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He Said: Devour Phoenix’s first year at Desert Botanical Garden a success

(Facebook Photo)

Sporting a new location, Devour Phoenix expanded into the Desert Botanical Garden this year along with what felt like a whole new experience.

Instead of just one big yard, we were sent to nine different zones each day and everyone took a different path, which allowed the crowd to spread.

In the past, there was simply not enough space and, at times, it felt a bit claustrophobic. This year was the direct opposite. With so much space, I wondered if I would ever run into anyone.

Luckily, there were so many helpful people on hand to help me find my way — around every bend or fork in the road someone was asking me if I needed help. I didn’t feel alone with my dazed eyes as pretty much everyone was trying to find their way, nothing to be surprised about given it was the first year at the location.

You might be wondering if one day is better than the other and, if so, which day topped the list.

It depended on what type of scene you were looking for during the event, which was held March 3-4.

There was a distinct difference between Saturday and Sunday, with the former being a bit more subdued and what felt like fewer food options then in the past.

On Sunday, it was more of a party scene with so many food options it was impossible to take them all in. On both days, there was plenty of wine and beer samples to try and you didn’t leave either day hungry or thirsty.

Great bands made the days even more enjoyable and, if all you wanted to do is take in some art, Mother Nature and great music you could do that, too. I personally enjoyed both days for different reasons.

As to the food, you had your pick of sweet and savory. Some were a little healthier while others were a pure indulgence. Either way, you didn’t stop until you literally couldn’t take in any more.

With so many options, it was hard to pick a favorite. Luckily, you didn’t have to. The Devour panel of judges did it for us. Here are the winners of this year’s Devour Phoenix:

Day One

Excellence in Presentation 

  • Winner: Cibo
    • Arancini No. 1: Pan-fried rice balls with mozzarella and green peas
    • Arancini No. 2: Pan-fried rice balls with mozzarella and lamb
  • Runner-up: Phoenix Public Market
    • Arizona Citrus Salad: Goat cheese, pistachios, local dates, sweet shallot honey vinaigrette and micro greens

Excellence in Innovation

  • Winner: True Food Kitchen
    • Grilled cauliflower planks : Black walnut pesto, truffle tahini and aleppo chili
  • Runner-up: Helio Basin Brewery
    • Venison sausage
  • Excellence in Taste 

    • Winner: Gallo Blanco
      • Flapjacks with plantains foster
    • Runner-up: Dust Cutter
      • Huevos rancheros: Sonoran native tepary bean chili, ground bison, quail egg and chorizo espuma

    Day 2

    Excellence in Presentation 

    • Winner: Kai
      • Smoked ocean trout: Squash escabeche, huitlacoche chumeth and black tepary miso.
    • Runner-up: FnB / The Inbetweens
      • Fresh vegetable salad with sugar snap peas and country ham

    Excellence in Innovation

    • Winner: Shift
      • Beef tongue Philly cheesesteak
    • Runner-up: The Dressing Room
      • Takoyaki hushpuppy with a tomato-Sriracha jam

    Excellence in Taste 

    • Winner: Elote Cafe
      • Spicy Anasazi beans with local heritage barley and mesquite corn bread
    • Runner-up: Different Point of View
      • Grain mustard soy-grilled muscovy duck: Sweet corn milk griddle cakes and bliss maple drizzle, kumquat shallot jam, duck cracklings, basil oil

    Excellence in Distinction: FnB

    Runner-up: Kai

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