34th Scottsdale Culinary Festival

You’d think after 34 years of orchestrating the renowned Scottsdale Culinary Festival the organizers would be tired.

And right now, they probably are. The festival (April 17-22) is just a couple of weeks away.

But they certainly aren’t bored — and you won’t be either because organizers have dreamed up some new events to add spice to the usual line-up.

By the way, that’s Chef Eggbert (above), the unofficial mascot for this year’s festivities. If you follow the festival’s Facebook page, you know he’s been “hiding” around town, and if you spot him, you can win tickets to some of the events.

You can get the full line-up of events here at the official Scottsdale Culinary Festival website, but I’ve highlighted a couple of the new events and offerings: (in chronological order)

Shaken & Stirred — Tuesday, April 17, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

Get retro with this $40 event at Mabel’s On Main and sample three throw-back cocktails paired with nibbles from Chef Aaron May, plus live entertainment. Perfect venue for this classic cocktail fête.

Burger Battle — Thursday, April 19, 6 pm to 9 p.m.

This new event ($55) at the Scottsdale Stadium on Osborn Road features 16 Valley chefs battling it out for burger bragging rights.

Not only do you get to sample the goods and crown the burger “king”, you might win the raffle for a brand spanking new Charbroil  TRU-Infrared 3-Burner Gourmet grill.

 Here is who is competing for your vote for best burger:

Epicurean Expo — Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, noon to 6 p.m.

This event (free with purchase of a Great American Picnic (GAP) ticket –$10 per day) replaces Cooks & Corks from years past. This mini-trade show will feature cooking demos from Robin Miller (TV Food Network star and cookbook author) and Barbara Pool Fenzl (PBS host, cookbook author and Les Gourmettes Cooking School owner), among others, and will showcase the latest kitchen appliances, culinary products, cookware, knives and gadgets from 21 vendors.

Celebrity Shows — Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

GAP ticket holders can purchase a ticket to see the Travel Channel’s Adam Richman (Man vs. Food Nation) and/or Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) perform their wildly popular culinary schticks at the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts. (Tickets are $30 in advance/$40 at the door, if any are left). Saturday, Richman is up first at 1 p.m., followed by Zimmern at 3 p.m., and they flip slots on Sunday, with Zimmern up first at 1 p.m.

VIP Access — Saturday, April 21, noon to 9.m. and Sunday, April 22, noon to 6 p.m.

There are three VIP access programs to choose from:

Picnic All Access: ($50 per day)

If you’ve been to GAP before, you know the drill: pay $10 to get in, and then pay extra to get into the Southwest Festival of Beers, the SKKY Bar, the Tequila Experience and on Saturday, the jamming After Party. This year, you can buy an all-access ticket for each day, and skip the extra fees to gain entrance to these specialty areas, plus you’ll get a one-year subscription to Food & Wine magazine. (You should know that access to the specialty areas is free with this pass, but the food & beverages in these areas is not free, so bring some extra cash.)

Gold Picnic Access ($200 Saturday / $175 Sunday)

In addition to the benefits of the Picnic All Access ticket, you’ll get guaranteed premium parking, preferred seating to your choice of one of the Celebrity Shows, access to the VIP Lounge featuring food from Distrito with premium beverages and entertainment. You’ll also get a one-year subscription to Food & Wine.

Platinum Picnic Access ($300 Sautrday / $250 Sunday)

In addition to the benefits of the Gold Picnic Access, the Platinum package includes a meet & greet and book signing (books cost extra) with either Richman or Zimmern, depending on which show you select. You’ll also get a two-year subscription to Food & Wine.

Other Returning Events:

Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner, Wednesday, April 18th, 6 p.m.
Chocolate & Wine Experience, Wednesday, April 18, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Bubbles & Bliss, Thursday, April 19, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Eat, Drink & Be Pretty, Friday, April 20, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Chef Wine Dinners, Saturday, April 21, 6:30 p.m.
Wine Country Brunch, Sunday, April 22, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Best of the Fest (Grand Finale, almost sold out) Sunday, April 22, 6:30 p.m.

Why support the Scottsdale Culinary Festival?

Don’t forget that even though you’re getting a unique culinary experience, no matter which venue you choose to attend, the purpose of the festival is to raise money for local arts.

The festival was started by the Scottsdale League for the Arts in 1978. In 1992, the League instituted a grant program to further support local arts, and with funds from the Scottsdale Culinary Festival, the League has distributed more than $3.5 million dollars to local arts and education programs in the Valley.

So as you ponder which venue to attend, remember that you’ll have a great experience and the local arts community will benefit from your generosity. Sounds like a win-win.

Which events are you attending? I’ve got my eye on the Burger Battle.

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