For our BEST MENU DESIGN Allie Award win we created an original menu and presentation that led guests from one immersive experience to the next as they took in tastes and tunes from Louisiana to West Virginia. Enjoy our blog today that shares a few of the fun details on how our team created a culinary presentation that provided talking points, and piqued guests interests throughout the entire experience – making this an award-winning event.
For the 5th annual Travel South USA International Showcase Proof of the Pudding was asked to produce an event for 400 attending international travel buyers, hosts from the southern states and travel media. Our contribution to the event included concept design, gathering and managing vendors, budget management and logistics. For this tourism conference, guests were treated to a night of networking and culinary travel at one of Atlanta’s hippest event spaces – the Boiler Room at Ponce City Market. An original menu design and presentation created by Proof led guests from one immersive experience to the next as they took in tastes and tunes from Louisiana to West Virginia.
The Boiler Room is one of Atlanta’s most interesting venues to open in recent years. Located in the historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building, Ponce City Market has become the poster child for adaptive reuse projects breathing new life into a declining neighborhood. It includes a food hall, retail boutiques, studio apartments, offices and event spaces. While the space is a blank canvas for events, its location within the development gives it an artsy, hip, intown vibe.
The first stop was Missouri, with a station set up just like the family-owned BBQ restaurant made famous by its habit of tossing bread rolls to its customers. For an authentic experience we had brought in a chef from Missouri, who was creating sliders of tender pork belly, pulled pork and sausage while surprising amused guests with flying rolls. Jalapeno corn bread was a spicy addition and guests could help themselves to fixin’s of baked beans, potato salad and “good ole cole slaw.” The food was served from a counter with rough wood bar fronts and backed by the venue’s brick wall strung with café lighting.
Over in Louisiana, we’d been fishing and were cooking up some Cajun treats. Here too was a local chef greeting guests and explaining the local cuisine. Metal shellfish baskets served as risers for trays of red dot shrimp canapes, oysters casino in shooter glasses and a show-stopping dish of alligator with piquant sauce.
Mississippi’s culinary heroes are similar to those of Louisiana, so for this station we took a different direction. The station heralded Elvis Presley, Robert Johnson and the blues, and we made this food stop all about one of Elvis’ favorite foods – the humble biscuit. Only ours weren’t so humble. The station offered down-home crates chock full of melt-in-your-mouth ham and pimento cheese biscuits, and the contemporary combination of sweet potato biscuits with pecan butter, truffle honey, prosciutto, brie and lavender jam.
No southern menu would be complete without macaroni and cheese, and this was found at the Arkansas stop. The double sided buffet featured cast iron skillets of macaroni and cheese, with gourmet toppings for guests to fix themselves of lobster, chopped Applewood bacon, white cheddar, blue cheese crumbles, sautéed pepper and onion hash, fried onion straws, tomatoes and hot sauce.
Station five was a special request of the client to include an international station to honor their overseas visitors. Complementing the casual look of the event we created a sidewalk stir fry out of bike carts with Asian décor and a fusion Asian menu. Our chef was preparing noodles with fresh vegetables, tofu, greens and lemon live in front of guests and serving them in to-go noodle boxes. Guests could also help themselves to Chopstix winter seasonal salad with crispy wontons, and naan bread.
It’s sweet to be in West Virginia! Godiva white chocolate bread pudding with citrus Chantilly cream; and baby red velvet, chocolate espresso and carrot cakes dotted the eclectic “tea shop” on a variety of metal and wooden platters and risers. At the other end, a seasonal fruit cobbler bar offered hearty portions of wild berry and apple cobbler with a pecan crust and bourbon infused whipped cream. Nearby, we set up a coffee and hot chocolate station for guests to enjoy after dinner.
The venue’s bar we turned it into a Kentucky bourbon action station for the night, and here a Kentuckian bourbon expert poured tasters and offered tips for pairings. North Carolina does not immediately come to mind when thinking of wines and craft beers, so this specialty bar station sponsored by Foothills Brewery and staffed by us set about to change that. At two further bars we offered sips of unique southern liqueurs Lotoko and Snow Cream along with regular bar drinks, and a Georgia whisky distillery was present with their own bar.
Each of the stations was decorated to complement its menu, built out around and behind with larger pieces and props. The cornerstone of the event concept was a set of fabulous custom chalkboard murals, one for each state. Each one a beautiful work of art in its own right, they tied the overall concept and the diverse states together in an elegant but casual way.
The 6.30-9.30pm event gave guests plenty of time to taste all the southern flavors presented, and enjoy an evening full of networking with plenty of talking points. There were representatives from the states close by each station to answer any questions, and a blues band from Nashville kept everyone’s toes tapping. As it grew darker outside, the lights of Midtown Atlanta were visible through the tall windows. It was one successful event, y’all.