Another year of Scottsdale Culinary Festival events has come and gone. We sampled the fare at the 33rd Annual Great Arizona Picnic, watched the wine flow at Cooks & Corks, and took the opportunity to Eat, Drink and Be Pretty at the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts.
Despite the sheer number of culinary events, we can't help but feel that this year was a bit of a dud.
The unlucky cold snap may have chased people away from attending the 33rd Annual Great Arizona Picnic on Saturday, but the masses came out in droves on Sunday. If you went on Saturday you had the run of the picnic, and could skip from tent to tent unencumbered. But if you hit up the Sunday edition, you were in for one of the most crowded GAPs in recent years, with lines well over 20 people deep for the food at most tents.
Dos Gringos, Salty Senorita, and Lucille's Smokehouse were hardly culinary gems, and the number of street tacos being offered across the fest was enough to make us nauseous. Luckily, the delicate chickpea ceviche from Bombay Spice and the cheesy stuffed peppers from Tapas Papa Frita helped balance the scale.
Check out the rest of the fest after the jump...
Let's not kid though, this is really the kind of "food festival" where the food exists primarily to soak up copious amounts of booze, especially when the price of tastings dropped to just a buck for wine and beer.
The sprawling Southwest Festival of Beers offered well over 200 different types of beer to sample (in an adorable one ounce souvenir mug), and the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour included seminars and demos in addition to an interesting table of aromatics that tickled our oenophile senses while educating us on the "nose" of a wine.
Both the SKYY Vodka tent and the Patron Experience were also packed to capacity, and offering the equivalent of bottle service with their VIP packages that included perks like a special tasting menu from The Mission's chef Matt Carter that accompanied tequila tastings.
Apparently, the crowds and rising price point for food and beverage was a breaking point for other too, since Cooks & Corks
was sold out both days. The heavy booze to bites ratio was also present at this event, which boasted at least as many vintners as food vendors.
The food on Sunday was down several vendors, like Trader Vic's and Cafe Zuzu, further highlighting the booze versus wine discrepancy. The biggest winners of Cooks & Corks included a savory sweet potato tamale from the Spotted Donkey Cantina that was packed with pulled pork and topped with a sweetly spicy mole sauce.
The tender Kobe beef carpaccio from Yellowtail was also delicious, with two thin slices of cured Kobe beef topped accented by a citrus ponzu sauce and microgreens. Brix of Flagstaff also brought their A-game to the event, with spoons of sweet polenta and pulled pork with a chilled watercress soup on the side.