The most pressing question of the first day of the Devoured Phoenix Culinary Classic wasn’t which restaurant would bring out the big guns (that would be T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms).
Nor was it would this year (the 9th) top last year’s near perfect festival (at the risk of jumping the gun, we’ll reserve judgement for now.)
The question on everyone’s mind was would it rain? This is Phoenix after all, a city lucky to get 8 inches of rain any given year. Rain or shine, it was on.
It turns out rain wasn’t an issue at all, save a few sprinkles.
What was an issue was the crowded space. Were there more vendors this year? More tickets sold (or given away)? It sure made for some claustrophobic moments. It wasn’t nearly as relaxing and enjoyable as previous years. Frankly, I’d pay more to have less people. I hope the organizers are listening.
Here’s my report on the restaurants, in no particular order:
Tonto Bar & Grill (above) brought one of the best dishes (I wasn’t the only one who thought so based on the day-long lines). Who can resist a perfectly seared scallop with sweet corn puree and a snippet of bacon for good measure?
Chef/owner Eric Flatt (above) of both Tonto Bar & Grill and Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House, worked the cowboy side, dishing up bison sausage with sauteed red cabbage and green chile spaetzle.
Travis Nass, the mustachioed bartender at Lon’s Last Drop Saloon brought a Brazilian rum “sloshy” with sour orange and green tea, which on any other given March day would have been a welcomed respite from the heat. Even with temps in the mid-50’s, his creativity was refreshing.
Speaking of Lon’s, Chef Jeremy Pacheco dazzled with a shrimp ceviche topped with a plantain chip.
St. Francis brought the same salad they broke ground with last year. Who can resist stunning lettuces and edible flowers? And what a relief after some of the meat-centric booths that ruled the day…
Like the hefty beef tenderloin and mashed potato number from Sierra Bonita Grill. I loved the “gunpowder” coffee rub, and their dish showed festival goers exactly who they are — an upscale cowboy grub house. Mission accomplished, even if it wasn’t fancy schmancy.
The Parlor brought a tasty rabbit sausage “brat” which has just landed on their new Spring menu, paired with a fresh pea soup. (Disclosure, I ditched the bread & just devoured the tender, spiced rabbit. I will be ordering it at the restaurant.)
Tongues were wagging over the full-size Moroccan spiced lamb chops from T. Cook’s at The Royal Palms. Too bad their chef, Todd Sicolo, is leaving in a few weeks.
Newcomer Gertrude’s at the Desert Botanical Gardens came with three offerings, including a simple lettuce leaf with lemon dressed fresh peas and radish slivers, teasing us with the coming spring bounty.
Gertrude’s burrata (from Gina’s Homemade) was deliciously paired with balsamic macerated strawberries and pink peppercorns (we are so stealing this for our gourmet smoothie series).
Sure, the porchetta with rapini pesto and giardiniera, dipped in “jus” was fun and delicious, but not nearly as fun as listening to Davanti’s colorful Chef Peter DeRuvo call out like a carny to the line of waiting festival goers. “Get it now before it’s gone,” he bellowed, “this is all we got and it’s almost gone.”
Milagro Grill’s pupusa topped with achiote chicken was delicious — better than anything I’ve had at their restaurant.
Roka Akor’s bison short rib on a braised daikon radish was two bites of pure bliss.
Sushi Roku’s spicy tuna on top of a crunchy, fried rice cake was surprisingly good. Much better than their chicken salad offering from last year.
Cibo’s tiny meatball with fregola pasta was just right. Nicely flavored and nicely portioned.
El Chorro’s Executive Chef Charles Kassels brought the obligatory sticky buns, but I got a kick out of the flavorful Niman Ranch pork tenderloin wrapped in speck.
One of the most impressive booths didn’t belong to a restaurant at all, but rather a shrimp distributor, Golden Pacific, who snagged a chef from Monti’s to concoct a zesty shrimp “cocktail” with fresh juices, pomegranate seeds and, of course, plump shrimp.
After all of that, who had room for dessert?
I did… but only one. Chocolate crinkle cookies stuffed with mint chocolate chunk ice cream from Churn.
Did you go to Devoured? If so, what was your favorite?