TRIPS – “Taste of Tucson Downtown” culinary experience

Learning how ice cream is made at Isabella’s

Learning how ice cream is made at Isabella’s

Joyce Shumate

On October 19 TRIPS took 21 Quail Creek residents on a day of Taste of Tucson Culinary experience that also included Tucson History and Streetcar tour.

The tour started at the Mercado San Agustin courtyard, where we met our tour guides Lysa and Janice from Taste of Tucson Downtown. After a history of the Mercado, we all moved into the Agustin Kitchen for our first tastings. The group was seated at two large tables and shared Fiore Di Capra Goat Brule, hickory infused mulberries, pepitas served with barrio toast, calamari with sweet peppers, onion, carrot, Mae ploy, black sesame seeds. During our tasting Executive Chef Alex told us about what we were sampling and additional information about the Agustin Kitchen Restaurant.

Then everyone received their 24 hour Streetcar Pass. While waiting for the Streetcar we were given more information about the history of the area and information on the construction going on nearby.

First stop was at Even Stevens Sandwiches, where we had Pot Roast Dip – succulent turkey pot roast, Swiss, red onion and jalapeno jelly on a baguette, side of au jus served with Brava Tots – seasoned tots topped with Brava Aioli and paprika. Their philosophy: for every sandwich that they sell, they donate one to their four local non-profit community partners. For more information, visit their website to find out more at

On our way to board the Streetcar to the next tasting, we stopped at Creative Ventures Arts and Crafts; a store that is filled with tons of souvenirs, gift ideas, handmade items, jewelry from Mexico and much more.

The next stop was a La Indita Restaurant Mexicano. We were served a sampling of their famous popover with spinach and red chili (Tohono O’Odham Style), served with rice, beans and a little cheese. While the group was enjoying the food, the owner’s son spoke about the history of their restaurant, when they first opened in February 1983 until present day.

A short walk around the corner was our next stop at Athens on 4th Ave.

Everything was set for us. After everyone was seated the food was brought out for us to sample. There was Elliniki Salata (Greek Salad), seasoned with the house EVOO dressing, served with Melitzanosalata – (Roasted eggplant with pita bread).

Before we boarded the Streetcar one more time, the group stopped at Mabel’s on 4th Kitchen Boutique. Mabel’s on 4th is the boutique that kitchen fanatics dream of! Mabel’s makes your kitchen smile.

Last stop was everyone’s favorite, Isabella’s Ice Cream. Kristel Johnson, founder, showed us how she made the ice cream from the beginning and how she starts with fresh, pure ingredients and pasteurize them in a 36 gallon pasteurizing vat, mixing and homogenizing the ingredients until they reach the perfect temperature. They have a variety of delicious flavors such as gourmet coffee, organic lavender, Madagascar vanilla bean, fresh-made caramel, desert honey, local spices and much more. After the tour everyone was treated to a serving of their choice of ice cream.

We were now on our own. Options were follow our guides back to the Mercado or stay on 4th or even keep riding the Streetcar to the end and back.

At the Mercado San Agustin the Thursday night Farmers Market was going on; a little more shopping. Several went back to Agustin Kitchen for a refreshment before heading back to Quail Creek. Everyone had such a great time; we will do this again.

If you would like to go on any of the tours with Taste of Tucson Downtown, go to their website at They will do groups of 4 to 20.