A Night of Culinary Stars
For the third consecutive year, The James Beard Foundation's Taste America: “Local Flavor from Coast To Coast” national tour stopped in Phoenix for this signature culinary event. The beautiful grounds of the Royal Palms Resort were the setting for Friday night's A Night of Culinary Stars, the featured dining extravaganza with renowned chefs Kevin Binkley (Binkley’s), Matt Carter (Zinc Bistro), Rochelle Daniel (The Restaurant at L’Auberge de Sedona), Mel Mecinas (Talavera at Four Seasons Resort), Mark Tarbell (Tarbell's), host chef Todd Allison (Royal Palms), and James Beard Award winners Chris Bianco (Pizzeria Bianco), RoxSand Scocos, and Taste America All-Star Michel Nischan,
The night's festivities kicked off with a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres reception. I had met Ian MacNeil, the owner of Glass Distillery, one of the sponsors, at the Mix-Up Bar before the event, so had a chance to learn more about this new award-winning vodka made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. I also sipped on prosecco and a refreshing Bacardi Old Cuban as I enjoyed small bites from these talented chefs:
Mel Mecinas: Foi gras topped Nespresso-rubbed venison loin on a celery root blini
Matt Carter: Guinea Hen with oyster, chilmole and agave vinegar
Rochelle Daniel: Foie Mousse in a roll of edible "bark' with plum jam, candied peanuts and cress
Mark Tarbell: Roasted butternut squash with house ricotta and crispy sage
Kevin Binkley: A spoon of frozen pastel spheres that melted in your mouth to become a delicious prosciutto and melon appetizer
Before long, it was time to be seated in the dining room for dinner, where we started with Todd Allison's pickled heirloom golden beets with Crow's Dairy goat cheese, cranberry-pistachio pesto, watercress, and barrel-aged sherry bourbon, before moving on to Chris Bianco's hand-rolled garganelli made with Arizona durum wheat, heirloom tomato passata, and smoked ricotta, a palate-cleansing sorbet intermezzo by Lifeway Foods, and the entree of Michel Nischan's seared wild salmon with ancient grains and wilted greens.
After a lively auction led by guest emcee Chef Robert McGrath, we were welcomed to retire to the after party on the Vernadero lawn under the stars for sparkling wine, cigars, and an incredible array of desserts by Chef RoxSand Scocos, including croque en bouche, cheesecake, whiskey tortes, and an assortment of cookies, candies, and chocolates. How did this memorable night end? With fireworks of course!
I've been to many culinary events in the valley and a Night of the Culinary Stars is the best one yet.
I'll be back next year!
I received a complimentary media invitation to this event.