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If You Want to Impress Your Dinner Guests, Consider a DIY Taco Bar

How Eater Young Gun Annie Rupani makes her dinner parties truly interactive

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A party hat, ribbon, and sparklers fly through the air near a “Party Time” logo.

This is Party Time, a column featuring industry and Young Gun-approved approaches for acing a dinner party.

Annie Rupani started in the industry as a one-woman show. The 2015 Eater Young Gun had intended to launch a career in law, but during post-graduate travels, she grew inspired to pursue her love of chocolate. After chocolatiering school, Rupani landed in Houston, where she launched her business, Cacao & Cardamom, as not just its chocolatier, but also as the dishwasher and the handywoman, the salesperson, marketing specialist, and financial planner — basically everything needed to get the business off the ground.

The dedication paid off, and over five years she has grown Cacao & Cardamom to include a team of 10 employees. “We’ve grown from just producing chocolate bon-bons and truffles to expanding our selection with candy bars, dragees, mendiants, artisan bars, and rochers,” Rupani says. “I still love the R&D of creating new flavors for each season, but my primary job has evolved to be more on the managerial end.” Perhaps not surprisingly, Rupani’s ability to multitask comes in handy when it comes to throwing dinner parties, and although a totally DIY taco bar — complete with tortillas made from scratch — seems like a heavy lift, in this edition of Party Time, Rupani shares how she makes it happen:

Women adds cabbage to the top of a fish taco. Arina P Habich / Shutterstock

“Fish Taco Night is an experience my husband and I love to share with friends and family,” she says. “We love the freshness and versatility of all the ingredients; we make everything from scratch, from the tortillas to the salsas to the sides.” The concept is versatile, and Rupani says she’ll change up the fish (salmon or snapper) and experiment with spicy salsas or refreshing mango versions. Most importantly, it’s interactive. “Every time we prep for fish tacos, it’s an adventure, and allows for family and friends to participate in pressing tortillas.”

Rupani stresses that “making tortillas is so much easier than you might think.” Rupani makes the dough from masa harina ahead of time, allowing it to rest and then separating it into balls. When guests arrive, she’ll have them press their own tortillas, and while having a tortilla press is handy, isn’t not totally necessary: “Just use the back of a saute pan to flatten out the tortilla balls,” she suggests.

Overall, the most important thing about her family’s fish taco nights are to keep up a communal vibe. “Not only are fish taco nights a DIY meal where you get to put whatever you want in your perfect taco, but there is the beauty of focusing on our relationships, conversations, and love shared during the whole process of creating the meal and then sitting down to enjoy it that makes the experience that much more satisfying,” Rupani says. “There is an intimacy built during the teamwork of putting the meal together, that brings you close to friends and family.”