Food festival preview
The most wonderful time... for foodies
Has he really mistaken the still-blazing hot September for Christmas? Will he next break out into a rousing chorus of 'Joy to the World'? What's wrong with this guy?
Well this guy is a big freakin' fan of food festivals, and this is the most magic month. Additionally, alliteration is always awesome.
What do we have on tap? Check it:
- Arizona Restaurant Week - September 18-26
- St. Demetrios Greek Festival – September 23-26
- Tucson Meet Yourself – October 8-10
- Great Tucson Beer Festival – October 16
- Tucson Culinary Festival – October 28-31
- Jewish Food Festival & Family Fun Fair – November 7
I know – it's more than a magic month, but 'magic month and a half' or 'magic coupla months' don't have the same ring. So before I digress any more, let's take a little look at each of these…
Arizona Restaurant Week
Are there restaurants in Tucson that you've been thinking about trying but haven't for whatever reason? Maybe something a little pricier than you might normally do? Well this is your chance to spread your wings and try something new!
How does it work? Some of Tucson's top restaurants offer a multi-course menu for $19, $29, or $39 per person. Some of them even include a beverage. Some of the ones I think are particularly smokin' include:
$19: Harvest, Zona 78, Mama Louisa's (Includes a glass of house wine!)
$29: Acacia, Azul (includes a glass of selected wines), Fleming's, Gold (may include a glass of wine?), Jonathan's Cork, Kingfisher, Sullivan's, Tavolino (includes a glass of selected wines)
$39: Well, Bob's Steak and Chop House at the Omni Tucson National is the only restaurant currently showing a $39 deal, so I guess they get the honor for this price point!
There are a few (quite a few, actually) that don't have details posted and things are subject to change so check back for the latest info on the 45 or so participating restaurants. Many of the restaurants are members of the Tucson Originals, so they're locally owned and operated.
St. Demetrios Greek Festival
There's more to this festival than just food, but oh, the food. If you like your cheese on fire (and who doesn't?), you'd best find yourself here at least one 0f the four days of the festival. The choices are great, the food freshly-prepared, and the aromas alone are enough to get you to shout 'Opa!'.
In addition to the food, you get Greek cooking demos, art, dancing, community, games, lectures, and movies. The schedule varies by day, but make some time and go. If you don't, Cat Cora is going to hunt you down and hurt you.
Tucson Meet Yourself
Yeah, I know it's not strictly a food festival, but most people I know refer to this venerable event as Tucson Eat Yourself – so deal. The stated mission of the three day event is "To research, document, interpret and present the living traditional arts and expressions of everyday life of the folk and ethnic communities of the multi-national Arizona-Sonora region." So think, music, dancing, art…. and food.
Food from Ghana, Russia, Denmark (mmm….aebelskivers), Thailand, Poland…. the list goes on and on. Bring your appetite and bring a lot of small bills – change is sometimes in short supply!
New this year: an Iron Chef competition for high school and college culinary students featuring healthy ethnic ingredients. Sounds like my kind of good time!
I'm hoping to hear back from the TMY folks before too long about some of the other food vendors for this year, so I'll update things when I do!
The Great Tucson Beer Festival
Beer + Festival. I don't think I need to say anything else, but I probably will. You've only got one night to get to this one, so hop to it and put it on your calendar now. Get it? Hop? Like as in hops? Ok, moving on…
Things kick off at Hi Corbett Field at 5:00pm for VIP ticket holders and 6:00pm for general admission. You get to sample a whole lot of beers and snack on tasty treats from a variety of food purveyors for your ticket price of $40 general or $75 VIP. In addition to the extra hour of admission, the VIP tix also include a souvenir mug, catered dinner from Agave Restaurant, and – just in case there's not enough for you to drink – a wine garden.
There's also live music, games of skill (which probably get a lot harder as the evening wears on), and giveaways. So far, the list of breweries includes some great ones from Arizona (Grand Canyon Brewing Company, Mogollon Brewing Company, and Arizona High Spirits), and around the world. You can check out the up-to-date list.
All proceeds from this event benefit Sun Sounds of Arizona, a great organization that provides audio-format information to people with visual impairment. How cool is that?
Tucson Culinary Festival
There's a lot going on for the Tucson Culinary Festival.
It's four days of separate events at two different locations – each one with a different feel and flavor (although the feel & flav revolve around fine food & beverages, so it all sounds good to me!).
Day 1: The World Margarita Championship on the patio at Maynard's. Will Brian Metzger of Jax Kitchen (and the soon-to-be-open The Abbey) be able to repeat his winning margarita performance from last year? I don't know, but I'd be happy to try one and see! Attendees get to vote right along with the celebrity judges, so if you're a fan of distilled agave products head on over to Maynards to try some of the best margaritas in town! Tickets are $35 p/p
Day 2: Reserve Tasting at Canyon Cafe at Loews Ventana Canyon. Love wine? Then this event is made for you. Here you get to taste boutique wines from small vineyards, paired with small dishes prepared by chefs from the Tucson Originals specifically to compliment the wines. Tickets for this one are $100 p/p
Day 3: Grand Tasting in the Grand Ballroom (fitting enough) of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. Over 100 wines and spirits – tastings of signature dishes of Tucson Originals chefs – cookbook signings – Master Mixologist Tony Abou Ganim sharing his vast expertise about cocktails – silent auction. That's a lot of foodie fun for one night, so get there early! Tix are $65 p/p
Want to know what wine will be at the Reserve and Grand tastings? You'll find all of them right here, and it's a heck of a list…
Day 4: Copper Chef Challenge and Barbeque on the patio of the Kiva Ballroom at Loews Ventana Canyon. It's barbecue, it's a competition, and it's gonna be tasty. Last year's champions Jim Murphy and Jeff Aretzsky will defend their titles against yet-to-be-named competitors, so it's bound to be a fun and casual good time. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for the kiddos.
Tucson Jewish Food Festival and Family Fun Fest
Have you ever seen a 500 lb matzoh ball? The answer to that question should be a resounding 'no', because there's never been one made before! But this year's Jewish Food Festival and Family Fun Fest is going for broke and going for the Guinness Book World Record by doing just that.
In addition, there are going to be 15 Tucson restaurants represented, each dishing up dishes with a Jewish twist to them, children's activities, music, dance, arts & crafts, and a silent auction.
Also very exciting is the Ethnic Israeli Womens' Cooking Group coming all the way from Israel! I'm not entirely sure what they're going to be doing, but I'm excited to find out!
Proceeds from the Jewish Food Festival and Family Fun Fest will benefit the Community Food Bank, the Primavera Foundation, and Congregation Or Chadash, so it's all for good causes. And it's thrifty fun: admission is only $4 and food tickets run $1 – $5 depending on the serving.
No, it's not a new food festival involving tortillas. It's just me concluding my long-winded preview of all the yum. What I'm really looking forward to, though, is writing about all of these after I've grazed my way through them!
But to get serious for a moment, PLEASE do not drive to ANY event where alcohol plays a central role and expect to drive home. You won't be able to. Bring a DD, have a friend on-call to pick you up, have cab numbers in your pocket – whatever it takes, be responsible.
Tucson has amazing chefs, amazing restaurants, an amazing culinary heritage, and an amazing culinary scene. With that in mind, I encourage you to get out and support these local businesses and festivals. You're bound to find something new and exciting! It may not be Christmas, but it's a super savory season nonetheless. Season's Eatings!