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Tacos, Tequila and General Tastiness at the Arizona Taco Festival Preview

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​There's a buzz in the air; can you feel it? All about town, as the scents of spicy chicken and fresh tortilla waft through the air, three words are on everyone's mind:

Arizona Taco Festival.

The state's biggest celebration of that luscious combination of tortilla, cheese, meat and veggies is just around the corner. On Oct. 9, more than 30 Valley restaurants and amateur competitors will battle it out for taco supremacy and the $7,500 prize pool.

The teams include local favorites such as Los Olivos, Mission, Papi Chulo's, Cien Agaves, La Tolteca, Salty Senorita, Barrio Café, Los Sombreros, Deseo, Rita's, La Hacienda, and La Canasta along with non-Mexican restaurants like Chelsea's Kitchen and St. Francis. Craziness!

Along with the established taco categories, competitors will have the choice to compete in the Sidecart Throwdown, offering up their best versions of salsa, guacamole and tacos made with wild ingredients outside the norm.

​On Tuesday, the chefs at Blanco Tacos & Tequila (who also happen to be competing in the taco contest) held a preview of the event, offering attendees a chance to taste the tacos, salsa and guac they hope will bring home gold.

Our representative at the preview was lucky enough to sit with a trio of Taco Festival judges who, having been trained in the art of taco judging the previous week by Mission chef Matt Carter, were fully qualified to adjudicate the food battle.

"I was qualified before, though," one judge said. "I eat lots of tacos." We're in good hands.

The would-be judges were kind enough to fill us in on the taco evaluation process: Each of the 35-40 judges will eat 24 tacos in a completely blind tasting within the four-hour judging period, six per hour. Tacos will be rated within four separate categories: beef, pork, chicken and seafood. Each taco will be judged in a 10-point scale in presentation, texture and taste.

Even more taco talk after the jump.

Along with the food competition, the taco festival will feature a plethora of other attractions:

  • Mexican Cultural Corner (an area devoted to the culture that started the taco)
  • Live Music
  • Cooking Demos
  • Hot Chili Pepper Eating Contest (in which you can watch our very own Feasts of Fury writer Zach Fowle compete for glory)
  • Kids Zone with hourly piñata beatings 
  • Boutique Tequila Expo featuring more than 100 different premium tequilas
  • Margarita Competition

The Arizona Taco Festival will take place at the Scottsdale Waterfront (7025 E. Via Soleri) on Saturday, Oct. 9 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Entry to the event is $10 and each taco sample you pick up will run $2. You can also pick up a $50 VIP ticket, which entitles you to any combination of 10 food or drink items inside the Macayo's VIP Tent with a special boutique Tequila Bar and a goodie bag.

See you there, taco-heads. 

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