/ The Phoenix Traveler
Phoenix — By Heather Wright Schlichting on April 8, 2010 at 6:54 am
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Chow Down at the Great Arizona Picnic

The Scottsdale Culinary Festival claims to be the longest running festival of its kind in the United States. All I know is that it draws more than 40,000 foodies looking for what I call the 4 F’s: fabulous food, fun and festivities during our most idyllic time of year.

Located in the heart of the Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza in Old Town Scottsdale, this year’s festival will feature everything from cooking demonstrations by some the nation’s top chefs to a one of a kind James Beard out of the house dinner. But the real crowd pleaser is The Great Arizona Picnic. Also known as GAP to the locals, this food frenzy offers guests the chance to sample foods from over 50 area restaurants and enjoy cooking demos from local and national chefs. For only $10 per person you can taste vodka inspired cocktails at the Absolut Bistro, Mexican food and Patron margaritas at Camarones Margarita Village and over 200 beers at the Southwest Festival of Beers. Music from two bands keeps the audience rockin’.

If you’re a budding chef yourself, drop by on Saturday, April 17 from 12:30-4:30pm to sharpen your knife skills and learn how to make some great meals. Local and national winning chefs strut their stuff in the kitchen and put on a fantastic show.

Also check out the Challenge to the Chefs on Sunday, April 18 at 1pm which pits four chefs against each other in a culinary showdown. Utilizing only the contents of their mystery basket, the challenge is a pressure cooker for the chefs who are in a race to please the judges’ palates. Each chef will prepare an appetizer and an etrée in the allotted time while using the same mix of surprise ingredients as their opponents. Mixologists will compete alongside the chefs using Bombay Sapphire Gin to create new and innovative drinks as a part of the challenge.

Here are a few tips that will help you navigate this event:

  1. Bring cash!  ATMs are available, but to move through the lines and get into the event, bring money to purchase tickets.
  2. Note that tasting tickets are $1 each with most booths charging $3 – $6.
  3. You are not allowed to bring your own food or beverages.
  4. Bring a blanket and chairs, if you wish.
  5. No pets allowed.

It’s important to note that this annual festival benefits numerous arts and arts education programs throughout Arizona and provides scholarships for students enrolled in culinary institutes. It’s a great way to spend a springtime afternoon in great weather and support the unending list of arts organizations which include the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix and Scottsdale to the Phoenix Symphony. So remember, while you’re filling your belly with all kinds of goodies you’re giving back to the organizations that need our support the most.

Saturday, April 17, from 12:00 – 9:00 PM
Sunday, April 18, from 12:00 – 6:00 PM

Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza (map)
7380 E. 2nd St., Scottsdale

$10 per person – purchase tickets online

Children under 12 and seniors over 65 receive free admission
Military personnel – $5 (available at event only)
Tasting Tickets are $1 each and can only be purchased at the event.

Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Culinary Festival

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  • Wow, I can’t believe I lived in Tempe for University for 4 years as a serious gormandizer and never heard about this festival. Hope you enjoy it, I would love to make it next time!

  • Heather Wright Schlichting says:

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, it seems to draw quite a lot of people and with the expanding landscape of dining options the Valley has it is a treat for everyone who participates.

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