The following is a guest post by Jennifer Squires. Jennifer is a writer who works with Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. She lives in Aptos.
It will get spicy at Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park on Saturday.
The third annual Mole & Mariachi Festival, a benefit for the park and Friends of Santa Cruz State Park, will fill the historic site with chefs competing in a mole cook-off, live mariachi bands, traditional dancers and more.
Six competitors will prepare mole, a traditional Mexican sauce sometimes made using chocolate. Festival attendees can get a tasting kit for $10 and sample the sauce.
El Jardin the Santa Cruz restaurant that was a winner at both the 2013 and 2014 Mole & Mariachi Festivals returns to defend its titles with “Jorge’s Traditional Mole,” a red mole poblano.
Also returning to compete again this year are El Chipotle, a taqueria in Soquel that makes a rojo Oaxaqueño mole, and Cesario Ruiz, the chef at My Mom’s Mole, a Watsonville culinary startup. Ruiz makes a 25-ingredient Guanajuato-style sauce that is spicy, not sweet, and really is his mother’s recipe.
What will be interesting is seeing how two other competitors — both home cooks — stack up against the professionals. Gerald Gonzalez of Contra Costa County will a serve “Mole de Paz,” a mole poblano, and Emma Pinto Valedez will prepare her grandmother’s mole poblano receipe, which she calls “Mama Mariquita’s”.
Also, India Joze, the downtown Santa Cruz restaurant, will enter the cook-off for the first time this year.
Festival attendees will rate the mole to determine the “People’s Choice” winner. A panel of local celebrity judges also will taste and review the mole.
Judges for the 2015 festival include Santa Cruz City Councilmember David Terrazas; Patricia Santana, co-owner of Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant in Aptos, Judges Choice winner at the 2013 Mole & Mariachi Festival; Jeanne Howard, publisher of the Good Times Newsweekly; Traci Hukill, editor of Hilltromper; and Anthony Solis, a web editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
“This sauce is a labor of love, and every cook has their own secrets; my husband, Leonardo, gets up at 2 a.m. on ‘mole day’ to have the kitchen at Manuel’s to himself when we make our Sunday and Monday special,” said Santana, whose restaurant won the Judge’s Choice award at the Mole & Mariachi Festival in 2013. “This year, it will be fun to not compete, and actually get to enjoy other moleros’ creations without the stress of bringing our own.”
More Than Mole
For those who don’t enjoy mole — or want a full plate of the sauce with chicken and rice — there will be food vendors at the Festival: The Penny Ice Creamery, Garcia Fish Tacos, El Chipotle, Taqueria Lidia, Sazon Mexicano and more.
To wash it all down, Discretion Brewing beer and chavelas, a drink made with beer, tomato juice and spice, will be sold.
There are activities for kids, too, including piñatas every hour, face painting, crafts, bubbles and a mural project coordinated by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.
Of course, the Festival also is about music. Four festive folk music bands will perform: Mariachi Gilroy, Mariachi Alma de Mexico, Mariachi Juvenil Alma de Mexico and Trio del Sol. Also performing will be Estrellas de Esperanza, a children’s Mexican folklorico dance group from Watsonville, and Centeotl Grupo de Danza y Baile, a Santa Cruz-based dance.
The event is a benefit for Friends in support of Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park restoration projects, educational programming for school children and community cultural events at the park.
3rd Annual Mole & Mariachi Festival
Saturday, Sept. 19
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park (144 School St.)