As Californians, you don’t need to twist our arm (or tell us it’s a special holiday) to enjoy fine Mexican meal. We pretty much have a year-round love affair with margaritas, guacamole, nachos (more on that, here) and mariachi bands. It’s pretty much our duty as Californians to celebrate May 5, better known as “Cinco de Mayo,” in some fashion. If standing in line or waiting two hours to eat at your favorite Mexican restaurant, doesn’t thrill you — don’t worry. Here’s your ultimate guide to staying in and hosting a Cinco de Mayo party of your own this year.
1. Plan Your Menu
Tired of chips and salsa? Try a healthier starter: fresh gazpacho. Made of raw vegetables (usually with a tomato base), this chilled soup originated in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, and it’s not technically Mexican. But it has some advantages. First, you can make it ahead (up to a day). And since this soup is eaten chilled, it’s easier to serve for a larger gatherings. Ina Garten has a fairly simple and straight-forward recipe. If you are a traditionalist, you can try this classic quesadilla with a twist, like this zucchini quesadilla with spicy salsa roja.
It’s sure to be a hit. For the main dish, impress your guests by making your own braised birria. Traditionally, this deeply spiced braised dish is made with goat, but you can substitute with lamb. Make sure your guests are well satiated with pomegranate margaritas…they might as well get their antioxidants, right? For an added twist (literally), make it easy for your friends to tag their drinks by monogramming your garnish limes. For dessert, try this lovely and elegant take on tres leches cake.
2. Take the Party Outside
Since we live in California, we’re fortunate to have nice weather in May. It’s time to take the party outdoors. Dust off your patio furniture (or invest in a comfy, bright couch). String outdoor party lights and papel picado banners around your deck. Set out your galvanized beverage tub with your favorite cerveza. Adult piñata? That’s optional. We can only steer you in the right direction…. You can have your choice of piñatas can be found here.
3. Daring Décor
This is the time to get bright and bold with your color combinations! Go wild! Place a colorful plate atop a circular woven mat like this inexpensive one from Ikea, or top a colorful plate from this Baja Brights set from Pier 1 Imports on one of your orange-hued cloth napkins (you know, the ones you use for Thanksgiving) for an instant pop. These plates from Crate and Barrel are perfect too. Add some wood maracas to your table setting for even more fun. For a more budget-friendly option, you can also lay out these cute mini piñatas at each place setting.
4. Plant the Seeds
Instead of flowers, honor the drought with potted succulents and cacti on your table instead.
5. Music to the Ears
It’s time to break out those high-energy hits from the Gypsy Kings and Santana, and sing “Oye Como Va” to your guests. Or hire that mariachi band. After all the food and margaritas, it will be time to hit the dance floor…your back lawn. Aclamaciones!