Santa Cruz hosts family-friendly Mole & Mariachi festival

Mole ingredients from a competitor's table at the 2014 Mole & Mariachi Festival. Photo credit: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

Mole ingredients from a competitor’s table at the 2014 Mole & Mariachi Festival. Photo credit: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

The 3rd annual Mole & Mariachi Festival is Saturday, Sept. 19, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park. The food and music festival has free admission. If you want to sample moles, there is a $10 tasting kit for sale. A list of mole competitors and other vendors is below.

In addition to sampling mole, attendees can purchase local food, beer from Discretion Brewing, and other beverages including chavelas (a drink made from beer, tomato juice, and spices). Food vendors include The Penny Ice Creamery and Garcia Fish Tacos.  There will be music and dance performances, kids’ crafts, piñatas every hour, and a raffle.

This year, six local restaurants and chefs—including first-time participant Jozseph Schultz of India Joze—will prepare moles. Festival attendees and a panel of local judges led by Patricia Santana will select their favorites. Santana and her husband Leonardo own Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant in Aptos. In 2013 the judges’ panel chose Manuel’s as the winner of the inaugural mole cook-off with a recipe Leonardo developed.

Santana is excited and honored to be a judge this year; she is very passionate about mole. “This year, it will be fun to not compete, and actually get to enjoy other moleros’ creations without the stress of bringing our own,” she says. “I salute every mole maker bringing their best entry. In my opinion, mole is the king of sauces in the Mexican kitchen, but one needs to keep in mind there are seven different types of mole – and as many recipes as there are mole makers,” she adds. “This sauce is a labor of love, and every cook has their own secrets.” On mole day at Manuel’s (Sunday), her husband gets up at 2 am to have the restaurant kitchen to himself.

At the festival, free kids’ activities will include face painting, crafts, bubbles, and a mural project coordinated by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History.

Four 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 group that preserves cultural connections with Mexico.

All event proceeds benefit the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park (including educational programs and restoration and improvement projects) via Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. The event encourages alternative transportation by providing free trolley rides from downtown and having bike valet service at the park. For more information on the festival, visit the event web site.

Location: Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, 144 School Street

Mole competitors:

  • El Chipotle Restaurant in Soquel (preparing a rojo Oaxaqueño mole)
  • El Jardin Restaurant in Santa Cruz—People’s Choice award winner at the 2013 festival, and a winner at the 2014 festival (preparing “Jorge’s Traditional Mole,” a red mole poblano)
  • My Mom’s Mole from Watsonville (with a 25-ingredient Guanajuato-style sauce that is spicy, not sweet, prepared by chef Cesario Ruiz)
  • Gerald Gonzalez (a home cook from Contra Costa County that will prepare “Mole de Paz,” a mole poblano)
  • Mariquita’s (home cook Emma Pinto Valedez will prepare her grandmother’s mole poblano recipe)
  • India Joze (Schultz will prepare a to-be-announced mole sauce)

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.