Check, Please! Arizona Festival at CityScape Was a Hot Hit; Celeb Chefs Informed and Entertained
Channel 8 hosted its first-ever Check, Please! Arizona Festival at CityScape on Sunday and despite the ridiculous temperatures (100 degrees, but it felt hotter), everybody seemed to have a good time.
-- Check, Please! Arizona Festival at CityScape, 04/28/13 (Slideshow)
-- Chef Kevin Binkley a Finalist for James Beard Award
-- Chris Bianco Opens Full-Blown Pizzeria Bianco at Town & Country
Hosted by Chef Robert McGrath, Check, Please!, which debuted in 2010 and features local restaurants reviewed by citizen critics, is Channel 8's most popular program. So why not build a food festival around the Arizona restaurants featured on the show? It could've been such a dud (cynical me worried it would be) but miraculously the event came off remarkably well -- although I'd definitely recommend a few changes for next year.
Most of the festival took place right on the street. Central Avenue -- which bisects the two monolithic sections of CityScape -- was blocked off between Washington and Jefferson, and food booths lined both sides of the street from one end to the other. Twenty-two restaurants participated, including America's Taco Shop, Cornish Pasty Co., Coup Des Tartes, Durant's, Four Peaks (who came with beer! Yay!), MacAlpine's Soda Fountain, and Thee Pitt's Again. Chef-driven restaurants were represented by Amuse Bouche, Eddie's House, Lon's at the Hermosa, Petite Maison, Tarbell's, and Vogue Bistro.
Buchanan Oysters from Tarbell's
Buchanan Chicken liver mousse at Petite Maison
It was an interesting and unusual mash-up -- nothing like the inbred exclusivity of Devoured (populated by air-kissing foodies who know each other) and nothing like the generic, for-the-masses boredom of the Great Arizona Picnic at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival. I was surprised to find that I loved splitting my time and taste buds between oysters on the half shell at Tarbell's and a hot dog at Pittsburgh Willy's.
Buchanan Tacos al pastor at America's Taco Shop
I didn't try everything (being way more interested in the seminars, and I'll get to that in a minute), but I can tell you what I liked of the eight or nine things I did eat: the juicy-spicy barbecued hot link at Mrs. White's, the meat loaf slider on a brioche bun with smoked bacon, onion aioli and roasted tomato glaze at Amuse Bouche and the buttermilk pie (a crunchy-creamy perfect-size bite) at Phoenix City Grille. Everything I tried was good, but I wanted seconds of these three.