It’s difficult to describe an event which brings together some of Tucson’s most exciting culinary forces as anything other than “perfect,” but that’s exactly what Tucson 23 was. In a seemingly never ending stream of smells and sounds, the JW Marriot Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa was truly a sight to behold.

It started with a pleasant cadre of Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance volunteers, who with smiling faces led the Tucson Local Media team down the elevator and onto the ballroom floor. Along the way, we were greeted by papier-mâché flowers to set the scene.

For anyone who’s attended a food festival in Southern Arizona, there is a certain formula to the affair—involving a fair bit of standing in line and chatting up the excited guest next to you. Not a problem for a social butterfly (and after a few free margarita samples.)

The Tucson Local Media Taste Team included myself, Web Editor Tirion Morris and Staff Reporter Kathleen Kunz. We each came hungry and thirsty, and left most satisfied.

The night began with a trip to Mariscos Chihuahua and its marvelous ceviche (a common dish that evening), and carried on through chicken tika tacos at Reforma, bacon wrapped burritos courtesy of Percheron Mexican Grill and a side step back into the land of tacos courtesy the al pastor servings from Ensenada Street Food—all before wrapping up with multiple servings of steak nachos from the Charro empire.

Along the way, we drank through margaritas, shots of tequila and plenty of local beer—a foodie’s delight.

After the dust settled, the music stopped and the Ubers arrived, the TLM Taste Team took a moment to name its favorite dishes of the night—and the group decided that the clear winner (in terms of portions eaten) was clearly the Charro nachos. Tirion did also mention the jicama tacos from The Grill at Quail Creek as a standout.

Honorable mentions were earned by Elvira’s for a fabulous chicken mole adobo taco, and Rigo’s for my favorite drink, the watermelon mojito.

It was a sellout event, so not everyone who wanted to was able to get in on the action, but don’t fret! There are a few more opportunities to dive into the cuisine of Southern Arizona in the coming months, thanks to SAACA. On Friday, Aug. 2, the World Margarita Championship will take place at Westward Look and the Southern Arizona Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge will take place at La Encantada Shopping Center Sunday, Sept. 1

For more information, visit saaca.org/events.html

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