peppered in.
Some chefs and vendors waited for the hungry to swing by their booths, explaining the sample dishes to curious onlookers. Some openly called out to walkers by. I’m looking at you, Cool Vybz Jamaican Restaurant staffers pushing the jerk chicken with rice. “Don’t be shy or bashful,” they shouted. I wasn’t. And that jerk chicken was incredible.
The best thing I ate at Devour the World was being ladled right behind the Cool Vybz tent by The REZ an Urban Eatery. Chef Renetto-Mario Etsitty was lining up small but generous bowls of vegan green chile corn with butternut squash bisque. I had to stop walking to concentrate and finish every bit. He was pairing it with a dark purple agua fresca, the sign explaining the flavor was blueberry sage. It was heaven in a small plastic cup.
Close seconds to that green chile bisque was a chicken momo, a piping hot Nepali-style dumpling topped with a very spicy sauce, from the Everest Momo and Sherpa Kitchen hybrid booth. Next was a spicy escovitch oyster shooter from The Breadfruit & Rum Bar handed over from Chef Danielle Leoni herself.
You had to be careful in that sun with all the wine samples around. Many were good, welcomed, but a 100 percent cabernet with a French oak barrel twist from Woods Bay Winery stood out.
Most edible options were savory, but a few sweet treats did make themselves known. A cookie butter crepe from Colados Coffee & Crepes tasted as good as it sounds, and Happy Buns was handing out prepackaged coconut buns perfect for traffic on the way home.
By 1:30 p.m. people were already shouting how full they were to partners still dragging them to the next booth, and the wine lines started to get a little longer, too. But by long we mean one or two people deep, which was the case for most of the day.
This being an event presented by the city of Peoria, it was fitting how the west Valley was well represented: Colados for one, plus Flavors of Louisiana, Bottega Pizzeria Ristorante (that penne, my goodness), and the coming-soon Mochilero Kitchen. That last place was handing out a picturesque little bowl of aquachile with Georges Bank scallop, cucumber, serrano, avocado, citrus, mezcal, and a crunchy plantain for texture. The whole thing was spicy, bright green, and very good — making me all the more excited for that 2020 opening.
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Yet another great touch was the LFA volunteers manning every receptacle station, guiding each person with handfuls of small plates, cups, and forks which slot — compost, recycle, or trash — their items were to go. It made things easy and downright chatty.
A performance area was set up with rowed chairs for scheduled entertainment like the Island Magic steel drum band with Keith Johnson, Chinese pipa with Lai Gates, and Ken Koshio’s taiko drumming. These well-planned performances created an ideal soundtrack to the four-hour event. Live painting and information booths for the Musical Instrument Museum and Arizona Broadway Theatre were also perfect additions.
If anyone had to come up with a complaint (and they’d really have to fish for it), it might have been the lack of shade. The sun was out, my friends, and only the booths themselves or the nearby amphitheater provided any reprieve. But we’re Arizonans, we get the deal, and all I know is, I’ll be wearing shorts next weekend to the Devour Culinary Classic.
For more information, visit the Devour Week website.