November 2017 | chicago foodie girl

11.20.2017

24 Hours in Tucson, Arizona

While the majority of my visit to Arizona was centered in the Phoenix area, I did have the chance to make my way two hours south to the funky, artsy, and foodie-oriented city of Tucson for a quick 24-hour tour. As soon as I mentioned to my friends that I was headed to AZ, those who have visited or lived there immediately mentioned three places that should be on my must-see list: Sedona (because it's gorgeous), Flagstaff (because there are actual seasons), and Tucson (because it's totally my type of town). As much as I would have loved to check out all three places, there just wasn't enough time. However, my friends were totally right on track with Tucson - while I enjoyed the entire trip to AZ, I totally fell hard for the little southwestern city with its fun street art, low-key vibe, and thriving multicultural food scene.

In some ways, Tucson is a bit of a hidden gem in the food world. When we think about foodie destinations in the U.S., there are the large city power players with tons of celebrity chefs (e.g. New York, L.A., Chicago, NOLA) and there are the smaller cities with a huge draw (e.g. Asheville, Aspen, Portland). For some reason, Tucson is undeservedly often absent from those best of/must-visit lists. However, not only does the city have a deep and vibrant food history, incredible Mexican food options, numerous independently owned restaurants and local artisanal producers, a booming craft beer and wine scene, and two James Beard Award winners, it's also the only place in the United States to be designated a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO. How cool is that?! Tucson is not just a spot for sun-worshippers (I've heard they have close to 300 sunny days per year!) - it is also most definitely the place for foodies.
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11.14.2017

Arizona's Fresh Foodie Trail

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed via my Stories that I've been on a bit of a foodie travel bender over the last month. I started by working my way through the cute towns in Hamilton County, IN (donuts! apples! pumpkins! all things fall!) and most recently made my way to the Southwest to explore the culinary scene in Arizona. I know some of you are scratching your head right about now... Arizona? For food? Really?! I know, I know. I have to admit that before my trip, I was one of those people who didn't think of Arizona as a foodie destination - along with blue skies and sunshine, it's the land of cacti, the Grand Canyon, miles of deserts, spring training, golfers, and In-N-Out Burger. While all of the above is true, I discovered that there's also a vibrant food scene that includes an extensively developed system of agritourism, year-round access to food trucks and events highlighting Southwestern and Navajo-inspired dishes, and a bevy of restaurants in which locally grown/sourced offerings are truly local in the sense that the grains, dairy, meat, and produce are all sourced within a 20-mile radius. Not only is it a perfect destination for sun seekers but also, as I learned during my five days of exploration, it's also a must-visit spot for foodies.

While I spent plenty of time during my trip working my way through the restaurant scene, I also had the opportunity to spend a day partaking in the agritourism side of the state via the Fresh Foodie Trail. One of the most unique and interesting culinary experiences in AZ, the FFT consists of a guided tour through Mesa, Queen Creek, and Gilbert. Launched in 2016, the tour gives visitors and locals alike a chance to not only explore the fertile countryside but also a way to learn more about where food comes from and why the food choices we make matter. The tour is built on a linked network of various attractions that includes stops such as a peach orchard, an olive mill, a citrus grove, and a flour mill. Through demonstrations and tastings, you get a behind the scenes look at food production from the perspective of the growers/producers and a chance to meet some chefs who are working hand in hand with the farmers to keep it local.
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