Devoured rose out of the ashes of “West of Western,” another Phoenix food and wine festival that ended its five-year run in 2009. This year’s installment convened at the Phoenix Art Museum on March 13, featuring an amplified focus on Arizona artisans and chefs. The museum’s sun-soaked courtyard hosted dozens of dining options, a number of wineries, live bands and cooking demos. Speakers like the Wall Street Journal’s Raymond Sokolov filled an indoor hall, and guests even had access to the powerhouse “Ansel Adams: Discoveries” photography exhibit. Still, as always, food was paramount. Here are my top five tastes from Day One, in order of consumption.
Ticoz is a modern Latin restaurant named for natives of Costa Rica. Their smoked shrimp tostada wasn’t revolutionary, but it combined a crunchy shell with a firm jumbo shrimp, a chunky avocado hummus base and crisp passion fruit cole slaw. Ticoz drizzled their tostada with a subtly spicy drizzle of roasted Poblano salsa.
Relish Burger Bistro is a new burger concept from executive chef Paul Carter at The Phoenician. Carter said the owners of the luxurious Scottsdale resort were tired of having guests leave to find casual dining options, so they opened one of their own. If their griddled Kobe Beef Burger is any indication, they should no doubt increase retention. The silky Kobe could have used a more pronounced char, but that’s not exactly a hallmark of Kobe beef. The burger achieved balance with melted Cheddar and umami-rich steak sauce on a soft house-made roll. Relish is currently in their soft opening phase. They plan to close soon and re-open full-force on May 1.
The most over-the-top option had to be the corn dog from District, an 18-month-old American restaurant in the downtown Sheraton. Chef Nathan Crouser starts with an oozing cheddar hot dog from Schreiner’s, the revered local butcher shop that supplies sausage to places like Pizzeria Bianco. He then batters the dog in cornmeal, deep fries it, dusts it with sea salt and provides a squeeze bottle of house-made violet mustard. The reduction of red wine, garlic and shallots is pureed with whole grain and Dijon mustards, leading to a tangy, spicy condiment. Even in miniature, this corn dog was an absolute beast. No wonder it’s a signature dish.
Tammie Coe Cakes is skilled pastry chef who’s known for baked goods and colorful fondant-strewn cakes that are similar to what you’d see on “Ace of Cakes.” At Devoured, she went relatively simple with a Chocolate Coconut Blitz. The dense chocolate and coconut orb was dipped in chocolate and toasted coconut shavings and served on a bed of coconut tapioca pudding with playful Pop Rocks.
The dessert barrage continued at Christopher’s and Crush Lounge, where Christopher Gross mercifully cut thin slices of gateau Marjolaine. The rich cake featured harmonious layers of espresso, hazelnut and coffee mousses, another striation of crunchy hazelnut meringue cake and an outer coating of chocolate ganache. As if that wasn’t enough, Gross also plated the cake with espresso creme anglaise.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Silvana Salcido Esparza and Barrio Cafe showed up big. Not only did the “badass girl” bring her cochinita pibil and camarones borrachos, she also brought guitarists…
…and a luchador, who was painting another luchador. It doesn’t get much more meta than that.
Indoors, the seminar room also served as a beer hall with tantalizing options like Avery 16th Anniversary and Collaboration Not Litigation. There was also a very cool DJ set that drew on the music of a live saxophonist.