Nick White from Sydney’s Since I Left You doesn’t serve pretentious food. Since opening in 2011, the Avalanches-inspired Kent Street has positioned itself as “your friendly neighbourhood small bar”, slinging an ever-changing range of casual à-la-carte bites alongside an equally comforting constellation of drinks.
“We’re always trying to keep things interesting and fresh, for the customers’ sake but also for mine,” says White, who was tasked with designing a DIY platter for Broadsheet readers to recreate at home. Brimming with fresh ingredients, his Mexican-inspired spread is made up of elements you can easily find in your local supermarket. And paired with big, communal batches of margaritas, it’s well-timed for the arrival of warmer weather.
The beauty of casual Mexican food is that you don’t need to go overboard with legwork or prep. The same applies to the go-to recipes Nick White uses at home, whether homemade smoky tomato salsa, or creamy Mexican street corn with black beans and the aromatic Mexican herb epazote. Anchor the spread with a pile of grilled chicken and corn chips, and you’ve got a readymade crowd-pleaser. Even homemade tortillas are so easily done, says White, it’s surprising more people don’t try their hand at them.
Beyond that, endless combinations of Mexican staples like beans, onions, avocado, tomatoes, limes and coriander can be assembled to please your company. “You’ve got yourself a feast,” says White.
What drinks to serve
White loves to make large batches of frozen cocktails when entertaining a group of friends at home. There’s heaps of room for improvisation, and his suggestion of mandarin margaritas can be achieved with either mandarin or tangerine juice. So sidle up to the blender and give yourself the chance to experiment.
As for the tequila itself, White observes how much Australians’ knowledge of the spirit has expanded in recent times – far beyond the Cuervo shots of our collective youth. White actually went to the Mexican town of Tequila on honeymoon, which jumpstarted his own education.
“You can’t help but get a greater appreciation for it, and the finer points of the agave plant, which a lot of people aren’t aware of,” he says. “Nobody in Mexico does shots of tequila. You sip it, you enjoy it, you savour it.”
That said, don’t fret if some of your guests just don’t enjoy the spirit (yet). Mexican food pairs just as well with light-tasting beers – any crisp lager suits, regardless of its country of origin. And for a wine, he recommends unobtrusive whites like riesling or pinot grigio.
Completing the spread
Once you’ve nailed the basics of the platter and drinks, it’s time to top off your spread with a bonus that ties it all together. White recommends using two of the new additions to Black Swan’s Dip Crafted range the Tex Mex Sweet Corn Dip and the Cheesy Jalapeno Popper Dip, both limited edition.
“The Cheesy Jalapeno is loaded with that zingy, spicy jalapeno flavour,” he says. “And the Tex Mex does a really good job of bringing a mild spiciness that’s unmistakably Mexican. They both work really well with the other food elements, as they have a similar flavour profile to everything else on the platter. You could add a bit of dip to anything else on the platter and it’s going to work well.”
This article was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Black Swan.