One of the fabulous things about being Southern is that it is perfectly acceptable to use any old excuse to have a party. It’s your niece’s graduation (6th grade graduation)? Have a party! It’s Derby Day (and you don’t live in Kentucky)? Have a party! Uncle Clay just caught a mess of bream and bass? Have a party (in this case a fish fry)! The latter was the “party” of choice in my family when I was growing up once spring hit South Carolina. My Dad would set up a makeshift kitchen outside complete with sawhorse-legged table, homemade gas-powered deep fryer and a brigade of coolers. A couple of phone calls would be made and soon neighbors and family would converge at our house – toting lawn chairs, a side dish and their kids. Sometimes I would scale the fish or help mix up the homemade coleslaw before relinquishing cooking duties to play with my best friend. We knew it was time to eat when the sweet–onion tinged aroma of frying hushpuppies wafted past us – we raced to my Dad’s side to get a taste before dinner. Hushpuppies are like that – sort of like barbeque or baking bread – the smell is like a lure – casting a scent so intoxicating that resisting is pointless. Better to go for it quickly and get a taste before my bother and his friends show up and gobble them all up!
While the adults ate at the tables on the screened porch and patio, us kids sat crossed-legged in the grass eating our fill of delicate fried fish, popping those delicious fried cornmeal puffs in our mouths and washing it all down with icy cold sweet tea. Afterwards we lay in the grass as the sun set on the day, keeping an eye out for the first fireflies of the season and hoping to spy a shooting star. Even though it was simple, it was fun made special by the people and the fresh, local food. I think that this is the essence of southern hospitality and what makes an ordinary event or gathering into a real celebration.
Being that it is springtime (with summer on its coattails) and primetime outdoor party/event season on Hilton Head Island, I thought it would be the perfect moment to talk to the folks over at Celebrations Events. Molly Kennedy, Celebrations Events Catering Manager, explained that Celebrations Events like other Lowery Company entities (Old Fort Pub, CQ’s, Antonio’s) are members of the Fresh on the Menu Program and have been incorporating sustainable practices for several years. Molly tells me, “We are also very involved as a company in the Sustainable Seafood Initiative with the SC Aquarium. Of course, many of our clients want seafood as a part of their menu when they have a special event in Hilton Head Island. The Lowcountry is known for its wonderful seafood. We believe it is essential to offer the best ingredients available in regards to taste but also the best that works in promoting responsible seafood harvesting. So there will always be a bountiful fishery here.”
Reiterating her words is Executive Chef Andy Borgmeier, “It’s all about educating our clients on what is the correct solution that meets all of their expectations.” Rather than produce food for an abstract client, Chef Andy and the Celebrations Events crew tailor meals to the tastes and interests of those they’re cooking for. “We may have a tasting that is months ahead of the planned event so we may need to exchange an ingredient at any specific time of year with one that is local and/or in-season. Once we explain this to our client they understand and are appreciative of the thought and attention to detail we put into planning their menu. They know that it is procured locally they will always want this ingredient – they know it will taste the best,” he added.
Celebrations Events is more than just a catering company, they are also a part of the community. One of the interesting things Celebrations offers is their Learning Kitchen cooking classes for adults and kids. Classes usually take place during the off-season months of December through February. Chefs from the various Lowery Group restaurants teach a group of 12 students in a casual, informative hands-on setting. Themes might include restaurant favorites, recipes highlighting “super foods” and farm to table cooking or a birthday tea party cooking class for the young gourmand. It certainly would have been a dream birthday party experience for me when I was little girl! …And come to think of it, now that I’m a “big girl”… it would certainly still fit the bill!
Seagrass Skewered Port Royal Shrimp & Crab Cake Pinwheel with Saffron Aioli
Carolina Crab Cake:
½ Loaf Pepperidge Farms Hearty White Bread
1 c. of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
1 t. Old Bay Seasoning
1 T. Dijon mustard (smooth)
1t. Lemon Juice
1 t. Worstershire
½ t. Tabasco
¼ t. Salt
1 T. Chopped Italian Parsley
8 oz. Jumbo Lump Crabmeat
8 Domestic Shrimp, cleaned
Remove crust from bread, run through food processor make fine bread crumbs.
Prepare dressing by combining mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, old bay, lemon juice, egg, Worstershire, Tabasco, salt, and parsley. Mix in bowl, reserve. In a large bowl sort through crabmeat for shells, do not break up crabmeat to much. Toss in breadcrumb mixture and mix. Fold in mayonnaise mixture and mix gently. Form into 2 oz. crab cakes
6 cloves garlic
Salt & white pepper to taste
1/4 t. saffron
2 egg yolks
2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper
In food processor, puree garlic add saffron and egg yolks. Blend and while running slowly add olive oil. Finish with salt & white pepper, lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
To create pinwheel: Form petite crab cake; invert 2 shrimp around crab cake, skewer with seagrass. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes.