As the first and one of only 2 cities in the USA designated a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy, Tucson has a rich and diverse culinary scene, that is putting the city on every foodie’s bucket list! In 2023, the destination is inviting Brits to visit for a taste of Tucson, to discover its heritage, indigenous ingredients, local producers and award-winning chefs.
Tucson was designated a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy in 2015 due to its culinary legacy, built on years of agricultural history and heritage that spans 5000 years of continuous agricultural practices, encompassing distinct Mexican and native traditions.
Mission Garden is nicknamed the birthplace of Tucson, where the ancient Hohokam Indians channelled the Santa Cruz riverbed to grow indigenous crops around 5000 years ago. Today, this living agricultural museum showcases the influences each culture, including the Hohokam, Tohono O’odham, Spanish, Mexican, and Chinese, had on Tucson’s evolving culinary scene.
The Farm to Table Scene supports farmers and ranchers who form the backbone of Tucson’s agricultural legacy. Chefs are carrying this tradition forward by tweaking recipes using indigenous ingredients such as cholla buds, tepary beans and white Sonoran wheat in creative concoctions. Chefs are using local ingredients in bold ways to reflect the biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert.
The Best 23 Miles of Mexican food is an adventure of incredible tacos and a wide array of dining options from fine to funky. The Sonoran Dog, Tucson’s version of the American hotdog is an award-winning local delicacy. The oldest family-run continuously operating Mexican restaurant in the United States is in downtown Tucson. El Charro Café is run by female Chef Carlotta Flores and is the birthplace of the chimichanga. Celebrating its 100th anniversary last year, El Charro was founded by Flores’ great aunt, Monica Flin.
Tucson-based Don Guerra, the 2022 James Beard Award’s Outstanding Baker winner, is considered one of the founding fathers of the so-called “grain train” movement, baking his breads with heritage grains that date back to the 17th century when Spanish missionaries first brought them to the area. While commonplace now, this idea was completely revolutionary when Guerra founded his business, Barrio Bread, out of his garage in 2009.
For a sugar hit, head to Monsoon Chocolate, committed to using only transparently sourced cacao and processing it minimally when making chocolates that feature Sonoran Desert ingredients, including chiltepin pepper, prickly pear caramel and Sonoran salt. In 2020-2021, Monsoon Chocolate was a winner at the International Chocolate Awards.
This Spring, Tucson will be hosting two major Food Festivals that celebrate the rich cultural history of the place where visitors can indulge various culinary events. The Agave Heritage Festival is a multi-day festival celebrating the art, science, and cultural traditions behind producing agave-based spirits and products. This year the festival takes place at the end of April with workshops, various tastings and guest speakers. Pueblos del Maiz, a festival celebrating corn and its culinary impact includes chef demonstrations, educational panels along with live music & entertainment also takes place in Tucson at the beginning of May this year.
British visitors will find Tucson an easy drive from Phoenix International Airport, which has daily direct flights from London. For information on where to stay and how to explore the stunning Sonoran Desert and local food scene in Tucson, please visit https://www.visittucson.org/
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