It’s time to prepare for a fiesta this weekend. If you need a reason to kickback, have some fun, and invite over the crew for great food and drinks, it’s Cinco de Mayo! I love Mexican food, the culture, and festivities. Here are some of my favorites:
I was blessed to grow up in a town with a rich Mexican influence and never quite realized how much I would miss it when I moved out of the area, especially the food and beverages. One of the delicacies I’ve really been craving lately is Horchata. A cool and creamy drink generally made from rice (sometimes from almonds or other nuts) with vanilla and cinnamon, nothing compares to the sweet taste. Many of the Mexican restaurants back in the Midwest serve fresh Horchata that they have made in-house. On the East Coast, however, it’s another story. Thankfully there are numerous recipes online for one to try their hand at making Horchata at home. I have sorted through several and found the easiest and closest to what I remember, as far as ingredients goes, is from AllRecipes.com. (I also use the suggestions from “Serena” in the reviews below the post.) The directions do call for milk to be added, but if you are avoiding dairy there are several other styles that eliminate that all together. NoRecipes.com for example, has an excellent version that incorporates cashews in addition to the rice and does not include any milk. If the process seems a little too extensive and time consuming for you there are ready-made products available. Rice Dream has a liquid, boxed option for sale, and Klass creates a powdered mix. Albeit a far cry from the authentic drink, they would get you by in a pinch.
2. Dos Rios
When one thinks of Iowa, fine dining and fabulous restaurants might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, the capitol city of Des Moines is home to some of the best and brightest up and coming culinary artists. Located in the heart of downtown on Court Avenue, Dos Rios tops my list for amazing Mexican food with a contemporary twist. The atmosphere is relaxed and beautifully decorated with a modern style. They offer a lighter lunch menu and robust dinner options from Mexican Cheese Fondue to Seared Mahi-Mahi Tacos. When the weather is nice, enjoy your afternoon on the patio with their homemade tortilla chips, sweet salsa verde, and a glass of sangria. Try to save room for dessert because Coffee and Kahlua Flourless Chocolate Cake, Tres Leches Cake, and Churros are just a few of the delicious options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Family friendly, they also have a kids menu. The location and space is perfect for a date night or even hosting private parties. Dos Rios often participates in local events and will be hosting their Annual Cinco de Mayo Street Party complete with food and drink specials and a live DJ. If you are in the area, please stop by and enjoy the festivities on our behalf, and send me some of their fabulous chips and salsa!
3. Casa Bonita
If fun is what you are looking for to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, head on over to Casa Bonita in Denver, Colorado. More of an entertainment experience than restaurant, the whole family can spend an entire evening taking in all they have to offer. Of course you can order dinner, don’t forget the all-you-can-eat sopaipillas with honey; but the real enjoyment comes from all the other activities available. A trip to Casa Bonita is filled with strolling mariachi bands, arcade games, puppet shows, an old-fashioned portrait studio, and a walk through Black Bart’s secret hideout. Known for their 30-foot indoor waterfall with cliff divers, it has been a fun family destination for almost 40 years. Grab the kids and head out this weekend for a celebration you won’t soon forget. (I have not personally visited Casa Bonita since I was a child; I hope it still lives up to its name. If you get a chance to check it out, let me know how it goes.)
Want to add a little life to your party? Start with some entertaining decorations and activities. You can do these beforehand to have everything set up and ready for when guests arrive, or it’s always fun to get your friends in on the action too. First of all, your space is going to need some added color. Without spending a lot of money, or using a ton of time and supplies, you can create beautiful Mexican Paper Flowers. Easy steps that produce a big impact, 100LayerCake.com walks you through making your own with just tissue paper, scissors, and some staples or pipe cleaners. Every good Cinco de Mayo party also needs to have a piñata. The only thing better is each person getting their own. The blog OneCharmingParty.com offers great ideas to enhance any get together, and I absolutely love their cute Mini Piñatas. Quick and easy to create from paper cups, hot glue, and a few ribbons and frills, these festive favors are sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike. And for a little something sweet to snack on, SheKnows.com has shared a fabulous cookie with a surprise inside. Continuing with the piñata theme, they show you how to baked sugar cookies and assembled them with icing and hallow layers in the middle to secretly hide a yummy stash of chocolate candies. Your guests will appreciate the amusing and tasty treats.
Finally, no Cinco de Mayo fiesta would be fully complete without some margaritas. Alcohol is not on the docket for all of us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some inspired substitutes to slake that salty-lime craving. One of my all-time favorites is the Margarita Jelly Bean from Jelly Belly. These are a staple flavor in almost all of the Jelly Belly assortments, but now several grocery stores and even places like Target carry the individual flavors in bulk. Grab a bag and a couple scoops of the tasty green candies to set out for your guests or even incorporate into the piñata favors or cookies. Feeling a little more ambitious? Try your hand at one of these two delectable desserts. MyCakeSchool.com walks you through a layered Margarita Cake complete with Lemon Lime Buttercream Frosting and decorations. GloriousTreats.Blogspot.com has beautiful Margarita Cookies, almost too cute to eat. DIY instructions and recipes for lime-flavored sugar cookie dough and royal icing make these margaritas a great ending for any party.
What are you doing to celebrate this weekend? I’d love to hear all about it. Feel free to share your adventures and party ideas. Have fun!
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