4 must-attend events at Scottsdale Culinary Festival

Although it seems that elaborate culinary events are a modern invention, the Scottsdale Culinary Festival planted its roots a rather astonishing 37 years ago.

That makes it one of the longest-running culinary festivals in the United States. It’s a showcase that evolved from a simple tasting party inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts in 1978 to what’s now a national event where Scottsdale flexes its foodie muscles to prove that it is among the top dining cities in the nation.

Most of the 20-some events are held during the week of April 7-12, but the official kickoff is the Friends of James Beard Dinner on Thursday, March 26, followed by the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame awards ceremony Monday, March 30.

In April, a cadre of food professionals and local and national chefs will descend on the town for a mix of soirees including cocktail parties, awards dinners and cooking demonstrations. Then, there’s the centerpiece of the festival, Great Arizona Picnic, a weekend of food and music at Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza.

Choosing which events to attend can be a challenge. Should it be the lavish, $225 per-person Friends of James Beard Dinner gala, or the $40 Southwest Festival of Beers, which includes admission to the Great Arizona Picnic plus 20 samples from the list of more than 200 specialty beers being poured?

There are no bad choices. But here are our recommendations for a truly Scottsdale-centric experience. Depending on your budget and endurance, you’ll want to plot your strategy now. Find more details and purchase tickets at scottsdaleculinaryfestival.org.

4/9: Burger Battle

Who: Top Scottsdale chefs and restaurants go patty-to-patty in a culinary cook-off to win the coveted title of 2015 Best Burgers in the Valley.

Why: The Judge’s Choice Award is selected by a panel of chefs and culinary experts. Even better is that all guests get to taste all the burgers and then vote for the one they love best for the People’s Choice Award.

Details: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9. Hotel Valley Ho, 6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale. $60, $70 at the door.

4/11: Chef Dinner Series

Who: Prepared by Lon’s chef James Ducas.

Why: Limited to 24 guests, this intimate, four-course dinner features local seasonal ingredients showcased in Lon’s contemporary American cuisine recipes, with each course paired with Barnett Vineyards wines of St. Helena in Napa Valley, Calif.

Details: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11. Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn, 5532 N. Palo Cristi Road, Paradise Valley. $125.

4/11-12: Picnic Party Pass

Who: A discount package pass that includes admission to the Great Arizona Picnic, the Southwest Festival of Beers, the SKYY Vodka Tent, the North American Spirit Tour and Mix Like a Master cocktail demonstration.

Why: Saving 10 bucks on admission (normally $55) means more money to spend on food- and drink-sampling tickets from more than 40 restaurants spread across 25 acres of gardens amid cooking demonstrations and live music on three stages. Bonus: The pass gains access to VIP section like the SKYY Vodka Tent.

Details: Noon-9 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday, April 11-12. Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza, 3939 N. Drinkwater Boulevard Blvd. $45. Tickets are available online only.

4/12: Best of the Fest

Who: Nine acclaimed Scottsdale chefs cook live on the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale resort’s great lawn. Participating chefs are: Gio Osso (Virtu), Silvana Salcido Esparza (Barrio Cafe, Barrio Urbano), Josh Hebert (Posh Restaurant), Matt Carter (Zinc Bistro, the Mission, the House Brasserie), Mel Mecinas (Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North), Christian Brady (Alto Ristorante E Bar at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort Spa at Gainey Ranch), James Ducas (Lon’s), Gordon Maybury (Arizona Biltmore Resort Spa) and Juan Solorio (Hyatt Regency Scottsdale’s Southwest Bistro).

Why: Each chef prepares a five-course, wine-paired dinner crafted completely tableside. With the chefs each covering just two tables of 10, it’s a terrific opportunity to get a close view of the action and engage the chefs in conversation.

Details: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 12. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road. $175.

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/entertainment/dining/2015/03/27/must-attend-events-scottsdale-culinary-festival/70546230/