More than 1,000 hungry foodies made their way to the Tucson Botanical Gardens last Saturday, Feb. 4 to enjoy dozens of different food samples from some of the region’s most notable restaurants and fill their glasses time and time again at the 4th annual Savor Food and Wine Festival hosted in part by the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance and Local First Arizona.
While many in attendance were excited to eat and drink their fill, Local First Arizona Director and Founder Kimber Lanning said the festival is a chance for Tucson’s culinary experts to display the creations which have earned Tucson the nation’s first designation from UNESCO as a City of Gastronomy.
“We have a very rich cultural and agricultural heritage surrounding native foods,” Lanning said. “The positioning between Mexico and tribal lands and all of that food culture that comes together here truly makes it a special place.”
Traditional and newly imagined Mexican cuisine was not the only bite-sized fare on display at the festival; guests were treated to dishes of all kinds, from Italian to American offerings.
While sampling out meals to 1,200 different guests is a surefire way to make your name known among the food bloggers and Yelpers, Lanning said the event is also a great opportunity to improve the local economy.
“Local First looks to strengthen Arizona’s economy, and we look to do that in several different ways,” she said. “Here at Savor, we are working to build a stronger food community in the southern part of the state. We know that when folks fall in love with the flavor of Arizona, two things are going to happen: they will choose to support local restaurants, which keeps more money in the local economies. Secondly, locally owned businesses really provide a sense of place not experienced if you chose to go to a chain restaurant.”
Local First Arizona Southern Arizona Director Erika Mitnik-White further clarified, saying that for every $100 spent in a locally owned business, $45 on average would continue to circulate within the local economy. If that same money is spent at a chain, roughly $13 will stay in the local economy.
“When you support, say a locally owned restaurant, the difference is that they will turn around and support other local business,” she said. “They will look to hire a local graphic designer to get those menus going, a local marketing company to work on their ads. Those folks will in-turn hire local, and on and on.”
Regardless of the economic impact or the discover of new food, nothing is as satisfying as a constantly replenishing glass of wine.