By Alisa von Dobeneck
Food and family make the perfect union at any Southern fete. When there are wedding bells for Southern belles, a spread of heartwarming dishes are a key part of the celebration. From Chesapeake Bay oysters to Smithfield ham biscuits, there is no place better than Southeast Virginia and the Carolinas to showcase regional fare.
“Southern food feeds the soul,” explains Jodi Moore Newland of Sweetwater Cuisine. “It is warm, inviting and comforting. Each bite tastes like love and there is nothing more bridal than that.”
Newland suggests serving guests those much-loved classics with an unexpected twist. She calls it “from grits to glam.”
Zesty shrimp and stone-ground grits, mac and cheese bites with smoked ketchup (which she serves in a shot glass), mini po’ boys and honey pecan fried chicken offer guests that taste of the familiar with a kick.
Consider mini Mississippi mud or pecan pies as an alternative to cupcakes or candy on your Southern sweets table.
A raw or seafood bar is also a great way to give friends and family a taste of the Bay.
Blue crabcakes and regional oysters are opulent options that don’t have to break the bank.
Who knows? Y’all might even find a pearl! Check with your caterer or local seafood market to see what is in season.
When it comes to serving sizes, couples should explore options to ensure guests get a taste of everything while moving out of their culinary comfort zones. Cathy Carter of East Beach Catering suggests serving your chosen dishes as “two-biters-” a portion large enough to keep your palate happy; and but not too much to weigh you down on the dance floor. ”
We did a ‘Taste of Virginia’ spread for a bride who was a transplant to Hampton Roads from New York. She wanted guests from the Northeast to get a taste of the amazing Southern dishes we all love.
There was a large variety of dishes and they were a huge hit. Some guests had to ask, ‘what is this?’ That is all part of the fun!”
The menu included collard greens, fried green tomatoes with goat cheese, mini chicken and waffles and barbecue to name a few.
“It is all about using what is close to your home and heart,” says Nicole Johnson from Montero’s Restaurant Bar and Catering in Elizabeth City. “We source from a farm down the road and couples often ask us to surprise them and create unique side dishes from what is in season; or whatever has come straight out of the ground.”
Label your dishes just to be make sure guests know they are eating local. Farm to table mindfulness is always an impressive hit.
If small bites aren’t for you, a family style service is an ideal alternative. This trendy option allows you to use unique serving platters along the tables, adding to the ambiance. As guests pass each dish, it also feeds the conversation.
Parisian service, which has all courses and dishes served to guests at once, has also made a comeback.
Ultimately, the recipe for the perfect Southern gathering includes only two ingredients: family and food. With large helpings of both, y’all are sure to make quite the impression.
make it yo’self
Southern Style Shrimp and Grits by east beach catering
2 servings cooked grits
2 tablespoons olive oil
Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
1/2 cup tasso ham, diced*
2 tablespoons leeks, diced
2 tablespoons onion, diced
2 tablespoons green pepper, diced
20 medium/large shrimp, peeled and de-veined, with tails on
1 tablespoon white wine
1 cup heavy cream
green onion, tops, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Cook grits according to package directions; set aside and keep warm.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tasso and sauté until crisp. Add vegetables and sauté until onions are translucent. Add shrimp and sauté for 30 to 45 seconds, or until pink. Remove from the pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with a little white wine. Slowly add the cream and let reduce until thickened. Season with salt and pepper, and Old Bay Seasoning
3. Divide grits among 2 serving plates. Line plate edges with shrimp (10 shrimp per serving). Pour sauce over grits. Garnish with green onions.
Use martini glasses to serve shrimp and grits, with the grits on the bottom and shrimp and sauce on top.
“Southern food feeds the soul.”
Jodi Moore Newland, Sweetwater Cuisine
“It is all about using what is close to your home and heart.”
Nicole Johnson, Montero’s Restaurant Bar and Catering
“Some guests had to ask, ‘what is this?’ That is all part of the fun!”
Cathy Carter, East Beach Catering