The dictionary defines nirvana as a state of perfect happiness, so it seems a fitting name for the newest culinary festival to hit Scottsdale, AZ. Nirvana, a culinary festival hosted by Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa debuted in April. The star-studded event, with plans to return next spring, brings the biggest names in the culinary world to Scottsdale for one delicious weekend. Check out some of what this year offered and mark your calendars for the next “flavorful state of mind” at Nirvana culinary festival at Sanctuary.
The 2017 Nirvana Culinary Festival
The first Nirvana Culinary Festival was an event to remember. Sanctuary's own star Executive Chef Beau MacMillan played host to a lineup of celebrity chefs from across Phoenix and the country. Tickets and information will be available closer to the 2018 event online at www.NirvanaFoodandWine.com.
A portion of the 2017 proceeds went to benefit HopeKids, an organization that provides ongoing events, activities and support community for families who have a child with cancer or other life-threatening medical condition.
I was able to attend one of the evening events, Best of the West. Take a look at that event and the other great events featured throughout the star-studded weekend. Be sure to check back on the website for the 2018 event—and we'll be sending out reminders here on Wander!
Nirvana kicked off with Torch, a poolside Polynesian fantasy.
This popular event was hosted by celebrity chef and television personality Robert Irvine and local celebrity mixologist Jason Asher, owner of Counter Intuitive and Undertow.
The event took place on Thursday evening of the event at the Infinity Pool and Lawn. Mixologists competed at eight stations as guests and an esteemed panel of judges chose the Judge's Choice and People's Choice award winners for the evening.
Tickets for the event were $125 per person.
Birds and Bubbles
Friday night brought Birds and Bubbles to The Views Ballroom at Sanctuary, hosted by chef, restaurateur, author and television personality Todd English.
In my opinion, there's not much better than fried chicken and Champagne. Seriously. I'm from the south, so I'm always all about fried chicken and I could drink Champagne for every meal. I wasn't able to attend this event, but it looks amazing. It's on my calendar for next year!
The all-star line-up included local chefs Stephen Jones, Cullen Campbell, Justin Beckett, Jeremy Pacheco, Gio Osso and Beau MacMillan. They were joined by visiting chefs from Palm Beach, Florida: Clay Conley and Lindsay Autry.
Festival goers who booked VIP admission had an extra 45 minutes with the chefs and a few extra treats—not to mention 45 more minutes with bubbles.
To top the evening off, there was entertainment by American country singer/songwriter D. Vincent Williams and the Nashville Allstars.
The event was on Friday evening from 7 to 10 pm and tickets were $135 per person ($225 for VIP admission).
Golf Tournament at Nirvana Culinary Festival
It's Arizona in April, so a golf tournament is a given for an event! This one took place on Saturday morning at the beautiful new Mountain Shadows Resort.
Each foursome was paired with a renowned chef, star mixologist or notable sports figure for a fun-filled celebrity golf tournament at the beautiful new course at the base of Camelback Mountain.
There was plenty of food, beer and spirits for the memorable day. The cost was $400 per player with a noon tee time.
Best of the West
I attended Best of the West with my assistant editor Kamilla Graham and we had a magnificent evening. This final evening event of Nirvana Culinary Festival was hosted by chef/restauranteur and Chopped judge Scott Conant at Praying Monk and elements restaurant. It was a gorgeous evening and we watched the sun set behind Camelback as the evening got underway.
And yes, I started the evening with a lovely glass of sparkling rosé and a toast to these lovely desert sunsets that I have grown to love so well. Then it was time to explore the amazing flavors.
More than a dozen elegant restaurant stations were manned by chefs across the West. While I enjoyed everything, I did find a few favorites.
For starters, the Moroccan Spiced Rack of Lamb courtesy Chef Charles Wiley of Hearth at Mountain Shadows. I had just enjoyed them the week before at Hearth and smelling those spices set my mouth watering.
Another amazing dish was courtesy of Chef Russell LaCasce at Hotel Valley Ho's ZuZu. Chef served up a thick slab of pork belly with a lovely blend of herbs and spice that made my mouth sing.
I also enjoyed the grilled octopus from Mora Italian. And yes, I have to admit this was another dish I had enjoyed before Nirvana. It is one of my favorite bites at Mora and it tasted even better that night on Sanctuary's patio.
My favorite bite of the night was from Samantha Sanz at Talavera at Four Seasons Scottsdale. She offered us Foie Gras Churros served with spiced mole sugar and hibiscus berry jam. Oh my! This was beyond decadent. Chef Samantha has a magical touch in the kitchen and this bite proved it.
The Best of the West event was held on Saturday evening from 7 to 10 pm. It was $145 per person, with VIP admission for $225. VIP guests were given early access and extra time with the chefs.
New Orleans Jazz & Bourbon Brunch
The final event of Nirvana Culinary Festival came to an end on Sunday with a New Orleans-style jazz brunch. And what an end it was!
Complete with live music and a Bourbon twist.
This sit-down event included all of your Southern favorites, from étouffée to beignets.
The brunch was held at elements and the cost was $85 per person.
Nirvana Culinary Festival in 2018
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa is a gorgeous luxury boutique resort on Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley. It is a beautiful property with an award-winning restaurant under the helm of celebrity Chef Beau MacMillan.
Although no date is set for Nirvana Culinary Festival in 2018, the resort hopes to bring the festival back for another great year. Be sure to check back on WanderWithWonder.com so you can book your tickets early. You can also book a room for the weekend at Sanctuary and make it a culinary event to remember.