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Mar 16, 2008 05:35 PM

West of Western - thoughts/your favs

So I'll go ahead and kick off the post-event discussion...

Some of my favorites from this weekend (very weak descriptions here, I didn't take notes):

-quail terrine w/apricot from Digestif (my favorite morsel of food all weekend)
-cedar-planked salmon w/sea salt from Kai
-pork rillette from Quiessence
-salmon from Kizake
-grilled lamb chops from Javino's (this seemed to be a crowd-fav on Saturday)
-short ribs w/agave glaze from Talavera
-cherry focaccia w/mascapone and lemon zest from Simply Bread (crazy good)

What did everyone else enjoy?

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  1. I enjoyed the larger-than-life personalities of Michael O'Dowd and Aaron May, both of whom stayed late to talk with civilians and industry people alike. Michael O'Dowd was collecting email addresses from people who were interested in his onion chutney and other recipes. He also exhorted those of us who were their late to ransack their booth, take home their displays of heirloom tomatoes and organic veggies.

    On Sunday the ribs at Talavera were chipotle-glazed, not aggressively so, and served over polenta with a dab of organic honeycomb. These were so good my husband hunted down the chef, Mel Mecinas, and asked him about his sear and braising methods. Despite their uneven First Bite review from Howard Seftel, we were impressed enough to move them *way* up out to-do list. Tuscany's offerings were impressive, as well.

    Arizona Kitchen from the Wigwam had the consistently longest line, and we didn't get to stop by until about 4, when everyone was mostly packed up and gone. Kurt Zuger, at that point, was serving a tripe stew, which I thought was daring. It was quite good.

    Chad Withycombe's from Mucho Gusto's tomatillo posole was great; the Whole Food's people were doing great vietnamese crepes, little tasty bites of street food. Mosaic's thai soup was full of fresh mushrooms and perfectly cooked shrimp, but the soup base was too sweet for us -- we have been dying to go there, but after that, we bumped them a few notches down our to-do list.

    Both of Simply Bread's offerings were great. Tammie Coe's drinking chocolate was good, too, but my favorite dessert was the Purple Haze goat cheesecake from Kai. Amazing.

    There really was too much good food to list everything I enjoyed. I was glad we went.

    1 Reply
    1. re: themis

      Only went Sunday but thought the Hamachi lollipops with jelly in the middle from Tapino were outrageously good. Also loved the short ribs from Talavera. Game meat tacos and all the conidemnts from Kai were great.

    2. i was on there on saturday, im really bummed to miss sunday..kai's booth is always a show stopper and their braised buffalo tongue taco is amazing...

      but on saturday i loved :

      -charcuterie from digestif
      -salmon from kizake
      -pork rillette / amaranth salad from quiessence
      -vanilla bean cake from sweet pea bakery
      -pork chip thingie from barrio cafe
      -grilled lamb chops from javion

      i'm telling you - that salmon from kizake was so silky and amazing, the folks at the booth said they'll be open in 3 weeks. i might just have to drive to chandler to give them a try :D

      1. We were there on Sunday and favorites included the short ribs from Talavera, the tortilla soup from Windows on the Green, Thai shrimp and coconut soup from Mosaic, the braised buffalo tongue and pork butt tacos from Kai, the prime rib/foie gras/pastry from Methode Bistro, and more that I'm forgetting. There was a tasty goat cheese tart with candied beets I really liked, and an octopus spoon with blood-orange glaze, though I forget which booths those were at, and Quiessence's amaranth salad and pork rillette was excellent too - I won the Quiessence gift certificate in the silent auction, so I'm looking forward to visiting them soon. I was disappointed that Tapino had run out of the hamachi lollipop by the time we arrived; friends who went earlier said it was a favorite of theirs.

        1. The cherry lemon mascarpone focaccia sounds so good! I called Simply Bread to see if they would have this (maybe for Easter), but they said it was only for the event. Bummer.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hollyeve

            The cherry focaccia Simply Bread was dishing out had mascarpone and a lemon zest sauce on the side which is why they wouldn't be able to recreate it. But, maybe the'll end up doing the cherry focaccia and you can add the mascarpone/lemon yourself. Just thought I'd clarify in case the Simply Bread folks thought you wanted an exact replica of what they were serving.

            It was the first West of Western for me and I thought it was great - very well organized and really nice choices in restaurants.

            I went on Sunday and thought Kai's spread was by far the most impressive and organized. The wild game tacos (buffalo tongue, javelina butt, venison and duck) were really yummy. They also had giant filets of wild salmon they served straight off the smoking cedar chips. And, lastly, mini ice cream cones filled with cheesecake and pressed upside down into crushed pistachios. One of the keys to their success was that they mostly served items straight from being cooked so the food was always hot. About 1/4 of the hot items we tried at other tables were lukewarm at best, the cold weather didn't help matters but neither did pumping out the food faster than it was being snatched up.

            Mucho Gusto was a big hit with us as well, I could eat the green chile posole by the gallon.

            I don't think the value would have been there if we hadn't done the $75 food and wine deal - at $65 for food only, I would have second thoughts about going next year. Also, if it wasn't at the museum, I don't think it would have been as appealing. We definitely needed a short escape from the food/drink overload and the museum was the perfect interlude.

            FYI: More than half the tables were out of food by 3 p.m. and Tammie Coe was out just after 2 p.m. We were glad we showed up right at noon.

          2. So for those of you who have been to other culinary festivals, how did this one rate? Was it better chefs and food quality, a better experience? If I were to, say, get tickets to a few of the Scottsdale Culinary Fest. events next month, would they be a let-down after this?

            9 Replies
            1. re: themis

              The Scottsale Culinary fest has interesting special events, although this year's chefs aren't that great. As for the main event, the Great Arizona Picnic, that's a joke. It's filled with a bunch of chain restaurants.

              Here's who will be there:
              Ahnata Mesquite Grill
              Alice Cooperstown
              Arizona Bread Company
              Armadillo Grill
              Bobby Q
              Bombay Spice Grill & Wine
              Buffalo Wild Wings
              Cathy's Rum Cake
              Claim Jumper
              Cookies in Bloom
              Corleone's Philly Steaks
              Dos Gringos
              EJ's Steakhouse
              Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que
              Geisha A Go Go
              Gelato Spot
              Islands Restaurants Lulu's Cupcakes
              Maggiano's Little Italy
              Nothing Bundt Cakes
              Patsy Grimaldi's Coal Brick Oven Pizza
              Port of Subs
              Rio Sabor Brazil
              Salty Senorita
              Samurai Sam's Teriyaki Grill
              Sonoran Freeze Shaved Ice
              Spinato's Pizza
              Tanked Fish Sushi Bar
              The Melting Pot
              The Original Berrie Kabobs
              The Range Steakhouse at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino Resort
              Victorian Cake Company
              Victoria's Catering

              1. re: hungryinaz

                Ah, I see -- thanks for the info! It looks like an interesting afternoon, but not a serious gourmand's event, then.

                1. re: themis

                  Their slogan is "Eat, drink, be pretty" - I don't even think they take themselves that seriously.

                  1. re: azhotdish

                    lol - if only i'd seen that before i went and hated it ;) lol

              2. re: themis

                the scottsdale fest, the one year i went, i thought was a huge dud. first, you had to buy tickets for things, so even tho the tickets were cheaper per ticket, i about as much as west of western without trying nearly as much. the second part, there was a HUGE absolut vodka tent thingie, and everyone was getting drunk. not that i'm a giant fuddy duddy, but i thought it was a food festival, not an extended friday nite. thirdly, i thought the calibre of restaurants wasn't the same as west of western.

                in general i thought the scottsdale fest was way more meat market than food fest.

                1. re: winedubar

                  Yeah, my boyfriend and his guys friends (pre meeting me) never missed a year. My girlfriends and I (mostly foodies) never went a single year. Enough said. :)

                  Some of the special events are good though...but can be significantly more expensive and you don't get the festival atmosphere and the opportunity to taste/meet as many dishes/chefs.

                  1. re: winedubar

                    Every year that I've gone, it feels like some spring break beach party, rather than a culinary festival. I understand the need to have sponsors like Absolut and such, but give a foodie a break!

                    I got an email newsletter announcing the new Eats3 foodie event in downtown Scottsdale. Its in October, which is a nice time of year for an outdoor event.

                    Not too much on details, but they announced that Jacques P├ępin will be one of their featured chefs... very cool.


                    1. re: SaulPlate

                      Sadly, SCF didn't use to be so bad. In the '90s, it was a great place to sample food from local chefs. Sadly, it is no longer of much interest anymore.

                    2. re: winedubar

                      Last year we volunteered at this festival, and served at one of the beverage booths. We were slammed from the time the gates opened until about an hour past the time we were supposed to have been relieved, and were too exhausted to use the free tickets they gave us (plus the lines were way too long). We would not pay money to attend this festival, although my husband says he would enjoy spending a couple hours watching the scantily clad young women.