Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to introduce Christina Barrueta, a passionate Phoenix food lover, who covered Phoenix’s Devoured Culinary Classics for Pen & Fork. Armed with her camera — and a pen and fork (of course) — here are her highlights of the two-day festival.
Warm days and a beautiful setting in the sculpture garden at the Phoenix Art Museum welcomed the arrival of the Devoured Culinary Classic – one of Phoenix’s most eagerly anticipated food festivals. All-inclusive tickets to this two-day event included food, wine, beer, and spirits, cooking demos, and live entertainment.
Sliders proved to be a popular vehicle for chefs to be classic or creative. Relish Burger Bistro at the Phoenician passed out juicy Kobe burgers with a choice of cheese, while Modern Steak (below) glammed up Wagyu sliders with lobster, bacon, and caviar aioli.
Payton Curry of Guerrilla Gourmet offered his take on Vietnamese bánh mì with rolls stuffed with rich pork rillettes, and The Vig Uptown’s flavorful Korean BBQ sandwiches (below) were layered with Asian slaw and Sriricha mayo.
Talented chefs dispelled the outdated notion that great seafood can’t be found in the desert.
I loved the grilled octopus salad from The Parlor Pizzeria, tossed with crispy chickpeas, wood-fired vegetables, frisée and citrus vinaigrette. Another winner was Prado’s Caccucio ala Livornese – a bowl of tomato-based broth swimming with octopus, mussels, and halibut, squid ink cavatelli and purple potatoes.
The Breadfruit spiced theirs up with a jerk rub and Jamaican Appleton rum, while brand new Province’s ceviche of cured and smoked salmon (below) was sparked with the salty tang of preserved lemon and fried capers.
But it wasn’t all surf or turf. An elegant bite on Sunday was a delicious lobster and pancetta-stuffed raviolo with parmesan and morels by Different Pointe of View (below).
Roka Akor’s RedBird Farms chicken teriyaki and creminis with soy butter sizzling on the grill attracted people like a magnet.
Barrio Café didn’t disappoint either, with elote (roasted corn, smoky chipotle mayo and crumbled queso fresco) and slow-roasted cochinita pibil, and Cowboy Ciao’s apple-braised pork belly with crispy endive-apple slaw was another crowd pleaser.
I could have eaten a platter of Guerilla Gourmet’s luscious Berkshire pork terrine studded with Mangalitsa lardo, but left room for Arrogant Butcher’s creamy chicken liver pate, Tuck Shop’s spicy Kentucky burgoo stew with jalapeño cornbread, and Phoenix City Grille’s soy and garlic short rib topped with coconut shrimp and pineapple-jalapeño jam.
Food truck Short Leash Hot Dogs’ crunchy fried pickles and dogs wrapped in naan – one with coleslaw, blue cheese, and BBQ sauce, the other a spicy beer hot with mango chutney – made me an instant fan.
District Kitchen’s “American Fair” was a festive array of Schreiner’s cheese-stuffed corn dogs and red wine mustard, NY pastrami and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, cotton candy, and bags of caramel corn with roasted cashews.
Taggia’s iced seafood salad with lemon oil and arugula was perfect on a warm day as a first course to bruschetta topped with grilled mortadella, stracchino cheese, and candied pistachios, with a sweet ending of chocolate tarts.
Talavera at the Four Seasons wowed with their display of emerald-green spring pea soup with lump crabmeat (above), grilled NY strip with short rib hash and decadent lobster béarnaise, and fresh basil-strawberry shortcake draped in lemon cream.
Kai set out a feast of chilled tortilla soup (below), rib-eye and chipotle steak tartare, tender machaca with ancho chili, “Kai Toast” topped with pancetta and a fried quail egg, and fudge-like brownies infused with local Four Peaks beer and rolled in crushed pecans.
Although there were a multitude of delightful sweets, I’m still thinking of Modern’s brown sugar cupcakes with Cracker Jack frosting (below), Udder Delight’s sweet potato ice cream, Julia Baker’s truffles, Arrogant Butcher’s peanut butter mousse, Tammie Coe’s caramel pecan tart, and Crave’s anisette ice cream with almond biscotti.
Beverage booths were scattered throughout the garden, making it easy to stop by for visits to AZ winemakers such as Pillsbury and Dos Cabezas for a little rosé, pinot noir at Etude, or a cold IPA from Lumberjack of Flagstaff.
Other tasty thirst-quenchers were Prado’s white sangria, the Elderflower Arnold Palmer at Espressions Coffee Roastery and the Arroyo en Fuego with cucumber, lime and jalapeno from local Arroyo Vodka.
A relaxing break was Citizen Public House’s demo on Sunday afternoon. Chef Bernie Kantak (below) prepared his signature dish – his take on a Reuben with pork belly pastrami, Brussels sprouts sauerkraut, and rye spaetzle – while mixologist Richie Moe paired it with a fabulous Manhattan.
I learned helpful tips from menu cards handed out (Bernie’s tip: for every inch thickness of meat, brine for 24 hours.) Richie also gave out tips, like flaming the orange rind to release essential oils. Someone had to drink the finely crafted cocktail Richie made — and that lucky someone was me.
With such a wonderful event showcasing Phoenix’s finest in two, fun-filled days of eating and drinking, it should be no surprise that I’m already looking forward to next year. You should join me.