Tucson Awarded City of Gastronomy

Tucson UNESCO Award for Creative City of Gastronomy
Tucson UNESCO Award for Creative City of Gastronomy

UNESCO Awards Little Ol’ Tucson as Creative City of Gastronomy

Darren and I have been saying it for years; Tucson has Outstanding, Amazing, Spectacular, Delicious, Unique, Hard to Find Anywhere Else, Marvelous, Take Your Breath Away, Extraordinary Food! Thanks UNESCO for agreeing, sort of.

UNESCO recently awarded Tucson with the highly prestigious honor of being the first and only city in the United States to earn the title of, “Creative City of Gastronomy.” Tucson has made the New York Times!

What is Gastronomy?

Gastronomy – gas·tron·o·my – ɡaˈstränəmē/ (noun)

No, it is not a hybrid of gas and astronomy. It’s true you can see the stars very clearly here from Tucson especially from Kitt Peak National Observatory which houses the largest and most diverse gathering of astronomical instruments in the world, and it’s also true we love our beans in Tucson– beans beans the magical fruit… very funny. No, GASTRONOMY is the practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food and the cooking of a particular area.

After living here for most of my life, I have dined out a lot and here’s what I can tell you about Tucson food.

Tucson Food

We Love Calle Tepa, a Great Mexican Restaurant in Tucson, City of GastronomyFilled with mom and pop shops, one-of-a-kind eateries and unique hole-in-the-wall cafes, Tucson is a Foodie’s Paradise. This is especially true, if the delicious, hard-to-find-elsewhere, Southwest, Mexican culinary style lights you up! There’s no doubt about it, Mexican food is a specialty and treasure in the Sonoran Desert. The rich history of this area lends itself to many homemade restaurants (and Food trucks) that showcase traditional family recipes.

If that’s not enough, a surplus of quality places and a community of people who appreciate food has inspired people to be creative and innovative. No matter what preference, traditional or adventurous, all pallets can be satisfied in Tucson.

You can try all kinds different dishes here, many of which, explode with flavor from all the different kinds of chili peppers. Some of them are strange like eating nopalitos aka cactus and some of them are mouthwateringly bold and unique like our famous Sonoran Hot Dogs.

Note:

Do not try a Sonoran Hot Dog if you want to enjoy hot dogs the “ballpark way” again, these bad boys are wrapped in bacon, grilled and loaded with beans, grilled jalapenos, sour cream, salsas and I don’t even know what else but they are something to be experienced.

But that’s not all, you can pair your food with local off-the-beaten-path tequilas and agave-derived liquors or with wine from the nearby vineyards in Soniota, AZ just minutes South of Tucson.

As a whole the Mexican food in Tucson in unparalleled with any part of the country including Southern California, New Mexico and Texas, Sorry other states but Tucson does Mexican food like no other! As good as it is, Mexican food is not the be all–end all for this little foodie mecca. There are many other food styles to be enjoyed from a wide array of different styles of Asian Cuisines, a plethora of Indian food places, BBQ, nice Sushi Restaurants, Italian food, Steak Houses and some vegan and vegetarian places as well.

The UNESCO City of Gastronomy Award

Tucson has always been a city of gastronomy but it was officially designated a World City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and is the first city in the United States to receive such a designation.

There are eight Cities of Gastronomy worldwide—

  • Popayán, Colombia
  • Chengdu and Shunde, China
  • Östersund, Sweden
  • Tsuruoka, Japan
  • Jeonju, South Korea
  • Florianopolis, Brazil
  • Zahle, Lebanon
  • Tucson, United States

Some of Our Favorite Restaurants in Tucson

There are so many brilliant places to eat here and these are just some of our favorites:

We Love North, a Charming Restraunt in La Encantada Mall in Tucson, City of Gastronomy

ZinBurger

ZinBurger is one of the most happening restaurant development groups in town and all of their restaurants are wonderful. Specializing in burger sandwiches you can build your own creation with options such as organic beef, bison, chicken, ahi tuna and veggie burger served with french fries, sweet potato fries, fried zucchini and more. Everything here is yum and there are multiple locations around town!

Penca

Penca is one of my favorite fancy Mexican food places to eat. The food here is so creative and fresh. Homemade chips and 4+ different varieties of fresh salsa daily. Penca has all of your traditional dishes with a twist and the cocktail menu is amazing as well featuring fresh squeezed juices and homemade beers and sangria to delight.

Cafe Poca Cosa & The Little One

This family owned restaurant has 2 locations that are both downtown a few blocks from each other. I recommend the chef surprise dish which is a random sampler make of three of the chef’s nightly dishes. The Little One is a cash only breakfast and lunch cafe featuring some of the favorite menu items off of Cafe Poca Cosa’s menu.

Urban Fresh

Stop into Urban Fresh and be sure to try their freshly squeezed juices. Also, try the salads and wraps. Most of the food, if not all of it, is organic. Check out their rotating lunch special; always delicious. You could also grab a fancy salad or healthy wrap to go.

Ermanos

Ermanos is a wine and beer bar that also specializes in locally grown fresh foods. Everything on the menu is so fresh and mostly local. The wine and beer menu is expansive and it is right on 4th Avenue and open late!

Tucson wasRecently Named the First UNESCO City in North America for GastronomyThe Hub & The Hub Ice Creamery

The Hub boasts a diverse menu of homes style cuisine making this  a great selection for families, large groups or even a first date. After dinner enjoy as scoop of some of the best ice cream in town; it’s homemade!

Martines

Another of my favorite Mexican food restaurants featuring secret family recipes. This place is so charming and delicious. Filled with beautiful art, this place has some seriously cool vibes and it’s BYOB! I recommend trying the veggie tacos or veggie mole burrito but everything is mouth watering.

Time Market

Time market is a great coffee shop and small grocery store filled with healthy, hard to find items. The pizza and salad are to die for and so is everything else.

5 Points Market

This is a go to breakfast and lunch spot for us. Everything here is good: the salads, the sandwiches and the coffee. Plus, there’s a small healthy grocery market in the back with specialty selected items. It’s located downtown near the Ice House Lofts on Stone and 17th Street.

BK Tacos

This is one of our go-to’s for Sonoran Hot Dogs and tacos. This authentic taco shop features a ginormous, help yourself salsa and salad bar with every kind of salsa and taco fixing you could imagine. They also have homemade sangria and a fantastic drink menu. They are open late and it on 1st Ave just North of the University of Arizona.

IFEA Award Kudos to Tucson, AZ

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IFEA Award Kudos to Tucson, AZ!

IFEA Award Luncheon in Tucson, AZ
IFEA Award Luncheon in Tucson, AZ Photo: Dawn Vandaveer www.Prototypes-v3.com

Congratulations are in order, once again, for Tucson, Arizona! Winning the IFEA Award (International Festivals & Events Association) for 2017.

Recently, FEATSAZ (Festival & Events Association of Tucson & Southern Arizona) submitted the video (above) to the IFEA for review.

After reviewing the video, beautiful Tucson, Arizona has met the IFEA’s most highest standards. And in doing so, on Thursday, September 14th, at 1:30 PM the IFEA officially designated Tucson as a World Festival & Event City!

This event took place at the 62nd Annual IFEA Convention, Expo & Retreat at the prestigious J.W. Marriott Starr Pass. This is the third year in a row Tucson has been host to the IFEA Convention and most likely the last in the region for some time to come.

Nevertheless, on top of Tucson becoming the first city in the United States to be recognized as a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy, winning the IFEA Award, for 2017, is a great honor and another huge success for our city! We love you, Tucson!

More about the IFEA:

The main focus of the IFEA is to identify and provide services for those organizations that put on festivals.   More specifically, organizations that create and run quality festivals and events that support their communities in a positive way.

In Tucson, that organization is FEATSAZ (Festival & Events Association of Tucson & Southern Arizona).  FEATSAZ deserves a big kudos for their ongoing work for our community.  They should get an even bigger high five for their video and pdf submission to the IFEA that helped Tucson win the renowned award.

Great job to everyone at FEATSAZ and thank you.

Have a great day,
Tony Ray

P.S. Shout out to my ghost-writer “Gonzo” for writing up this piece.
Also, Please check out these other great Tucson Accolades.

Tucson Ranked the Coolest City in Arizona

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According to thediscoverer.com Tucson ranks as the coolest city in Arizona! While we aren’t surprised let’s take a look at what they think makes u the coolest city in the state.

Tucson is the Coolest City in Arizona
Tucson is the Coolest City in Arizona

Winery & Vineyards

Hannah's Hill Vineyards
Hannah’s Hill Vineyards
  1. Hannah’s Hill Vineyards – Hannah’s specializes in small batch and estate wines. The owners are always around and happy to chat with you while enjoying views of a sprawling vista.
  2. Charron Winery– Charron’s is famous in the area for it’s white and dry merlots. With over 16 craft wines available you’re sure to find something that pleases your pallet.
  3. Old Pueblo Cellars– This boutique vineyard thrives amongst the desert heat and monsoon gales. Their tasting room is open by appointment, and we highly recommend.

Craft Breweries

  1. Pueblo Vida Brewing– This company not only has amazing beers but it’s focused on sustainability and doing their best to be great brewers and great people for Tucson.
  2. Borderlands Brewing– Located downtown this taproom & brewery boasts an amazing selection. Grab a drink then take in the sights of beautiful downtown Tucson.
  3. 1912 Brewing– This place has a relaxed atmosphere and creative beers to drink. They also partner with the delicious local Tucson Tamale Company and you don’t want to miss those pairings!

Southwestern Cuisine

El Charro Steakhouse
El Charro Steakhouse
  1. El Charro Café– this quaint restaurant is a converted house located in downtown, the food is so good it spawned El Charro Steakhouse and El Charro del Rey.
  2. Guadalajara Grill– this restaurant has atmosphere to spare, everything on the menu is delicious and you must try their table side mole and custom salsas.
  3. Boca Taco y Tequila– this place is a must try. Not only do they have a rare meats day (if feel like trying kangaroo,) the main chef and founder Maria Mazon competed on Top Chef season 18 so you know it’s got to be great!

The Arts Scene

  1. Mural Mania– Tucson boasts one of the best mural games in the country. There are always new beautiful pieces going up and many contain a message as well. Toole Shed Studios on 6th and Toole have their entire East wall painted in BLM, 1st American, and Mexicana culture.
  2. 1st Saturday Art Walks– You guessed it, every 1st Saturday from 5-9 downtown galleries open up their studios and art spaces to the public. See cool art and maybe take some home.

Catalina Foothills Unified School District is #1 in Arizona

We’ve got a lot of great things going on in Tucson, but I’m here to tell you about one specifically, the Catalina Foothills Unified School District. You might not be aware but birth rates in the USA are declining

Catalina Foothills High School Student Plaza
Catalina Foothills High School Student Plaza

And in our beloved home state of Arizona, that number has declined almost 22% in the last decade. While that figure may sound shocking to you, I’m here to tell you that it’s actually not a bad thing. It’s common knowledge that our teachers are burdened with disproportionate class sizes to what a single teacher can effectively handle. 

Where am I going with this? I’m so glad you asked. Kids need teachers, teachers need schools, schools have districts, and some are better than others. This is why we are so very happy to inform you that one of ours has been ranked the TOP school district in all of Arizona.

Drumroll, please! If you live in Tucson you may have already guessed but for those of you looking to move here with kids, pay attention. The Catalina Foothills Unified School District has been rated #1 in Arizona according to Newsweek!

Catalina Foothills School District
Catalina Foothills School District

Let’s look at some of the statistics.

What You Need To Know

  1. It’s located in Tucson, obviously the best city in Arizona by far. 
  2. CFUSD has a teacher to student ratio of 1:19, while not ideal it’s comparatively better than the competition. The next jump in other districts is 1 teacher to 23 or more students. Sometimes even 35 students are being wrangled by 1 teacher.
  3. Catalina also boasts a 98% graduation rate, that’s the highest in the state!
  4. According to Zip Recruiter, “As of July 2021 the average annual pay for a teacher in AZ is $26,553 a year.” For Catalina Unified they pay their teachers an average of $45,311 a year. That’s an extra $18,000 for our educators and we believe they deserve every penny and then some.

So, there you have it. If you live in Arizona and have children, you might want to consider relocating to Tucson. Parents should always want the best for their children, Catalina Foothills Unified School District is the best in Arizona, hands down.