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A Summer Soirée, Los Charros Cantina Style

Nothing beats dining outdoors in the summertime with great food, cocktails, and conversation. The season affords an opportunity for casual, stress-free entertaining. For the best al fresco dining, Chef Colt Taylor, owner of Los Charros Cantina in Centerbrook, says that you can’t go wrong with the authenticity and spice of traditional Mexican cuisine. He shares how we can bring his restaurant’s simple, affordable, fun food straight to your backyard.

“One of the most popular and festive themes for a summer soirée is tacos and tequila,” says Chef Taylor. “They’re a crowd pleaser as well as the perfect hosting backdrop, since guests can assemble their own dish, and the proteins can come right off the grill. Add a pitcher of margaritas, and you have a true summertime fiesta!”

For an on-point, fiesta tablescape to set the perfect mood, head over to Mix Design Store in Guilford. The boutique has a great selection of quality items that you won’t find at a big box store. You’ll find dinnerware by Q Squared that’s made from Melaboo™, a blend of melamine and bamboo, creating a beautiful texture that your guests will probably mistake for artisanal pottery. It’s also BPA free, stain resistant, but most importantly for outdoor dining—it’s shatterproof.

“We have a range of offerings and a mix of fabulous finds to inspire the perfect summer soirée,” says Maggie Moffett, owner of Mix Design Store, located on the Guilford Green. “There’s a lot to consider and plan when hosting a party, but it doesn’t have to be stressful—or too fancy! We have everyday pieces that still feel special and unique and make for easy entertaining at a palatable price.”

In addition, you can find tablecloths made in Mexico on a backstrap loom. They measure 60x90, and retail for $85. Mexican throws by Nativa, which showcase the talent of amazing fair trade artisans located throughout remote villages in Mexico, can double as a tablecloth or picnic blanket ($70). Either are the perfect backdrop for the earthy design and organic feel of the Potter Stone Melaboo™ collection.

And don’t forget pretty candles to add a touch of elegance. These citronella ones in a stylish, glass pot, screen-printed with a dragonfly, will illuminate the backyard, and deter unwanted bugs from crashing your party. They are hand-poured soy candles formulated to be used outside. Prices range from $48-$88.

Over at Walker Loden with locations in Madison and New Haven, they have everything you need to set the table, including a taco tray and a serving tray that’s perfect for chips and dip. The boutique also sells beautiful reversible plastic placemats in a ton of styles. All are easy to wipe to keep the party mess free. 

CHEF TAYLOR’S SUGGESTIONS FOR THE ULTIMATE GRILL AND GO PARTY:

  • Chips, salsa, and guacamole
  • A nice taco salad
  • Margarita and Paloma pitchers, or perhaps some Guadalajara Punch
  • Elote (grilled street corn)
  • Shishito peppers, grilled and finished with lime and ancho powder
  • Skirt steak, fish, shrimp, and chicken legs (or breasts) marinated in lime juice, orange and adobo

Los Charros recipes

Pineapple Salsa

INGREDIENTS


  • 1 pineapple, peeled

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 2 Serrano peppers, seeded and diced

  • 10 tomatillos, diced

  • 1/4 white onion, diced

  • 1/4 red onion, diced

  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Toss pineapple in salt and sugar. Roast for 20 minutes in a 400° oven, or on the grill. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a bowl for one hour.

Dice the pineapple, place in a bowl, and add remaining ingredients.

 

 

Guacamole (Mexico City Style)

“This unique version adds peas for a touch of sweetness and a firmer mouth feel. It’s also much more stable in the sun,” says Chef Colt Taylor.

INGREDIENTS


  • 2 ripe avocados, roughly mashed

  • 1/4 cup spring peas

  • Lime juice and zest from 3 limes

  • 1/4 red onion

  • 1/4 bunch cilantro (with stems)

  • 1/2 Serrano pepper, seeded and diced

In a mortar with pestle, combine all ingredients. Season to taste with honey and salt.

 

 

Ancho Marinade

“This marinade is perfect for giving a smoky and flavorful pop of excitement to all of your grilling treats. It works well with shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, and fish,” says Chef Taylor.

INGREDIENTS


  • 3 Ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded, soaked in cup of hot water

  • 1 Pasilla pepper, stemmed and seeded, soaked in cup of hot water

  • 1 Cascabel pepper, stemmed and seeded, soaked in cup of hot water

  • 5 Pequin pepper, stemmed and seeded, soaked in cup of hot water

  • 1 cup orange juice

  • 1 cup lime juice

  • 2 tomatillos, roughly chopped

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped

  • 2 garlic minced

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 4 tablespoon olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Marinade at least 4 hours or, for best results, overnight in a Ziploc bag.

 

 

Guadalajara Punch

INGREDIENTS


  • 1 liter Tequila Blanco

  • 1 bottle Rosé or Prosecco

  • 6 limes, juiced

  • 12 oranges, juiced (or 1.5 liters fresh orange juice)

  • 1 large can pineapple juice

  • 1-2 liters Jarritos Mandarin Soda (or other orange soda)

  • 1 fresh pineapple, cubed

  • 4 oranges, cut into wedges

  • 1 watermelon, cut into chunks

  • 3 lemons cut into wedges

  • 6 limes, quartered

  • 3 kiwis, cut into wedges

  • 2 star fruit, sliced

Mix the tequila, wine, lime, orange, pineapple juice, and Jarritos soda into a large pitcher. Add all the fresh fruit. Let it sit for an hour, and chill before serving.

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