Outstanding food and drink were served while raising money for needed community programs in Southern Arizona.
The rain this past Sunday evening did not chase the fun away. The 8th annual Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge once again wowed attendees with amazing flavors and inventive culinary creations, while the band kept the crowds dancing late into the evening.
With more than 1,000 attendees, 38 participating restaurants, chefs, brewers and distillers and nearly 70 recipes judged, the Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge brought a rainbow of Southwest inspired dishes and spirits to the La Encantada Shopping Center.
As attendees enjoyed the appetizing offerings of some of Tucson’s best restaurants, this signature culinary fundraiser raised much needed funds for nonprofit, the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, as well as support for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
Over 70 entries were evaluated, contributing in both special judged and People’s Choice categories. Selecting a favorite was particularly difficult among each of the brilliant contributions of savory and sweet delights.
The sounds of Mariachi Herradura and duo, Cool Breeze set the festive tone by opening the evening on a high note, while the headlining performance by Zona Libra kept the party going.
The judges panel contributed their foodie expertise to select the outstanding winners on Sunday night. The panel included:
Special thanks can be provided to each of our contributing professional judging panel.
Sandra Cannett - Fat Tucson Owner & Content Creator
Andi Berlin - Arizona Daily Star Writer & Digital Media
Mark Whittaker - Tucson Weekly, Chow Food Writer
Melissa Stihl - Tucson Foodie, Writer
Michael McDonald - President, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona
Lea Peterson - President Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Laura Oldaker - Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Ricardo Pineda - Mexican Consulate
Blanca Ramirez - Traditional Mexican Chef
Chef Ariana Olivias - Chef Chic
Natalie Morris - Local First Arizona Director of Food Initiatives
Chef Mat Cable - Fresco Pasta & Pizzeria & Tucson Originals
Kim Fernandez - SAACA Board of Director
Celestino Fernandez - University of Arizona
And the winners are:
Judge's Choice 1st Place -- Tequila Factory – Tecate Traveling Taco
Judge's Choice 2nd Place – The Living Room -- Chilaquiles
People's Choice 1st Place -- El Coronado Restaurant - Birria Taco
People's Choice 2nd Place -- The Grill at Quail Creek - Pork Belly Taco
Judge's Choice 1st Place – Cruz Del Sol Tequila -- Cruz Resposado Tequila
Judge's Choice 2nd Place -- 3 Amigos – 8 Year Extra Anejo Tequila
People's Choice 1st Place – The Lodge at Ventana Canyon -- Berry White
People's Choice 2nd Place -- 3 Amigos – 8 Year Extra Anejo Tequila
Judge's Choice Traditional Salsa 1st Place -- Crossroads Restaurant -- Tomatillo Salsa
Judge's Choice Traditional Salsa 2nd Place— The Grill at Quail Creek – Brasas Salsa
Judge's Choice Alternative Salsa 1st Place -- Ritz Carlton at Dove Mountain -- Sweet Mango Chile Salsa
Judge's Choice Alternative Salsa 2nd Place -- The Tequila Factory -- Fruit Pico de Gallo Salsa
People's Choice Salsa 1st Place -- Angie's Kick Ass Salsa -- Hot Salsa
People's Choice Salsa 2nd Place -- Ritz Carlton at Dove Mountain -- Sweet Mango Chile Salsa
People's Choice Salsa 3rd Place -- Angie's Gourmet To Go - Fire Roasted Tomato Mango Habanero Salsa
Judge's Choice Most Creative Display -- Rigo's Restaurant
The Southern Arizona Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge is a fundraising event to benefit the presenting nonprofit organizations. All proceeds that are raised through ticket sales are invested into programs that provide foundational support to the communities' well-being.
The partnership between the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona began nearly nine years ago in a collaborative fundraising effort aimed at partnering to create a signature community event.
The Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge also promotes local businesses in a lively environment by connecting attendees with local restaurants. Guests will have access to taste samples from many restaurants in one location while personally interacting with the chefs and mixologists that create the recipes they are tasting. At the end of the evening, awards will be presented to the event champions in over 15 categories.
NOTE TO MEDIA: Photos available
Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance
The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance (SAACA) is a not-for-profit organization that exists to ensure that, through engagement in arts and culture, our communities produce strong, inspired citizens. SAACA enlists artists, businesses, governments, and individuals to expand artistic and cultural opportunities in their respective communities. To enhance access to the arts and to promote cultural awareness in the communities it serves, SAACA presents large-scale festivals, events and other programs. The Alliance also promotes educational opportunities in the arts and culture for all ages.