Thursday, May 25, 2017

Savour Outdoor Entertaining With A Mexican Fiesta...

Summer weather is around the corner (I just know it) and once again, it'll be time to move outdoors to enjoy entertaining on the deck. If lounging on the patio, sipping margarita, swaying your hip to latin beats with animated conversations, enticing aromas and gorgeous foods gets your juices going, then there is nothing like hosting a Mexican Fiesta. Fresh off my vacation in Mayan Riviera, I want to transport that warm hospitality, vibrant colours and fresh flavours into my al fresco party, and we're doing it sizzling BBQ tacos buffet-style. Right off the bat, there's hidden potential in your Q for cooking foods with a Mexican accent.

Before getting into some ideas for menu planning, how do I envision the mood for una fiesta latina? I think of things that make my guests feel welcome-- to make them feel that they are where they should be at that time. Time seems to stand still so moments are savoured. Where they can have fun, and discover new things, such as culture and tastes. I love having people take part to customize their own foods and beverages, engaging through curiosity and discovery to learn something about Mexico's unique flavours. As I walk you through, I share inspirational shots that bring my vision to life.

Without question, the main attraction would certainly be the table setting. A gorgeous picturesque spread creates the stage for interactive fun that stimulates the senses. I imagine a tablescape that is colourfully dressed, but not overly while allowing Mexico's cultural trademarks and fresh ingredients to shine. Wood patioware throughout is aesthetically fitting. A natural rustic dining table sets the scene, reminiscent of the bench tables you eat on in a traditional Mexican cantina. Wooden dining chairs are simply adorned with a bright solid coloured cushion.



The middle is decorated with one large or multiple colourful woven Mexican throw rug(s) loosely placed (not covering entirely) to accent against the beauty of the natural table. The rug is elevated by milk crates and sturdy boxes/bottom-up pails of different height underneath to create a tiered dimensional tablescape. This image captures how the thicker material of the rug holds its shape to the ruffling and fluffing to create layered textural interest.


For the showcase centrepiece, the rim of a large colourful sombrero serves as a salsa bar of a variety for scooping tortilla chips. Guacamole is served to the side in a stone bowl or traditional volcanic rock mortar & pestle bowl. Prepared taco toppings and condiments are set up in terracotta, wooden or glass bowls (to show-off the ingredients) that dot around the rug, with the grilled meats/seafood to be served on platters set on the wooden table. Whole limes, whole garlic bulbs and lima beans scatter around the folds of the rug to create additional texture. Instead of flowers, cuisine herbs such as bunches of fresh cilantro, oregano and mint are placed into small tin buckets or Mexican-themed tin food cans as decorative planters. Make the most of the tiered centre by arranging so vessels of food offer dimension and like colours are not together. It can easily turn into a work of art that stuns. 



Place setting is simple with plates and napkins that pops of pretty colour. For kids and adults alike, a side table could be set up to make fun DIY maracas. Side tables could be used for appetizers and putting down drinks. Speaking of drinks, what's a Mexican party without booze? Aside from serving a pitcher of sangria and frosty Mexican beer on ice, set up a DIY margarita bar. For frozen lemon-lime margaritas, put out a bucket of ice, 3 cups fresh lime juice, a large bottle of tequila, a bottle of Grand Marnier, and 4 pints frozen lemon sorbet. To make 3 margaritas, blend 12 ice cubes, 6 Tbsp. lime juice, 1/2 cup tequila, and 2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier in blender until slushy. Blend in 1 cup frozen sorbet (keep tub submerged in bucket of ice). Pour into salt-rimmed glasses. For non-alcoholic drinks, try Mexico's chic Jarritos' real fruit bottled sodas like guava, lime, tamarind and mango. 

Don't forget to turn up some latin rhythms to groove and sway to (lately reggaeton-pop Despacito has been on my playlist, and music from Buena Vista Social Club is a classic fave).



Now onto some thoughts on menu planning. Organization is key: write lists and refer to them as needed. Try to prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Advance preparation alleviates a lot of last-minute stress and lets you enjoy the fiesta. Appetizers set the scene for your fiesta. Make them varied, colourful and flavourful. Try cool ones such as classic guacamole, seafood ceviches, and gazpacho soup in shot glasses. Make a spicy nuts and seeds mix with pecans which are native to Mexico as are a variety of pumpkin seeds. Large bowls of fresh Mexican Salad with Lime Dressing and a heartier Mexican Pinto Beans could serve as suggested sides.


DIY tacos are fun! It livens up a get together by offering an assortment of delicious taco fillings, grill-warmed tortillas and a wide variety of salsas- that combines vegetables, tropical fruits (pineapple and mango are popular) or sweet and savoury in various piquancy to create a customized meal. Try fillings such as char-grilled fish, spicy BBQ shrimp with pico de gallo, carne asada (beef), and tacos al pastor cooked over the grill. Throw in some corn on the cob too and brush with lime zest-infused butter. Slice meats to bite-size pieces and add a name tag to identify the dish. Time the longer-to-cook items and warm cooked things (use your indoor oven if needed) and set it all out at once. Invite everyone to go gangbusters at the topping table to create tacos to their hearts' desire. Aside from the usual topping suspects, add some lesser-known specialty ingredients indigenous to Mexican cuisine such as chopped pickled nopales, roasted poblanos and queso cheese to try something new. 

Simply serve cut-up papaya with a squeeze of lime as well as pineapple (add chopped mint and sea salt), mangoes and strawberries for a fresh light finish to a meal full of fresh flavours.

Summer can't come fast enough! La fiesta latina is sunshine, electricity and fabulous flavours! When your guests are happy, and you are happy, then it's a success.  The reciprocated smiles will say it all. :D :D :D



I was inspired by the outdoor dining furniture selection at to write a post on my vision for an outdoor food gathering. The information I share is completely my opinion, as are all my posts.

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