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Caterers, grocers dish up plenty of ideas to make food the life of the party
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Caterers, grocers dish up plenty of ideas to make food the life of the party

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Tired of being cooped up inside all spring? Summer’s here and the time is right for backyard entertaining and delicious food.

Serving options for backyard entertaining are endless — from ready-to-cook meats to custom catered meals — and there's no shortage of grocers, caterers and delis standing by to help.

Beef Butter BBQ at in Madison, Wis., offers catering as well as 400 items to cook at home. Known for its smoked barbecue favorites such as special Beef Butter brisket, Texas-style pulled pork, baby back ribs and chicken, it also makes 20 varieties of sausage and carries bratwurst from the former Jim’s Meat Market.

“John Lehman, a co-owner of Jim’s Meat Market, now works for us,” says Owner Patrick Riha. “He makes brats in house during the week and finally gets to enjoy his weekends after 30 years as a business owner.”

Just down the road,  Aaron Collins and his wife, Netalee Sheinman, operate Banzo, a restaurant and food cart that features Mediterranean cuisine.

“Our made-from-scratch hummus and falafel, marinated chicken, fresh Mediterranean chopped salad, rice and pita pockets are very popular and perfect for outdoor entertaining,” says Collins. “We source grass-fed, pasture-raised beef from a local farm and offer some vegetarian options, as well."

Recently, the restaurant has been catering fewer buffets and more individual meals. “The pandemic has brought out our creativity, and we’ve created Take and Bake Family Style Meals that serve four to five people,” Collins notes. “These are fully cooked and refrigerated and ready to heat. Frying the falafel is the hard part, so we do it for you. Just warm it up in the oven for a delicious treat.”

Rob’s Meat Chop & Deli in Dyer, Ind., is a full-service meat market and sells meat packs for cooking, along with steaks, stuffed mushrooms, poultry, deli meat, smoked sticks, jerky, subs, salads and more. It offers full catering, as well as platters of fried chicken, trays of veggies and other add-ons.

“We have everything you need for backyard entertaining,” says owner Rob Newenhouse. “In fact, we have so much stuff, it’ll blow your mind.”

Similarly. Strack & Van Til Food Markets, a grocery chain in Northwest Indiana, has a full array of grilling options including beef, poultry, seafood and signature pub burgers.

“We have a selection of flavors, made fresh daily in store, including Cheddar Bacon, Swiss and Mushroom, Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Mozzarella, Bleu Cheese and a Black Pepper which has been a Strack & Van Til classic for years,” says Meat Department Director Gary Teachman. “There’s even a 50/50 pub burger, made with Certified Angus Beef and brisket.”

Pair the burgers with all-natural, no preservative buns from the Strack & Van Til bakery or choose its new Pretzilla pretzel rolls.

At Annie’s Eats Carry-Out and Catering, a smoked meat emporium in Bloomington, Ill., co-owner Annie Clem says that during this pandemic it's had to rethink how it does catering.

“Pre-pandemic we catered a lot of large events for churches, schools and more,” she notes. “Now we’re cooking for smaller weddings, companies that want to feed their employees and of course, our carry-out business is good.”

Annie’s carries a large menu of smoked meats including pulled pork, pulled chicken, wings, rib tips, sausage, Baltimore pit beef (like a roast beef sandwich), prime rib, turkey and its award-winning smoked brisket. Clem  says her husband and co-owner, Kenny Clem, participates in grilling and smoking competitions and has brought home a slew of blue ribbons.

“All of our products, including rubs and sauces are homemade and have all won awards,” she says. "With our delicious catered dishes, you can have a wonderful barbecue, set it up like you made it yourself and not have to do the work.”

For those who don't want to cook, Strack & Van Til's Deli Department offers everything from its popular fried or grilled chicken, to Polish sausage and kraut, Italian sausage with green peppers, baked ham in pineapple glaze and mostaccioli.

Entrees including full slabs of ribs, BBQ rib tips, BBQ chicken, Buffalo or BBQ chicken wings, slider sandwiches and deli pizza are available hot or ready to heat and serve.

Add sides from salads to potatoes or begin with appetizers including its New Beer Cheese dip with pretzel bites and grillable cheeses.

“Our grillable cheeses are baked cheeses that can be lightly coated with cooking oil, placed on foil and heated for 10 to 15 minutes,” says Deli Director Kristin Snow.

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