September 6, 2016 – The sound of trumpets and the aromas of exotic spices will fill the air at the Mole & Mariachi Festival taking place at the Santa Cruz Mission State Park on Saturday, September 10.
Now in its fourth year, the festival celebrates our region’s heritage and close ties to Mexican culture with music, food and fun. Four mariachi bands with perform—including an all-female ensemble called the Mariachi Feminil Orgullo Mexicano—and nine local chefs are competing for bragging rights to the best mole in town.
Mole (pronounced MOLE-lay) is a Mexican sauce that excites chefs and diners alike, because of its complexity and because unsweetened chocolate is often used to create a bass note in the flavor.
“Mole is an ancient tradition in Mexico,” explains chef David Jackman, first time entrant in the mole competition and chef/owner of Chocolate Restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz. “Every area has its own way of making mole depending on what is grown there and then as you go south to Oaxaca the whole thing really expands into a rainbow with four or five different types of mole on the menu.”
There are various explanations for the origin of mole, but Jackman believes it comes from the Spanish verb moler which means to grind. It’s not unusual for 20 or more chiles and spices to be ground together for a good mole sauce.
Jackman will be serving Mole Poblano at the festival on Saturday, a recipe from the Puebla area of Mexico that he has been serving at his restaurant for the past 16 years. He uses organic chocolate and cacao in the spice mixture and organic Mary’s chicken in the final dish.
“We want people who have never tasted mole to be able to understand it and appreciate it,” he says.
Jackman will be competing against chefs from restaurants El Chipotle and El Jardin; caterers and food makers Cesario Ruiz of My Mom’s Mole, Taquitos Gabriel’s and Sunny’s Catering; and home chefs from Club Tuxpan Santa Cruz, Emma Pinto (Mama Marquita’s) and Lidia Montesino (JoLí Molé).
Members of the public can buy tasting kits and cast votes for the People’s Choice award. Tasting kits are $10 for six tastes and $2 for each additional taste. A panel of celebrity judges will also rate the sauces and choose the Judge’s Choice winner.
Proceeds will benefit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and go for restoration projects at the mission, as well as educational programs.
The festival includes other mole dishes for sale such as, El Chipotle’s mole Oaxaqueño plates; Taqueria Lidia’s mole sopés, mole empanadas and mole huaraches; and Taquitos Gabriel’s mole tamales. Other options include Mission Hill ice cream, Garcia’s fish tacos, churros, fruit cups, roasted corn and aguas frescas.
A beer and wine garden will feature wine from Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards and brews from Discretion Brewing, including Mexican-style chavelas.
Also back this year are the popular giant dancing paper mache puppets and a variety of kids activities, such as face painting, paper flower-making and piñata bashing, along with tours of the mission adobe.
A diverse array of artisans will show and sell work at the Mole & Mariachi Festival Mercado, including Artemex’s display of blouses, dresses, drinkware, dolls, jewelry and other handmade items from Mexico. Watsonville upstart food maker The Green Waffle will sell prepackaged, healthy, locally made waffles. Artesanias Mexicanos, Creative Woman and Alejandro’s Trade also will have items for sale.
Saturday, September 10 – 11am to 5pm
Santa Cruz Mission Historic State Park.
Deborah Luhrman is publisher and editor of Edible Monterey Bay. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.