Today in Phoenix was day one of the 2013 Devoured Culinary Classic sponsored by Devour Phoenix. Awesomely enough, the bakery I work for was honored to be in attendance. That meant two things: one, I was able to get in essentially for free and try tons of fantastic food; and two, that I had to help man the booth for Urban Cookies Bakeshop all day long. It was an easy trade, as the food more than made up for spending my Saturday handing out sweet treats for 5 hours! The tickets to the event sold out a while ago, not to mention the fact that they cost anywhere from $60 to $100 depending on how many days you wanted to attend. So, a little bit of work in exchange for basically free admission made me very happy indeed. The day started pretty early, finishing some prep work for the pastries we were bringing as samples. The entire event was hosted at the Phoenix Art Museum, a place I had yet to go but always wanted to check out. Awesome food and some damn cool artwork? Score! I was able to look around for a bit after we set up the booth.
I got some good shots of our booth before they let in the giant crowd of people.
These are the fantastic little pastry we started with… croissant dough with cinnamon sugar and orange zest, aka Morning Buns! They went super fast.
The event started around 10:30 AM, and we were pretty much sold out of our 300 mini Morning Buns by 11:30. After that, we started sampling a mini version of the Irish Cream Cupcakes we have in the store. These were also a big hit!
After a while, I was able to head outside to check out the majority of the food booths. I was so excited, not to mention starving, as I’d yet to eat anything all morning.
I failed to take a photo of the first thing I tasted cause I was just too hungry (it was bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with green chile risotto. Wow.) The second thing I tasted, I managed to snap a pic of. It was these delicious barbecue pork tacos from Tom’s Thumb! Super tasty and tons of great flavor. The cabbage added the perfect amount of crunch to complement the softness of the meat and tortilla.
This was the booth for T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms. Of the few dishes I didn’t sample, I was the most sad that I didn’t get to try the one these guys were cooking. Every time I passed by, there was a crazy line, and the people surrounding their booth were all snacking on this amazing-looking Moroccan-spiced baby lamb chop with tarragon cous cous, I can only imagine that it was as good as it looked!
This was the super tender and flavorful beef tenderloin from Sierra Bonita Grill. While the meat was excellent, those potatoes were damn good. I could have eaten a whole bowlful of those, if only I’d had the chance!
Of all the things I sampled today, there were a few standouts. One in particular was this delicious short rib ravioli from the awesome folks at Federal Pizza.This is one new Phoenix restaurant that I’m just itching to try, and while I was a little bummed that they weren’t sampling any of their famed pizza, this ravioli really put this place high up on my must-try-soon list. They were also serving up a killer drink, I think it was their grapefruit-ginger cooler. Sort of a take on a wine cooler, with lots of fresh, spicy ginger flavor. I’m not usually one for a lot of ginger, but I would have drank more of that stuff in a heartbeat.
Culinary Dropout was featuring some super tasty barbecued ribs. The food itself was outstanding, super tender and lots of great smokey flavor. However, when you’re milling about in very close quarters with lots of strangers, ribs were a bit problematic to eat, nevermind getting the sauce all over your face.
This was the strawberry-mint agua fresca from Province. I think if nobody was looking, I probably would have made off with that entire pitcher. The drink was just barely carbonated, and tasted like the freshest, sweetest strawberries you’ll ever have. I’m definitely going to contact the restaurant to see if they have this drink on their menu all the time. Absolutely loved it. The little cupcakes in the background were honey flavored cakes with lemon curd frosting. I was too blinded by the deliciousness of the agua fresca to even think about trying one.
This salad duo from Chelsea’s Kitchen was super light and refreshing after all the ravioli and mashed potatoes. Lots of wonderful bright flavors and crunch made for a welcome palate cleanser. The salted chocolate chip cookie was quite tasty, albeit a little too firm for my liking.
If they awarded points for the participant who was the most engaging with the public, they should all go to the guys and gals at the Davanti booth. Their expediter really engaged people and was a lot of fun. If the entertaining staff wasn’t awesome enough already, I was handed the most delightful sandwich I’ve had in a while. I’m nuts about a good sandwich, and this one sure delivered. Moist porchetta on a soft roll with provolone, rapini pesto and a homemade giardiniera relish, dipped in it’s own jus. I was approaching the end of my food tasting for the day so I was pretty stuffed by this point but I really wanted to scarf down the whole sandwich portion, and it was BIG. I restrained myself, ate a good portion of it and moved on to the next booth.
What’s a culinary festival without dessert? There were lots of sweet options at Devoured, but when I saw that Churn was there, I had to try whatever it was that they had. Of my ever-growing list of Phoenix-area food establishments to try, I don’t think any rank higher than those owned by Craig DeMarco, which would include the previously mentioned Federal Pizza, along with Windsor, Churn and Postino. Sadly I didn’t sample anything from Windsor, but I had an amazingly delicious beer-braised short rib from Postino. Ugh, yet another item that I could have eaten for the entire day. When I got to the Churn booth, I snapped up one of their ice cream sandwiches. It was a pretty chilly day today by Phoenix standards, some lingering rain and clouds and temperatures only in the mid 50s, so some might say I’m crazy for having ice cream. However, those who truly know me, know that I would be happy eating ice cream if I was in the middle of a snowstorm, if someone just offered me some. The ice cream sandwich from Churn was perhaps the best non-traditional ice cream sandwich I’ve had. The cookie element was perfectly executed. They were the chewiest, most chocolate-y crinkle cookies in the world, covered with copious amounts of powdered sugar (which promptly got all over my black t-shirt, but I didn’t care much) and surrounding a pleasantly crunchy peppermint ice cream. The contrast in texture was wonderful, with the chewy cookie and occasional crunch from a piece of peppermint candy. It was ultimate way to end my day of basically unrestrained snacking. Last year I was kicking myself for not snagging tickets to Devoured before they were sold out, and I have a feeling I’ll be one of the first in line next year to get tickets. I have only lived in the Phoenix area for less than 2 years, and I haven’t made a significant dent in the list of restaurants I’ve wanted to check out but this year’s Devoured got me that much closer. If anything, I’m more excited now than I was before, to try all these fantastic local places!