“You know the feeling when you eat that big Thanksgiving dinner and then you slowly fall asleep?” asks Edward Dory, executive chef of the Renaissance Concourse Hotel in Atlanta. “You try to achieve that exact opposite when designing a cool summer menu. Keep it light and less filling. Sounds like a beer commercial, but it's true.” In keeping with this mantra, Dory and other caterers from sun-loving locales share their tips on how to avoid melting, wilting and bloating on days when they feel the heat.
THE DO'S OF SUMMER
Naturally, guests want to cut a svelte figure in their swimwear during the summer months. So, for starters, out with the carbs, according to Dory. But counting calories isn't the only concern — appetites naturally change during the summer. Robert Ivey, director of convention services and catering at Florida's Universal Orlando Resort, recommends steering clear of heavy mayonnaise-, egg- and dairy-based dishes as well.
James Burns, chef and owner of J.B.C. Catering in Mount Pleasant, S.C., has his own heat-centric suggestions. “Passing smoothies rather than a sweet display — of anything, key lime tartlets, tiramisu — allows [dessert]to look beautiful instead of melting and looking like hell in 15 minutes,” he notes.
Below, caterers list other recommendations for quelling guests' summer cravings.
James Burns: Serve small bites such as kebabs or “lollipops” of meat; pair seafood with fruit salsas and chutneys; marinate and grill meats; and set up manned bananas Foster or gelato stations.
Edward Dory: Serve summer fruits, vegetables, cooked-to-order Angus steaks, and fresh salads with vinaigrettes.
Robert Ivey: Have frozen drink or smoothie stations, submerge beer in an ice trough because “even 5 degrees can really make a difference,” and look to light Asian fare for inspiration.
MASTER YOUR SERVE
The heat is on for everybody — guests and staff alike. Summer calls for special heat-beating, bug-avoiding measures.
Carolyn Baer, executive chef of Cheers Catering in Los Angeles: Trade out buffet food frequently; give mini-fan misters or spray bottles with fine-mist sprays to staff and personal fans as favors to guests.
James Burns: Use marble and granite serving pieces to keep food optimally chilled; place a cheesecloth dipped in ice water over vegetables before service begins to keep vegetables fresh and flies at bay.
Edward Dory: Fans and citronella candles “will cut down on the critter activity.”
Robert Ivey: Give sports drinks to servers, use Port-a-Cool air coolers to boost staff morale and serve cold foods in an ice bath in the shade.
“IT'S HARD at first to get people excited about an all-cold menu, [but] people warm up to the idea,” notes Cheers Catering's Carolyn Baer. She developed this cool menu for a poolside wedding buffet when the heat topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
A Cool ‘I Do’ Menu
Gazpacho Bar with Lime Cream, Onions, Avocado and Tortilla Frizzle Toppings
Port-soaked Figs with Mascarpone and Caramelized Walnuts
Cold-poached Salmon with Mango Relish alongside Couscous Salad; Smoked Eggplant and Yogurt Salad; and Baby Greens with Strawberries, Goat Cheese, Pecans and Fresh Strawberry Vinaigrette
Mini Almond Ice Cream Cones
JAMES BURNS of J.B.C. Catering developed one sophisticated, weather-aware menu that included passed hors d'oeuvre (at right), a buffet display, a grill station and a salad station.
An Upscale Menu Down South
Savory Gazpacho Sorbet
Mahi Mahi wrapped in Banana Leaves and Sesame-encrusted Seared Tuna with Chow-chow and Tropical Fruit Salsa
Grilled Beef Tenderloin marinated in a Portobello Mushroom and Vidalia Onion Sauce
Fingerling Potato Salad with Warm Onion, Bacon, Arugula and Goat Cheese
IN EDWARD DORY'S “Hotlanta,” menus must suit the weather. Here's a starch-light, small-portion menu Dory developed for hot days at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel.
Haute Cuisine For Hot Days
Grilled Wild Prawns on a Sweet Onion Tart with Black-eyed Pea Glaze and Balsamic Reduction
Smoked Salmon Filet with Nishiki Rice, Baby Bok Choy and Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
Poached Pear and Mascarpone Napoleon with Goat Cheese and Strawberry-thyme Glaze
ROBERT IVEY'S summer clambake menu is one of the most popular options at the Universal Orlando. It consists of a salad station, various entree stations and a dessert station.
Marinated Grilled Breast of Chicken with Mango Chutney and Grilled Marinated Summer Vegetables
Clams, Mussels, Lobster and Shrimp steamed with Fresh Corn and New Potatoes in a Seasoned Broth
Blackened Snapper with Pineapple Tartar Sauce
Hotel Universal Orlando Resort