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Exotic, Elegant Dinner Party

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style with a table scheme that goes south of the border

Written and produced by Krissa Rossbund
  • Peter Krumhardt

    Menu and recipes start here.

    With Cinco de Mayo on the way, a sophisticated take on decorations and cuisine captures a slice of Mexico and allows room for the colorful festivities that mark that special day.

    The “Fishnet” woven runner from West Elm lays a textural base that contrasts with tabletop finery. “Audrey” navy-and-white porcelain salad and dinner plates, a “Rollins” leather charger with white contrast stitching, and “Lamun Weave” placemats in palm are all from Ralph Lauren Home.

    Photography: Peter Krumhardt

    Interior designMichelle Pulver,

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Festive Tablescape

    Natural textures complete the setting in flatware with olive-wood handles, woven placemats, an abaca runner, and deer antler accents on the table and sideboard.

    Modern Mexican cuisine is similar in origin to American cooking—many cultures impacted the food traditions of the indigenous people. The Aztecs had a plant-based diet that included staples we see today: corn, beans, and chiles. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they brought Spanish-Arabic techniques and flavors to add to the mix. Later, the French, German, and Chinese stirred their influences into this complex, south-of-the-border melting pot. Today, Mexico celebrates both a refined haute-cuisine style of cooking and the hearty, home-style offerings of the local taqueria. 

    Somerset Bay’s “Lake Tahoe” table, “Carmel” chairs, and “Beaufort” sideboard, all in creme brulee, provide a cheerful backdrop for the tableware and blend with the wood-bead-and-metal chandelier from Regina Andrew through Layla Grayce, “Burton” wool rug from Chandra, and hammered-aluminum bowl from Jayson Home.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Pretty Plates

    Stitched leather chargers provide a simple take on the intricate tooling that graces Mexican leather goods and a masculine base for gold-edged plates with a navy blue floral pattern.  Raffia and eucalyptus pods adorn a frayed napkin from Jayson Home. 

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Cool Centerpiece

    A hammered-aluminum centerpiece bowl recalls the soft luster of Mexican silver. 

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Drink Up

    The “Intermezzo Blue” bouquet crystal wineglass from Orrefors contrasts with the sturdy form of Jayson Home’s “Marni” gold-leaf tumbler. The bulbous crystal wineglasses with deep blue stems give a refined nod to the casual, cobalt-rimmed variety popular for margaritas.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Naturally Gorgeous

    Olive-wood handles distinguish “Zen” stainless-steel flatware from Ralph Lauren Home. 

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Cinco de Mayo offers an opportunity to celebrate the sophisticated style of Mexican haute cuisine—humble in origin and refined by the royal houses that ruled Mexico. The recipes here are by Los Angeles chef and blogger Mary Payne Moran.


    Tequila Sidecar (learn about tequila reposado here)

    Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Tacos with Spicy Toppings

    Fire-Roasted Chili Poblano with Salsa Roja

    Halibut with Mole and Grilled Pineapple

    Sour Cream-Lime Ice Cream with Strawberry Rum Sauce

    Shopping list

    We’ve organized a shopping list to make shopping for this party menu easier for you. Package sizes are included so you have enough for duplicated recipe ingredients.

    Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

    Note: Unless specified, when we call for “butter,” we mean the unsalted variety. When we call for “brown sugar,” we are calling for light brown sugar.

    • Salt (need about 2 teaspoons plus more to taste)
    • Kosher salt
    • Ground black pepper (need 1/2 teaspoon)
    • Crushed red pepper flakes (need 1/4 teaspoon)
    • Ground cinnamon (need 1/2 teaspoon)
    • Vanilla extract (need 1/2 teaspoon)
    • Olive oil (need 2 tablespoons)
    • Butter (need 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
    • Vegetable oil (need 2 cups)
    • Red wine vinegar (need 1/2 cup)
    • Eggs (need 3)
    • All-purpose flour (need 3/4 cup)
    • Sugar (need about 1-3/4 cups)
    • Creamy peanut butter (need 2 tablespoons)

    Specialty or Mexican grocery store

    • Rimming sugar
    • Agave syrup
    • 6 (4 to 5-ounce) fresh poblano peppers (about 1-1/2 pounds total)
    • 1 package frozen whole kernel white corn
    • 1 (15-ounce) container Mexican crema
    • 4 ounces Marcona or whole almonds


    • 1 lemon per cocktail plus 1 lemon
    • 4 limes
    • 3 oranges
    • 1 mango
    • 1 container sliced pineapple rings
    • 2 (6-ounce) boxes strawberries
    • 1 avocado
    • 4 red sweet peppers
    • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
    • 3 Roma tomatoes
    • 2 yellow onions
    • 1 red onion
    • 2 medium shallots
    • 1 small bunch green onion
    • 1 head garlic
    • 1 small bunch radishes
    • 3 zucchini (1 small, 2 medium)
    • 1 serrano chile pepper
    • 1 to 2 Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
    • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
    • 1 package dried ancho pepper (need 1)


    • 1 (16-ounce) bottle lemon juice (organic if possible; need 1/2 ounce per cocktail)
    • 1 (16-ounce) bottle lime juice (organic if possible)
    • 1 (15- to 16-ounce) can hominy
    • 1 small can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
    • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    • 1 small box raisins (need 1/4 cup)
    • Miniature corn tortillas (need 18; can use large tortillas cut with a 3-1/2- to 4-inch round cookie cutter)
    • Large corn tortillas (need 2)

    Baking aisle

    • Olive oil cooking spray
    • Ground cumin (need 1 tablespoon + 3/4 teaspoon)
    • Paprika (need 2 teaspoons)
    • Chili powder (need 2 tablespoons)
    • Sesame seeds (need 1 teaspoon)
    • Unsweetened cocoa powder (need 3 tablespoons)

    Fish counter

    • 1/2 pound fresh or frozen medium shrimp
    • 1/2 pound fresh or frozen bay scallops
    • 6 (5-ounce) fresh skinless halibut fillets

    Cheese and deli counter

    • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cotija cheese


    • 1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
    • 1 (1-pint) container half-and-half or light cream
    • 1 (half-pint) container whipping cream


    • Tequila reposado, such as Tequila Corralejo Reposado
    • Cointreau
    • Brandy
    • Dark rum (need 2 tablespoons)
  • Peter Krumhardt

    Tequila Sidecar

    The sidecar has a distinguished history: Both the Ritz-Carlton in Paris and a historical bar in London claim to be the originator. The name comes from the motorcycle sidecar popular in the jazz-drenched 1920s. We’ve given the drink a Mexican spin, adding tequila and agave syrup. An aged tequila, or a tequila reposado, is a smooth choice for this recipe. Tequila Corralejo Reposado is one of our favorites. Click here for more information.

    • 1 lemon for coating glass and garnish
    • Rimming sugar*
    • 1-1/2 ounces tequila reposado
    • 3/4 ounce Cointreau
    • 3/4 ounce brandy
    • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
    • 1/2 ounce agave syrup
    • Ice

    Cut lemon in half. Rub one lemon around edge of glass. Dip glass in rimming sugar. Cut remaining lemon half in wedges to garnish glasses.

    In cocktail shaker combine tequila, Cointreau, brandy, lemon juice, agave syrup. Add ice cubes; cover and shake until very cold. Add additional ice to glass with sugared rim. Strain drink into glass. Garnish and serve. Makes 1 (3/4-cup) serving.

    *Tip: Choose coarse white decorating sugar for a crusty rim, superfine sugar for a thin coating, or regular granulated sugar for something in-between.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Tacos with Spicy Toppings

    Mini-tacos are a popular appetizer or first course in Mexico. We’ve created a flavor-packed selection of toppings to complement the ceviche-filled tortillas.

    • 1/2 pound fresh or frozen medium shrimp
    • 1/2 pound fresh of frozen bay scallops
    • 1 cup lime juice
    • 1 orange, juiced (1/4 to 1/3 cup)
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped Persian cucumber or English cucumber
    • 1 lemon, juiced (3 tablespoons)
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
    • 2 to 3 teaspoons agave syrup
    • Kosher salt
    • 18 miniature corn tortillas*, heated

    Thaw shrimp and scallops, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp. Halve shrimp lengthwise. In large bowl combine lime juice, orange juice, onion, cucumber, lemon juice, cilantro, and shallot. Add shrimp and scallops: mix well. Cover and chill 4 hours or until opaque and firm to the bite, stirring every hour to make sure it is evenly "cooked."

    Remove ceviche from juices with slotted spoon. Stir in agave syrup and salt to taste. Serve with desired spicy toppings (recipes below) and tortillas. Makes six servings.

    Spicy Toppings:

    Serrano chile, mango, crushed red pepper, and avocado: Thinly slice 1/4 of seeded fresh serrano pepper. Combine with 1/2 cup finely chopped avocado, 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mango, 2 tablespoons finely chopped red sweet pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.

    Corn, orange, tomato, cilantro, and green onion: In small skillet cook 1/4 cup thawed frozen whole kernel white corn in 1 teaspoon olive oil and pinch of salt. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through and lightly browned. Combine corn, 2 oranges cut into supremes, 1/4 cup quartered grape or cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon sliced green onion, and 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro.

    Radish, pickled red onion, and cilantro: Thinly slice 1/2 of red onion. Add onion to 1/2 cup red wine vinegar. Let stand 25 minutes. Remove onion from vinegar. Combine with 1/4 cup thinly sliced radishes and 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves.

    *Tip: If you can't find miniature corn tortillas, use a 3 1/2- to 4-inch round cutter to cut rounds from larger tortillas. 

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Fire-Roasted Chili Poblano with Salsa Roja

    These hearty stuffed peppers and the accompanying salsa roja (“red sauce”) can both be prepped a day ahead. Mexican crema is similar to sour cream and can be found at Mexican grocery stores.

    • 6 (4 to 5-ounce) fresh poblano peppers (about 1-1/2 pounds total)*
    • 1 cup frozen white corn, thawed and patted dry
    • Olive oil cooking spray
    • 2 teaspoons butter
    • 2 teaspoons olive oil
    • 1-1/2 cups chopped zucchini (1 small)
    • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoons paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 (15 to 16-ounce) can hominy, rinsed and drained
    • 1-1/4 cups water
    • 1 lime, juiced (2 tablespoons)
    • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
    • 2 cups vegetable oil
    • 3 eggs, separated
    • Pinch of salt
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 recipe Salsa Roja (recipe follows)
    • 1/4 cup Mexican crema

    Preheat oven to 450°F. Place peppers on foil-lined baking sheet; roast 20 minutes or until skins are blistered and charred. Wrap in foil and let cool until easy to handle (about 20 minutes).

    Meanwhile, lightly coat corn with olive oil spray. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Remove from skillet; set aside. Add butter and olive oil to skillet. Add zucchini, onion, cumin, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Cook 3 to 4 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in hominy, roasted corn, water, and lime juice. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove and let mixture cool (about 1 hour). Stir in 1/2 cup cheese.

    Wearing rubber gloves, peel off blackened skin from peppers. Make lengthwise slit in one side of each poblano, being careful not to cut all the way to bottom or top. Carefully remove seeds, keeping stem intact. Gently pack filling into peppers so peppers hold their shape. Insert wooden toothpicks to secure.

    In large skillet over medium heat, heat vegetable oil to 350°F. Meanwhile, in medium bowl whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Lightly beat egg yolks. Fold yolks and  pinch of salt into egg whites until combined. Sift 1/2 cup of flour, half at a time, over egg white mixture. Fold in until combined. Transfer batter to shallow dish. Place remaining 1/4 cup flour in second shallow dish. Place each filled pepper into flour and turn to coat. Place each pepper in batter. Spoon batter over pepper to coat completely. Use spatula to transfer peppers, to hot oil. Fry peppers, two at a time, 2 to 3 minutes or until golden, turning to brown all sides. Keep peppers warm on baking sheet in 200°F oven while frying remaining peppers.

    To serve, spoon Salsa Roja on each plate. Top with peppers, crumble with additional cotija cheese, and drizzle with crema. Makes 6 servings.

    Salsa Roja

    • 1 dried ancho pepper
    • Boiling water
    • 3 Roma tomatoes (8 ounces), cored and cut up
    • 1 shallot, peeled and cut up (2 tablespoons)
    • 1 canned chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce
    • 1 lime, juiced (2 tablespoons)
    • 1 tablespoon packed cilantro leaves
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 (6-inch) corn tortillas, torn

    Place Ancho pepper in small bowl. Pour boiling water over pepper; let stand 20 minutes or until softened. Drain; remove stem and seeds. Add to blender or food processor along with remaining ingredients; cover and blend until nearly smooth. Let stand 1 hour before serving. Makes 1-1/4 cups.

    Make Ahead Tip: To make ahead, roast and fill poblano peppers as directed through step 3. Place in airtight container; cover and chill up to 24 hours. Prepare Salsa Roja as directed. Place in an airtight container; cover and chill up to 24 hours.

    *Tip: Because hot chile peppers, such as poblanos, contain volatile oils that can burn your skin and eyes, avoid direct contact with chiles as much as possible. When working with chile peppers, wear plastic or rubber gloves. If your bare hands do touch the chile peppers, wash your hands well with soap and water.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Halibut with Mole and Grilled Pineapple

    Mole Sauce:

    • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 2 tablespoons chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 cup raisins
    • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
    • Salt, to taste


    • 6 (1/4-inch thick) slices fresh pineapple
    • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 3-inch long wedges
    • 3 red sweet peppers, halved, seeded, and cut into quarters
    • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray or olive oil
    • 6 (5-ounce) fresh skinless halibut fillets
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons good quality butter
    • 1 lime, juiced (2 tablespoons)
    • 3/4 cup Mole Sauce
    • 3 tablespoons Mexican crema
    • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

    For Mole Sauce, in large skillet cook onion in 1 tablespoon hot oil over medium heat 2 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute more. Stir in cocoa powder, chili powder, cinnamon, and cumin. Cook and stir 1 minute. Add undrained tomatoes, water, raisins, and peanut butter. Whisk to combine. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly. Transfer to blender. Cover; blend until pureed. Season with salt, to taste. Set aside.

    For Halibut, coat pineapple, zucchini, and red peppers with cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Grill fruit and vegetables on rack of covered grill directly over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes per side or until lightly charred. Remove and reserve.

    Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Coat fish with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Grill on rack of covered grill directly over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily with fork. Remove to platter. Place 1 teaspoon butter on each fillet. Drizzle fresh lime juice over fish. Serve fish over  grilled pineapple, zucchini, and red pepper. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons of Mole Sauce, drizzle with crema, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Pass additional Mole Sauce. Makes 6 servings.

    Tip: Store remaining Mole Sauce in airtight container in refrigerator up to three days or freezer up to one month. Use leftover sauce in chili, enchiladas, or serve over chicken or pork. 

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Sour Cream-Lime Ice Cream with Strawberry Rum Sauce

    • 1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
    • 1-1/4 cups sugar
    • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
    • 1/4 cup whipping cream
    • 2 tablespoons lime juice
    • 1 recipe Strawberry Rum Sauce (recipe follows)
    • 1/2 cup chopped Marcona or whole almonds

    In large bowl whisk together sour cream, sugar, half-and-half, whipping cream, and lime juice. Cover; chill overnight.

    Freeze in 1-1/2 to 2-quart ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions. Serve topped with Strawberry Rum Sauce and almonds. Makes 6 servings.

    Strawberry Rum Sauce

    • 2 cups strawberries, hulled
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons dark rum
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • Pinch of salt

    Place strawberries in blender or food processor. Cover; blend until just pureed. Press mixture through fine mesh sieve; reserving solids. Place puree in small saucepan. Add sugar, rum, vanilla, and salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove and cool. If you would like a chunky sauce, add reserved solids back into sauce as desired. Makes 1 cup.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Tequila Corralejo Reposado

    “Reposado” translates from Spanish to “calm, unhurried, restful,” an apt description for this aged tequila from Corralejo. The tequila is barrel-aged for four months in French, American, and white oak. This unique approach results in delicate notes of vanilla, peppercorn, and honey on the nose, and a citrus-filled, peppery, medium-bodied finish. This premium brand of tequila is both a great mixer and sipper. When sipping, let the initial peppery burn melt away and allow the honey and vanilla to take over.

    “Mine” tumblers by Kosta Boda are ready for the party’s signature cocktail, featuring Corralejo Tequila Reposado.   

  • Peter Rymwid