Eat & Drink
Gastronomy Tour of Marana
In "Tour This," we show you how to enjoy a guided culinary exploration of Arizona, from food tours to wine and beer trails. This edition showcases the Gastronomy Tour of Marana and its sister tour, the Marana Wild Foods Gastronomy Tour.
To really understand where food comes from, especially in Arizona, you need to visit the past.
That’s the idea behind the Gastronomy Tour of Marana, a 5½-hour foodie adventure that retraces the steps of those who farmed and foraged in Arizona agricultural sites dating back 4,000 years. The tour is sponsored by Discover Marana and Gray Line Tours.
Not only does this culinary tour offer a fascinating peek into our state's thousands-years-old farming history, but guests get a (literal) taste of ancient Sonoran wild foods reimagined in modern-day flavors.
The Gastronomy Tour of Marana is the first of its kind in the country. Led by Dr. Suzanne Fish, a University of Arizona Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Curator of the Arizona State Museum, it's the first tour approved by UNESCO's Creative Cities Network member, the Tucson City of Gastronomy. (Fun fact: Tucson is the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States.)
Marana, which borders the northwest corner of Tucson, is a major breadbasket and important farm-to-table hub of the region, which is home to some of the oldest agricultural systems in North America. Here’s what to expect on your epicurean expedition.
Tour Stop #1: Los Morteros Conservation Area
The tour kicks off with an introduction to sophisticated farming practices developed by the ancient Hohokam people. This archaeology site contains intact mortar rocks with hollowed-out bowls that were used to grind mesquite pods, as well as evidence of an irrigation canal system and trincheras, a structure of dry-laid rock alignments built on volcanic hillsides that helped control water runoff.
Tour Stop #2: Catalina Brewing Company
A beverage and tasting menu awaits you at this stop. Catalina cleverly blends locally sourced mesquite flour, agave, White Sonoran Wheat, prickly pear cactus fruit and mesquite-smoked pecans in their lineup of craft beers that salute the area's ancient grains and wild foods. At the brewery, you'll get a chance to sample seasonal, handcrafted bites such as barrel-cactus chutney and mesquite chocolate sauce prepared by Bean Tree Farm.
Tour Stop #3: Agave Fields
Post-brewery, you'll head to the remnants of a Hohokam agave field, specifically that of the Murphy Agave species, where centuries-old agave roasting pits and remaining ash are still clearly visible. The agave once covered 1,200 acres in the Tucson Basin and was a critical plant and food source, providing 20 percent of the daily caloric needs for the Hohokam community.
Tour Stop #4: The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
Your culinary-history adventure concludes with a multicourse tasting at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain resort. Hosted by Chef David Serus, Maser Chef of France, the small-plates menu features seasonal ingredients and domesticated and wild flavors found in the Sonoran Desert. You'll nosh on items like a heritage garden salad made with White Sonoran Wheat, local pecans and pistachios, tomatoes, dates and bee pollen. There's also the fan-favorite green corn tamale, constructed with poblano pepper, asadero and heirloom corn masa. (Read more about the Arizona tamale.) Boozy bonus: The tasting menu is paired with locally inspired craft cocktails.
Marana Wild Foods Gastronomy Tour
Like the Gastronomy Tour of Marana, this tour is led by Dr. Suzanne Fish. John Slattery, a master bioregional herbalist and gourmet forager, joins her to take guests on a foraging exploration. During the tour you'll learn about the cultures that farmed and foraged in this region for thousands of years, helping to cultivate Arizona's wild food flavors. In addition to visiting an ancient archeological site, this foodie walkabout includes exclusive tastings of wild foods masterfully prepared by area chefs. Take a sneak peek here:
Check out the Gastronomy Tour of Marana's soon-to-be-launched foraging excursion.
Credit: Derek Carlson, courtesy of Discover Marana
Want to Join the Tour? Here's What You Need to Know:
- Tickets: $109 per person
- The tour is held monthly on Thursdays, October through March, 12:30–6 p.m.
- The van departs and returns from Tucson Premium Outlets (6401 W. Marana Center Blvd.).
- Wear comfortable walking shoes.
- Water will be provided.
- For more information, including upcoming tours: Discovermarana.org/gastronomy-tour
- Book a reservation: (520) 622-8811 or at graylinearizona.com.