If you wish to spend time outdoors in the dead of a Tucson summer, you had better choose your outing carefully.
The fourth annual Culinary Concert Series in the courtyard of the La Encantada shopping center offers not only relative coolness in mid-day heat but also free refreshments.
The concerts, held twice a month on Saturdays, pair cooking demonstrations by chefs at the center’s restaurants (yes, there are free samples) with live music from local musical groups.
For example, the calypso-style band Pacific Breeze will perform with steel drums on July 26, and the cuisine selection will enhance the musical experience.
“We pair that with RA Sushi, so you think you’re at the ocean,” said Melanie Sutton, the shopping center’s marketing manager.
The free concerts take place from 10 a.m. to noon at 2905 E. Skyline Drive and attract about 100 people each.
“Pretty much everyone understands Tucson kind of slows down for the summer,” Sutton said. “This event occurs to help dispel the summer blues.”
For concertgoers who want serious cool, nearby shops are, of course, air-conditioned. Also, people can find relief from the heat in the corridors.
“They have misters,” Sutton said. “That keeps people cool.”
And the seating area, with about 100 spots, is protected by an archway.
“It’s in a nice shaded area of the courtyard, and even though it tends to be warm, it’s refreshing to be outside enjoying the environment,” Sutton said.
The event came about four years ago to help the shopping center attract summer traffic, but it also inspires cooking enthusiasts to achieve new culinary heights.
“It’s a nice way for our restaurants to kind of have their moment to shine and to have the chefs show their expertise on one of their signature dishes,” Sutton said.
On July 12, Bluepoint Kitchen and Bar will demonstrate the making of cilantro jalapeno mussels to music by Tucson’s own American Idol Crystal Stark and the Pete Swan Trio.
“Bluepointe is known for its seafood, but it also has a great selection of wine, so its atmosphere correlates with the music,” Sutton said.
On July 26, RA Sushi gives away the recipe for its yellow monkey roll while Pacific Breeze Performs. The Aug. 9 event pairs the Kings of Pleasure Trio with machacha tacos from Blanco Tacos + Tequila. And on Aug. 23, the Retro Rockets offer the series’ finale performance as chefs from Firebirds Wood Fired Grill make pecan-encrusted trout topped with peach salsa.