Cinco De Mayo: Five Fiesta-Worthy Foods To Make Or Try

elotesIn the United States, Cinco de Mayo (“fifth of May”) is essentially yet another excuse to get hammered. In the Mexican state of Puebla, however, the holiday commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Cinco de Mayo is also celebrated in other regions of Mexico; as in the States, it’s a day of honoring Mexican pride and heritage. This year, instead of the standard chips and guacamole (and crippling hangover), try some beloved Mexican foods that are well suited to serve a crowd. They’re easily made, or purchased if you live in a community with a sizable Hispanic population. Buen provecho!

1. Flor de Calabaza (squash blossoms): Available now at your local farmers market or specialty produce shop, and a favorite of Mexican home cooks. Try sautéing them and tucking into quesadillas or dipping in batter and frying (stuff them with fresh goat cheese mixed with chopped herbs for a really special treat; click here for the recipe).

2. Elotes: Whether served as whole, grilled ears of corn or kernels-in-a-cup, these mayonnaise, lime, and chile-slathered street eats are worth every ripple of cellulite they produce. True, corn isn’t in season right now; see if your favorite local farm stand, market vendor, or specialty grocer has frozen kernels for sale.

3. Churros: Fried, sugary goodness in phallic form: what’s not to love? Uh, except maybe churros con cajeta (filled with caramelized goat milk).

4. Antojitos: Traditionally found in the fondas, or beer bars of Mexico City, these small, fried or griddled masa dough “cravings (antojos)” or “little whims” are now more commonly associated with street food, and have regional adaptations. The differences in shape and fillings are often subtle: a chalupa (not to be confused with the Taco Bell concoction) is a thin, fried cup with a slight depression for holding meat and/or beans, shredded cabbage, crumbled fresh cheese or crema, and avocado or guacamole, while a huarache is like a slightly thicker tortilla in the shape of a sandal (hence the name). In Oaxaca, regional antojitos such as tlacoyos (like a skinny huarache) and memelas (think round huarache) may be topped with black beans and complex salsas indigenous to the region. In a word, addictive.

5. Michelada: Forget margaritas. This refreshing beverage has hair-of-the-dog built right in, and indeed, it’s a traditional Mexican hangover helper (as is a steaming bowl of menudo). Combine one icy cold Mexican beer (My pick: Pacifico) with fresh-squeezed lime juice, tomato juice or Clamato, a dash of hot sauce and a pinch of kosher or celery salt. The variations are many, but this recipe from Food52 is a winner.

[Photo credit: Flickr user the queen of subtle]

Want more antojitos? Check out this assortment, below:
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Celebration To Promote Mexico In Familiar Neighborhood Setting

Mexican celebrationDe Pueblo a Pueblo is an eight-week celebration that begins later this month in Philadelphia. The first-ever festival will honor Philadelphia’s local Mexican community by promoting greater understanding of traditional arts, language and history of Mexico.

The citywide festival hopes to connect a growing Mexican population and their customs with a broader Philadelphia audience. In addition to providing a variety of opportunities to learn more about Mexican culture, of special significance is where the event will be happening – Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

Showcasing the work of mosaicist Isaiah Zagar, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a folk art environment made entirely of found objects and contributions from the community.

In 1968, Zagar and his wife came to Philadelphia after spending three years with the Peace Corps in Peru. Creating folk art all around his new city, he took an entire row house on South Street and covered it with mosaics, over 3000 square feet of them, that include pieces of mirror and original poetry.Hands-on activities, performances, traditional foods, crafts and folk art, along with discussions about immigration, are set to provide opportunities to learn about Mexico and should fit right in at the Magic Gardens.

The event will kick off on April 27 with the opening reception for “Echeleganas: Do Your Best,” a photographic exhibition featuring the people of La Sierra del Norte, a small village in Puebla, Mexico.



Flickr photo via Guerry

Mexico’s safest destinations

MexicoCrime in Mexico has kept travelers away from some parts of the country that are riddled with the results of drug cartel operations. Everything from murder to mass graves and the acts of brutal drug lords has caused the U.S. Department of State to issue warnings against travel south of the border. Still, there are a number of places deemed safe by a variety of sources that are worth a look if not a trip to visit.

Our first five safe places to visit come from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Five Safest Places in Mexico. At only 1.1 deaths per 100,000, the agricultural state of Tlaxcala is rated as Mexico’s safest state followed by the Yucatán at 1.3 that has a well-developed tourist infrastructure and thousands of archaeological sites.

Up next is Puebla at 1.85 with 2,600 historic buildings, a wealth of archaeological sites, and virtually nonstop festivals originating in five distinct pre-hispanic cultures ahead of the small state of Querétaro with just 2.02 deaths per 100,000. Best-known for its role in ending Spanish rule, the state also claims three of Mexico’s major wineries and maintains a Cheese and Wine Museum.

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Renewed Baja California Sur, sfgate tells us, was the first flash point when President Calderón upset the drug cartels’ equilibrium and has been barely touched by drug violence. Adventure travelers will find hiking, kayaking, surfing and windsurfing, zip-lines, cave paintings and hot springs here.Tapping Lonely Planet for more safe places to visit in Mexico we find Mexico City, now cleaned up to be a ‘Disney version’ of its former gritty self, Todos Santos where “well-heeled New Mexico artists, organic farmers and even some Hollywood types have snapped up property and put down roots” and San Miguel de Allende where regular festivals, fireworks and parades dominate the local scene.

  “If it’s resorts you want,” says Lonely Planet, Huatulco is a rare success story in recent resort development. This former fishing village has become the Oaxacan beach resort of choice lately, benefiting from its gentle development plan that keeps much of the 12 miles of sandy shoreline completely unspoiled and the town under six-stories high.”

Finally, rapidly growing Playa Del Carmen comes in to round out our list of ten safe places to visit in Mexico. More than a day trip for cruise passengers, visitors come from all over the world in what looks to be a very safe destination, just one of the many we found in Mexico.

Flickr photo by RussBowling



Photo of the Day (9/29/07)

One day my dog will ask me, “Daddy, where did I come from?” And I would be forced to reply, “Son, you were purchased out of a bag from a man wearing stone-washed jeans on the side of the road. I pulled over to pay a toll in Mexico, and there you were.”

Gadling reader Sir Isaac Lime snapped this shot outside Puebla, Mexico. I wonder if he took one home?

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