The notion of the do-it-yourself taco bar has many mothers, going back to those cheap feed-the-kids kits that include seasoning mix, taco shells and sauce.
But it was the “Roll Your Own” section of the 1997 cookbook “License to Grill” by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby that won me over to the idea that a taco bar could be creative fun for tailgating or a cocktail party.
Schlesinger and Willoughby built their bar around marinated meat and seafood grilled on skewers and served with an abundance of mix-and-match garnishes.
Right now, food trucks are a major taco delivery system — part of a scene that’s as much social as culinary, and revels in cross-cultural experimentation with favors from around the world.
Inspired by all that, we’ve taken to making taco fillings and salsas that borrow spicy, sweet and savory ingredients from Mexican, Korean, Indian and Southern cooking traditions. Laying them out buffet-style with some sides let’s you feed a crowd, while your guests mingle and make a plate.
Set up the bar with the fillings and salsas, baskets of warm corn and flour tortillas wrapped in kitchen towels, and platters of crispy lettuce and cabbage leaves.
Include an array of garnishes such as lime wedges, pickled onion, sliced jalapeno, scallion and radish, chopped cilantro, sour cream and crumbled Mexican cheese, plus guacamole, chips and several kinds of hot sauce.
And let the party begin.