Taste of Tucson Culinary Festival

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I also was invited to some of the delicious festivities put on by the Tucson Originals. I went to the Grand Tasting on Saturday night and it was indeed grand.

After an exhausting day of early morning volunteerism, I dragged myself to the Grand Tasting, and it was well worth it, but I paced myself and only sampled a few white wines. The standouts were a Grgich Hills fume blanc and a  pinot grigio that I cannot remember. I normally drink red but for some reason opted for white. The food was outstanding—I loved the complexity of Feast's chipotle rabbit stew and Acacia at St. Philip's' golden gazpacho. Janos had something that was delicious, but I vaguely remember that it had raw fish, a candied jalapeno and coconut creme as ingredients. The Cup Cafe had the best chocolate-peanut butter pudding, and Agave's blueberry bread pudding was refreshing.

I wanted to hang around for the best margarita contest but my foodie partners Edie Jarolim and Rita Connelly were leaving, and in reality, I was fading fast. Apparently, Cuvee World Bistro won that competition.

The next day, Rita and I came back to watch the Copper Chef Competition which pitted Feast against Cuvee and brother Doug against brother Mitch. Jimmy already mentioned that it was fun, and I so agree.

As Jimmy mentioned, the secret ingredient was beef-a-lo, a mating of beef and buffalo. Other ingredients included unusual squashes and chili peppers from the Community Food Bank's garden; organic Willcox apples; Flavorbank spices; Tohono O'Odham mesquite flour; and jalapeno goat cheese.

The contestants had 30 minutes which expanded to about 45 minutes to make three dishes each. Try as I might ... I couldn't write them all down, but here's what my hard-to-read notes say—sweet potato raviolis, pan-seared b-lo, jalapeno goat cheese pancakes, seared b-lo on peppery beans, and cinnamon apple fritter on pumpkin seed brittle. The contestants did make three dishes each, and they bantered back and forth like you would expect siblings to do. Weatherman Chuck George and Jennifer English from the Food and Wine Radio Network provided commentary and quips. And the aromas permeated the ballroom.

And the winner—Doug Levy—won by a bean or two. It was close. I guess you'll have to come next year to see Doug take on another contender.

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