Arizona - fantastic Mexican-American food in the Valley of the Sun
Tucson in Southern Arizona was named the first American City of Gastronomy by Unesco in 2014 in recognition of its unique and ancient food culture, as well as all the more recent trends that have driven the city to become a major food destination.
The area was first settled over 4000 years ago, and the current city was established by the Spanish in the 18th Century. The combination of the hot sun, fertile soil and the high desert environment leads to some unique plants and ingredients being grown and used here.
It's also very close to the Mexican border so the town has always had a significant population from Mexico, particularly the state of Sinaloa as well as Native American and European settlers.
Local specialities include the Sonoran Hot Dog - a hot dog rolled in crispy bacon, then served with beans, onion, tomato, mayo, green salsa, mustard and an array of other condiments from guacamole to pico de gallo and chipotle salsa.
There's also the cheese crisp - a HUGE flour tortilla topped with loads of cheese which can then be topped with green chilli, steak, chicken, chorizo etc and eaten like a Mexican pizza.
Breakfast Burro - it's a standard way to start the day with a scrambled egg and cheese burrito, filled with sausage, bacon, chorizo or carne asada. The local speciality is machaca - dried meat like jerky that's shredded and stirred into scrambled eggs for a fantastic breakfast burrito.
Tucson is also a college town and there's obviously a market for late-night food, which is perhaps where the bacon-wrapped burrito comes in! This epic creation of chopped steak, avocado, cheese, tomato, fried onion and roasted chilli wrapped in a flour tortilla then the whole thing rolled in bacon and fried until crispy is both monstrous and extraordinarily delicious. I could only manage half but what a flavour!
Papancha - this Sinaloan speciality is made from a baked potato, split and seasoned with salt and butter, topped with fried mushrooms, bacon and cheese, then served with an array of salsas.
Topopo Salad - shaped like a topopo (volcano), this incredible construction includes lettuce, beans, avocado, jalapenos, tomatoes, corn, cheese and much more...
Mexican Pizza! A double stacked tortilla filled with cheese, spicy beef, guacamole and salsa
Indian Taco - the local Navajo tribes were moved onto reservations in the early 20th Century and rather than living off the land as they had for centuries before, they were given food parcels from the government. Included was wheat flour (which the Indians were unfamiliar with as they'd always eaten corn not flour tortillas), and baking powder. The Indians used these ingredients to make a flat bread that they fried, which puffed up and became known as Fry Bread or Popovers. The Indian taco is a fry bread topped with beans or spicy beef, shredded cheese, tomato and lettuce. It's certainly not what you might call a health food but it is incredibly moreish and now popular across the whole state.
Ice Cream Taco - being outside in Arizona during late August is a bit like walking in an oven, so a nice cooling ice cream taco or raspado is just what you need to cool down!