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Holy Mole!!! The First Santa Cruz Mole and Mariachi Fest was a Big Hit

The crew at Manuel's.
The crew at Manuel's.
Remember the first time you tried the Mexican dish known as mole and realized it had chocolate in it? 

There were a lot of surprised smiles going around Saturday as Friends of Santa Cruz Parks launched its first of what one hopes will be annual Mole & Mariachi Festival Saturday.

There were sweet moles and spicy moles...and no, mole means simply sauce, not chocolate sauce, but the addition of chocolate long ago has made it a dish that makes kids wonder why chocolate can't be put in EVERYTHING?

A tourist town needs an array of festivals to keep outsiders coming during the off season and Santa Cruz keeps coming up with them. Recently the city added a Nopal, or cactus festival.

But mole at the Mission was inspired. Mole was first invented to please the Catholic invaders, ugh, priests who brought culture to the Native Americans in the southland and represents the finest blend of cultures.

Local winners of the first mole competition were: Manuel's in Aptos, was the critic's top pick. The restaurant at 261 Center Ave. had three varieties, sweet, spicy and poblano, which was a bit of both. In the People's Choice award, El Jardin, on 655 Capitola Rd., won. 

See videos for secrets of mole.

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