Jenna heads home to host a dinner party for her girlfriends.
I'm a homesick Texan living in New York City. So when I travel back to Dallas, I always try to combine both of my loves in one delicious evening: a Mexican dinner with dear friends. Though my mother is a great hostess, she's not as great a cook. When I was growing up, her most demanded meals were beans and cornbread, tacos, and quesadillas. Simple foods, yes, but she always threw creative dinner parties with beautifully set tables and invited a group of hilarious friends who filled the house with laughter.
Hosting at It's Best
Now that I'm an adult, I love to throw dinner parties. Whether hosting in my New York apartment or back in Texas, I always gravitate toward Mexican food and margaritas. This cuisine has been at the center of many important nights. When my husband, Henry, and I got married, we served Mexican food at the welcome party for our wedding. Later, at a baby shower in Texas, it was enchiladas again. My dear 93-year-old friend Ruth sat next to me and said, "Thank goodness—real food! I never trust anyone who serves tea sandwiches."
A Reason to Gather
I recently brought my best friends (some of whom I have known since elementary school) together for some real food under twinkling lights at a Mexican-themed dinner on the back patio of my parents' house in Dallas to celebrate Diez y Seis de Septiembre (September 16). This day marking Mexico's independence from Spain is a holiday we studied throughout school when we were growing up in Texas.
The Man Behind the Food
The night was particularly special because Larry McGuire, a good friend for 20 years and a chef at some of my favorite restaurants in Austin—Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, June's All Day, and Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar— devised the menu. We planned the meal and decided on simple foods and, of course, queso! His creativity and success in the kitchen are no surprise; he's been catering since high school.
A Festive Table
I wanted to keep the mood lively and the décor interesting—it was a spirited fiesta, after all! We layered different patterns, added pops of bright colors, and mixed new and old pieces, which included my mom’s Mexican pottery. The menus were designed by PoppyCox Ink out of Fort Worth, Texas.
For fun favors, I chose personalized cookies (which doubled as placed cards) from Artisserie Cakes in Austin.
This queso gets a hit of smokiness from the roasted chiles and peppers.
Recipe: Roasted Poblano Queso
This dip is best served immediately to keep the avocado fresh.
Recipe: Avocado Pico
The Signature Cocktails
For the entrée, the group dined on some of McGuire's favorite dishes.
I love how we can come together after being apart for a year and catch up as though no time has passed at all. Did it take some planning? Sure. But old friends are always worth it.