Visit Denver For Dia De Los Muertos

dia de los muertosIf a ticket to Mexico isn’t in the cards for Dia de los Muertos this year, you might want to consider Denver. It may seem strange that a non-border state throws down so hard, but Denver is, after all, in the Southwest, and as such, has a thriving Hispanic community, as well as arts and culture scene. This colorful, oddly joyous holiday dates back to pre-Columbian times, and has its roots in pagan rituals celebrated by indigenous peoples, including the Aztecs.

If you want to skip the Halloween hangover (sugar or otherwise) and instead spend the Day of the Dead (which is technically November 1) honoring dead ancestors (it’s okay if they’re not yours) with dancing, eating and looking at traditional holiday arts and crafts, here’s the lowdown on what’s going on in Denver.

Today (Oct. 27), from 5 to 8 p.m., the Denver Botanic Gardens is hosting a flower-rific celebration that will include live music, art, dancing and traditional face painting. Flowers, and marigolds in particular, are a big part of Dia de los Muertos imagery.

On October 30, the Dia de los Muertos Celebration and Tattoo Artist Skull Show and Charity Auction will be held at El Diablo restaurant, starting at 8 p.m. Expect lots of “art skulls,” food, special cocktails, face painting and a silent auction.

The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council Gallery is displaying Dia de los Muertos artworks in various mediums, now through November 3.

On November 2, the Museo de las Americas will commemorate with altars and classes on making Dia de los Muertos crafts, such as elaborately decorated sugar skulls.

[Photo credit: Flickr user moonchild studio]

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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