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Gone are the days of buffet-style, self-serve food spreads thanks to the pandemic. Instead, creative food displays and serving presentations are emerging. Things like individual charcuterie boats and gelato-on-a-stick have us intrigued and, frankly, fascinated. Here are four fun ways to feed guests at an outdoor gathering while still following health guidelines. Enjoy!

4 Curious Food Concepts That Emerged From The Pandemic

CHARCUTERIE BOATS

It’s no secret charcuterie boards have taken the world by storm in recent years. For a safe alternative to the communal spread of fancy meats and cheeses, consider giving each of your guests their own charcuterie plate. Based in Clarksville, TN, Tutti Frutti Charcuterie offers one-of-a-kind individual charcuterie boats and boxes. Started by Amanda Emling in October 2020, Tutti Frutti Charcuterie’s charcuterie boats allow hosts to serve pandemic-friendly snacks while also decreasing their time spent in the kitchen. “Our generation wants to enjoy ourselves, relax and spend time with our guests. We want different flavors, beautiful food, and we love charcuterie because it’s an experience,” says Amanda. “We wanted to create that experience. We want to make food that will impress your guests but make entertaining easy.”

Individual charcuterie boat and box with honey, a pandemic food concept

Perfect for a socially distanced backyard gathering, Tutti Frutti Charcuterie creates customized charcuterie boats and individual grazing boxes. Image: Emily Reedstrom Photography

In addition to charcuterie spreads, Amanda also creates pairing menus, which are available upon request. “I typically put together a tasting board of different flavors that I think will pair with whichever beverage I am pairing it with (I have created both wine and beer pairing menus),” she says. “I take the time to really taste the flavors that I am trying while continuously going back to drinking the beverage.”

Charcuterie box and pairing menu from Tutti Frutti Charcuterie LLC

Looking to kick your gathering up a notch? You can request a customized pairing menu with your charcuterie boxes, too! Image: Emily Reedstrom Photography

RELATED: 4 Recipes for Springtime. Perfect for Picnics or Porches!

MASON JAR SALADS

Mason jar salads are a safe alternative to a large salad bowl that’s shared among guests — and they are also a specialty of Dinner Belle. Although its founder Laura Axelson has been making these jars since 2015, the pandemic caused sales to spike significantly. “Our 2020 revenue grew 69% over our 2019 revenue,” Amanda says. “That is a really big jump!”

The Nashville-based restaurant delivers salad jars to Music City and its surrounding areas through a subscription or a la carte. Jars can be ordered in groups of two or four and are packed with flavor — and pre-portioned organic ingredients. The best part about mason jar salads? Not only are they safe to serve at your outdoor gathering, but they also are easy to store and prepare in advance of guests arriving. If you’re in the Nashville area, Dinner Belle makes the process even easier by preparing the jars for you. However, if you’re not near Music City, a quick Google search allows for endless inspiration on how to prepare your own. Rachel Matthews of A Southern Fairytale offers 20 recipes to spark your creativity, too.

Vietnamese salad jars from Dinner Belle

Mason jar salads are a pandemic-friendly meal you can serve at your outdoor gathering. Pictured here are Vietnamese salad jars from Dinner Belle. “It looks like a beautiful sunset in the jar, and the flavors are so bright and refreshing,” says Laura Axelson, Dinner Belle founder. Image: Laura Axelson

MINIATURE WINE BOTTLES

Rather than setting out a cocktail pitcher or a shared bottle of wine, consider going for miniature wine bottles so each of your guests can drink and pour their own glass of wine. You can typically find a variety of options in four-packs at your local grocery or liquor store with flavors ranging from rosé to Moscato to prosecco. Not only does this prevent guests from passing around a communal pitcher or bottle, but you also still get to play hostess as guests don’t have to bring their own beverages. You can even elevate these mini bottles into cocktails, too. Here’s a recipe on how to transform a mini chardonnay into a delicious ginger cocktail. And if you’re feeling extra fancy, do a quick Etsy search to find small businesses that offer personalized labels for your mini bottles. These are perfect for a bridal shower or birthday party.

SB TIP: We recently published an article about popular Southern canned cocktails, which are also a safe option to serve your guests!

Pandemic food concepts: Mini wine bottles for outdoor gathering

Miniature wine bottles are a safe (and easy!) alternative to passing around a bottle of wine. Image: Instagram/@sutterhomewines

RELATED: 10 Best Trader Joe’s Wines for Less Than $15

DESSERTS ON A STICK

Don’t forget dessert! Gelato-on-a-stick puts a creative twist on the classic dessert, and Dipsticle, a Memphis-based ice cream shop, offers just that. Before the pandemic, Dipsticle’s owner Katrina Younis relied heavily on catering and large festivals for income, but those events quickly came to a halt. However, as restrictions and mandates are slowly lifted, Katrina’s desserts and others like it are once again in demand. “Our product is perfect for [outdoor events] because each Dipsticle is individually wrapped and ready to be served,” Katrina says. With plenty of unique flavors to choose from, highlights include strawberry cheesecake, gianduja (chocolate hazelnut), chocolate, and cookies and cream. Katrina’s personal favorites are the limoncello mascarpone gelato and blood orange sorbet.

Gelato served on a stick, a pandemic food concept

Desserts served on sticks, such as this one from the Memphis ice cream shop Dipsticle, are the perfect treat to safely serve guests at your outdoor gathering. Image: Dipsticle

Here’s to safely gathering with loved ones and friends again!

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