May 30, 2014

Mexican Fiesta, Part 1

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately; or, rather, blog searching. There are so many food blogs out there that I admire.  You can take a look at some of my favorites on the blog roll.  And it seems like every day I am discovering a new labor of love and deliciousness online.  The only downside to this outburst is that there's an over-saturation in the marketplace.  A blog now needs a point of differentiation from its competitors.  And we are all competing against each other, be it for eye balls, clicks, likes, follows, reposts, etc.

So, I asked myself, what sets my blog apart from others?  I haven't focused on a specific cuisine or way of eating and let's face it, my posting has been sporadic at best.  But all that is in the past!  I have found a purpose and a focus to my blog and it this: party planning!  I absolutely love the process of planning a shindig, from menu planning to grocery shopping to tablescaping.  It's a talent I've learned from my mother.  Any excuse for a party and she's there with a batch of margaritas and themed napkins.  [Seriously, I think she has an addiction to IKEA napkins.]

With that said, my inaugural series on Party Planning 101 is a summer Mexican Fiesta!  Originally, I had planned this party around Cinco de Mayo, but had to reschedule due to a busy month of May.  We are now on track for a kick-off to summer date!

Okay, where do we begin, you ask?  Party planning can seem daunting, but I think if you do a little prep work and keep things simple (ala Barefoot Contessa), you can pull off a festive get-together for any occasion!

2-3 Days Before Party - Menu Planning + Grocery Shopping

This is the fun part! The sky is the limit! Pour a cup of coffee [or a glass of rose], pull a bunch of magazines & cookbooks for inspiration, and peruse Pinterest for inspiration.  [Shameless plug - follow me on Pinterest!!]

Once inspiration has hit and you're feeling jazzed, jot down a few menu items that you'd like to make.  Things to keep in mind:

*Venue - indoors/outdoors, access to stove/grill/oven
*Number of guests - one dish items that can feed a crowd are a life saver
*Dietary concerns - my friends eat pretty much everything, but there are a few gluten-free & vegetarians in the mix
*Time - make as much ahead as you can, so that you can enjoy the party too!
*Know what to make, know what to buy from the store
*Outsource - delegate one or two dishes (or ice!) to a few of your (responsible) party guests
*Drinks - beer, wine, one signature cocktail, and one non-alcoholic option

After flipping through a few issues of my trusty Bon Appetit and Chef Marcela's Fresh Mexico, here's what I wrote down as a jumping off point:

Steak tacos - probably won't make the cilantro radish salsa, instead I'll serve cilantro, radishes & cotija cheese as toppings
Shrimp tacos - marinated in chile adobo, garlic & lime and then grilled on skewers
Rajas, creamed poblano chiles
Taco toppings + salsas:  salsa borracha, pico de gallo, guacamole
Cocada, coconut bark
Beer + agua fresca + Squirt - I adore palomas and one of my co-workers swears that the best paloma is made with tequila & Squirt!

Not too shabby, right?  I have about 10 people coming, so this should be just right for a taco bar.  Now to write up my grocery list and buy all my supplies.  Remember, this menu is NOT set in stone.  I usually do a mental edit while shopping, depending on whether or not I can find all the ingredients I need.

1 day down, 2 to go!

[Click here to go to Part 2]

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