Newcomers to the Lowcountry learn rather quickly that it's a very social place. The lifestyle may be relaxed, but Southern hospitality is taken seriously.
Fortunately, you don't have to be an insider to find a talented and gracious caterer. Stop for lunch at Bess' Delicatessen & Catering, tucked away in The Fountain Center on New Orleans Road, and you'll discover one of Hilton Head Island's most in-demand caterers.
Bess Soper, a native Southerner, has spent more than 28 years preparing delicious and exquisitely presented fare for everything from cozy cocktail and dinner parties to business affairs and weddings with hundreds of guests.
Working side-by-side with her good friend Cynthia Rivers, Soper will tailor a menu of all house-made selections to each client's needs, desires and budget. If you can't get to Bess', she will come to your home or meet you at your party venue. On a recent Thursday, Soper was at her deli preparing hors d'oeuvres for a cocktail party for 47 out-of-town guests attending a wedding on a private island.
The passed hors d'oeuvres would include mini crabcakes with house-made remoulade sauce, smoked salmon on pumpernickel with dill, tarragon tomato sandwiches, and open-faced beef tenderloin on French bread with horseradish sauce.
"I buy local," said Soper, whose produce is delivered weekly from local farmers. "When available, my oysters and shrimp come from the May River, and my fish and crabs are from the Bluffton Oyster Factory," she said.
At Bess' Deli, open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch, the menu changes weekly, with homemade soups and fresh salads served daily. The everyday special features a cup of soup, a half sandwich of tuna, turkey or egg salad or pimento cheese and fresh-brewed iced tea or lemonade for $5.
Bess' is known for in-house, freshly baked turkey breast sandwiches and "frozen assets" dinner entrees, including chicken tetrazzini or shrimp and artichoke casserole with wild rice, perfect for vacationers entertaining a crowd or those nights when you just don't feel like cooking.
Speaking of turkey, vacationers and locals alike can order complete Thanksgiving dinners, including whole fresh turkeys fully seasoned and ready to go in the oven, from Bess'.
"We do the dressing, gravy and sides," said Soper, whose offerings include bourbon sweet potatoes, cranberry salad, southern cornbread dressing, broccoli casserole, and more. "We're here late Tuesday until everything is labeled and ready to be picked up on Wednesday," she said.
"They can play golf or walk the beach and when they come home, they smell that wonderful turkey cooking in their own oven," Soper said.
Ah, the welcoming aroma of Lowcountry hospitality at its finest.