Courier April/May Courier - Page 31

Tucson, Arizona: The first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the U.S. event includes visits to four downtown establishments for exclusive, specially designed tastings. You can book a large group for a private experience, or if your group is smaller, you can join locals for a true taste of Huntsville. Ashley Ryals, owner and founder of Homegrown Huntsville, which coordi- nates Dine and Dash, explains why this is the perfect group activity. “It’s an exciting opportunity to visit several restaurants and to interact with locals,” she says. “However, if your group is 30 or more, we can host private tours and progressive dinners tailored to your specific needs.” If your (small) group wants to cook what they eat, you’re in luck. Local chef and cookbook author C.C. Fridlin conducts classes throughout the year in various venues. If you’re not exactly Rachael Ray or Gordon Ramsay and would prefer chatting instead of actu- ally cooking, James Beard-nominated chef James Boyce holds special events and meet-ups at his three Huntsville restaurants: Cotton Row, Commerce Kitchen and Pane e Vino. It’s not just Huntsville’s food scene that is on the upswing; the city has the largest number of breweries per capita of any city in Alabama. Your group can vis it two of the breweries at Campus No. 805, a repurposed middle school that is now a major entertainment complex. Another way for craft beer lovers to enjoy breweries, tap rooms and bottle shops is on the Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail. Groups can get free trail cards, and once they visit all 10 stops on the trail, they will receive a special “Trail Boss” bottle opener. Huntsville has a number of food fes- tivals spread throughout the year, from the Whistlestop Weekend (celebrating the state’s barbecue heritage) to the Big Spring Crush Wine Festival (Alabama’s first winery competition). Perhaps most interesting is the annual Redstone Arsenal Oktoberfest, a traditional German celebration with an Alabama twist. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand why Huntsville’s food scene has reached stratospheric heights. For more information, email the CVB’s Pam Williams at pam@huntsville.org or visit huntsville.org. Raise your hand if you knew that in 2015, Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, joining cities in Brazil, China and Sweden and becoming the first in the U.S. to earn the designation. Much of it no doubt stems from Tucson having what it calls “The Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food” this side of the border. It’s not just the Mexican influence, however, as Anglo and Native American cuisines also factor into the area’s rich culinary heritage. The best way to experience all three is on one of the many food tours. Tucson Food Tours, the city’s original walking food tour, is included in the book “100 Things to do in Tucson Before You Die.” Specializing in custom tours for small or large groups, the staff will handle all the planning for you. Want a side of history with your hue- vos? Or tall tales dished out with your tamales? A Taste of Tucson Downtown is a guided culinary and cultural tour of the historical downtown area that combines regional food (tastings at five restau- rants) with history, art and architecture. Sonoran hot dog, Tucson NTAonline.com 27