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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