Check, Please! Arizona Festival: Classic Valley Restaurants and Celebrity Chef Entertainment
Food lovers and fans of Channel 8's most popular program crowded into downtown Phoenix's CityScape for the second annual Check, Please! Arizona Festival on Sunday. The event featured 30 local restaurants, wine and beer, food samples, and plenty of entertainment from some of Arizona's top chefs. The sold out festival was a definite success with plenty of food and booze (full disclosure: Chow Bella was a co-sponsor), though we do have a few suggestions for next year.
Evie Carpenter Shrimp with mushrooms from The Salt Cellar.
Unlike last year when the festival was held at the end of April, this year attendees enjoyed reasonably cool weather (at least by Arizona standards) on an overcast and breezy day. But due to the event's growth since its first year, this fest may have already outgrown the CityScape venue. Restaurants were lined up on both sides of Central Avenue between Washington and Jefferson but with tables placed in the center of the street, navigating the crowds -- particularly with food and drinks in hand -- was difficult.
Lauren Saria The venue may have been too small for this year's festival.
Next year we'd love to see more space for lines and, if possible, even more seating. The guests lounging on the CityScape stairs and on the grass made for a charming photo op, but chairs and tables would also have been nice. Trash cans were hard to come by, too -- though perhaps we just couldn't find them due to the thick crowds of people.
See also: 10 Best Culinary Events in Metro Phoenix
One of the good parts of the event was that the relatively small lineup of restaurants made tasting almost everything a more feasible achievement than at other culinary events. Some of the standouts we tried included The Salt Cellar's shrimp and mushrooms sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Served with a thick slice of ciabatta bread, this sample stood out not only because it tasted good but also because it did an excellent job of showcasing the restaurant's cuisine. We also liked Cowboy Ciao's slow roasted pork with Manchego grits and roasted hominy pico do gallo.
Sweets made a decent showing at the event and two of our favorite bites of the day fell into that category. We loved Citizen Public House's gluten-free coconut cashew and curry brownie, which made for a fudge-y little treat that offered a kick thanks to the curry. We were also fans of the peach cobbler from Flavors of Louisiana. The restaurant's shrimp creole didn't blow us away but the cobbler, with its buttery crumble topping and fresh fruit, was good enough to justify having two.
Lauren Saria Citizen Public House's coconut cashew and curry brownie.