Dear Mexifoodistas,

Wouldn't it be nice to ride on a magic carpet and experience all of the rich traditions and native dishes throughout the world during the holidays? It would be lovely, but not very comfortable. I have a better idea! I'll help you experience Mexico on paper . . . First, find a cozy couch and snuggle up with your favorite zarape. Oh, go ahead, get your cafecito (coffee) and some pan dulce . . . I'll wait.

Colorful piñatas shaped like a star, nativity scenes, lights, poinsettias and folklore in an unbelievable setting ... yes, that could only be The Museum of South Texas History's traditional Pastorela (Shepherd's Play) (Saturday at 2:30 p.m.). This century-old Mexican Christmas tale dramatizes the epic battle between good and evil. Friends and family members will appreciate the elements of spectacle, comedy and fantasy as shepherd's set off for Bethlehem to see baby Jesus.

The powerful aroma of Mexican antojitos (little cravings) such as tacos al pastor, grilled tacos, tamales, tlacoyos (corn masa formed into a flattish elongated oval and stuffed with a variety of ingredients ), bunuelos (round and thin fritter can be drizzled with powdered sugar, cinnamon/sugar topping, or drenched with hot sugar cane syrup-piloncillo), champurado (masa harina is used to thicken this rich chocolate drink), chocolate caliente and aguas frescas (fresh fruit drink) will infuse the great outdoors (patio area).

Yours truly will be selling Mexican Hot Chocolate in a festive mug ($2.50) and VerdeManzana (pastries & sweets: Carla Pierantozzi at: 956-784-0794) will be selling dainty "Cuernitos de Nuez" (walnut horns - covered with powdered sugar). These melt-in-your-mouth cookies (excellent gifts) have that nutty, buttery goodness. Come by and say "Hola."

Shoppers, there will be plenty of booths selling Mexican confections (sweets), pastries, vivid salsas, pastorella related crafts, and more! Museum Special Events Officer Melissa Tijerina commented: "Our mission is to preserve and present the borderland heritage of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico in the best way possible."

Exceptional performances, food (vendors), décor and specialties of the season will be experienced at "La Pastorella" - thanks to Melissa's love for authentic Mexican celebrations. The best (in my opinion) way to celebrate our wonderful multicultural community in the Rio Grande Valley is to attend all of the events (Day of the Dead, Pioneer Days) held at MOSTH, 200 N. Closner Blvd., Edinburg. 956-383-6911.

If you plan on spending the rest of your day in Edinburg, Al Fresco's Deli Express should be on your list. It's fresh (local organic), it's new, and it's the buzz around town. For me, it was love at first bite! I had the pleasure of meeting Marco (owner/chef - Austin Culinary School) at the Museum of South Texas History (Dia de los Muertos) and the thrill of biting into his fish tacos, which were prepared with all the right textures and colors. The delicacy of the grilled fish to the light sour-cream based sauce are distinct and yet harmonious. You'll enjoy the crunch and bite of shredded cabbage with a dab of salsa (optional) and a squeeze of lime; all of these fresh ingredients are nestled in a corn tortilla or two for easy eating (3 fish tacos and your choice of one side - dirty rice, sweet carrots, or mash potatoes $ 9.50). Don't leave without having some of his moist jalapeno (cream cheese) cornbread with a kick! 219 E. Cano Street, Edinburg. 956-414-6211.

It's Tamalada Time! Festive gatherings mean it's time for bona fide homemade tamalitos with hearty fillings . . . and lard (not for me, thank you). I finally got to experience and savor tamales and flour tortillas made with olive oil - thanks to David Robledo (coordinator of McAllen and Weslaco's Farmers Market; 956-203-4152) who is an active supporter of the Texas Food Revolution. The half-dozen ($5.00) chicken tamales (bean, cheese y mas) I downed were fantastic; one bite and you'll be an instant convert. Start placing your orders - and show that special someone care. Anita's Gourmet Tortilla y Comida (a landmark in Brownsville) has the reputation of providing healthy products using all natural ingredients. FYI: Pure olive oil creates the foundation of their haute tamales. 956-542-8497. Buen provecho!

Farmers Market every Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Alhambra Restaurant, 519 S. 17th Street. 956-994-9754.


Madame Gourmande,