On Saturday, June 18, 2016, Visit Tucson with the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance introduced its inaugural Mexican Food Festival, Tucson 23. Held at the JW Marriott Tucson Star Pass Resort & Spa, the festivities began with a special Chefs' Dinner the night before (photos here). Saturday's activities started with a brunch on the scenic Salud Lobby Lounge terrace celebrating the cuisine of Mexico. Featuring mouthwatering choices such as Mexican pastries, omelettes (I had mine made with green chile, chorizo and machaca), ceviche tostadas, posole, tinga and barbacoa tacos, and pork flautas, this special brunch was available for all hotel guests but offered at a discount to Tucson 23 ticket holders.
Also included were Tuscon 23 seminars. The afternoon started with a ceviche class taught by Sous Chef Carlos Guerrero, who gave out tips and recipes, answered questions, and shared two equally delicious ceviches de camarones.
The next seminar was led by Tequila Master Carlos Ruiz, the Certified Tequilier of the JW Marriott Starr Pass. He shared his knowledge and expertise as we learned about his trips to Mexico harvesting agave piñas and working alongside distillers, and the history, regionality, and process of making tequila and other agave spirits. Guests were able to sample Embajador blanco and Maestro Dobel reposado. Staying at the JW Marriott Starr Pass? Be sure to join in the complimentary Arriba Abajo toast and story each evening on the Salud Terrace featuring a tequila chosen by Carlos, often one of his custom infusions.
Our final seminar was a sweet treat with a panaderia seminar led by Senior Pastry Chef Chris Johnson (who also makes amazing sugar centerpieces) and Pastry Chef Israel, who as a 13-year-old was taught by his grandfather to make pan dulce. "I'm very excited to show you what I know," said Israel, "I love working at the Marriott because they make everything from scratch." We not only learned about making delights such as polvorones, cazuelas, conchas, pan du muertos, rebanadas, cuernitos, and much more, but guests were able to pile their plates high and try each one. "I said 'Israel, we need some Mexican pastries' and I came in the next day and there were 15 kinds," Chef Johnson laughed.
Soon it was time for the main event. The Tucson 23 takes its name from the confluence of 60+ exceptional Mexican restaurants within a 23-mile radius. Taking place in the ballroom at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, more than 30 restaurants, bakeries, and beverage purveyors celebrated a Mexican fiesta with the attendees. In addition to the seminars, the $45 tickets included food, beer, tequila, and cocktail sampling.
Mexican artists were also featured along with performances by the dance company Ballet Folklorico La Paloma, and there were fun activities for the children.
And of course, there was plate after plate of delicious Mexican food, such as these tempting bites.
A celebration of Mexican cuisine and culture, the Tucson 23 was a huge success. More than one person was overheard asking,"Will they do this every year?" I hope so!
For more information on next year’s festival, check my Write On Rubee calendar.
I received a complimentary media invitation.