Take Away Your Holiday Stress
In the midst of the hectic holidays, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. Time with those we love is always valuable. This holiday season, instead of worrying over the perfect meal, why not let the experts step in? Jacksonville is full of options when it comes to caterers and take-home meals. Whether it’s a family gathering or a holiday party, there’s no need to stress over that special meal!
Whether you are hosting a corporate event or a traditional family gathering, the easiest way to savor a holiday event is to leave it to the professionals. The right caterer will blend all of the right ingredients to ensure that your holiday feast remains in good taste.
It is important to have an idea of menu and theme in mind when you begin your search for a caterer. The right company will be able to deliver your vision and remain within your budget. It is also critical that they adhere to any dietary restrictions or requests that you set forth for your event.
“You should have an idea or a general concept in mind of what you are looking for,” says catering coordinator Chelsea Clekis of The Perfect Pear catering company in Jacksonville. “During the holidays, we like to do festive, seasonal menus with flavors that people recognize as traditional holiday foods.”
“For businesses, it is best to stick to the basics unless they request a specific theme,” says Clekis. “When we do an event at someone’s home, we like to customize it to fit their theme.”
A seasonal menu without a theme could feature familiar Christmas dishes such as roast goose or a roasted glazed duck, stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce, brown sugar glazed ham, mashed sweet potatoes and candied nuts. Dessert could include hot chocolate, peppermint bark and egg nog.
If you are hosting a traditional Hanukkah dinner, the menu will feature kosher selections such as potato latkes, rugelach, kugel (jewish pudding or casserole), sufganiot (Jewish doughnuts), mushroom soup, honey-glazed lamb, roasted chicken and challah bread.
Themes can vary widely, putting a fun twist on an otherwise typical holiday party or dinner. Inspiration can come from anywhere, including holiday movies, such as A Christmas Story, arguably one of the most famous holiday movies around. Your menu can feature 1940s era favorites from the movie, such as duck and turkey (minus an appearance from the Bumpus’ turkey-eating dogs!) Compliment the entreés with other traditional holiday foods like cranberries and potatoes, serve Coca-Cola in glass bottles, or even hire an attendant to scoop root beer floats and milkshakes to guests. For dessert, create a sweets table featuring the most popular candies of the 1940s, like Bit-o-Honey, black licorice, Bazooka Bubble Gum, Dots, Bonomo Turkish Taffy and Almond Joys. And consider placing a life-size leg lamp in an accessible location for guests to take pictures with. It is a playful element that adds just the right amount of whimsy to an event without going over the top.
Whatever your theme, at its most basic level, catering is all about food. No matter how beautifully a venue is decorated or how carefully the place settings are arranged, the food is the most valuable centerpiece.
While it’s imperative that you communicate your needs and wants to any potential caterer, it is paramount to the success of the event that they are actively listening rather than the polite smile-and-nod. Once you agree on your terms, it’s time to step back and let the magic happen.
Regardless of the scale of the event, trust in your caterer to deliver a memorable experience for everyone. The more creative the caterer, the more space they will have to interpret your vision from whimsical to traditional or rustic to classic.
The majority of Jacksonville’s take-away places have a set deadline before Thanksgiving or Christmas to have the order in by, and most often you must pick up the day before, so please call for deadlines. If you’d like to use this option, planning ahead is essential. With that in mind, we’ve gathered some of the best together for your consideration.
Soul Food Bistro
5310 Lenox Avenue suite 1, 394-0860
11876 Atlantic Blvd, 394-2801
Potter’s House Soul Food Bistro does brisk business at their cafeteria-style restaurant under normal circumstances, but during the holidays a lot of people order from their catering to bring homae for special dinners. You, too, can be a hero just by bringing large quantities of the best mac and cheese in Jacksonville to Thanksgiving Dinner. Don’t think you can get away with pretending you made it, because everyone will ask for the recipe, and that’s a closely guarded secret. Other popular holiday items include their cornbread dressing, collards, and their super-sweet potato pie. Soul Food Bistro has two locations, one on the Westside one on Atlantic Boulevard.
2902 Corinthian Ave, 387-1000
Simply Sara’s got their start with cookies. While you can take home far more than that today, if you need fresh-baked cookies, they’ve got you covered. Want to get fancy? Then ask them to gussy up your baked goods with a holiday basket, which is one of the services they offer. They’ve built up a loyal customer-base, serving Southern-style dinners, so if you’d like to sample their food before committing to bringing home their chicken and dumplings for a holiday shindig, you can. They make everything from scratch, emphasizing that Simply Sara’s doesn’t even take big-box food delivery. Instead, they actually shop at the farmer’s market several times a week, get deliveries from local chicken farmers and shop at a local meat market.
919 King St, 387-8483
Liz Grenamyer is one of the top caterers in town. If you’ve been to a prestigious event, from art openings to fundraisers, chances are Catering by Liz had something to do with it. Her gourmet-to-go shop Bella Sera, is the perfect way to simplify your holiday. Chive butter-basted turkey breast and whole beef tenderloin with Crème Fraiche and Silver Dollar Rolls are two of the main course selections. Add to a holiday party by picking up their crab cakes and their brie baked in pastry with sugared pecans. Or, just impress at potluck by bringing one of their side items or desserts: dressing (also available in gluten-free), creamed spinach, roasted brussel sprouts tossed with bacon and shallots, pumpkin chiffon pie or a Southern bourbon pecan pie. Orders should be placed by noon on the 22nd of November, to be picked up between noon and 7pm on November 25-26. For the full menu go to cateringbyliz.com and click on Bella Sera on the upper right of the screen.
4218 St. Johns Ave, 388-1743
If you like to keep a local flavor to your meals, go with Terry’s Kitchen. Basically, they make the meal, you heat it up in your kitchen. Because many items are freshly made, then frozen, that means you can plan your meal in advance and stock your freezer. The good news? It’ll still taste fresh and homemade. They have plenty of items in their freezers that you can pick up, such as their popular chicken veggie pie, their bow tie pasta, lasagna, classic mac and cheese and more. If you want something specific, just call Terry herself, and they can have it for you ahead of time. Calling ahead can be important during the rush of the holidays. She takes orders for whole and half-turkeys, as well as just white or dark meat. With enough notice, she can even cook a casserole in one of your baking dishes from home. That way it looks prettier than a foil container, and, as an added bonus, your guests are much more likely to think you’ve cooked it yourself! Terry says that her most popular item, holidays or not, is her chicken tetrazzini: “We can’t seem to make enough of it!”
1076 Hendricks Ave, 396-0528
8535 Baymeadows Rd., 516-4144
Most well-known for their famous chicken salad, Tibits is best if you want to cater a more casual party or serve something for a business meeting. You’ll get rave reviews of their potato salad, soup, and top-notch sandwiches. Don’t forget to order the lemon cake! Should you want to sample what they have to offer in advance, you’ll have to brave a bit of a line to order one of their deli-style lunches. But don’t worry, the wait is worthwhile! They now have two locations as they opened up on Baymeadows last year.
Native Sun Market
10000 San Jose Blvd, 260-6950
11030 Baymeadows Rd, 260-2791
If you like to eat healthy, delicious food, are vegan, vegetarian or have other specific dietary requirements that make the fat-saturated season a bit annoying, talk to the guys behind the counter at Native Sun Market. Their deli case can make the holiday season healthy, tasty AND impress your guests! There are two Native Sun locations, but the one at Baymeadows and 9A has a larger, more extensive deli case. Call to see what will be in their case close to the holidays and what you can order ahead of time.