With chips in hand, crowds of people got a taste of Tucson’s culinary and performing arts scene at the Southern Arizona Salsa and Tequila Challenge last Saturday night.
With more than 1,500 attendees, 45 participating restaurants, chefs, brewers and distillers, and nearly 100 recipes judged, the Salsa and Tequila Challenge brought the flavors of the Southwest to the La Encantada Shopping Center.
As attendees sipped and tasted, this signature culinary fundraiser for Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance (SAACA) raised more than $44,000 for charity – the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and SAACA’ arts education and creative arts therapy programs for Veterans.
This year the tequila competition was especially fierce, 22 cocktails ranging from the Spicy Pineapple Margarita presented by Dante’s Fire to the Infused Cucumber Mojito from Rigo’s Restaurant offered options for lovers of the sweet, the spicy, and everything in between. An unprecedented number of tequila distillers joined the competition, vying for the Judges Grand Reserve Tequila Tasting award.
From Casino Del Sol’s ice sculpture to the flowing skirts of the Ballet Folklorico La Paloma dancers, the arts were alive around every corner. Paper flowers and hanging lanterns decorated the courtyards as Orquesta Salsarengue brought Latin rhythm to the main stage, and at the end of the evening a new champion was crowned.
Salsa Challenge – People’s Choice Awards
1st Place Salsa – Crossroads Restaurant, De La Abuela
2nd Place Salsa – Rigo’s Restaurant, Salsa de Molcagete
3rd Place Salsa – Cactus Slap Salsa, Thai Pineapple
Salsa Challenge – Judges Awards
Best Traditional Salsa – JW Marriott Starr Pass, Salsa Fresca
Best Hot Salsa – Le Buzz Café, Chile Manzano Mango Spicy Salsa
Best Mild Salsa – Click Café, Flavor City
Best Alternative Salsa – JW Marriott Starr Pass, Mojito Pico De Gallo
Judges Choice, Best Overall Salsa – JW Marriott Starr Pass, Salsa Fresca
Tequila Challenge – People’s Choice Awards
1st Place Tequila Cocktail – Rigo’s Restaurant, Infused Cucumber Margarita
2nd Place Tequila Cocktail – Dante’s Fire, Spicy Pineapple Margarita
3rd Place Tequila Cocktail – Queen Ceviche, Dusty’s Margarita
Tequila Challenge – Judges Awards
Most Creative Cocktail – Highwire Lounge, HW Pearl Shot
Best Sweet Cocktail – Queen Ceviche, Dusty’s Margarita
Best Savory Cocktail – Casino Del Sol, Traditional Guadalajara Sangrita
Judges Choice, Best Overall Tequila Cocktail – Queen Ceviche, Dusty’s Margarita
Best Food Pairing – Gringo Grill, Duck Tamale
Most Creative Display – Casino Del Sol
Grand Reserve Tequila Tasting – 3 Amigos, Ramona’s Reserve
Best Overall – Judges + People’s Choice Combined Score – JW Marriott Starr Pass
About the Southern Arizona Arts and 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.