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Bess' catering serves up Southern hospitality with elegance, ease

An hors d’oeuvres platter from Bess’ features (clockwisefrom top) mini crabcakes, tarragon tomato sandwiches,open-faced beef tenderloin on French bread, andsmoked salmon on pumpernickel with dill. Bess Soper’scatering is known throughout the Lowcountry byhostesses in the know.
An hors d’oeuvres platter from Bess’ features (clockwisefrom top) mini crabcakes, tarragon tomato sandwiches,open-faced beef tenderloin on French bread, andsmoked salmon on pumpernickel with dill. Bess Soper’scatering is known throughout the Lowcountry byhostesses in the know. Pam Gallagher/Special to the Packet and the Gazette

Newcomers to the Lowcountry learn ratherquickly that it's a very social place.The lifestyle may be relaxed, but Southernhospitality is taken seriously.

Fortunately, you don't have to be aninsider to find a talented and graciouscaterer. Stop for lunch at Bess' Delicatessen& Catering, tucked away in The FountainCenter on New Orleans Road, and you'lldiscover one of Hilton Head Island's mostin-demand caterers.

Bess Soper, a native Southerner, hasspent more than 28 years preparing deliciousand exquisitely presented fare foreverything from cozy cocktail and dinnerparties to business affairs and weddingswith hundreds of guests.

Working side-by-side with her goodfriend Cynthia Rivers, Soper will tailor amenu of all house-made selections to eachclient's needs, desires and budget. If youcan't get to Bess', she will come to yourhome or meet you at your party venue.On a recent Thursday, Soper was at herdeli preparing hors d'oeuvres for a cocktail partyfor 47 out-of-town guests attending a wedding on aprivate island.

The passed hors d'oeuvres would include minicrabcakes with house-made remoulade sauce,smoked salmon on pumpernickel with dill, tarragontomato sandwiches, and open-faced beef tenderloinon French bread with horseradish sauce.

"I buy local," said Soper, whose produce is deliveredweekly from local farmers. "When available,my oysters and shrimp come from the May River,and my fish and crabs are from the Bluffton OysterFactory," she said.

At Bess' Deli, open Monday through Friday forbreakfast and lunch, the menu changes weekly, withhomemade soups and fresh salads served daily. Theeveryday special features a cup of soup, a half sandwichof tuna, turkey or egg salad or pimento cheeseand fresh-brewed iced tea or lemonade for $5.

Bess' is known for in-house, freshly baked turkeybreast sandwiches and "frozen assets" dinnerentrees, including chicken tetrazzini or shrimp andartichoke casserole with wild rice, perfect for vacationersentertaining a crowd or those nights whenyou just don't feel like cooking.

Speaking of turkey, vacationers and locals alikecan order complete Thanksgiving dinners, includingwhole fresh turkeys fully seasoned and ready to goin the oven, from Bess'.

"We do the dressing, gravy and sides," said Soper,whose offerings include bourbon sweet potatoes,cranberry salad, southern cornbread dressing, broccolicasserole, and more. "We're here late Tuesdayuntil everything is labeled and ready to be picked upon Wednesday," she said.

"They can play golf or walk the beach and whenthey come home, they smell that wonderful turkeycooking in their own oven," Soper said.

Ah, the welcoming aroma of Lowcountry hospitalityat its finest.

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