06 Mar

Being a foodie traveller and going off the beaten track in Arizona

You could call me a ‘foodie-traveller’ as I have a particular interest in the culinary delights of every destination I visit. Give me Turkish food any day, tapas in Spain or an authentic salad on a Greek Island. I love visiting markets and asking the stall owners for their best local cheese or honey. When friends and family ask what I got up to on my last holiday, the first thing I tell them about is the food. If it’s all new, local and fresh it makes my holiday experience so much more memorable.

So, if you’re like me and travel to try new foods, you may be interested to know more about Arizona, a relatively new foodie destination – and great place for a road trip.

What to eat

When visiting Arizona you could try a cactus prickly pear margarita, or a Sonoran Hot Dog - a bacon-wrapped sausage in a toasted bun slathered in beans, chopped tomatoes, onion, mustard, jalapeno sauce and mayonnaise. Delicious! Or you could opt for a more sophisticated experience by going on a wine tour – Arizona is becoming increasingly respected for its wine making.

How to get around

Arizona was recently included into our Travel Trends Report 2018 which describes how perfectly designed it is for road tripping  because of its breath-taking scenery along the routes. Any road trip in Arizona should include a visit to the Grand Canyon in Monument Valley home to the Navajo Nation and Ancestral Puebloans. A road trip could then head south on state route 64 towards Sedona in the middle, full of creative types with alternative galleries and restaurants. Next stop should be the state’s capital Phoenix by taking interstate (motorway) 17 for a quick city break and then go south on interstate 10 to Chiricahua National Monument. Here you’ll see weird and wonderful volcanic rock formations.

Drop by this new foodie hot spot

Along the way you’ll be tasting the foods Arizona has on offer but one of the budding destinations in the state is Ajo, close to the Mexican border and four hour drive from Chiricahua National Monument on the state route 86. In recent years, Ajo has had a resurgence through community projects bringing the Mexican, Tohono O’odham – a native tribe meaning ‘Desert People’ – and American cultures together which has led to a new and unique foodie offering. It is home to the Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Center, and the Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Many Hands Urban Farm and Learning Center, which are essential to the community projects and host the Authentically Ajo Farmers Market and the annual Ajo Food Festival. Here local people are able to sell their produce. The four-year-old food festival now attracts over 1,000 people from around the state.

The Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Centre’s Chef Dionne Vega describes how Ajo has given her inspiration for her work and catering for guests. “Living at the intersection of three nations – Mexico, the Tohono O'odham Reservation, and the United States – has allowed me to create dishes using desert crops, such as cactus, mesquite, pomegranates and wild greens.” She also cooks roast pork with green mole sauce and pumpkin seeds which she says: “is a tourist favourite!”

Meet Dionne Vega and see her story on Instagram as well as the Sonoran Inn Directors Emily and Stuart Siegel stories too.

So if you’re inspired to go on a classic American road trip, Arizona could offer you not only the landscape but an interesting story to tell about its new food scene.