The People’s Fest

Ethan MillmanMarch 31, 2019
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Photo courtesy Scottsdale Culinary Festival
Photo courtesy Scottsdale Culinary Festival

The Scottsdale Culinary Festival returns for another year of foodie merriment – including a special experience hosted by PHOENIX magazine.

Scottsdale Culinary Festival
April 13-14
Admission: $12 pre-sale, $15 at the door, daily general admission; $125-$150, VIP experience

Scottsdale Civic Center Mall
3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale

With two-day weekend attendance surpassing 25,000 people, the Scottsdale Culinary Festival is the biggest food event in Arizona. It’s also the most accessible, with experiences covering a full spectrum of appetites and price points, from the $12 general admission pass to the full-Monty VIP experience, which covers catered food and provides exclusive seating. Is it decadence? Yes, but decadence for a good cause – proceeds benefit local nonprofit arts organizations.

With 35 restaurants slated to be cooking up mouthwatering samples at the festival, there will be no shortage of options, with the likes of Chandler’s Pokitrition and Floridino’s Pizza & Pasta as well as Mesa’s Rodizio Grill and Scottsdale favorite Sushi Roku all on tap.

Tempe-based Four Peaks Brewing Co. will be hosting a beer garden with more than 200 specialty brews. Beer garden tickets cost $42 pre-sale and $45 at the door and include admission to the rest of the festival and 20 beer samples in the garden.

Committed day-drinkers need no introduction to the Tito’s Handmade Vodka lounge, a rowdy mixer in the spring shade that’s written itself into local lore. Alternately, drink fans can head over to PHOENIX’s Liquid Arizona event (see below). Also shaded.

Live music:
The 1980s pop band Berlin – of “Take My Breath Away”/Top Gun fame – is headlining the festival’s music portion, with local supporting acts including Arizona’s Wyves and The Black Moods.

Food demos:
Looking for some inspiration for your next home-cooked meal? SCF has you covered, with a wide range of food demos from chefs around the Valley, including cooking with cactus fruit and making low-carb Mexican food.


Presented by PHOENIX magazine in partnership with Scottsdale’s Pitch pizzeria and restaurant, this two-day showcase of Arizona liquid artistry is a festival within a festival, designed for beverage aficionados who want a local experience. Expect spirits, beer and wine – all of it fermented, brewed and distilled right here in the Grand Canyon State – as well as featured eats from Pitch.

Liquid Arizona
April 13-14
Admission: Included with SCF admission; drink tickets extra

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
7380 E. Second St., Scottsdale

Visitors receive a voucher good for 10 samples with their ticket purchase.
Beer: The Shop Beer Co. and Flagstaff’s Mother Road Brewing Co. brew Church Music and Tower Station, respectively – two of the state’s best IPAs. Taste test! Plus a half-dozen other breweries.

Wine: Representing all three of Arizona’s chief wine regions, Dos Cabezas WineWorks (Elgin/Sonoita), Caduceus Cellars (Verde Valley) and Sand-Reckoner Vineyards (Willcox) will be pouring.

Spirits: They make tequila in Arizona? Sort of. Per Mexican law, 3 Amigos distills and barrels its pure agave tequilas in Jalisco, but it’s locally owned. Try it along with Roger Clyne Mexican Moonshine and Tempe-based Adventurous Stills.


What fans can expect at the Pitch experience.

Shandys: Love beer? Check. Love cocktails? Check. See them combined into one wickedly refreshing libation, courtesy of Pitch mixologists.

Food: Smoked mac and cheese, tacos and other tempting vittles from the restaurant’s gastropub-chic menu will be served throughout the afternoon events.


Photo by Angelina Aragon

Nebraska transplant Dean Leisman opened Pitch pizzeria a decade ago in Omaha, ultimately exporting his vision to Scottsdale, where the menu expanded to include house-made pasta, upscale salads and coal-fired entrées, plus a great wine list. We quizzed him on his plans for Valley domination.

Why come to Scottsdale?
This has been home for me for 22 years. We didn’t come to Scottsdale to open [just] one – we’re going to do other locations. All the people involved in this restaurant down here, we’ve got the same vision on culture, and it’s about positive energy… We talk about Gilbert for a lot of reasons… the growth is big, and there’s a lot of Midwesterners there.

What are the challenges?
We want to do it right. We do scratch-made cuisine… It’s not just pizza and salads [anymore]. I mean, there’s organic duck on the menu. The challenge for us now is: What is the perfect word to describe Pitch?

What’s on the menu at Liquid Arizona?
We smoke a lot of our meats in- house and will probably have the smoker there. We’ve talked about doing some incredible street tacos. We have two days, and it’s going to be fun to come up with some stuff for two days.