by Karyn Zoldan
Not so fast. First, let me digress.
I just returned from the Tucson Culinary Festival's margarita competition at Cuvee. Cuvee was chosen as the site, because it was defending its title from last year. Cuvee was hopping when I arrived. I cannot remember it ever being that busy.
Let's see if I can remember the restaurants represented--Cuvee, Chad's, Terra Cotta, El Charro, Red Sky, Hotel Congress, Jonathan's Tucson Cork, Papagayo, Rio--there were nine tastes. A few weeks prior, other Tucson Originals' restaurants were eliminated from the competition.
Everyone had a card with the nine above restaurants, and walked around and got their card stamped and tasted all margaritas. It was wild and crowded. After a while the people around you became your new best friend. I hung around with Rita Connelly, one of the Weekly's restaurant reviewer, and Lori Riegel from the Jewish Post. But I'm sure I made some new friends, I just cannot remember who they are now.
Anyway, for us pedestrian--or as Rita said the riffraff--we wandered from margarita taste to margarita looking for the next fix. I even took notes or chicken scratch. I recall writing Terra Cotta-good, Papagayo-refreshing, Red Sky-different (one of the ingredients was Tuaca), Jonathan's-lethal. That's enough. I cannot remember too much more.
Rita and I meandered in no particular order. What amazed us was how different each tasted and what different colors they were. I mean they, were all shades of white, gray, yellowish, orange, clear, but all were different, and I do recall that Hotel Congress had a green salt rim which was part colored sugar.
Then there were the judges. Hell if I remember who they were. I'm sure they all thought they were important. I do remember Jennifer English and Edie Jarolim, and there was that guy--whose name escapes me--but he's the master mixologist.
Unlike the riffraff who knew what drinks we were tasting, the judges were served and tasted the drinks blindly by not knowing which drink came from which restaurant.
I must comment on my above remark about lethal for Jonathan's. While many of the margaritas were watered down by ice, sipping Jonathan's tasted like pure tequila. Whoa. I tasted that and felt like my eyes were spinning around in their sockets.
So the winners by popular vote were: El Charro with 33 votes, Papagayo with a close 30 votes (I found this margarita refreshing) and Cuvee with 21 votes.
And the blind taste winners were: 1st place, Cuvee; 2nd place, Papagayo; and 3rd place, Jonathan's.
Rita and I tasted Cuvee last and wowie zowie--it knocked our socks off (had we been wearing them). I felt that the last drinks were at a disadvantage but not Cuvee. Whatever Cuvee did--my mouth was so excited. I loved the citrus zing and bam of fresh ginger.
A light buffet was served, and people hung around talking and laughing and drinking. I would consider this event a huge success.
Congratulations to Cuvee and El Charro.