Monday, May 28, 2007

Cinco de Mayo... and then some

The thermometer has pretty much stabilized in the 80s for now, and that means outdoor living, even for the city slickers, has hit its peak season. All over Atlanta people are seeking out decks, porches, verandas, patios, stoops and steps to bask in the balmy, breezy May weather… before that Southern summer sun realty starts to swelter.

Patio perching requires but a few key items to guarantee you’ll lose track of time while luxuriating outside for hours:
* Good company
* Good food
* Good beverages

Since you’re more or less in charge of the company you keep, I can’t say much there, but I can weigh in on suggestions for tasty morsels and libations because on May 5, I had a trial run at the housewarming of my dear friend and style maven, Natasha Gullet. Yes, that’s right, Cinco de Mayo! The perfect day to get started on summer fare.

The Cinco de Mayo Spread:
For this particular soiree I pulled inspiration from traditional Mexican cuisine and muddled it up with some other Latin and Spanish influences such as saffron rice with pimento and olives, Mojo chicken tortilla wraps with a creamy jalepeno sauce ... stuff like that.

The Menu:
* Smoked Chile Chicken Tortillas and Zesty Vegetarian Wraps with a creamy jalepeno sauce
* Ensalada of Jicama, Oranges and Corn over field greens with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette
* Dip Trio of Guacamole, Salsa Fresca and Queso Picante
* Tres Arroz y Frijoles de Hispania (an exercise in hubris) featuring Yellow, Red and White rice with Mexican Vegetarian Refried Beans, Cuban Black Beans and Corn, and Savory Puerto Rican Pinto Beans.

“The” Margarita for 2007:
The absolute stars of the day were these drop dead delicioso margaritas Natasha made – scratch that – lovingly hand crafted. I’m going to try and ply the recipe from her because it changed during the course of the night as we ran out of mixers. But I can say the basic ingredients included fresh lime juice, Cointreau, pomegranate juice and mango nectar and some Jose Cuevo.

“Where’s the mix?” you ask. “Hush your mouth!” I say. The “pure” margarita has no such thing. Instead let the ingredients shine for themselves. The tartness of fresh lime is a must, as is the orangey-essence of Cointreau, Grand Marinier or some other type of or Triple Sec. The juices lend gorgeous color, and somewhere between the pop of the red pomegranate juice and the brilliant yellow-orange of the mango nectar, which is thick and sweet, the drinks took on a beautiful rich hue the color of the setting sun in a tropical locale far from the swank digs in Inman Park where we were partying.

Until I can get the mix-mistress herself to give up the ratios, we’ll have to suffice with the standard Pom Margarita recipe. This is a good base to play with and see if you can come up with your own sexy version:

The basic Pomegranate Margarita:

* 1.5 oz. Jose Cuervo Especial
* ½ oz. Triple Sec
* 2 oz. pomegranate juice (or other juices)
* 1 oz. lime juice
* Ice Cubes

Shake and pour, baby. That’s it. You can garnish with whatever your heart pleases including salted and/or sugared rim, but I’m a purist and this beverage was simply fantastic with the original cocktail garnish: ice.

So you have your crew assembled, and some snacks to munch on. Be prepared to make several pitchers of these margaritas and move your self and your posse out to the closest piece of outside you can find. It will be hotter than noon during July in Hell soon, so don’t squander these end of spring days doing something foolish like working late at the office or spending your weekends indoors rearranging your storage space.

Sunglasses, hats, tank tops and flip flops are optional, and sunscreen is recommended. Now go. Get off the computer… Go!