Fantastic Food Frenzy: Tucson City of Gastronomy certifies new group

click to enlarge Fantastic Food Frenzy: Tucson City of Gastronomy certifies new group
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The Tucson City of Gastronomy certifications were unveiled on June 27 during a private event at Pueblo Vida Brewing Company on East Broadway in Tucson.

A new group of Tucson-area restaurants, artisans, retailers and caterers have been certified by Tucson City of Gastronomy.

The certifications were announced June 27 at a private event at Pueblo Vida Brewing Company on East Broadway in Tucson.

Forty-five restaurants, 21 artisans/retailers, and four caterers were recognized and celebrated as certified by Tucson City of Gastronomy. Looking for great locally produced food and drink? Check out the Tucson City of Gastronomy website. There, you can click on each business to learn more about them.

On December 15, 2015, Tucson became the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy designated in the United States, joining the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It seeks to build peace though international cooperation in education, sciences and culture.

Tucson City of Gastronomy is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. It began its certification program in 2020. Businesses that apply for the two-year certification must fit in one or more of these categories:

• A locally owned restaurant or food artisan.

• Attest that foods are made from scratch in their kitchens.

• Keep the Southern Arizona food heritage alive.

• Support the local food economy.

• Have community-minded, sustainable, ethical and fair business practices.

“Tucson has an amazing food scene,” said Dr. Jonathan Mabry, executive director of Tucson City of Gastronomy. “The whole goal of the program is to recognize these food businesses that are really leading by example in terms of supporting the local food economy, supporting our food heritage.”

Using sustainable innovative food practices, taking good care of their employees and giving back to the community are also considered when making the certifications, Mabry said.

Applicants can be located anywhere in the Southern Arizona foodshed, Mabry said. “We often think of it as Baja Arizona,” he said.

Earning a City of Gastronomy certificate is not based on the popularity of an applicant’s food, but more on the positive direction the businesses have taken in the Tucson-area culinary economic sector, Mabry said.

Barrio Charro, for instance, makes sandwiches made on house-baked Azteca bread made daily from Barrio Grains’ White Sonoran wheat and non-GMO corn flour.

Corralie Satta of Ghini’s said, “My philosophy of Ghini’s is to emphasize freshness and simplicity. We only use whole and locally grown foods, creating dishes that taste amazing and are good for you—mind, body and soul.”

Seis Kitchen uses only sustainably sourced fresh fish, seafood and local Arizona-grown beef. It also offers only cage-free, naturally raised, antibiotic-free poultry.

What does a business gain from having a Tucson City of Gastronomy sticker in its window? There are many benefits, Mabry said.

First, they get increased media attention and this attracts more customers. The businesses are promoted on the Tucson City of Gastronomy website and on social media. The group also produces a large email newsletter and prints rack cards to guide Tucson visitors to the businesses.

The Southern Arizona Visitors Center also promotes the businesses. Additionally, they are featured during Sonora Restaurant Week, the annual Tucson Cocktail Challenge and other culinary events during the year.

A field archaeologist, Mabry said he enjoys being part of Tucson City of Gastronomy.

“I love my job steering this nonprofit that is leveraging this very prestigious international designation to benefit the community and also to be a model within the UNESCO-created cities network,” he said.

Tucson is the only City of Gastronomy that has a business certification process and other cities are looking at it as a model, Mabry said.

“Visit Tucson has thousands and thousands of emails annually from people planning to visit who have seen something about UNESCO ... and asking where to eat,” Mabry said. “I saw this as an opportunity to create this program that will guide these visitors and locals to which food businesses I should give my business to. The tagline for the whole program is uniquely local, responsible and delicious.” 

The 2022 certified businesses

Restaurants

• 5 Points Market & Restaurant • Ajo Farmers Market and Café • Anello

• Aqui Con El Nene • Aravaipa Farms Orchard & Inn • Barrio Brewing Co.

• The Black Top Grill • Blue Willow • Boca Tacos • Charro Steak & Del Rey

• Charrovida • The Coronet, Nightjar and Meyer Avenue Café • Cup Café

• The Delta • El Antojo Pablano • El Corral • El Guero Canelo

• El Merendero • Exo Roast • Feast • Ghini’s • La Chaiteria

• LaCo Tucson • The Little One • Mama Louisa’s • Maynards

• Micha’s • The Monica • The Parish • Pinnacle Peak • Proof

• PY Steakhouse • Reforma • Rollies Mexican Patio • Saguaro Corners

• Seis Kitchen • Taco Fish • Tacos Apson • Taqueria Pico de Gallo

• Ten55 • Tito & Pep • Tucson Tamale Co. • Tumerico

• Union Public House • Zio Peppe

Artisans and retailers

• AZ Baking Company • Anita Street Market • Barrio Bread

• Borderlands Brewing Co. • Callaghan Vineyards • Carlotta’s Kitchen

• Chilttepica • Desert Prov • Dolce Pastello • Iskashitaa Refugee Network

• Maiz Tucson • Mano Y Metate • Mora Condiments • Oatman Farms

• Popped Artisan Popcorn • Sky Island Spice • Ten55 • Tirrito Farms

• Travis Peters Fermented Hot Sauce • Tucson Tamale Co. • Whiskey Del Bac

Caterers

• Feast • Gallery of Food • San Xavier Co-op Farm • Si Charro Catering

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