“Nirvana” is an appropriate name for the inaugural food and wine festival at the AAA Four Diamond Sanctuary on Camelback. The Paradise Valley, Arizona, resort and spa sold out every event from April 27-30, 2017 for this star-studded celebration.
The breathtaking backdrop was one of the stars of Nirvana Food & Wine, not to be outshined by celebrity chefs Robert Irvine, Todd English, and Scott Conant. It was Food Network star Beau MacMillan, however, Executive Chef at Sanctuary on Camelback, who stood out in the crowd as the main host and organizer of this event. MacMillan was everywhere, seeing to every detail, throughout the long weekend.
It all began on Thursday night with the Torch event, held around the infinity pool at Sanctuary on Camelback and hosted by Chef Irvine. Best known for his shows Restaurant Impossible and Dinner Impossible, Irvine greeted guests and personally handed each plates of his delicious short ribs.
Also popular during Torch were the Polynesian spare ribs by Chef MacMillan. Guests ate as they enjoyed libations created by local mixologists, such as the Pele Punch mixed by Brian Blevins of Artizen Crafted American Kitchen, and the Banana Jacquiri by Eric “E.T.” Tecosky.
All of the cocktails during Torch were crafted with spirits from sponsors Zacapa Rum, Hennessy, and Jack Daniels.
On Friday evening, the Birds & Bubbles (fried chicken and champagne) was a big hit for everyone, although the heavy wind kept festival goers from retreating to the outdoor tables.
Moet & Chandon served a selection of Champagne. Moet Ice, a special blend made to be served over ice, was a favorite, presented in a goblet with blueberries and mint.
Fried chicken was prepared by a dozen chefs, from the spicy to the buttermilk, drizzled with honey. The most popular by far was created by chef Justin Beckett of Beckett’s Table in Phoenix. It was fried chicken between two cheddar biscuits.
Also at Birds & Bubbles, Sanctuary on Camelback pastry chef Ana Garza prepared a selection of desserts to complete the comfort food meal. Her s’mores creation had people coming back for seconds.
Nashville’s D. Vincent Williams, an award-winning songwriter, performed with his band during Birds & Bubbles. The crowd danced and cheered throughout the evening.
Two events filled Saturday evening at Nirvana Food and Wine. One was a dinner to honored Chuck Wagner, owner and winemaker at Caymus Vineyards. The Wagner family has a long history producing wines in Napa Valley, California.
At the same time, Best of the West gathered together top chefs and wines for a delicious evening inside Elements Restaurant and the Jade Bar and Sanctuary on Camelback.
The dishes all showed off the creativity of the chefs, such as the Moroccan spiced lamb by Charles Riley of Hearth 61 at Mountain Shadows, and the scalloped ceviche with lamb bacon by Jacob Ellis of Top of the Rock.
George Frasher of Frasher’s Smokehouse provided an entire mini-meal to party-goers, with baby back ribs, smoked turkey gumbo, and a gooey butter cake.
Guests had the opportunity to try many wines they might not have normally tasted, including a lightly oaked chardonnay from Etude Wines. For those who preferred their drinks mixed, Belvedere Vodka had some tasty cocktails ready.
The Nirvana Food & Wine Festival finished on Sunday with a New Orleans Brunch. A jazz group played in the background as guests were greeted with a can of Shamrock Farm’s Cold Brew.
As in NOLA, the theme was seafood and there was plenty of it. Among the dishes was a crawfish & andouille frittata with a choron sauce from chef Aaron May of Over Easy Restaurant, and gumbo from Leonard Rubin of the Country Club at DC Ranch.
Huss Brewing of Scottsdale poured their beers and Tanqueray Gin had some fresh cocktails. There was also mini-bottles of Chandon Champagne.
Chicken and waffles were served to complete the southern menu, as well as beignets, served with caramel, chocolate, or passion fruit sauce.
Alfa Romeo, a sponsor throughout the weekend, gave out delicious white chocolate dipped biscotti to guests, who were kept hydrated all weekend with bottles of Fiji Water.
The success of the Nirvana Food & Wine Festival has not gone unnoticed. Sanctuary on Camelback Resort and Spa is already planning the second annual event for next spring.