Devour Phoenix Culinary Classic 2018

In revisiting the post I wrote regarding the Devour Phoenix Culinary Classic of 2017, I noted my intention to attend both days of the tasting event in 2018.  However, by the time I purchased my tickets in December (tickets went on sale in September), the tickets for Saturday were already sold out.  I realize this was such a rookie move for a culinary classic geek like me, and I was extremely disappointed in myself.  I even went onto Craig’s List for the first time in my life to see if I could either upgrade to VIP and/or buy a Saturday ticket.  Would you believe there was such a demand for the Devour tickets that people were offering to trade their Justin Timberlake tickets???  I am thrilled that the event has become so popular, as it showcases the valley’s extremely talented and burgeoning culinary scene.  However, I also realize I cannot wait until the last minute to purchase what has become one of the hottest foodie events in town.

This year, the setting was the majestic Desert Botanical Gardens, offering plenty of space for 10 zones, or “experiences”, with chefs, bartenders, and local food and drink exhibitors.  On a perfect 65 degree Fahrenheit day, Hubby and I donned our wine tasting lanyards and sunscreen, and set out to taste dishes from old favorites, like The Gladly and St. Francis, and to discover some new spots to tick off our date night list.  The following is a smattering of my favorites, and, yes, we tried them all while saving a little room for the beverage tastings.  BTW, the best thing I learned yesterday: a friend suggested I become a member of Local First Arizona (Localist) to be apprised of the sale of Devour Culinary Classic 2019 the moment they become available, so that is the nugget I leave for you. Subscribe to Localist here.

PS  Last year, I believe on my FB page referencing the Devour Culinary Classic, someone commented something along the lines of, “Overpriced event for snooty, rich people”.  So, I am the first one to admit to being very snooty about food…in fact, I would say that being “snooty” about food is the definition of a “foodie”.  But I have to address the “overpriced” comment.  A ticket to Devour Phoenix costs $105.  That includes admission to the Desert Botanical Gardens (usually $24.95) plus 4 hours in which to indulge in food and drink, prepared by some of the best chefs in the valley in one of the most beautiful settings.  Plus, I feel the object here is to make sophisticated food more obtainable.  Just sayin’.  Let me know what you think in the comment section below.  xoM

Litchfield’s at The Wigwam Resort: Lamb Belly: Beet Root, Horseradish, Togarashi Popcorn, Soy Caramel, Corn Shoot – one of my faves.

District: Wagyu Beef with Corn Pudding, Avocado Mousse, Mole Dusted Citrus Merengue – a beautiful dish with a variety of different textures.

Artizen: Indian Spiced Hot Shrimp with Coconut Chutney – another fave of ours.

Different Pointe of View: Grilled Muscovy Duck Breast with Sweet Corn and Morel Griddle Cake, Duck Cracklings, Kumquat Jam, and Sweet Pea Coulis – this dish was exquisite.

RedThai Southeast Asian Kitchen: Spicy Ginger Flat Rice Noodles with Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Onion and Ginger Black Bean Sauce – this is one restaurant I plan on checking out this year.

House of Tricks: Green Chile Smoked Pork Belly Pozole – who doesn’t love pozole?.

The Parlor Pizzeria: Gluten Free Cacio e Pepe prepared in the wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano – as you could imagine, this was unbelievably tasty!

The Larder + The Delta: Delta Hot Tamale with Burnt Corn Husk Labneh and Last Year’s Corn – this was the first time trying a delta hot tamale, a favorite of the Mississippi delta where cornmeal replaces masa and the tamale is simmered instead of steamed.

The Dressing Room: Tako Yaki Octopus Hush Puppy with Tomato Sriracha Jam, Chinese Hot Mustard, Shiso Aioli and Bonito Dust – I love Chef Malone and what he is doing at The Dressing Room.

St. Francis: Heritage Turkey Salad with Two Wash Ranch Turkey, Wheat Berries, Petite Greens, and Tangelo Vinaigrette – Chef Aaron can do no wrong and this dish is proof in the pudding.

The Gladly: Crispy Shrimp Toast with Chula Cocktail Salsa, Whipped Buttermilk and Avocado – I am not usually a big fan of shrimp toast, but this one helped change my mind.

Clever Koi: Sichuan Braised Chicken Feet with Fermented Tofu, Black Beans and Chiles – I have eaten a lot of strange things in my life so chicken feet did not scare me…I am just not a huge fan of chewing on chicken skin but Hubby loved it.

Beckett’s Table/Southern Rail: Shrimp Remoulade with Meyer Lemon Caviar and Brioche – this melted in your mouth!

Deseo: Anticucho de Pulpo (Octopus) with Papa Criolla, Black Olives and Aji Verde – pulpo is hard to do for 2,000 people and they nailed this.

CRUjiente Tacos: Szechuan Pepper-Mescal Braised Short Rib Taco with Doubanjiang, Charred Scallion, Pickled Red Onion, and Cilantro Scallion Tortilla – Chef Hinojosa once again wowed all with one of his creatively fabulous tacos.

Performance artists were scattered throughout the garden.

All photos by Marci Symington for texAZtaste.com.

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