Alright guys, I know it is a year away but set your calendars for this event in 2014. The 29th Annual My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge was not only a fantastic personal experience for me but a great amount of fun for the whole family. With proceeds going to the Arizona Hemophilia Association which is a non-profit organization that serves the individuals and families affected by bleeding disorders. I have attended a few times but this year my Uncle asked me if I could help judge, needless to say I was ecstatic to be a judge. SALSA!! Are you kidding me, I love salsa and this has clearly trickled down to my children because even today at breakfast they were still talking about the salsa. I thought they would be excited about the kids zone which had bounce houses, rock climbing and other activities and game which they were; however not nearly as excited as it was to them to walk around and try the salsa. It might just be because I am their mom, but they are still talking about the decoration of the booths and the details of different ingredients. It is pretty funny to hear little boys talking about how one may have had too little cilantro or garlic and one possibly had too many jalapeno’s or habanero’s over breakfast on a Monday morning.
Judging was such a great experience, I should rewind a little bit and try and explain how this came to be. My Uncle Joe, aka Mad Coyote Joe is my Dad’s brother. He has had a cooking show, published several cook books and traveled all over learning about and cooking food. I have a particular respect for his wife Kathy, she is a professional chef and her ability with food has always amazed me, it is seriously magical! When I was young she and I took a tortilla making class and while I do not really remember how to make tortillas, I do remember just having the best time with my Aunt Kathy and her infectious laugh. I also respect her because she married into this family and I cannot imagine how challenging of a task that must be, we Daigneault’s are not always an easy group to put up with! I don’t even need to say “No offense Uncle Joe” because he knows this to be true, as we all do. Anyway he has been involved with the Salsa Challenge for along time now as well as the Arizona Hemophilia Association and now that I have joined the food community he extended and offer I could not refuse, to judge in this year events.
Being a judge was very interesting, I am huge lover of salsa, so how to pick a favorite! To start with we went around to view and judge each booth on how they looked. What I saw was impressive, so many contestants I am sure have worked for who knows how many months not only perfecting their salsa but also making their booth attractive and exciting for the attendees. All the contestants were not only excited to potentially win, but clearly they were excited about raising money for a good cause. I heard them talking about sending kids to Camp Honor as much as I heard them bragging about their Salsa. After walking the event we headed back to the Judges Tent to start the actual judging. I have been to many corporate events put on by very large corporations with millions of dollars in resources and I can tell you that this organized event of volunteers was among the best and most organized I have seen, if not better. Everyone was happy and smiling and helpful and it just gave the whole event a fun atmosphere. Several of the judges were returning and greeting each other and volunteers with hugs and laughs of events past. This is what I love about supporting local events, you get that strong sense of family and community that our society needs more of anywhere we can get it. There were a lot of Salsa’s entered into the challenge and they were separated by categories on different tables. I volunteered for a hot table, which may not have been the smartest decision I made all day, but picking the best was not easy. I do like hot, but it was funny to get to the point where you are sweating and sniffling and laughing all at the same time. The diversity and complex flavors in each salsa was impressive. Each one really did have a very unique flavor and level of heat. The contestants really did a wonderful job and I am sure many if not all of them will be back to go for the best again in 2014. I know I will be there, I cannot wait to attend this event again next year. I was pretty busy and did not get a chance to take as many pictures as I would have liked to, but I encourage you to check out the website about the event and the Arizona Hemophilia Association website and mark it on your calendar for next year. This is a great local event supporting a local organization, and the Margarita’s were good too. I hope to see you there in 2014.