Summer is here, and with it comes the chance to taste the best of what the season offers – juicy watermelon, golden ears of corn, ripe tomatoes, and more make for a delightful meal that can be sourced from our own backyards.
As a state-of-the-art demonstration facility and industry leader throughout the Southeast, Southface hosts countless trainings, events, and community forums year round. For more than a decade, Southface has worked closely with Atlanta-based Avalon Catering, thanks in part to a shared commitment to sustainability.
“From the programs we administer in the community to the food that we provide to our campus guests, sustainability is at the forefront of everything we offer,” said Stephanie Teta, Development Program Coordinator at Southface at Southface. “Because of our long-standing partnership with Avalon Catering, we know that our visitors will be enjoying local, fresh food.”
At Summer Solstice on June 22, Avalon Catering will serve an array of sustainably sourced foods, and Owner and Executive Chef Cathy Conway shares her perspective on the value of eating what’s local and in season.
Can you tell us about what makes Avalon Catering unique?
In 2003, I took a trip to France where I discovered the beauty of local foods. Upon return, I sought out local foods in Georgia, only to find that even given the vast amount of agricultural land to farm, there was scarcely a local, organic farmer to be found. I began to search for local food and started strong, lasting relationships with farmers who were a part of the local food movement. Since then, Avalon Catering has established a large, unique web of local foods sources. To date, Avalon is the only caterer in Atlanta with access to such a vast number of suppliers and distributors, incorporating their products into our inventory as part of our daily purchases.
In addition to its commitment to local food production, Avalon incorporates sustainability in all aspects of its business, including using biodegradable products in its food service.
The food industry has seen a shift towards sourcing local, healthy foods. How does Avalon meet these expectations from consumers?
Since making local, healthy foods part of our regular inventory, the need to source on an “as needed” basis is eliminated. This type of food is what has come to be expected from our customers. It also makes it much easier for us to serve clients with dietary restrictions and allergy issues, since we are readily prepared with a variety of healthy, sustainable options.
How does Avalon identify partner farms and farmers? Are there any specific farms that you all feel particularly well-connected to?
The first farm that we reached out to was Crystal Organics in Newborn, Georgia. Nicolas Donck has been providing Avalon with his gorgeous produce for many years. Other farms include Woodland Gardens, Aluma Farms, Anson Mills, Moore Farms and Southern Swiss Dairy. We rely on established networks like the Turnip Truck for outreach to smaller, lesser-known farms. There are also the small, specialized farms that reach out when their product is ripe and in season, and they drop off directly to our door.
How do you decide what items and ingredients to highlight in your menus?
We highlight the best of the seasons – all of our menus are seasonally driven and rewritten every three to four months. Of course in the South, the warmer months stretch well into October, so we also give ourselves the flexibility to still feature bumper crops of tomatoes, peppers, and okra that survive into unseasonably warm falls.
What do you all like about working with Southface?
We value the long-term relationship that has been fostered with Southface over the years. The strong, supportive leadership has always been reflected in the general “vibe” of the people that work at Southface. Being so familiar with the space makes working an event more seamless and easy to execute by our staff. Everyone is friendly and laid back and we are able to work autonomously when we arrive.
Are there any specific dishes guests can look forward to at Summer Solstice?
The Summer Solstice menu features one of my favorite buffet items. It’s simple but so flavorful – a local farmer “Field Pea Hummus” served with an abundant display of the freshest summer produce grown within miles of our kitchen. It also features our newest flavors in mini cupcakes. Who can resist a mini cupcake?
Interested in bringing some summer flavors to your kitchen? Chef Cathy Conway shares with us one of her go-to recipes:
Adapted from Poole’s – Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner
Cherry Tomato Relish