Competition seeks best salsa, tequila drinks

More than 40 folks who think they have the chops to create the region's best salsa and tequila drinks will throw down Saturday during the 2013 Southern Arizona Salsa and Tequila Challenge.

You can sample the entries and sip the libations for $40 a person, with proceeds benefiting Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and the event's host, Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance.

The challenge gets started at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at La Encantada Shopping Center, 2905 E. Skyline Drive. The event also includes live music and dancing. Details: 797-3959.

Longtime Mexican eateries expanding

Two longtime family-owned Tucson Mexican food restaurants are adding new locations.

• In late June, the dozen-year-old El Sur opened its second location at 4602 E. 29th St., just west of North Swan Road. The original El Sur opened in 2001 at 5602 E. 22nd St.

El Sur is known for its pan-fried tacos and fajitas, with lunch and dinner prices topping out at $7 to $8. Lunch specials run $2.99 to $4.99.

Isela Mejia, who owns El Sur with her husband Luis, said the menu at the new restaurant is the same as at the original El Sur.

"We cook to order and it's basically home-cooked Mexican food," she said, pointing to the house tacos as an example. "The patty style ones are like your mama used to make. It's homestyle. Those little things are what hit home."

The new location is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; it's closed Sundays.

• Wayne and Margaret Hallquist hope to open their fourth El Molinito Mexican restaurant by year's end, this one in Oro Valley.

The couple last spring bought the former Loop Taste of Chicago pizza parlor building at 10180 N. Oracle Road. Wayne Hallquist said he is still waiting for building permits and his liquor license, but he hopes to begin renovation in the coming weeks and open in late fall.

El Molinito has been in Tucson 35 years. There are three other Tucson locations - 5380 E. 22nd St., 3675 W. Ina Road and 2323 N. Pantano Road.

Hallquist said he and his wife decided to expand to Oro Valley because "I have the rest of the town covered."

Raise a toast to health at oncology fundraiser

The Arizona Oncology Foundation is hosting a wine event Friday to benefit cancer patients, their families and caregivers.

For $25 a person, you can get four glasses of wine, light appetizers and a show by Tucson band Day Job at the inaugural "Cheers to Health, Healing and Survivorship." You also can get a chance to win one of three pricey bottles of wine and a pair of handpainted wine glasses.

Arizona Oncology Foundation's support services for those affected by cancer are provided through its Integrative Therapies and include massage, exercise classes, educational resources and support groups.

The benefit is from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Friday at McMahon's Prime Steakhouse, 2959 N. Swan Road. Call 870-6060 for reservations or buy tickets online at

New Marana eatery to spotlight AZ brews

Monsoons Tap & Grill will have 18 Arizona-brewed beers on tap when it opens late next week in a space at 6781 N. Thornydale Road that long housed Mexican food restaurants.

Among the breweries represented will be Tucson's Dragoon, Thunder Canyon and possibly Nimbus, said owner Danny Liebeskind. Other Arizona brews will include some from Flagstaff, Bisbee and Prescott, as well as Tempe's Four Peaks.

The menu will dance around the all-American palette - lasagne, salads, seafood, burgers and pizza - with entrees running $10 to $16.

"It's a little something for everybody," said Liebeskind.

Liebeskind and his business partners, Adam and Kari Romero, have spent the summer renovating the 2,750-square-foot space in Marana. They knocked down partitions and opened the room that hasn't been occupied since the last Mexican restaurant there closed in 2008.

Monsoons was a decade in the dreaming stage. Adam Romero and Liebeskind spent nearly two decades working together in upper management with Magpies Gourmet Pizza. When the Tucson chain sold last fall, both men were let go, Liebeskind said.

"We've been talking about it for 10 to 12 years so we thought let's just do it," he said.

Liebeskind said he hopes to be open in time for the University of Arizona's first football game on Aug. 30.

The bulls have run, now let the paella flow

Tucson's celebration of Spain's traditional running of the bulls marks its fourth year.

Contigo Cocina Latina's annual "Running of the Bulls Paella Party" celebrates Spain's Festival of San Fermin sans the signature letting loose of bulls in the streets.

Instead, Contigo, which specializes in fusing flavors from Spain, Portugal and South America, honors the tastiest part of the Spanish holiday: Paella.

Here's all you need to know:

• What: All you can eat paella - the Spanish rice dish cooked over an open fire in a large, flat pan. Toss in beans, chicken, pork, seafood, vegetables and spices. Many traditional Spanish paellas are spiced with saffron.

• When: 4 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Contigo Cocino Latina, 1745 E. River Road at North Campbell Avenue.

• Cost: $25 for adults, $10 for kids for all-you-can-eat paella, appetizers and tapas. Sangria by the pitcher is $15 and Spanish beer is $3.

• Reservations: Strongly encouraged; in years past, the event has sold out. 299-1730.

This weekend brings pre-Autumn fests

• Elgin's Kief-Joshua Vineyards is hosting its Magdelena Bash Harvest Festival on Saturday to celebrate its new wine releases and Grandma Magdelena's 94th birthday.

She will be on site signing bottles during the fest, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the vineyards, 370 Elgin Road. The festival includes live music and food for sale and $8 wine tastings, which include a souvenir glass. Details: 1-520-455-5582.

• Govinda's Natural Foods is hosting Krishna Fest 2013 at the restaurant, 711 E. Blacklidge Drive, beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The event includes two stages of entertainment - live music, Indian dance and fire acrobats - vegetarian cooking demos, temple ceremonies and kids activities including face painting and a jumping castle. Admission is free.

Govinda's has hosted the Krishna fest for about 20 years. This year's event could be its biggest yet, organizers said.

Happy birthday Tucson; let's eat breakfast

The Friends of Tucson's Birthplace is celebrating the Old Pueblo's 238th birthday Sunday with a breakfast and tour of Mission Garden at the Mercado San Agustin.

The breakfast - torta de huevo, homemade tortillas, tepary bean stew, tomatillo salsa, horchata and coffees - starts at 7 a.m. at Mercado San Agustín, 100 S. Avenida del Convento. You can tour the nearby Mission Garden and buy heritage plants, seeds and ethnic items. The cost is $20 in advance by calling 777-9270, or $25 at the door.

Cathalena E. Burch