Cinco chef opens on Cinco de Mayo

Scrambling to put together an impromptu Cinco de Mayo party? We spoke to John Belleme, chef at Cinco Cantina at the Village of Merrick Park, which is oh-so-appropriately opening on the big holiday Thursday.

Food :

“I’d recommend a good old, family style taco party. Buy a few rotisserie chickens or roasted pork found at, say, Publix, or you could grill some steak on the barbecue. Slice them up and season them up beforehand. The Latin markets will have great spices like mojo or adobo in bottles.’’


Lay out all the fillings in bowls. Suggestions include


, which are strips of cooked chiles or roasted peppers. Pull the skin off the peppers when they’re cooked and mix them with garlic and onion and vinegar, he advises. No big surprise: Cheese is key. “There are so many you can grate up, feta-like cotija, or milder cheeses like queso fresco or queso blanco,’’ says the Hialeah native. “Or for fun, switch things up and do like the Mexicans, who like cabbage, cilantro and sliced radishes in their tacos.’’ Last but not least: give guests a good selection of hot sauces.

Tricks of the trade :

“Everyone loves soft tortillas,’’ says Belleme. To keep those babies warm, fresh and tasty, wrap a stack of them in a damp paper towel, place in a baggie and leave them in a vegetable steamer for about an hour. “Believe me, they won’t melt,’’ he says.

Cocktail s:

“You gotta have margaritas, right?’’ Rhetorical question. “The best ones are made with a nice silver tequila; fresh sweet lime juice; agave syrup and Grand Marnier or Triple Sec, depending on your budget,’’ Belleme advises. Lime wheels for garnish.

Dessert: “

Flan is always simple and popular,’’ recommends Belleme. “If you want to spend more time, we do something here where we roast apples with butter and add this sweet sauce called


. Serve it with vanilla ice cream or


and you’re done.’’

Madeleine Marr Cinco Cantina’s party starts at 5:30 p.m. Thursday