- Stephanie Sparer
It’s the culmination of chefs, foodies, regular people who just want a nice weekend where they can eat without judgement, and your parents who heard about it from Barb and thought it seemed fun.
You remember Barb?
Bigger and better than ever in its 9th year and new location at the Desert Botanical Garden, Devour was packed with people and tons of opportunities to try delicious local offerings in a beautiful setting.
New to this event, Devour now offers a VIP upgrade with several ‘experiences’ for guests willing to pay a little more for food ‘moments’ if you will that include upscale restaurants, pockets of entertainment, and shade (very important) for lounging so you can enjoy that said food moment without the sunburn. Sunday’s Devour felt like the grand finale to the week of festivities and featured Chef Ryan Swanson of Kai at the first VIP experience we encountered and he never fails to impress. Hungry VIPs were treated to a three course sampling of Kai that began with a cucumber fizz gin aperitif to sip as you nibbled on offerings of perfect smoked ocean trout that was salty but tender, braised bison loin, and a delicate red kuri squash cake that melted in your mouth. Honestly, you need to be an octopus to juggle all the samples at Devour. (Though that’s sort of dangerous… We’ll discuss how delicious octopus is later.)
The VIP treatment continued with Adult Dole Whips (YES like the Disneyland Dole Whips) topped with rum (this is Devour after all) and floated to those in the lounge area from Bitter and Twisted along with champagne cupcakes from HighSpirited Cupcakes that were lighter than air, filled with a surprise fruity pastry cream, and too easy to fit into your mouth.
If you were out and about but looking for savory, The Clever Koi’s asian-inspired kitchen brought chicken feet were slow-cooked and smothered spicy sauce so you could eat them much like wings (and you kind of have to, because there are bones). Not for the faint of heart, chicken feet taste and feel exactly like you may expect chicken feet to taste and feel. But if you’re going to Devour, you’re not looking for the mundane or something you can make yourself on a Tuesday. It was nice to see an unexpected ingredient pop up as the main attraction for a booth.
Not to be outdone, Chef Kevin Lebron of The Dressing Room, a favorite Roosevelt Row staple known for dishes with an asian flair, brought takoyaki or rather, fried balls made of octopus. Octopus balls are delicious and crispy with a chewy center. If you’re a fan of seafood but you haven’t tried octopus, go for it. Especially in ball form octopus is tender and full of flavor and let’s be real, everything tastes better absolutely coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Eight-tentacled creatures are no exception.
Octopus showed up again later in a VIP section featuring Deseo at the Westin Kierland who brought a char-grilled octopus on a skewer topped with a papa criolla (aka potato) you could eat like a popsicle. (They also brought a passion fruit panna cotta so creamy and balanced with a guava puree we could have had about 19, but you know, you have to save room for everything else.)
If staying on land is kind of your thing, Litchfield’s at The Wigwam brought a lamb belly (served with a spicy popcorn as a side dish) that melted in your mouth and paired surprisingly well with Hula’s Tiki Bastard drink, a mix of gin, bourbon, and ginger beer showcased at the booth next door.
Red Thai’s executive chef, Johnny Chu, stepped up the carb count and brought rice noodles to the game. Our favorite variation of these chewy noodles from the Red Thai booth were served in a spicy ginger black bean sauce with bell peppers and broccoli.
Coveted by many, though they ran out early, Sweet Republic brought a trio of desserts: mango coconut baked Alaska, lychee ice cream tucked inside ube macarons, and a white chocolate miso ice cream sandwiched between two dark chocolate wafer cookies. This was definitely dessert but if you didn’t eat it for breakfast, chances are you didn’t get to try these. Looks like an excuse to make our way to Sweet Republic for a little bit of a treat.
For those looking to put a little spice in their life, The larder + the delta (coming back soon!) served up “love, deliciousness, and flavor,” as chef Stephen Jones put it while running back and forth in the booth, plating up hot tamales with a charred husk labne for a long, long line of Devourees.
When it was time for dessert (again.) we headed over to Nami for an organic dairy free chocolate milkshake and their vegan cookie dough. Ask anyone at Devour what shouldn’t be missed and you heard the name Nami uttered about a million times. They weren’t wrong. Nami’s milkshake was rich, creamy, and surprisingly refreshing for something so heavy and laced with chocolate. You didn’t miss the dairy. The vegan cookie dough was coated in chocolate and on a stick for easy eating as you made your way to the next booth. Plus, any cookie dough you can eat without your mom getting mad at you is a win in our book.
There was SO MUCH at Devour (Seriously. So much) that if we mentioned every booth we tried you’d miss two meals just reading the write-up, so here are some more honorable mentions we didn’t get to talk about but still want to let you know about.
Citizen Public House had a roasted carrot with greek yogurt, fried capers, cured egg yolk, and tahini so popular they ran out.
Elote Cafe made the trip from Sedona with their famous Anasazi beans topped with cornbread and crème fraiche. It was so good we kind of ate it as a dessert.
Rancho Pinot brought roast quail topped with a fig compote that was flavorful, succulent, and better than chicken. #teamquail
Mi Catering brought the hottest dish we found at the event; a roasted corn tostada topped with braised pork and pickled habanero slaw so spicy we couldn’t stop eating it.
District Kitchen served waffles topped with bacon bourbon ice cream, apple butter compote, maple cotton candy, and caramelized white chocolate pecan bark.
In general, cotton candy in adult flavors (like maple bourbon, as seen at Nutwhats’ booth) is the new big thing.
Interested in going to Devour next year? Make sure to sign up for Devour’s emails so you can get all the details when tickets go on sale (they sell out fast so stay updated)!