The Mexican festival of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, falls on Tuesday 2 November this year. Nick Mosley chats with Aoife Sweeney of Brighton’s award-winning Mexican restaurant La Choza about what’s in store for diners in the build-up to the celebration.
Although Europe’s Halloween and Mexico’s Day of the Dead fall at around the same time each year, despite their macabre connotations they are very different annual events. Halloween has become known as a night of mischief and frights, whereas the Day of the Dead is a two day fête of colour and joy to remember the lives of the deceased.
Perhaps best known for the brightly painted skulls and face-painting, in towns across Mexico the Day of the Dead sees friends and families come together to party and make offerings to loved ones who have passed on but – in spirit at least – return for a knees-up.
And – as with any festival – food and drink is always at the heart of the revelry, after all if you can only dine once a year then you’re going to want to enjoy some tasty dishes. In Mexico, traditional dishes are painted sugar skulls, ‘bread of the dead’ – a sweetened bread with anise seeds and a cornflour porridge with cinnamon, vanilla and cane sugar.
Bringing the Day of the Dead to Brighton again this year are Aoife Sweeney, Annie Gelpey and the team from La Choza on Gloucester Road. The fun – and food – begins on Tuesday 26 October and runs right through until the evening of Tuesday 2 November.
“This year, we’re focussing on Mexican ‘mole’ sauce on our themed menu”, said Aoife.
“Mole is a complex sauce packed with ingredients such as toasted seeds, nuts and chillies that are blended together, creating a variety of sweet and earthy notes. We’ll have a variety of one-off dishes featuring black, green and yellow mole to choose from prepared by our head chef Benji Hinchliffe”.
For those with a sweet tooth, La Choza are also working with renowned Brighton ice cream maestro Seb Cole of Boho Gelato in Pool Valley to offer an iced dessert featuring mole.
“We will also be offering a Mezcal agave spirit that has been distilled through a mole paste”, said Aoife. “And a one-off Day of the Dead cocktail but we want that to be a surprise for diners on the day”.
Day of the Dead is very much a party for all the family so throughout the half term school holidays La Choza are also serving up a special menu for your own little terrors, alongside skull colouring masks.
There will also be an ‘ofernda’ – or alter – decorated with marigold flowers where anyone is invited to leave a photo or memory of a relative or friend who have passed on.
And for those diners wishing to celebrate Halloween on Sunday 31 October, the restaurant is teaming up with Anklebitterz so guests can get into the spirit by getting their faces painted in Day of the Dead style. Viva La Choza!
La Choza, 36 Gloucester Road, Brighton BN1 4AQ