Noche Caliente

Posted online: August 2010

SPOTTED WITH colorful piñatas, fresh Mexican cuisine, and friendly faces decked out in festive garb, the Spanish-style home of Blue and Thomas Caleel radiates with fiesta flair

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Year after year, crowds of family and friends gather in Santa Barbara to celebrate the annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta—the four-day-long festival filled with authentic food, music, and dancing honoring the cultural heritage of the Mexican, Native American, Spanish, and early American settlers. With an 86-year-old tradition in its back pocket, Fiesta never fails to foster soirees around town, and for Blue, a dual celebration. “I’ve been riding on the coattails of my friends’ hospitality for years, and I love the Spanish feel of our new home,” says Blue of her first time hosting. “Plus it’s my birthday, and I thought a celebration would be very fitting.”

The Caleels—who hail from Philadelphia and New York—moved to Santa Barbara two years ago. Thomas, an avid polo player, owns Montecito-based Global Education Opportunities, which counsels high school students on college admissions, and Blue is exploring photography after years of freelance writing in New York. Together, they share a passion for local food and entertaining. “I love being able to eat fresh, healthy food that’s easy to prepare in this beautiful climate,” says Blue, who studied at Le Cordon Blue for a summer.Picture 13

For her first Fiesta fête, she incorporated farmers market finds to prepare handmade Peruano beans, fresh tortillas made from Maseca flour, and ceviche de camarones. Guests nibbled from the platters of fresh salsa, shaved cabbage, marinated Arbol and Diavolina flower peppers, and homemade guacamole. “I wanted something simple and easy to eat, and that could be combined in different ways, but still festive and delicious,” says Blue.

Picture 12The buffet-style meal and refreshing hibiscus flower mojitos welcomed guests onto the outdoor patio, flanked with Mexican paper decor, brightly colored plush pillows, and Tatare antique silver cutlery, which the couple received as a wedding gift. “What a beautiful setting—down to the table arrangements, homemade drinks, and locally grown vegetables,” remarked guest Paige Beard.

As the sun set, candles were lit on top of the vanilla bean and whipped cream birthday cakes, filled with raspberry and lime puree and artistically decorated with bright orange and purple nasturtium flowers.

When the celebration revolves around the hostess, preparation is the key to a successful party. “Have everything ready so when your guests arrive, you’re a guest with them,” says Blue. “You want to be a good hostess and be able to enjoy your friends as well.”

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2 lbs. Mexican white shrimp peeled and deveined, finely diced

1 yellow onion, finely diced

1/2 c. cilantro, finely chopped

4 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped

2 c. fresh-squeezed lime juice

Salt to taste

Devein and remove skin and tails of shrimp. Dice shrimp and onion very finely and combine in a glass bowl. Completely cover mixture with fresh-squeezed lime juice and let stand in refrigerator for approximately three hours, until shrimp turns pink in color. Add finely diced cilantro, tomatoes, and salt to taste. Serve chilled. Serves 6-8.

By Sarah Young, Photographs by Luca Trovato

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