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Arizona blends tastes like it blends its cultures

Fajitas are often served sizzling on a hot plate straight to the table
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Food lovers will love Arizona. It merges so many tastes to produce menus and dishes that are often spicy and frequently unusual. Whilst you will find Mexican restaurants everywhere, and Mexican dishes on many menus, there are also dishes from Native American culture adding an unusual taste. The traditions of the old west, and the fact that Arizona has long been ranching territory, means that steaks and other red meats like game feature a great deal. In addition to this mix, you must add in the influence of contemporary Arizonan and American chefs. Many work at the large resorts, and keep up with the latest culinary trends, often interpreting the latest fashionable dishes using local ingredients. This cross-fertilisation of tastes and cultures ensures a rich variety in Arizona's food and drink.


One thing that surprises people is that Arizona has a thriving wine industry. While the desert climate can be a challenge for growers, vineyards do grow in the milder and slightly more elevated parts of the state. Some wine is very ordinary table wine, but winegrowers do also produce some very high-quality wines. There are many vineyards you can visit to discover what Arizona wine is like, especially around Elgin in the Sierra Vista area of south-east Arizona.


Arizona also has a number of thriving craft breweries, so look out for local beers in bars and restaurants. You'll find names like the Electric Brewing Company in Bisbee, the Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse and Microbrewery in Scottsdale, the San Tan Brewing Company in Chandler, and Grand Canyon Brewing in Williams. Craft distilleries are also now on the increase in Arizona, after a recent change in the laws. Look out for the Arizona High Spirits Company and their prickly pear vodka. Much more common is the Mexican cocktail, margarita, made from tequila with Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur, and lime or lemon juice. These are found on drinks menus everywhere, with or without the traditional salt around the rim of the glass.


The Native Americans cultivated the fruit and flowers from prickly pear and other cactus, and incorporated them into their food and drink. If you have chance to taste dishes like a prickly pear salad then do so, and watch out for jars of cactus jelly (jam) and spicy sauces.


The most common cuisine found in Arizona, outside of American, is Mexican. Mexican cooking seems to embody this part of south-western USA, with its spicy salsas, its fiery dishes like fajitas, and creamy dips like the ubiquitous guacamole. Some restaurants pride themselves so much on their guacamole being fresh that they will make it at your table when you order it.


Some of the best Mexican food is in south Tucson, the Mexican part of the city, where you would need to get local recommendations on where to eat, as some of the best places look very ordinary indeed. But wherever you go in Arizona, you should try Mexican food when you have the chance. It's a real taste of the south-west.


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