Zokos is excited to announce a new series of blog posts that explore how some of your favorite food bloggers like to entertain. What do they like to serve? What is the vibe around their table? We are honored that Lesley Tellez of The Mija Chronicles is our first hostess to talk with us and share a little more about her Dinner Party Style.
Zokos: Think back to the most recent dinner party that you hosted or attended. What was the best part of it?
Lesley: I think the best part was what Mexicans call the “sobremesa” — my friends and I sitting around after dinner, talking, nobody in a rush. The concept doesn’t really exist in the States, but it’s what turns dinners into three- or four-hour affairs here. My second favorite part is when my girlfriends come into the kitchen and talk to me while I’m finishing a dish. It feels really personal and intimate to share both the kitchen and the food with them.
Zokos: Explain how the most recent dinner party you threw was different than the first dinner party you ever threw. What has changed since you first started throwing dinner parties? Why?
Lesley: I don’t really remember the first dinner party I threw, but in the early days (after my husband and I got married and I suddenly wanted to have lots of people over) I remember feeling nervous and anxious. What if people didn’t like my food? What if I messed up somehow and my food tasted awful? What if we all couldn’t fit comfortably around the dinner table? I’m more relaxed now. My only worry is that we won’t have *enough* food. But I’ve sort of gotten over that the food/menu/decor has to be perfect. It’s more about just being there with my friends and enjoying the moment. As my husband says, “If there’s no more food, we’ll go out for tacos.” That makes me feel better.
Zokos: What are the top two items – not ingredients- at your house that you find yourself using over and over at your dinner parties?
I have a plain white rectangular-shaped platter that I bought at Target maybe in 2007. I use it all the time. It works well for appetizers, a showy meat with some sauce on it (like pork loin) and it’s great for stacking up tamales. I also really love cloth napkins. I tend to buy them when I travel, and it makes a nice memory later.
Zokos: What is your biggest Mexican food horror story? Give us the gory details!
Lesley: Oh god. One day after I’d first moved to Mexico, I decided to “experiment” and make a tortilla casserole for lunch with a guajillo chile sauce. I used one of Diana Kennedy’s recipes as a guide, but I didn’t read it through all the way. (Note to everyone: NEVER skim DK’s recipes! They have lots of extra steps that will come out and bite you.) I was hungry, but the recipe just kept getting longer and longer. Finally I decided I’d skip the rest of the steps and just throw the thing in the oven. When it finally came out — at 4 p.m., two hours after we normally eat lunch — it was barely edible. I forgot to salt it, and the tortillas were dry and tough because I hadn’t made enough sauce. I think I cried.
Zokos: What are your favorite markets in Mexico City to shop for ingredients for your dinner parties?
Mercado San Juan in the Centro is great if I’m doing something fancy. Their candied and syrup-drenched fruits make perfect, easy desserts, and they tend to wow people. Plus I love the stand that sells hard-to-find upscale Mexican cheeses. (Still thinking about an intense, creamy Cabrales-style cheese from Hidalgo that I tried there once.) If it’s a normal weeknight thing or something I’m throwing together at the last minute, I go to the Mercado Medellín in the Roma, or the tianguis — an outdoor weekly market — in my neighborhood. Both are more informal and inexpensive. I rarely shop at the supermarket because the produce there always looks tired.
Zokos: When is the best time to serve Tequila to your guests? What about Mezcal?
Lesley: Anytime! We drink mezcal in our house because it’s of a higher quality than most tequilas you can find here. And we really drink it anytime — before dinner, with dinner, after dinner. I’ll leave you with a popular saying in Spanish:
Para todo mal, mezcal
Para todo bien, también
Y cuando no hay otro remedio, tómate un litro y medio
Translation: “For everything bad, mezcal. For everything good, mezcal. And when you don’t have any other recourse, drink a liter and a half.”