Our Food Critic Picks the Best Food Festival to Attend in Winter 2020

A plate of food from last year's Native Edible Experience.EXPAND
A plate of food from last year's Native Edible Experience.
Halie Sutton
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Food festival season is nearing. The long spring run of bulgogi and fried chicken and cupped beer is about to begin. Time and resources constrain how many festivals we can attend, not to mention digestive endurance. If we had to choose just one event to attend on the winter-into-spring circuit, it would be the Arizona Native Edible Experience.

The what? And why?

Held at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West near Old Town, the Native Edible Experience brings the kind of food you can’t get from a restaurant, lunch counter, or food truck. From 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, February 8, a gathering will unite culinary leaders from several of Arizona’s many tribes.

There will be tastings and demonstrations, farmed and wild foods, eating deeply rooted in our state.

At the event last year, Apache foods activist Twila Cassadore, who took us on an ancient hunt, plated gloscho. This is an ancestral wood rat that she spears herself — one of the hundreds of western Apache foods she has been working to reintroduce to modern Apache culture. How does she prepare gloscho? Often with a cactus salsa. What does it taste like?

Well, you might be able to find out February 8, because, depending on how the winter hunts go, Cassadore might be sharing it again. (She says she will have that salsa, “desert and corn tortillas,” and more.)

Other indigenous cooks slated for the museum’s “cocktail-style setting” include Brian Yazzie, Renetto-Mario Etsitty, and Andrew Humeyumptewa. Yazzie uses Navajo ingredients, many wild, to build composed, restaurant-style plates. Etisitty is a downtown Phoenix fixture. He fries Navajo tacos deep into the night and ladles a mean aqua fresca. Andrew Humeyumptewa, part of the Ak-Chin community’s Harrah’s Development System training program, has worked under chefs at Kai Restaurant.

Along with the sounds, scents, sights, and everything else good food brings, the museum will also fill with the work of several contemporary indigenous artists. Music, too.

The cost is $25. The event aims to help build understanding, for locals and travelers alike, of Arizona’s tribes, people, their stories, and their roles in local heritage.

The Native Edible Experience occurs the same weekend as the Arizona American Indian Festival. Both are partnerships between Scottsdale and Arizona’s tribes. The latter runs on February 8, and Sunday, February 9, in Scottsdale’s Civic Center Plaza, where there will be crafts, food vendors, horse riders, and other bookends to your eating. 

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