Food Tour On The Fresh Foodie Trail In Mesa, Arizona
To me, food is a huge part of travel. It's a fun way to learn about the agriculture and history of a destination using all of your senses. We've experienced culinary themed excursions when on cruises in the past and everyone in the family really enjoys them. So when we first decided to visit Arizona, I couldn't wait to see what kind of food experiences they offered. I discovered the Visit Mesa website and my research was done!
The Fresh Foodie Trail travels throughout Mesa, into the towns of Gilbert and Queen Creek, Arizona. The tour features various stops such as peach orchards, dairy farms, citrus groves, an olive mill, and more, depending on the season. Each highlighted stop provides samples of their culinary specialties that you can to taste along the way. It's the best way to experience the heart of a new destination.
We traveled with DETOURS to guide us from stop-to-stop in a very comfortable air-conditioned van. This was essential in the hot, summer temperature of 105 degrees. I was a bit nervous about the heat we might face, but surprisingly, from the moment our fantastic driver Robert picked us up at the hotel until drop-off, we stayed cool the entire time.
We loved the exact itinerary we picked!
First Stop: True Garden URban Farm
This 5,000-square-feet of True Garden Urban Farm is a culinary dream. Even the kids listened attentively while we learned how their aeroponic vertical tower gardens produce fresh and healthy food using no soil. It's truly amazing to be in this innovative farm and taste the organic, complex flavors of such simple produce because of the way it's grown. Owner Troy Albright, PhD explains how they can grow almost an acre of fresh vegetables using 1/10 of the land and a fraction of the water. Plus, the growing time of these leafy greens is almost cut in half, as it only takes about 3 to 4 weeks to grow a head of lettuce. It was a wonderful learning experience and taste treat. Every sample of produce we tried was tender and delicious. These tower gardens can be used for residential or commercial use. I personally now think everyone needs one in their kitchen!
Second Stop: jalapeño Bucks
One of the things I was most excited to taste was true Arizona BBQ. I'm a huge fan of smoky meat and spicy flavors. So when I heard a lunch option was Jalapeño Bucks for Arizona inspired BBQ, burritos, and salsa tasting, I couldn't wait! Located within 38 acres of citrus groves, Jalapeño Bucks is nothing short of "Buckin’ Good BBQ" just as they say. The smoky hint of the pecan and red oak wood comes through in the flavor of the tender meat. You won't find it on the menu, but don't leave without trying the PB & J (Peanut Butter & Jelly) Brisket Sandwich. It's a heavenly taste treat of sweet, salty, and smoky. You may roll your eyes, but TRUST ME on this one! Plus, the salsas are fresh and appeal to everyone's taste. From the sweet Mango to Hot Mexican Red, they are truly addicting with chips, burritos, quesadillas, or really anything you want to dunk in them.
Third Stop: Queen Creek Olive Mill
The drive is fantastic out to Queen Creek, Arizona to see Queen Creek Olive Mill. This family-owned olive mill and farm is spread over 100 acres and produces the most delicious olive oil. I often use olive oil for cooking and as an accompaniment to a meal, so I loved seeing how it's made. If you visit in the fall, you might be able to catch the busy harvest season and see them in action. Even though our visit was during summer, we were still able to see the olives on the trees, the equipment used to harvest and press the olives, and learn the correct way to taste for the perfect extra virgin olive oil. After the 45-minute tour, we sampled a variety of unique olive oils, including lemon, chocolate (yes! chocolate olive oil) and a syrupy sweet Balsamic. We couldn't wait to head over to their marketplace to shop. They even have natural beauty products made with olive oil that smell heavenly. And don't forget the olive oil cupcakes! They are unbelievably decadent, plus healthier for you. Want to try baking with olive oil at home? I learned that you can substitute 3/4 cup olive oil for 1 cup of butter. Now I'm inspired to start cooking.
Fourth stop: Garage-East at Barnone
My first tasting of Arizona wine! Garage-East is located in Barnone, a cool craftsman community of Agritopia in Gilbert, that houses 12 highly skilled craftsman that sell their arts to the public. The building is enclosed with shiny metal from WWII planes and just like the building, this micro-winery is unique and delicious. You can come in and sit with a glass of wine and light fare, have a tasting, or even pick up a bottle or two of wine to bring home. They also have events that showcase their wine paired with food, wine tastings, and live music. For our tasting, we started with a surprising sounding wine...breakfast wine! Fruity and refreshing, it would be perfect to serve at a brunch. From there we moved to other light whites, then onto more robust and oh, so smooth, reds. The tasting was served with a lovely display of locally sourced Arizona cheeses, meats, and toppings. They even included bowls of potato chips and bottle sodas for my boys. How did they know?! It was a fabulous feast. If we hadn't been flying home, we definitely would have left with a bottle of each wine to take a little taste of Mesa home with us.
This is definitely a fantastic way to experience the Phoenix/Mesa area and beyond. We learned so much about the culture, the food, and the people while enjoying the local tastes along the way. When planning your trip to Arizona, make sure to visit Visit Mesa to sign up for the Fresh Foodie Trail, as well as to explore dining, restaurants, or other fantastic activities they offer. Through them, we saw a lot of the five C's of Arizona. Do you know what they are? Copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate. We tasted the BBQ, surrounded in citrus farms, as tourists in the hot climate...and we loved every minute!
Disclaimer: Our Fresh Foodie Trail tour was graciously provided by Visit Mesa. As always, all opinions are completely my own based on our experiences.
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