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Fiestalicious Foods


Top 5 Fiesta Eats

{1} Elotes: These mayonnaise, lime, and chile-smothered ears or cups of corn are the ultimate Latin street food … cellulite be damned!

{2} Squash Blossoms: Available at Farmers Market, and a favorite of Mexican home cooks. Try tucking into quesadillas or dipping in masa harina batter and frying.

{3} Churros: Fried, sugary goodness in a shape more fun than Krispy Creme. What’s not to love?

{4} Paletas: Who needs an ice-cream man when you have the paleta pusher? Look for cart vendors selling popsicles in flavors ranging from jamaica and mango to guava.

{5} Tacos de Anything: Yeah, they’re available year-round, but it just wouldn’t be Fiesta without a carne asada break at the Mercado.

— Laurel Miller

Horchata

by Laurel Miller

When most people think of horchata — the sweet, milky-colored, iced beverage made with ground rice, water, and cinnamon — they associate it with Mexico, where it’s usually sold by street vendors or at juice bars. But this refreshing beverage actually has its roots in the cuisine of Spain, where it is often known as orchata.

Unlike Mexican horchata, the Spanish version is made with dried, ground, soaked, and pressed chufa (or tiger) nuts. Similar to peanuts, these small tuberous plants from the sedge family have a rich, almond-like taste, and are native to the Middle East. One of the oldest domesticated crops, the ancient Egyptians grew chufa nuts that were then brought to Spain by Arabs during the rule of the Moorish empire. Like the famed paella rice that the Moors also introduced to Spain, chufa nuts thrive in the hot Valencia region.

Valencians consume horchata throughout the searingly hot summers, buying it from street vendors, or enjoying it as a morning or afternoon pick-me-up at horchaterías, cafés specializing in horchata, coffee, and pastry, including the traditional accompaniment: phallic-shaped sweet bread known, euphoniously, as fartón.

While we have yet to encounter a fartón, Santa Barbara has no shortage of horchata, albeit the Mexican rice-based kind, which is every bit as delicious. Some of our top horchata picks go to the house-made brew at Taqueria Rincon Alteño on Haley, as well as the ever-popular La Super Rica.

Taquería Rincon Alteño, 115 E. Haley St., 962-9798; La Super Rica Taquería, 622 N. Milpas St., 963-4940.

Food Tidbits

Elements of a party: After a week of margaritas, you’ll be ready for a change of pace. So this Sunday, in a refreshing twist to Old Spanish Days, Elements Restaurant & Bar is celebrating the end of Fiesta with a wine tasting in the Courthouse Sunken Gardens. More than 20 of Santa Barbara’s boutique wineries — such as Flying Goat, Carhartt, and Ampelos — will pour their often hard-to-find wines. Unlike most wine tastings, if you like the wares you can buy them. Executive chef and co-owner Paul Becking will serve a variety of creative, wine-friendly dishes. Live music is on the schedule, but no word on whether it will be mariachi. Anapamu St., between Anacapa and Santa Barbara streets; Sun., Aug. 6, noon-3 p.m.; $65, call the Arlington box office at 963-4408; Elements Restaurant & Bar, 129 E. Anapamu St., 884-9218, elementsrestaurantandbar.com.

— Emily R. See



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