Summer is here in the Deep South and as always New Orleans is kicking it off with festival season. New Orleans Jazz Fest, Bayou Boogalou, and the French Quarter Festival delights hearts and taste buds with cool music and warm crawfish pies. Of course, for catering and event planners like us, it’s also time for all those beautiful spring and summer weddings.
Cold soups shooter station
Creating cool when the weather heats up is an important subliminal illusion you can accomplish using food. Our local farmers markets are filled with exceptional produce such as Creole tomatoes, watermelon, kale, greens, okra, cucumber, squash and Ponchatoula strawberries. Savoring our fresh seasonal abundance, we herald the return of our favorite recipes, such as fresh Ponchatoula strawberry shortcake, and cucumber nest salad with dill and sour cream vinaigrette.
Recently I had a bride who gave me the latitude to craft some off the wall menu items. There is always a point in a wedding reception where guests lose interest in tray pass, move on to the dance floor, and start to party—that time between initial food frenzy and late night snack. We created light, fun, dance floor tray passes, including watermelon and basil with Watermelon Pucker Schnapps in pipettes, marshmallow s’mores with Crème de Cacao pipettes, and beignet balls with Hot Damn Cinnamon Schnapps. I knew it was a hit when the mother of the bride and all of the bridesmaids were taking pictures of themselves having fun with the food.
Watermelon cubes with Watermelon Pucker in pipettes
For an August event, I created a lemonade and specialty ice tea bar for my guest, a cold soup shooter bar, and a sorbet action station over dry ice. The menu put a revitalizing chill on that hot summer day. Finding inventive ways to bring lightness, freshness, and coolness into your menus and beverages will have people leaving your parties refreshed, relaxed, and chilled out.
For my latest dish, I am playing off of some of our fresh local produce and seafood. ‘Rebirth Kale and Crackling Greens with Irish Channel Beer Battered Shrimp and Bar-b-que Sauce’ creates a spicy, light twist to New Orleans BBQ shrimp.
Chef Alan Ehrich, CPCE is the Executive Chef of the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, Member National Association for Catering and Events