Cloudy skies and light rain didn't scare away hordes of hungry Devoured participants on Saturday. And chefs from across the Valley turned out to show off their tastiest small (and not so small in some cases -- we're looking at you, T. Cook's!) plates and nibbles.
With over 45 restaurants serving dishes, it was impossible to leave hungry, or thirsty, as local wineries and breweries poured samples along side microbreweries and vintners from across the United States. There were dishes to suit just about anyone's palate, but beets were the big ingredient this year, showing up in just about every salad we tried (and we tried a lot of salads) or flying solo in all their sweet and earthy glory. Short ribs also were the highlight of the festival, with just about everything from ravioli to tostadas packed with braised short ribs.
There's a reason Devoured sold out nearly a month ahead of the festival date: It continues to be the best bang for your culinary festival buck. Plus free admission to the Phoenix Art Museum afterwards helped us walk off the impending food coma.
So with a happy belly and the first button to our pants undone, we bring you pictures of all the lovely food.
Churn continues to be one of the most whimsical contenders at Devoured, showing up with little bags of sweet treats to distribute to diners. Its grasshopper ice cream sandwiches were not to be missed, with a mint crunch ice cream held together by two chocolate crinkle cookies dusted with powdered sugar.
Gertrude's turned out a sweet dish, too, with a velvety mesquite-smoked chocolate ganache dotted with a lightly sweetened ice milk cube and accompanied by a little chocolate cookie. To counter that sweet treat, Gertrude's also offered a fresh pea and radish lettuce wrap and a lovely homemade burrata topped with strawberries drizzled in balsamic vinegar, pink pepper, and mint.
Federal Pizza may be new to the culinary scene, but it served up one of our favorite pairings at Devoured. A braised short rib ravioli with baby carrots and mushroom au jus complemented by colorful beets from Duncan Farm that sat atop a preserved lemon marscapone topped with hazelnuts, micro chervil, and a sauvignon blanc vinaigrette.
Los Sombreros represented its Mexican food well. We especially liked the bright and floral hibiscus tea that was lightly sweetened. Having eaten at enough Mexican restaurants, we'd call it jamaica, as a single sip should sell the masses on it despite the foreign Mexican name. The slow-roasted tomatillo pork was also a must-try -- fork-tender and bursting with bold flavor.
Sushi Roku's one-bite fried sushi may not have been the most traditional Japanese food in town, but it was the tastiest at the festival. Crispy-fried vinegar rice was tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce, then topped with spicy tuna. Two bites of sushi perfection, and we didn't mind having to lick our fingers afterwards.
Arrogant Bucher may have underwhelmed with its jambalaya (not enough bam! to make Emeril happy, certainly), but the caper-topped salmon salad was more than enough to make up for it. Salty, sweet, slightly fishy, and perfect atop the crostini, although we would have been happy to eat that dish solo by the spoonful.
Green certainly surprised us with its creative offering this year, a pretty cone filled with what we were told was rice, but looked like tiny scallops. Given that Green is a vegetarian restaurant, we indulged in the mystery rice balls and were pleasantly surprised at their springy texture and spicy sweet glaze. The look on some festival-goers face as they bit into the non-traditional rice dish was just as sweet.
Another pizza-heavy contender that left the 'za at home was Cibo. Its nutella crepes more than made up for the lack of pizza (probably pretty hard to do good wood-fired pizza on the fly), and we were big fans of the fregola e polpettini. Served in a pretty tureen, the toasted pasta went great with cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, kale, ricotta and a one-bite meatball.
North's tuna sashimi was delicious paired with crispy fried capers, while its tiramisu was one of our favorite desserts at the event. The meatballs, however -- let's just say they weren't ready for prime time. A bit too dense and nothing to write home about.
One of the big bummers of Devoured was Davanti Enoteca's running out of food about halfway through the fest. It was tucked in the far corner of the art museum's courtyard, and by the time we arrived to sample Davanti's pesto and prosciutto dish, it was too late to indulge. We'll have to make a special visit to the restaurant to right that wrong.
Roka Akor surprised us this year by leaving the traditional Japanese cuisine behind and deciding to go with a roasted cauliflower and short rib bite. We also enjoyed watching the chefs grill up pounds and pounds of cauliflower on their huge open grill, which provided a little bit of warmth on a chilly March day.
St. Francis' strawberry cocktail was delicious, but its summery salad, while bright and a much-needed break from all the richness, didn't compare to last year's glacier lettuce. It was still, as always, impeccably, done and the wildflowers atop each salad made us feel extra special when horfing it down.
The Vig's summery salad included salty almonds and cheese, pomegranate arils, citrus wedges, and colorful beets. While its Monte Cristo sandwich demonstrated that a perfectly poached egg on the fly -- creamy yolk and all -- is still possible outside of the kitchen.
Milagro's short rib tostada made use of one of Devoured's favorite ingredients, showcasing it with microgreens and pickled onions. The short rib was well-braised and fork-tender, but the "tostada" turned out to be a standard corn chip. A bit unexpected, but we just ditched the chip and focused on the meaty goodness instead.
The Parlor served up rabbit sausage with a carrot ketchup, and we found it mouth-watering. A tiny little bun held together a moist, gamey sausage link, and the carrot-y ketchup added an unexpected twist. The English pea soup on the side, however, was an acquired taste. We'll skip the pea soup and have a double serving of Thumper, please.
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One of the most unexpected flavor combos we put in our mouths was Taggia's thin sliced veal cutlet topped with a deviled egg and sweet gherkin relish. It was salty, sweet, and ever so tender.
Celebrity chef Brian Malarkey, of Top Chef and The Taste fame, was on hand for Scottsdale's Searsucker. On the menu? Short ribs with fava beans and a berry-topped scallop. The booth was madness every time we tried to approach it, and while Brian was nothing but smiles and more than willing to take a picture with fans, we barely got in to try Searsucker's food. The blueberry scallop? Divine. The short ribs? Fell just a bit short. Then again, with the hordes of diners milling about the booth, we're happy to even have snagged a couple of nibbles.
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