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If the atmosphere puts you in a whimsical mood, try the Mexican Flag, an eye-catching trio of enchiladas topped with red chile sauce, sour cream, and green chile. Fajitas are another house specialty, served with a heap of colorful vegetables, guacamole, beans, and sour cream. And instead of the usual side of refried beans, go with the frijoles charros spicy pinto beans flecked with cilantro. At Los Olivos, primo Mexican comfort food plus a fun vibe equals a neighborhood favorite that Scottsdale can be proud of.
"Um, we work in downtown Phoenix, we told him.
"Oh, is that far?"
Turns out the guy had just hit town, fresh from Utah, where Costa Vida is HQ'd. Here's hoping Costa Vida expands its vision in metro Phoenix, and that someday soon we can take that nice guy up on his offer!
The shop used to import their piñatas from Mexico until the Border Patrol became worried about drugs and started busting them open looking for a kind of sugar not usually found at children's birthday parties. Like so many other south-of-the-border traditions, a real piñata is a mix of both secular tradition (hence, the plethora of papier-mâché Minnie Mice and ninjas for sale at Sanchez) and Catholic symbolism.
The seven-pointed star piñata, Sanchez's specialty, is actually a part of the Mexi-Catholic Christmas celebration. The points on the star represent the devil and the seven deadly sins, the goodies inside are blessings El Diablo is hiding, and busting it open releases them. Not into Catholic guilt? Here's another tradition we can all get behind here in the desert: The Aztecs used to fill clay piñatas with water.
We must have been looking in the wrong places, because not long ago, at a joint birthday party for sisters, ages 4 and 6, we spied a super-cute pull piñata out the window, and asked the hostess (a collector of all things vintage, as well as some amazing Day of the Dead art) where she landed the pastel-trimmed piñata, complete with several telltale magenta strings hanging from the bottom.
"Party City," came the blunt reply. "Duh," we thought to ourselves. No need to traipse through Guadalupe when a perfectly good (although not particularly ethnic) pull piñata is right there in a variety of shapes, sizes and characters at one of the Valley's largest party store chains.
"Yeah," said the hostess, laughing, as confetti and candy rained down on the kids, who immediately began brawling over the gummy bears. "They call these the non-aggressive piñatas."
At least no one got whacked in the head with a baseball bat.
The shop has row after row of dresses to choose from, ranging in color from the traditional pink quince dress, to bright blues, to white, another common choice. A seamstress is on-site to provide alterations in case your dream dress doesn't fit exactly how you want it to. And if you're on a budget, layaway is available. The shop can also provide help with floral arrangements and invitations. Bridals by Ofelia also provides tuxedos and less-fancy dresses to make sure all the damas and chambelanes in your quince party look (almost) as good as you do.
But Ch.A.L.E. is more than just an online retailer. An entire community of Phoenix Latinos has sprung up around it especially women. The site's message boards are full of dichos (advice, gringos, advice) for new Chicana mothers, and the small company sponsors events in support of the Mexican and Mexican-American community. Almezaga is one mujer revolucionaria, and we love it.