2010 Redux: Best Food Battles

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All photos by Wynter Holden except #3 by Jonathan McNamara.
As we bid farewell to the year and look ahead to 2011, for the next two weeks Chow Bella contributors will bring you some greatest hits from 2010. We've already highlighted Carol Blonder's most memorable food-related books. Today, we're looking at Wynter Holden's top Battle of the Dishes moments.

A few losers stand out -- eggs Benedict with the consistancy of snot, bland fried ice cream that looked like a meatball on steroids -- but I've had so many wonderful experiences battling dishes over the past year that it was hard to cull my favorites. Top-notch service, fun times and BIG food made these five battles the cream of the crop:    

1. Teabag Party: Get your dirty little New Times readin' mind out of the gutter, boys and girls. Battle of the High Teas was an excuse to cover up the tattoos, ditch the skull & bones shirt, brush my ratty curls and put on some serious airs. The tart cranberry scones and cucumber and cream cheese rounds at The Phoenician were delicious, the sweet orange blossom tea and musical interludes at The Ritz delightful, and being treated like a rich-bitch Scottsdale debutante without having to do any actual teabagging was priceless. 

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Hillside Spot's pie was average in size, but big on flavor.

2. Mile-High Apple Pie Battle:How I miss Sucker Punch Sally's and their ridiculously huge desserts like the dozen-apple pie I sampled back in April before they went tits-up. Though Hillside Spot's ginger-spiced version won the battle and my dining partner of the moment "puckered up like cellulite thighs" at the Sucker Punch pie's tartness, it tasted like home to me. (Which, since my mother couldn't bake, amounted to those cheap-ass lard-filled dollar Hostess pies I can't be seen buying now.)       

3. Caramelpalooza Special Edition:

The first in a hopefully long line of Chow Bella events, Caramelpalooza 2010 brought the chance to sample handmade candy from the likes of Honey Moon Sweets, Sweet Republic and Tracy Dempsey. Screw breakfast! Caramelpalooza taught me the more important B's are bacon, bourbon and beer! Combine these sacred ingredients with sweet, sticky caramel and you have a sugar high that's better than any drug (yes, even pot-laced brownies).     

4. Big-Ass Burger Battle:

Yes, Bigfoot does exist -- and it was on my plate. I could rave about the tenderness of Roaring Fork's prime grade beef or the cozy, cabin-like decor at the Lodge, but let's be honest. I just REALLY wanted to see the infamous Sasquatch burger up close and personal. The thing is a monster. I couldn't help but imagine a sort of reverse Jared from Subway scenario in which I were to eat a Sasquatch burger twice a day for a year... I still have nightmares about that.

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Snapping up gator at Pappadeaux.
5. Battle Gator

This battle came on the heels of the Tempe Town Puddle debacle, when the poor fish who died as a result were fed to a Phoenix Zoo gator. Maybe it's payback for that situation -- or the years I spent as kid being terrified of the "gator in the sewers" urban legend -- but the sweet, juicy fried gator bites at Islamorada Fish Company and Pappadeaux were extremely satisfying. 

Rumor has it that the City of Phoenix is currently encouraging residents to eat bullfrogs to help slow local overpopulation. I'm thinking Battle Frog's Legs for 2011... who's with me?

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