Devour Phoenix Culinary Classic 2017

The Devour Culinary Classic of Phoenix took place over the weekend of March 4-5 on the beautiful grounds of the Phoenix Art Museum.  This event highlights the movers and shakers of the Arizona food and beverage industry.  Attendees were ushered into the sculpture garden courtyard where they were treated to tastings from Arizona liquor, beer and wine merchants (plus a few from Cali) and several valley restaurants.  I purchased a one-day ticket, and invited my friend, Betsy, to come along.  Both of us are seasoned veterans of the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, and felt this event was in every way as impressive, with innovative and delectable treats prepared by the Valley’s best chefs.  Included here is a smattering of my favorites from the day.  Yes, I tasted them all, and enjoyed myself so much that next year am determined to attend both days.

From Hana Japanese Eatery, cherryblossom smoked duck with silken tofu, soy vinaigrette, ume (Asian plum) sauce and hand cut suma (chinese noodles).  You may recall that Hana Japanese Eatery is on my 2017 restaurant bucket list, and the two masterfully crafted dishes by Chef Lori Hashimoto has only whetted my fascination.

Also from Hana Japanese Eatery, and a Gold Medal winner (deservedly so…one of my two faves), the beet borscht with shrimp, scallop and octopus ceviche, creamy cashew, Fuji apple, pickled myoga (Japanese ginger) and smoked aonori (seaweed).

Aioli Gourmet Burger’s Angus slider with smoked tomato jam, goat cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and lemon arugula on a brioche bun.

Aioli Burger is located on North 32nd street, and also have a catering food truck, which would be great for a party.  Chef Tom D’Ambrosio (shown here) is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

Shrimp had its moment at this culinary festival. Pictured here from Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn, a deconstructed shrimp ceviche with tomato water in those little squeezy things.

At Joe’s Midnight Run, Joe was grilling caciocavallo cheese and serving it on bread with mushroom ragout.  Caciocavallo is an Italian cow’s milk cheese that translates to “cheese on horseback” for the manner in which it is tied together with a rope and hung to drain.

From Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails, pickled shrimp with bone marrow aioli (and 2 Ritz crackers!). I do wish all purveyors had been able to use similar dishware…am not crazy about the presentation in these plastic cups.

Otro Cafe prepared shrimp and vegetable snow rolls with sweet chili sauce, garlic aioli and salsa soya.

Sierra Bonita Grill served up these picture perfect short rib and wild mushroom empanadas with guacamole and pickled red onion.

Sierra Bonita’s guacamole maker had one BIG molcajete.

Shown here, Jameson brownie sundaes with Bailey’s sauce anglaise and Guiness chocolate sauce from T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms resort.

I was thrilled to discover Aloha Cakes as they have haupia cake on their menu, something I have a hard time finding even when I am in Hawaii.

The Hyatt at Gainey Ranch served maple and candied bacon donuts with decadent bourbon ice cream.

From The Vig, we found butter-poached shrimp on toast with avocado and quail egg.

Saigon (green) papaya salad with rice noodles, grilled shrimp (surprise!) and pineapple ginger vinaigrette from RedThai Southeast Asian Grill.

Clever Koi served up these whimsical sno cones with scallop ceviche.  This was my favorite in terms of presentation.  With every bite we were encouraged to scoop some shaved ice, whose crunchy texture mixed well with the creamy scallops.

Watching Barrio Cafe prepare a cochinita pibil taco para mi.

A Yucatecan specialty, cochinita pibil is pork marinated and slow cooked in achiote, or annatto paste.  It is traditionally served with pickled habaneros, which I guess they chose to forego here.

Helio Basin Brewing Co. was a big winner with these smoked bison taquitos.

Culinary Dropout delighted me with these cheddar and potato pierogies and the peanut butter parfaits (pictured below).

Chef Akos Szabo with Match Cuisine and Cocktails charmed me with his Guatemalan Coctel de Langosta (rock lobster).  We bonded over stories about Guatemala and our mutual love of Zacapa rum.  Plus, his t-shirt is killer.

I am mad about these Homeboy’s hot sauces.

Another charmer was Chef Dushyant Singh from Artizen at the Camby Hotel.  Betsy and I tried our best to convince him to cater an event for our YPO (Young President’s Organization) chapter, but he said he does not cater.  Quel dommage.  However, it gives us an excellent excuse to pay a visit to the Camby which occupies the former Ritz on 24th Street and Camelback.

Chef Singh prepared this barbacoa de cabra (barbecued goat) with an horchata shooter, a dish that was my second favorite and also won a Gold Award.  In San Antonio where I was raised, we consider it sport to find the best cabrito in town, so this dish certainly spoke to me.

Sand Reckoner is an Arizona winery from Willcox, whose vineyards are located at a 4,300 foot elevation.

Betsy and I are showing some love to our friends from Lodi, California, and Klinker Brick Winery.

The Drop’s rosé wine in a can was the biggest surprise by far, delightfully refreshing and crisp.

Proceeds from Devour Phoenix Culinary Classic benefited the Phoenix Art Museum, the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, and Local First Arizona, a non-profit that supports locally owned businesses.  Next year, due to high demand, the venue will be held at the Desert Botanical Garden.  Keep posted at for details.

All opinions and photos are mine for

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1 Comment

  • John Finley

    Marci, you make it all look so terrific! If I went around with you, I think I’d weigh 500 lbs.!

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