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, featuring an amplified focus on Arizona artisans and chefs. On Day Two – March 14 – the museum’s sun-soaked courtyard hosted dozens of dining options, a number of wineries, live bands and cooking demos. Guests even had access to seminars, a beer hall and the powerhouse “Ansel Adams: Discoveries” photography exhibit. Still, as always, food was paramount. Day Two featured three of my Top 5 Tastes from Day One, plus plenty of new surprises. Here are my top five new tastes from Day Two, in order of consumption.
The first booth through the door was Breadfruit, an 18-month-old Jamaican restaurant owned by Danielle Leoni and Dwayne Allen. They specialize in seafood and made Red Stripe curry prawns, plump shell-off crustaceans rubbed with Blue Mountain curry, sauteed with garlic, diced tomatoes, bell pepper and thyme. Habanero and Scotch bonnet peppers delivered a lingering spice, but it wasn’t too ferocious since they were de-seeded.
Chef Michael O’Dowd did a great job of representing Kai, an eight-year-old restaurant at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort. Kai specializes in “Native American Food with global influences” and means ‘seed’ in the Pima language. O’Dowd and his crew delivered five different dishes, the most (and most interesting) of any Devoured booth. The biggest winner was a game stew: goat, antelope and wild boar cooked in duck fat for 14 hours until the meat came apart in juicy shreds. The topper: a golden disc of fry bread dabbed with a spicy aioli made with a pepper similar to chipotle.
Kai‘s citrus push-up with local lavender was a contender, but ultimately was supplanted by their red Inca Quinoa folded with caramelized avocado, pineapple and supposedly some sweet Lapsang sausage, though I didn’t notice any. Up top, there was a tender bite-sized portion of seared ribeye and more of that mysterious pepper aioli.
Sweet Republic co-owner Helen Yung drove the retro truck from the Scottsdale ice cream shop, and she made sure to bring three big guns: white truffle oil, bacon and salted butter caramel swirl. The obvious choice was bacon, a flavor that’s only available at the store on weekends. The tiny, creamy scoop incorporated rendered bacon fat and bits of candied bacon. Not too painful.
Caffe Boa executive chef Payton Curry and his crew fabricated an entire pig for a rapt audience during a cooking demo…and promptly took the pig back to their booth’s mesquite grill. By the time I got there, the festival was winding down. Curry’s crew was carving the shoulder and cooking the leg. The mesquite imparted a sweet smokiness that accented the juicy but sinewy pig. The plate also held pickled snap peas, carrots and fennel that offered a tangy contrast.