A food and drink tour

The Grand Canyon might be Arizona’s hotspot, but its food and drink scene sizzles. Tucson, America’s first Unesco ‘world city of gastronomy,’ lives up to the hype, and the melding of Mexican, Native American and Sonoran Desert influences on menus around the state make for an enticing foodie road trip.

Whether you opt for classic Southwestern (grits, biscuits and gravy) at roadside diners or explore the desert’s unique ingredients (prickly pear syrup, mesquite) at upscale ranch resorts, our tour of must-try flavors also takes in Arizona’s thriving craft beer and coffee scene. All you need to bring is your appetite.

 

The freshest guacamole of your life in Scottsdale

For your first foray into Arizona’s multi-influenced fare, head to Scottsdale, northeast of Phoenix, Arizona’s capital. About a mile from the whimsical Old Town, where you could buy some Wild West cowboy boots or scorpion lollipops (yes, really), you’ll find The Mission. This is Nuevo Latino food that will surprise and entertain. Stroll pass the Himalayan salt wall (you can lick it if you want!) to the candlelit courtyard. Watch transfixed as your server wheels over a wooden trolley laden with a huge mortar and pestle, along with bowls of super fresh ingredients: chunky Haas avocado, jalapeño, red onion, garlic, sea salt, lime, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, chipotle puree, cilantro, cotija cheese & roasted pepitas. As the guacamole is expertly ground and mixed before your eyes and dolloped into your serving bowl, know that all future supermarket-bought tubs of guac will only disappoint.

A pleasant stroll around Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden will educate and amaze. Here, among the hummingbirds, owls, woodpeckers and roadrunners, you can learn about the desert’s 500 edible plants and even see what your next cocktail ingredient might look like: the prickly pear cactus. The fruit from the cactus is refreshing and cooling, almost watermelon-like in flavor. Try it in a vibrant pink margarita at La Hacienda in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort. Or kick-start what will become your Arizona chile addiction with the pineapple and serrano-infused tequila. Hey, you’re on vacation.

 

Grits, biscuits and gravy, and the Ale Trail in Flagstaff

Only heard about eating ‘grits’ and ‘biscuits and gravy’ in Western films? Head north to Flagstaff, a laid-back college town and gateway to the Grand Canyon. Similar to polenta, grits are made from stone-ground dried corn and you can get them real fancy at Tinderbox Kitchen, a cozy restaurant that bills its style (rather aptly) as ‘American Comfort Food…Redefined’. Try the blue cheese grits, oozing enticingly beneath juniper-cured venison, balsamic black figs and fennel salad.

Biscuits and gravy are a popular breakfast choice in Southern USA and you may find you need a snooze after this hearty meal. The all-vegetarian Macy’s, which also does a perfectly good (freshly roasted) coffee, dishes up a healthier-than-usual serve of the iconic dish: its homemade buttermilk biscuits are dunked in a vegetarian gravy (sausage gravy being the traditional choice).