NEW WINDSOR -- With a ring of red salsa circling her little smile, 21-month-old Hannah Mulder pronounced her lunch perfect.
The Mulder family, fresh from a berry-picking expedition in the county, had stopped at the Service Center on Saturday for a luncheon of fajitas and frijoles, before returning home to Baltimore.
"They love beans and tortillas, but chips and salsa are everyone's favorite," said Kathy Mulder of her family. "When we heard about the Mexican meal, we thought we would try it."
Terri Meushaw, events coordinator, used Mexican cloths, baskets and sombreros, from the International Shop at the center, to transform the gym into a festive restaurant. Ramon Ramirez added to the atmosphere, singing Spanish melodies.
"That's my favorite song," said Jackie Gonzalez, 10, as the singer broke into "La Cucaracha."
Each table, decorated with Mexican pottery centerpieces, had bowls of salsa and baskets of chips.
Some of the 90 diners called the sauce too hot. Others said it could be hotter. Like Hannah and her sisters, most said "just right."
"They did a good job and the taste is pretty close to the real thing," said Jose Gonzalez, whose daughters quickly emptied their basket of chips.
When Jeanette Gannon, the center's chef, decided to test her culinary talents with Mexican entrees for this month's International Cuisine, she searched through the "International Cookbook" and "Creative Mexican Cooking."
She chose a clear carrot soup, Aztec corn with red peppers and red potato salad for side dishes.
"Potato salad with tomatoes and carrots is a great idea," said Linda Harris of Union Bridge. "The dressing has a different flavor, too."
Phil and Mary Lou Grout lent a hand with the main entrees. The Westminster couple transported a huge outdoor grill, on which they cooked about 250 pieces of chicken, marinated in lime juice, over mesquite. Mrs. Grout had also spent the better part of the day before cooking and "recooking" 15 pounds of pinto beans until they tasted just like the ones her mother used to make, at her childhood home in Texas.
"I usually cook them all day and night so the real flavor comes through," she said. "They are Mexican, too, not gringo food."
Mrs. Harris agreed on the authenticity.
"This is true Mexican food; I've been there several times and I know," she said. "People in the states think the commercial stuff is Mexican and they are wrong."
Mrs. Gannon said she was especially proud of the capirotada -- a Mexican bread pudding, which several diners called the highlight of the meal. She had made enough of the dessert for 150 people but little was left after many diners returned for seconds.
Mrs. Gannon whipped French bread with heavy cream, almonds and raisins. Diners could make the dessert even richer with a warm, sweet topping.
"It's not a poor man's dish, and it took about six hours to put together," she said. "But, everyone seems to like it."
Everyone except her 8-month-old daughter, Erin, who teethed on her own tiny shoulder purse.
For those who preferred a lighter taste, she served almond flan. John Hopkins, 6, played waiter and served the flan to his whole table.
"This is great pudding," he told his family as he dipped his chips into the creamy mixture.
Many diners lingered after their . Nobody wanted to leave the tastes of Mexico.
The next international luncheon at the Brethren Service Center will be on Aug. 22 and will feature Indonesian cuisine.