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.
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.
|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|