Events

Scottsdale Culinary Festival 2015 Closes Out With a Grand Finale, Best of the Fest

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See also: Scottsdale Culinary Festival's Best of the Fest 2015 at the Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale (SLIDESHOW) Every year the festival ends with this upscale dinner event, hosted at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch. The event features a handful of the Valley's top chefs, who each prepare dinner for one or two tables of diners. This year, we were invited to dine at chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's table.

The evening began with champagne and passed hors d'oeuvres, allowing guests time to mingle under the setting Arizona sun. This was also our chance to meander the courtyard to "ooh" and "ahh" over the stunning tablescapes. From the long wooden table and chairs brought by chef Mel Mecinas and Talavera at the Four Seasons, to the elaborate floral arrangements and intricately folded napkins from Josh Hebert and Posh restaurant, each chef created a table that reflected his or her own style and cuisine.

Chef Esparza's table featured handmade Mexican magnets (take-home gifts for the guests) and a centerpiece made from colorful paper flowers. Mexican votive candles rounded out the setting.

"They put you in the corner because you're in the barrio now," Esparza joked, welcoming the table of diners and explaining the secret to making great guacamole (not smashing the avocado), which was the dinner's first course.

The chef's signature guacamole -- available at both her original restaurant, Barrio Café, and the more recently opened Barrio Urbano -- featured pomegranate seeds, tomato, red onion, lime, and jalapeno, making for a salty, sour, and spicy start to the meal. Oak Creek Vineyard's bold grenache blanc stood up perfectly to the flavors.

She followed the starter with another Barrio Café favorite, a diver scallop and goat cheese quesadilla. At the restaurant, the dish usually features shrimp, but the combination of tender scallop and salty goat cheese works just as well. In any case, it's the blanco tequila reduction (the chef's Mexican take on a classic French white wine sauce) that truly makes the dish sing.

The wine pairing, an unfiltered fume blanc, underscored the sweetness of the scallops.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria