The 5 Best Things I Ate at Arizona’s Nirvana Food and Wine Festival

Get an insider's look at what went down in Arizona last week.

By: Gabriela Rodiles

From tacos al pastor to the freshest wasabi I’ve ever tasted, the third annual Nirvana Food and Wine Festival had it all. Chefs and mixologists from all over the country came together for five days of events at the gorgeous Sanctuary Resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona. As an Arizona native, I was thrilled to return to the city to celebrate the growing food community and soak up the much-needed sunshine.

Sanctuary’s Executive Chef Beau MacMillan lead the charge on the events that brought together an impressive group of chefs to serve hundreds of guests each night. You may have seen Beau judging episodes of Guy’s Grocery Games or appearing on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. He was just as dynamic in real life as he is on screen! Beau wasn’t the only familiar face from Food Network present. Robert Irvine, Marc Murphy, Scott Conant, Jose Garces and David Rose all made their way to Nirvana to host events.

I ate and drank my way through each of the tables over the course of the festival, but there were five main bites that stuck out to me.

Volcano Beef Shank

I have never been so awestruck to see a dish arrive at a table like I was with Chef Danny Grant’s Volcano Beef Shank served with wild mushrooms and truffle polenta. The meat was truly falling off the (GIANT!) bone. Former Food Network Star contestant David Rose hosted the Wood, Wine and Wagyu event where beef was the star of the show. As the first event of the festival, it really set the whole tone!

Savage Blonde Oysters

After living in New York City for a few years, I've learned the joy of grabbing oysters and a glass of rosé on a gorgeous day. Savage Blonde Oysters from Nelson’s Meat + Fish were one of the first things I ate arriving at the Rosé Parté event hosted by Robert Irvine and the Bella Twins. A zesty citrus Leche de Tigre sauce was served on top of freshly shucked oysters. I honestly could have single handedly eaten two dozen of these.

Guajillo-Braised Wagyu Short Ribs

Robert Irvine was not messing around at the Rosé Parté event. His Wagyu Short Ribs were fall-apart tender and served with the absolute jammiest, creamiest soft-boiled egg I’ve ever laid eyes on. After lots of light, delicate bites, this hearty, flavor-packed dish with grits and fresh salsa was exactly what I needed.

Ahi Tuna and Black Truffle

Did you know most wasabi in the United States is just horseradish mixed with a bunch of things to create the signature taste? If you haven’t ever tried fresh, pure wasabi ground right before your eyes, do me a favor and call every restaurant possible to find a taste. At the Best of the West event, I tried Chef Ryan Clark’s truffle-cured tuna topped with pickled turnip, shoyu (similar to soy sauce) and the freshest wasabi ever. This one had me coming back for seconds!

Tacos al Pastor

24-hour marinated pork shoulder cooking shawarma-style on a traditional vertical spit grill took my breath away when I walked into the Tequila & Tortillas event. Chef Fidencio Alatriste of Tacocat had a full spread of toppings for the Tacos al Pastor like pineapple, fresh salsas, grilled onion, cilantro and lots of lime. Paired with a spicy margarita, this sweet and savory combo was the perfect wrap to the festival.

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