Tucson Originals Restaurants is teaming up with Local First Arizona to host the inaugural Whiskey & Smoke tasting event on Sunday, May 20.
It’s a chance to sample how Tucson chefs use spirits from local distillers and local beers to create inventive dishes including beer-braised natural pork belly on a ciabatta roll drizzled with whiskey leek cream and whiskey-pickled fennel from Thunder Canyon Brewstillery — formerly Thunder Canyon Brewery until the longtime brewer earlier this year added spirits to its mix; a trio of spice-rubbed chicken wings paired with spicy pickled carrot and celery sticks and mini Del-Bac-soaked date Napoleans from Rocco’s Little Chicago; smoked ribs from Barrio Brewing Co.; and Fresco Pizzeria & Pastaria’s burnt flour and smoked-duck ravioli dressed in a morel and smoked whiskey cream sauce.
“It brings the chefs together and gives them a chance to create something unique,” said Mat Cable, who owns Frescos and is president of the Tucson Originals. None of the dishes presented on Sunday appears on the menus of the participating restaurants, he said.
This is the first time Tucson Originals has joined with Local First Arizona, an organization whose mission aligns with the Originals: Showcasing home-grown businesses. Cable said it is the first of several cooperative events, including a beer dinner event in July, Oktoberfest in October, a collaboration in November and the return of the Taste of Tucson early next year.
“We’ve been wanting to work together for a while,” Cable said. The groups’ partnership includes hiring a point person to coordinate between both groups to organize cooperative events, he said.
“With both of our names and resources, we can do better than we can do on our own,” he said. “We’re really thinking that together we can strengthen both organizations. A lot of what Tucson Originals is about is what Local First Arizona is about.”
Tucson Originals has been around since 1999 and has about 35 member restaurants, a number that has remained fairly constant despite restaurants closing and leaving the organization, Cable said. Local First Arizona, based in Phoenix, got its start in 2003 and is open to locally owned businesses statewide. It represents 3,000 locally owned businesses, according to the organization.
Other restaurants participating Sunday include Hamilton Distillers Whiskey, bringing its Del Bac Classic, and Dorado whiskeys and Barrio Brewing Co. offering a Smoked Nolan’s porter made exclusively for Whiskey & Smoke. The event will be held at the Trident Grill III on South Craycroft Road.