The 6th Annual Salsa &Tequila Challenge on Saturday sparkled with energy, fun and high spirits (literally and figuratively). Held at La Encantada Shopping Center, this is Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance’s (SAACA) premier event. 1,500 people attended raising more than $44,000 for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, SAACA’s arts education program and a veterans’ art therapy program.
We judges got an early start of all the offerings and believe me there were plenty of them. Two teams split the delectable tastings of cocktails, straight tequila and food pairings. Presentation was a big part of our judging and some places went all out (Highwire Lounge‘s Pearl Shot was a standout). The food pairings ranged from salmon ceviche to smoked hog.
All in all there were 45 restaurants involved and over 100 recipes (cocktails and food.)
Music was provided by Orquesta Salsarengue. People couldn’t help but get up and dance. Ballet Folklorico La Paloma dancers entertained.
Also, this year there was a record number of tequila distributers.
JW Marriott Star Pass Resort & Spa was the Grand Prize Winner (Judges and People’s Choice combined.) They won in several other categories as well.
Here is a list of the winners in each category:
Salsa Challenge – People’s Choice Awards
1st Place Salsa – Crossroads Restaurant, De La Abuela
2nd Place Salsa – Rigo’s Restaurant, Salsa de Molcagete
3rd Place Salsa – Cactus Slap Salsa, Thai Pineapple
Salsa Challenge – Judges Awards
Best Traditional Salsa – JW Marriott Starr Pass, Salsa Fresca
Best Hot Salsa – Le Buzz Café, Chile Manzano Mango Spicy Salsa
Best Mild Salsa – Click Café, Flavor City
Best Alternative Salsa – JW Marriott Starr Pass, Mojito Pico De Gallo
Judges Choice, Best Overall Salsa – JW Marriott Starr Pass, Salsa Fresca
Tequila Challenge – People’s Choice Awards
1st Place Tequila Cocktail – Rigo’s Restaurant, Infused Cucumber Margarita
2nd Place Tequila Cocktail – Dante’s Fire, Spicy Pineapple Margarita
3rd Place Tequila Cocktail – Queen Ceviche, Dusty’s Margarita
Tequila Challenge – Judges Awards
Most Creative Cocktail – Highwire Lounge, HW Pearl Shot
Best Sweet Cocktail – Queen Ceviche, Dusty’s Margarita
Best Savory Cocktail – Casino Del Sol, Traditional Guadalajara Sangrita
Judges Choice, Best Overall Tequila Cocktail – Queen Ceviche, Dusty’s Margarita
Best Food Pairing – Gringo Grill, Duck Tamale
Most Creative Display – Casino Del Sol
Grand Reserve Tequila Tasting – 3 Amigos, Ramona’s Reserve
Best Overall – Judges + People’s Choice Combined Score – JW Marriott Starr Pass