Even though it was more than a week ago, our fridge is still stocked with the last remnants of a fiesta. Coronas and Mexican Coca-Colas fill the back of the fridge and we have a stash of corn tortillas that still need to be filled and devoured. We had such a great time last weekend. Joe and I cooked all day, hauled out all of our most festive dishes and decor, and threw a little Mexican fiesta for some of our favorite eaters!
Inspired from my little life list, like last year's Italian Feast, this year's theme was Mexican, and though I had every intention of making tortillas from scratch which is #37 on the list, it was just a little too much with the logistics of serving twelve people and all of the other recipes we wanted to make. So the homemade tortilla challenge will have to wait for a smaller gathering. But back to our fiesta.
In case you would like to host your own fiesta, which I highly recommend, here was our menu for inspiration. Each title links to the recipe we used, so just click if you want to try this at home, all recipes were straight forward, and if time consuming, still very simple:
Pioneer Woman's Grilled Corn Guacamole and Tortilla Chips
Taco bar toppings included: Corn or Flour Tortillas, Creamy Cilantro Sauce, World Market's Hot Green Tomatillo Salsa, Sliced Avocado, Limes, Cilantro, Queso Fresco, Caramelized Onions and Peppers, Re-fried Beans and Seasoned Black Beans (no recipe for these- just cook with diced onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, cilantro and lime)
The bar included: lots and lots of limes, Palomas, Coronas, Mexican Coca-Cola, and a variety of Jarrisco's Sodas
So once the recipes were decided on and the grocery and Costco lists split between the two of us, it was time to think about decor. I wanted to have a little fun, have something that our female guests could take home, and not spend much money since we'd rather spend that on the food! So Joe picked out these lovely flowers from Costco. Perfect bright fiesta colors to go with the stripey napkins I picked up at World Market, on sale, so even better, to go with the napkin rings and place mats we already had on hand.
Then I washed out the black bean cans for folksy little vases on the tables, along with a couple of Coca-Cola bottles, perfect for flower favors to take home at the end of the night. And because of the size of our group, we relocated to my dad and stepmother Kristy's house. They have just enough extra space so that we wouldn't feel crowded and they also have an impressively powerful air conditioner which we really needed for the 100 degree day. And since their house is so pretty already, there was very little else I worried about for decor, other than some of our Fiestaware for color, and small labels for the food.
We started cooking on Friday night and cooked almost all day on Saturday. But this prep was much easier than the Italian feast. We made two main side dishes but other than the meats and dessert, most of the items just involved a lot of slicing and dicing, a bit of roasting and blending, but not too much actual heat.
The most time intensive items were the carne asada which Joe marinated overnight Friday, and smelled divine even before he threw it on the grill right before the party began on Saturday night and the carnitas which I started early Saturday morning. And after cooking down in just water and salt, they filled the house with the savory smell of pork after three hours on the stove. The cake was also more time intensive simply because it had several steps. First whipping up the yolks and batter, then blending in the soft peaks of the egg whites, baking the sponge cake, whipping the heavy cream for the frosting and the final step, completed just an hour before dinner, pouring three rich milks into the sponge so that by the time it was served it was moist and soft and so richly sweet.
I had never made roasted salsa before and it was stupid easy. Chop veggies, cook on high, blend in Cuisinart. You have roasted salsa. I could make this every weekend it's so simple. I just might make it tonight.
After all the chopping and dicing and prep, the turning of the carnitas, the cooling of the sponge cake, Joe started grilling the corn. Doesn't that look beautiful? The grilled corn guacamole was all his. Big bags of ripe avocados were chopped and smushed. Grilled corn sliced off the cob and mixed with garlic and lime and juicy tomatoes. That guacamole, if you make any of these recipes, please move that one to the top of your list. In fact, Joe really should get full credit for choosing about 90% of the recipes we used. He's kind of a recipe detective lately. Digging, researching and testing out the very best ones. I like this.
The other item that was all Joe were the Palomas. I was insistent that we had to have margaritas. Selfishly because I love them and know pretty much everyone else does too, and what kind of Mexican fiesta would this be without margaritas? But Joe found this recipe for a more traditional tequila beverage and after much convincing, I agreed. He's always the bartender anyway, and quite good at it, so I stepped off. And he was dead right. These were more refreshing and delicious than most margaritas. They complemented the food perfectly, I think it's all the lime juice. He sat and juiced 30 limes. "This is how much I love our friends," he claimed later. It was absolutely worth it. I had one last night actually. This is our new drink of the summer.
We arrived an hour or two before the party began and set up at my dad and Kristy's. They helped us haul in all the goods. We met Kristy's intern Liesa who joined us that night. She is a lovely, bold young woman from Germany who simply called the city of Overland Park a few months ago and somehow arranged her own internship with the city. See? Bold.
Joe turned on the grill, I set the table. The door bell rang and our guests began to arrive!
See, I said there were a lot of limes.
Taste testing the Palomas, I had to have three (they were not very strong) to determine if they were good enough for our guests. They were.
My dad and Sean having a deep discussion before dinner. Probably about higher education standards or maybe the Big Lebowski.
Diving into the carnitas and carne asada. My brother is the tattooed gentleman who took my invitation "to don your festive garb" as an implied costume party. Yes, he was in costume. Yes, he was the only one in costume. Was it kind of racist? Maybe? Was it pretty much made out of clothes that he would normally wear? Yes. So I think that makes it less offensive. He was just trying to be a good sport.
Watch out for the roasted tomato salsa, it is SPICY!
The gang, eating. It got really quiet all of a sudden. And like any good dinner party, this is a compliment. Everyone's mouths were full.
Tara enjoying one of the Pineapple Jarrisco's sodas, since she could not partake of the Palomas, as she is growing baby Barnes #2 right now. Doesn't she look pretty with that flower in her hair?
Kristy and Liesa. Liesa headed back to Germany just two days later. She fell in love with Kansas and hopes to come back. I think Kansas would be lucky to have her.
Mike after removing the "costume" part of his outfit. See, he would totally wear that shirt everyday.
Serving up the tres leches cake. This cake was so moist and yummy I think I could have poured another cup of condensed milk on top and it would have just absorbed it all. I was slow with serving and then adding the cherry on top. Sean thankfully stepped up and took over the cherry application duties. Thank you, sir.
After the meal was finished, we sat around the table and talked and laughed. Phones and mobile devices were pulled out, as always happens with this techie bunch. We drank some more and talked about our weekend. And really this is my favorite part of the dinner party hosting.
The dinner is over. That little bit of stress has dissipated. My friends and family are well fed, happy and with a little buzz on. And now we just get to be together. Our stomachs full and our faces glowing. We sit around the table in the soft light and catch up after hectic weeks, and wild kids. We sit back and just get to be ourselves. Our stuffed selves, but just us.
So go throw a party for your friends and family. Don't make it too elaborate, unless you just want to. But invite those people who all get along, this party needs to be the right mix of personalities. Go invite them over. Serve something delicious that everyone will like. Make people feel welcome and like all of their needs will be met for the next three hours.
And don't spend too much time in the kitchen. Be with them. Wait on the dishes. Clean up later. Go sit down and have a drink or two. And do it soon. Because you can plan and talk about having a party, but life and obligations get in the way. Don't let them.
Just do it this weekend. Make it a potluck if you hate to cook. Make it appetizers or dessert only. But get those invites out today. You'll thank me. I promise.