Jenna Bush Hager Hosts a Texas Fiesta

Jenna Bush Hagrer Fiesta
Photo: Stephen Karlisch

I'm a homesick Texan living in New York City. So when I travel back to Dallas, I always try to combine both of my loves in one delicious evening: a Mexican dinner with dear friends. Though my mother is a great hostess, she's not as great a cook. When I was growing up, her most demanded meals were beans and cornbread, tacos, and quesadillas. Simple foods, yes, but she always threw creative dinner parties with beautifully set tables and invited a group of hilarious friends who filled the house with laughter.

01 of 10

Hosting at It's Best

Jenna Bush Hagrer Fiesta
Stephen Karlisch

Now that I'm an adult, I love to throw dinner parties. Whether hosting in my New York apartment or back in Texas, I always gravitate toward Mexican food and margaritas. This cuisine has been at the center of many important nights. When my husband, Henry, and I got married, we served Mexican food at the welcome party for our wedding. Later, at a baby shower in Texas, it was enchiladas again. My dear 93-year-old friend Ruth sat next to me and said, "Thank goodness—real food! I never trust anyone who serves tea sandwiches."

02 of 10

A Reason to Gather

Jenna Bush Hager Fiesta
Stephen Karlisch

I recently brought my best friends (some of whom I have known since elementary school) together for some real food under twinkling lights at a Mexican-themed dinner on the back patio of my parents' house in Dallas to celebrate Diez y Seis de Septiembre (September 16). This day marking Mexico's independence from Spain is a holiday we studied throughout school when we were growing up in Texas.

03 of 10

The Man Behind the Food

Jenna Bush Hager and Larry McGuire
Stephen Karlisch

The night was particularly special because Larry McGuire, a good friend for 20 years and a chef at some of my favorite restaurants in Austin—Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, June's All Day, and Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar— devised the menu. We planned the meal and decided on simple foods and, of course, queso! His creativity and success in the kitchen are no surprise; he's been catering since high school.

04 of 10

A Festive Table

Jenna Bush Hager Fiesta Menus
Stephen Karlisch

I wanted to keep the mood lively and the décor interesting—it was a spirited fiesta, after all! We layered different patterns, added pops of bright colors, and mixed new and old pieces, which included my mom's Mexican pottery. The menus were designed by PoppyCox Ink out of Fort Worth, Texas.

05 of 10

Sweet Takeaways

Fiesta Dress Cookie Place Cards and Favaors
Stephen Karlisch

For fun favors, I chose personalized cookies (which doubled as placed cards) from Artisserie Cakes in Austin.

06 of 10

The Queso

Roasted Poblano Queso Recipe
Stephen Karlisch

This queso gets a hit of smokiness from the roasted chiles and peppers.

Recipe: Roasted Poblano Queso

07 of 10

The Dip

Avocado Pico Recipe
Stephen Karlisch

This dip is best served immediately to keep the avocado fresh.

Recipe: Avocado Pico

08 of 10

The Signature Cocktails

McGuire’s Margarita Recipe
Stephen Karlisch

Larry McGuire mixed up two festive drinks for everyone to sip on all evening long.

Recipe: McGuire's Margarita
Recipe: McGuire's Paloma

09 of 10

The Menu

Roasted Marble Potatoes and Sunchokes with Rosemary Recipe
Stephen Karlisch

For the entrée, the group dined on some of McGuire's favorite dishes.

Recipe: Brown Sugar-and-Mustard Rubbed Ribeye with Roasted Garlic Salsa Verde
Recipe: Roasted Marble Potatoes and Sunchokes with Rosemary
Recipe: Watercress Salad
Recipe: Warm Plum Cobbler

10 of 10

Good Friends

Jenna Bush Hager Fiesta
Stephen Karlisch

I love how we can come together after being apart for a year and catch up as though no time has passed at all. Did it take some planning? Sure. But old friends are always worth it.

Styling: Lara Amis/On Set Management; Hair and Makeup: MIichelle Dick/On Set Management

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