There’s a reason it’s called the “great outdoors.” Outdoor celebrations have a unique air about them–they just feel more open and are often highlighted by breathtaking views. No matter what Mother Nature dishes up, you can take the right steps to plan and host the perfect outdoor New Orleans catered event just about any time of the year. Extra care needs to be taken in the event planning stages choose the right catering menu, the right venue, and the right layout. Additional attention also has to be paid food temperature to keep dishes fresh and safe. One of New Orleans’ most popular caterers, Messina’s Catering & Events, shares tips for planning successful outdoor events.
Planning is key
The first step in planning any successful outdoor event is choosing the perfect venue. When it comes to outdoor venues, options can include rooftop decks, courtyards, backyard gardens, parks, or the beach. All of these can make for beautiful backdrops to a great event, however be sure to prepare for weather. Especially in the summertime, weather can be unpredictable at times. Rainstorms can come in quickly and be strong. Therefore, contingency plans should be set ahead of time to ensure the party goes on regardless of the weather. If your venue is a rooftop deck, ensure it has a covered or indoor portion like The Rooftop on Basin. For parks or the beach, rent a large special event tent. For courtyards or backyard gardens, be sure to have an indoor space to use as a plan B in case inclement weather strikes. Or opt for an indoor venue where the walls all open up to make it feel like you are outdoors, like the Loading Dock at Batture Bistro + Bar. This will insulate your event from inclement weather by simply closing the doors.
Choose the right catering menu
Choosing the right catering menu is one of the most important considerations of any outdoor event. Think fresh and seasonal. Tailor your menu to fit the season, whether it’s cozy fare during the holidays or lighter fare for a summertime soiree. You can’t go wrong with dishes like salads, gazpachos, grilled vegetables and oil-based dressings any time of the year. Focus on small bites such as kebabs or “lollipops” of meat. Pair seafood with fresh fruit salsas and chutneys. A New Orleans caterer like Messina’s can help guide you in the best menu options for your event.
Make food safety your #1 priority
Food safety should be top priority at all events, but especially those that involve high heat like outdoor events in the summertime. Care should be given to choosing a catering menu that’s conducive to the event. In the summertime, steer clear of food items like raw seafood, heavy mayonnaise, and egg and dairy-based dishes. You might also want to choose a format besides buffet-style, so that food is not sitting out. Passed foods are most ideal and are a highly sanitary way to serve and to make sure food stays fresh on the tray, as they’re replenished as consumed. Action stations are great because the attendant can ensure cold food stays cold, and is only brought out for preparation. Buffet-style foods can be done, but special care has to be taken to put out smaller portions of food, monitor food temps closely and frequently refresh foods. Professional caterers, like Messina’s Catering & Events, are skilled at preparing and serving food for outdoor events to ensure safety.
Strategically setup your venue & stations
Scope out your venue with your caterer before your event, and together you can come up with a game plan to make sure food and drink stations are set up in the right places. Most of the time, you’ll want these stations out of direct sunlight and under cover of a tent, awning or canopy. If possible, place food and drink indoors and encourage guests to take their drinks and plates outdoors to enjoy.
Also, be sure to plan your food displays in a way that ensures food temps stay where they should be. Utilize marble and granite serving pieces that can be frozen ahead of time to keep food optimally chilled. Not only does it look great, it helps keeps food at proper temperatures longer. Another option is to fill trays with ice to place under buffet dishes. This will keep your green salad crisp and your cheese plate looking fresh. And, serve canned and bottled beverages from an ice trough to ensure they are at their chilliest. Messina’s gives all of its service team thorough training in proper food safety protocols.
Ensure guest comfort
In the warm summer months, be sure to have plenty of water on hand and plan for a hydration station for guests with flavored waters. It’s also a cool idea to provide guests with mini-misters, hand fans that you can customize, or large misting systems. Fans and misters can also help keep summertime pests at bay. Ensure your guests are the only guests at your party, and place citronella candles strategically throughout the space. For events taking place in cooler months, make your guests cozy by placing baskets of snuggly blankets throughout the space and having strategically placed fire pits and heaters.
Messina’s Catering & Events has the experience and equipment at the ready to keep outdoor food fresh, beautiful and safe. They have been catering some of the most prominent outdoor events in the New Orleans area including the Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s Boudin Bourbon & Beer Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Creole Tomato Festival. This year, they celebrate 60 years of providing full-service catering in New Orleans.