THE SCENE You know what I’ve missed during the pandemic? Chips and salsa in real time. Sure, I brought some home from local Mexican restaurants to enjoy with my takeout tacos and tamales from time to time, but those were not – and will never be –the same as a bowl of crunchy shards of fresh corn tortillas still hot from the fryer and glistening with flecks of salt, sided with ramekins of bright, cool and colorful salsa. Something is lost in transportation.  When I found out Habanero’s Mexican Grill, a North Valley institution with two Scottsdale locations, had a happy hour, I got excited. My...

Pineapple-topped guac on chips from The Mission.

Earlier this month, 14 chefs gathered at The Camby hotel in Central Phoenix for the Rock the Guac competition in honor of National Guacamole Day and benefitting Free Arts of Arizona. Their challenge? Creating different guacamoles designed to stand out.

I know taste testing 14 different guacamoles may seem like a dream, but let me tell you that guac has the tendency to taste more or less the same after a few scoops. But in the name of journalism, I persevered.

The sweetest (perhaps weirdest) take was from Tarbell’s in Phoenix that whipped up a chocolate mousse dessert topped with an avocado mousse/puree. It was tasty but let’s face it, couldn’t pass as guacamole. I can’t say there were any competitors that I flat out didn’t like at all, but my favorite was The Market by Jennifer’s. I loved that the chef used focaccia instead of the hackneyed tortilla chip and how she managed to seamlessly blend many different flavors and textures together.

Below are four guacamoles that stood out, both to me and the official judges, plus a recipe for the first prize winner.