Happy Cinco de Mayo! While today is not really about eating great Mexican food and drinking too many margaritas, that is what the holiday has become to non-Mexican Americans, like me. One should know the history of the day, but, I have to say, there's nothing wrong with celebrating Mexico's vibrant culture and delicious cuisine. Growing up in Southern California, Mexican food was part of my family's regular dinner rotation and there are many truly great Mexican restaurants to choose from, especially in San Diego.
Finding authentic Mexican eats in Florida is a bit more difficult, but Red Mesa Cantina is one solid option in downtown St. Pete. (Get the mofongo and fried sweet plantains. Yum.) More recently, after a shopping trip at Ikea in Tampa, we cruised over to Channelside Bay Plaza to try out Hablo Taco. It definitely has a touristy vibe, but the food and drinks were good. The hubs and I followed the restaurant's advice, written in the menu and on the walls ("Don't drink the water. The tequila is much better.") and quenched our thirst with frozen margaritas, both twists on the classic: the Sangria-Rita for me (stumbled upon this recipe for a similar sweet slushy concoction) and the Corona-Rita for him. Served in giant goblets, one was enough.
Never a man to pass up pulled pork, G ordered the Pork al Pastor tacos, which are topped with a pineapple salsa, cilantro and salsa fresco and served in Hablo Taco's signature puffy shells. In the mood for something different, I went with the Grilled Avocado plate. Two creamy avocado halves were char-grilled and then covered with perfectly seasoned ground beef, habanero salsa and sour cream, and drizzled with ranchero sauce. (I skipped the queso fresco.) Served with a side of Mexican rice and chips, it was a hearty and satisfying meal.
The grilled avocado is a dish that could easily be replicated at home. Tonight, even! I'd love to try this recipe for grilled avocado with charred red onion and scallions. You could top or stuff it with just about anything—meat, veggies, salsa. It's an easy and versatile dish that is a bit more interesting than your typical Cinco de Mayo guacamole. Now, granted, we don't have a barbecue but I'm thinking it could still be tasty (if less smoky) on an indoor grill pan.
The hubs recently made Hawaiian-inspired teriyaki pulled pork tacos at home (I told you he loves pulled pork!) but this recipe for Tacos al Pastor is a closer dupe to what he had at Hablo Taco. Sweet and spicy.
I'm not sure what our plans are tonight, but if we decide to stay in we're sure to turn to our favorite Assouline cocktail books to whip up some homemade margaritas. If you're in need of a little libation inspiration, check out the two recipes below.
Recipe from Vintage Cocktails
2 oz. Don Julio 100% Blue Agave Blanco Tequila
1 oz. Cointreau (or Grand Marnier)
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. of simple syrup (if you like a sweeter margarita)
For garnish: Coarse salt and lime wedge
Combine first three ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
To salt the rim (optional): Frost the edge of the cocktail glass by rubbing a lime wedge on the outside rim of the glass, then dipping it into a saucer of coarse salt.
2 oz. Don Julio Reposado Tequila
1 oz. agave nectar
1 oz. fresh lime juice
For garnish: Fresh lime wedge and salt
Place first three ingredients into a mixing tin, add large ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a glass over fresh ice, garnish and serve.
To salt the rim (optional): Rub lime wedge on the outside rim of cocktail glass, then dip into a dish of salt.
Finally, a bit of margarita history, courtesy Celebrity Cocktails:
There are many legends about who invented the Margarita Cocktail. Many believe that Margarita Sames (Texan socialite) created it in Acapulco in 1948. However, a lesser-known legend is that a bartender in Tijuana created it to impress Rita Hayworth. Either way, it remains the number-one ordered cocktail in North America.
Personally, I like the Rita Hayworth version :)
Here's wishing you a fun (and safe!) Cinco de Drinko, err Cinco de Mayo. Cheers!
ETA: We ended up staying in! We made a healthy Mexican-style dinner and the margarita above. It was good and strong but, for a little fruity sweetness I splashed in a bit of OJ. Perfection.
(Papel picado source)