No segment of the restaurant industry has been hit as hard as fine dining during the past year, so it’s not surprising the second annual Crave Arizona culinary festival — a showcase for many of Scottsdale’s poshest eateries — has scaled back a little this year.
The three-day festival, which was called Eats3 in its inaugural year, begins Thursday and includes a kickoff party and bartending competition (combined into one event this year), a free ArtWalk, an art gallery dinner (down from six last year), three wine tastings (down from four) and an upscale barbecue.
The centerpiece event, though, is the Arizona Grand Tasting, which takes place Saturday on the canal bridge between Old Town Scottsdale’s SouthBridge and Scottsdale Fashion Square.
Nearly 40 of Arizona’s top chefs will prepare food, and more than 200 wineries will offer samples. Admission to the Grand Tasting, which organizers say is being enlarged this year, is $75 — $10 less than last year — and covers all food, drink, demonstrations and seminars.
Participating Valley restaurants will include T. Cook’s, Cowboy Ciao, Atlas Bistro, Elements, Zinc Bistro, Posh, Petite Maison, Metro Brasserie, Prado, Sassi, House of Tricks, Lon’s, Talavera and True Food Kitchen.
This year’s roster of celebrity chefs doesn’t have quite the star power of last year’s lineup headed by the legendary Jacques Pepin, but will include Michael Mina, Douglas Rodriguez and “Top Chef” TV show winner Stephanie Izard.
Rodriguez and Izard, who also appeared last year, will be among four chefs giving free cooking demos (vs. five last year) during the Grand Tasting. There also will be a pair of wine seminars (down from four).
Arizona Grand Tasting
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Bridge at the Scottsdale Waterfront, 7135 E. Camelback Road
How much: $75
Info: (888) 946-3277 or cravearizona.com
Other Crave Arizona events leading up to the Grand Tasting:
• Top Bar Chef Competition & Kickoff Party: Bartenders compete for the title of National Top Bar Chef at The Bridge at the Scottsdale Waterfront. The club-like atmosphere will include the spins of DJ Peabody and dessert bites from local chefs. Admission to the party, which starts at 9 p.m. Thursday, is $25 (includes two cocktails).
• “Taste of Art” ArtWalk: Old Town Scottsdale’s weekly ArtWalk will feature food samples prepared by students at the Arizona Culinary Institute and wines from Washington state. The ArtWalk, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, is free.
• “Taste of Art” Gallery Dinner: The Marshall-LeKAE Gallery will host a five-course dinner with award-winning winemaker Fritz Maytag and Deseo chef Rodriguez at 8 p.m. Thursday. Cost is $150 per person.
• Wine Luncheons: Three-course meals with wine pairings will be offered at noon Friday at Atlas Bistro (Miner Family Vineyards), Bourbon Steak (Palmina Winery) and Café Forte (TBD). Luncheons are $50 apiece.
• Library Wine Tastings: Taste and purchase rare wines during hosted tastings Friday at Olive & Ivy (Marc De Grazia Vineyard, 3 p.m.), Calvin Charles Gallery (Juston Vineyard, 4 p.m.) and The Estate House (York Creek Vineyards, 4 p.m.). Tastings are $50 apiece.
• BBQ and Bubbles: This event, which starts at 7 p.m. Friday, includes grilled foods from national and Valley chefs, beer and wine, live music and silent auctions at The Bridge at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Admission is $100.