At Doña Tomás restaurant in Oakland, guests have reserved well ahead for the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration of Mexican drinks and food backed by live mariachi music.
Chef-owner Thomas Schnetz and co-owner Dona Savitsky guide the festivities well into the night, taking inspiration from their own long love of Mexican cooking. Their menu explores flavorful regional Mexican dishes and gives them a local spin: quesadillas stuffed with morels, goat cheese, and asparagus and topped with poblano cream, or halibut tacos with mango salsa.
Much of the essence of the restaurant is captured in their handsome cookbook, Doña Tomás: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking (Ten Speed Press, 2006; $30).
To celebrate Cinco de Mayo the Doña Tomás way, call ahead for a table at the restaurant (or grab a bite at Tacubaya, their taqueria in nearby Berkeley, where there's no special party but always great food).
Or you can put together this easy make-ahead buffet menu, inspired by the cookbook and specially created by Schnetz for Sunset.
Doña Tomás ( $$; closed Sun-Mon; 5004 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; 510/450-0522)
Tacubaya ( $; 1788 Fourth St., Berkeley; 510/525-5160)