James Beard Foundation's Taste America: A Night of Culinary Stars Dinner was Epic

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See also: James Beard Foundation's Taste America Dinner (Slideshow)

We were invited to join the sold-out crowd for the evening, which began with a welcome reception featuring small plates from five Phoenix chefs. While enjoying glasses of beer, wine, and cider, attendees mixed, mingled, and tasted some of our local chef's best dishes.

Crudo's Cullen Campbell presented Ahi tuna with bone marrow, smoked truffle, and grapes, making for quite a luxurious way to start the night. On the other side of the crowded room, chef Josh Hebert dished up his playful Uni cheesecake with seaweed and ponzu, a fan-favorite dish we've tasted before at other big culinary events.

In honor of Mexican Independence Day, which fell on the Saturday following the event, chef Silvana Salcido Esparza offered diners a small taste of Chiles en Nogada. The rustic dish included a small roasted poblano pepper filled with chicken and fruit. Covered in an almond cream reduction and sprinkled with tart pomegranate seeds, the small bite perfectly conveyed Esparza's one-of-a-kind style of Mexican cuisine.

Chefs Gio Osso and Charleen Badman, of Virtu Honest Craft and FnB respectively, each brought one of their best-known dishes to the event. In Osso's case that meant the Charred Spanish Octopus that's quickly become a signature offering at his 15-month-old Scottsdale restaurant. Badman, on the other hand, dished up her Tuscan Kale falafel with Meyer lemon tahini. It may not be as famous as her leeks, but this dish has quickly become one of our favorite starters at FnB.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria