On November 7th and 8th, AZCentral's inaugural Food and Wine Experience turned Scottsdale Fashion Square into a culinary extravaganza, bringing together over 100 restaurants, wineries, breweries, distilleries, and beverage producers together with panels, demonstrations, tastings, dining experiences, and a roster of locally and nationally celebrated chefs.
On Saturday, I was invited to attend the first AZFWE Blogger's Journey with a tailored itinerary filled with fun food and beverage events for our group, starting in AJ's Entertainment Pavilion. We began with a special media Q&A with gregarious Graham Elliot, a three-times James Beard Award nominee chef and judge on MasterChef and MasterChef Junior. He's also an author and at the end of our meet and greet (where we learned that his favorite advice for home cooks is to not be afraid to season, that he loves cooking for musicians, and is an avid Star Wars fan), we had the opportunity to buy his new cookbook, Cooking Like a Master Chef, and have it signed.
Next, we moved outside to AJ's Cigar Lounge to taste our way through some beverages with Kristin Brott, a Moët Hennessey Wine Ambassador, starting with Chandon rosé, a perfect way to kick off a sunny Saturday morning.
More adult beverages were involved as we headed to the Sub-Zero/Wolf Stage for Master of Whisky Tom Turner's class. I've heard Tom speak on many occasions, from Total Wine events to Arizona Cocktail Week seminars, and he's always knowledgeable and entertaining. We all learned more about whisky and whiskeys as we sipped our way through the different styles of Bulleit, Crown Royal, George Dickel 12-year, and Johnnie Walker Black Label.
We headed back outside for a meet and greet with Dominic Armato, the new Arizona Republic and AZCentral dining critic. Dom, a former Saveur-nominated food blogger, has been a friend of mine whom I met years ago through our mutual love of food. We've had many delicious dining adventures and I can't think of a better choice after Howard Seftel's retirement - he's intensely passionate, well-traveled and educated in many cuisines, and deeply committed to supporting Arizona's culinary talent.
We also attended Graham Elliot's kitchen demo as he cooked a dish from his new cookbook.
At AJ's Entertaining Pavilion and outdoor Cigar Lounge, we snacked on AJ's passed samples such as dry-aged ribeye, rum raisin bread pudding, and cream puffs, and also enjoyed spirit tastings.
Kevin Vanegas, International Ambassador at Herradura, and Layla Linn of Alliance Beverage held an axtra añejo tequila tasting,
The Grand Tasting area featured two tents filled with food and beverage tables. and there were stages for panel discussions, seminars, and demonstrations. I also ran into Chef Paul Bartolotta, who I had interviewed here.
Special dining experiences were held in the orchard areas for a separate fee, such as McCartney Tea & Talk:
The perfect finale? A screening of filmmaker Andrew Gooi's wonderful documentary Binkley's.
The 2016 event takes place November 4-6 and will be headlined by Chef Mario Batali. Click here for full details.