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2016 Salsa & Tequila Challenge Brings the Heat

“The salsa was fierce and the tequila was frisky” at SAACA’s 6th Annual Salsa & Tequila Challenge.

August 30, 2016

For the past 5+ years, the Southern Arizona Salsa & Tequila Challenge has kicked off what I’ve come to know and love as Prime Time Foodie Season in Tucson. This is the time of year when the going gets good: the weather is fantastic, the food and drinks are sublime, and the energy is electric. And as you might know by now, SAACA knows how to put on one heck of an event!

At their 6th annual Salsa & Tequila Challenge at La Encantada, chefs and mixologists from over 50 local restaurants competed for professional judges awards as well as People’s Choice Awards in over 20 categories (no pressure)!  However it wasn’t all about winning – as Gabriel Mojarro from Penca Restaurante put it, “Win or lose, it’s all about helping others and raising money.” In this case, the money raised will go to support the SAACA Creative Arts Therapy Programs, and local programming outreach by the Community Food Bank.

Gabriel Mojarro was among the crew representing Penca at SAACA's Saturday event.

Gabriel Mojarro was among the crew representing Penca at SAACA’s Saturday event.

Attendees Andrea Hahn (right) and Jalisa Martin (left).

Attendees Andrea Hahn (right) and Jalisa Martin (left).

Speaking of awards: while I’m not allowed to present my own awards at these things, I would like to give a special mention to George Ferranti , manager at El Cisne Restaurant, who has simply a wealth of knowledge in regards to anything tequila. For example, did you know that most Tequila is produced in and around the town of Tequila in the Mexican state of Jalisco? And that premium tequilas are distilled from 100% Agave Tequilana, more commonly known as Blue Agave, a native species preferred for its high sugar content? I sampled some of El Cisne’s Mole Delight salsa, made with 26 overall spices and 5 different kinds of chiles, and paired with their Chapala Street Car margarita…suffice it to say that my taste buds are still thanking me! As attendee Andrea Hahn put it, “The salsa was fierce and the tequila was frisky.”

See more photos from the 2016 Salsa & Tequila Challenge:

This particular Salsa & Tequila Challenge has left me with a huge list of places I need to go visit: Harvest for their Pina Tini, The Living Room for their crispy and mouthwatering chilaquiles, JW Marriott Starr Pass for their refreshing Tequila Mojito and Sweet Tequila, Dante’s Fire for their Prickly Pear Margarita and Sweet Pineapple Margarita, and Queen Ceviche at the St. Phillips Plaza Farmers Market for their Hibiscus/peach margaritas.

Check out the list of competitors below and start planning your next few meals. And make sure to mark your calendars for SAACA’s World Margarita Championship, being held on September 30th.

Salsa & Tequila Challenge 2016 Competitors

Angie’s Gourmet To Go Le Buzz Cafe Libation Partners
Cactus Slap Salsa Macayo’s Mexican Restaurant Barrio Brewing Co.
Casino Del Sol Resort Melting Pot Day of the Dead Beer
Chef Chic Pasco Kitchen Finley Distributing
Click Café Penca Restaurante Hensley Beverage Company
Crossroads Restaurant [POPPED] Artisan Popcorn Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine
Dante’s Fire Queen Ceviche Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Driftwood Pub & Kitchen Reforma Cocina Y Cantina Three Wells Distilling Company
El Charro Red’s Smokehouse Julio Cesar Chavez Tequila
El Cisne Cocina de Mexico Rigo’s Restaurant Don Julio Tequila
Elvira’s Saffron Indian Bistro Luna Malvada
Fini’s Landing  Table of Elementz
GRINGO Grill + Cantina Taste Like Burning Salsa Co. Non-Alcoholic Libations
Harvest Restaurant The Living Room Wine Café & Lounge Fermented Tea Company
HighWire Lounge The Roasted Chile
JW Marriott Starr Pass Westin La Paloma


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