Thursday, September 6, 2018

Salsa, Tacos and Tequila, Oh My!

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2018 at 3:16 PM

click to enlarge 2018 Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge at La Encantada - COURTESY SAACA
  • Courtesy SAACA
  • 2018 Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge at La Encantada

A little rain couldn't dampen the festivities on Sunday night at the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance's Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge. There was plenty of music, food and drink to go around.

39 local restaurants, distilleries and chefs flooded the La Encantada mall this past weekend and the community turned out to circle their way around the many tasting tables and end up on the dance floor. Local band Zona Libre played a combination of "latino urbano" and "pop americano" that set the fun and festive mood of the evening.

click to enlarge Zona Libre playing at the Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge, Sunday, Sept. 2. - COURTESY SAACA
  • Courtesy SAACA
  • Zona Libre playing at the Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge, Sunday, Sept. 2.
Guests were handed a bag of chips upon entering the mall, and the salsa tasting commenced. A personal favorite in the food category were the tacos from Crossroads Restaurant, which were a tiny meal complete with a side of rice and beans, but all of the salsa and tacos ranging from traditional to unique were delicious.

An abundance of mini margaritas also filled the courtyard, with flavors like prickly pear, mango and citrus. Varying levels of added jalapeno or Tajin (chili lime salt) added a particularly Tucson-esque flair.

Other stand-out challengers included Highwire Lounge, which gave tasters a magic berry to eat that changed their tastebuds to taste sweetness, and then provided a very sour margarita that tasted surprisingly sweet. The only downside to this science experiment was that the sweet taste stayed in your mouth for about 15 minutes after eating the berry, a little problematic when there were other tacos and tequila to taste.

SpunLight Cotton Candy was another a fun stop in the line around the courtyard, and slightly tequila-drunk adults dancing around with large white fluffs of cotton candy made for a comical scene.

Challengers set up their tasting table on both levels of the mall and tasters milled around under the string lights and impressive lightning show overhead.

The event's competition was split into multiple categories, each of which had judges choices and people's choices.

The official results were as follows:

Taco Awards
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

click to enlarge Judge's Choice 1st Place Tequila – Cruz Del Sol Tequila with their Cruz Resposado Tequila
  • Judge's Choice 1st Place Tequila – Cruz Del Sol Tequila with their Cruz Resposado Tequila

Tequila Awards

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



Salsa Awards

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

Display Award

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.

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