With Arizona's perpetual sun, it's no surprise that the state produces a wonderful assortment of vegetables and fruits. And, its proximity to Mexico and strong Native American presence means that the region produces some of the best Mexican and Southwestern food in the country. Don't leave Arizona without trying these four best food travel experiences.
Nosh on Some of the Country's Best Winter Produce in Yuma
Yuma, Arizona, is the sunniest place on Earth with a year-round average of over 11 hours of sun a day. While the rest of the United States is huddled up in jackets and gloves, Yuma produces 90% of the country's lettuce between November to February. It's also one of the largest producers of Medjool dates in the world.
Every winter, Yuma celebrates its winter vegetables with Lettuce Days, with food vendors and cooking demonstrations in the middle of a real working farm.
Dine on Cactus
If you've only thought of cactus as a strange poky plant, think again. In Arizona, cactus is frequently on the menu. Try nopales --- or the flat pads of the cactus cut into strips and braised until tender --- at many traditional Mexican restaurants in the area, including Los Reyes de la Torta in Phoenix which serves nopales with chicken and Asi es la Vida in Phoenix which serves them as part of their queso fundido. Or, try cactus fries with prickly pear dipping sauce at the Cowboy Club in Sedona.
Or, if you'd prefer something sweeter, opt for a drink or dessert made with prickly pears, the reddish bulbous fruit that sits on top of the cactus. Prickly pear margaritas are the drink of choice in Arizona and a particularly lovely version can be found at Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim where the drink is served with a spectacular view of the famous canyon. Or, you can buy prickly pear jelly candies from Cactus Candy Company. Whatever you try, it's sure to be a unique way to taste Arizona.
Try Fry Bread, a Native American Specialty
Though there are Native American influences throughout all of American cooking --- from chili to barbecue --- in Arizona, it is possible to try traditional Native American foods. Fry bread is an integral part of that cuisine. It "links generation with generation and also connects the present to the painful narrative of Native American history. Navajo frybread originated 144 years ago when the United States forced Indians living in Arizona to make the 300-mile journey known as the "Long Walk" and relocate to New Mexico," resulting in the Native Americans inventing fry bread based on the dry goods provided by the government.
In Arizona, there are many places to get this specialty dish, which can also be served with hominy beef stew or as Indian tacos. Try the Fry Bread House or the Sunna Fry Bread Wagon near Phoenix. Or, have an exquisite high-end meal steeped in imaginative Native American fare at Kai at Wild Horse Pass, where you might try seared Foie Gras with paw paw and a buckwheat basket.
Indulge in Southwestern Mexican Food
Sure, you've heard of Tex-Mex but New Mexico and Arizona have their own version of Mexican fare that incorporates more of the Native American cuisines. A prime example is the "Indian taco," made by piling seasoned beef, lettuce, and veggies on top of frybread. Or, eat enchiladas to your heart's content at Gadzooks, where you can pick the fillings, sauces, and toppings. No matter what you choose, you'll love your Southwestern Mexican food experiences.