While hanging poolside as a patron is relaxing, coping with heat, humidity, and lounge logistics can rain on a chef’s parade. Noshing can turn up the heat (read: stress level) in terms of what you should (and, more importantly, shouldn’t) have on your outdoor seasonal menu.
“Warmer weather, direct sunlight, lounge-type seating, and shatterproof plate ware/glassware are mandatory topics for discussion before designing a roof deck or poolside menu,” explains Revere Hotel Boston Common’s executive chef Sean Dutson.
We’ve broken it down for you with tips from the experts on creating a successful poolside menu. Now the umbrellas in your frozen cocktails won’t be the only things causing a stir.
When Le Méridien New Orleans’ executive chef Jerry Moynihan put together his menu, he followed pool rules – no glass or breakable items.
“We use post-consumer recycled materials that also add to the appeal of the dish. For example, bamboo or similar sustainable materials,” he says of serving his most popular rooftop pool dishes like seared market fish tacos and edamame hummus. “We select vessels that transport, as well as present our dishes in a practical manner, so guests can consume them easily while lounging by the pool.”
Duston, who created the menu at the trendy rooftop lounge that connects to an indoor pool, agrees.
“The serviceware should be fun, practical, and disposable like small Chinese to-go boxes or bamboo plates,” he says. “Find a festive set of eco-friendly plastic serving pieces or biodegradable disposable ones in fun colors and textures. Glass and china is never appropriate by the pool.”
“There are so many incredible summer flavors that are locally sourced and seasonally fresh,” continues Duston, “Watermelon, ripe tomatoes, fresh corn, and local strawberries all lead to refreshing dishes.”
Choose ingredients with high flavor impact without being heavy or high in saturated fats, such as fresh herbs, citrus and other fruits, and vegetables, to provide great flavor, color and presentation.
“Warmer weather, direct sunlight, lounge-type seating, and shatterproof plate ware/glassware are mandatory topics for discussion before designing a roof deck or poolside menu.” – Sean Dutson of Revere Hotel Boston Common
Le Méridien battles the blazing Louisiana sun every day, so Moynihan took that into consideration. “We avoid anything that’s heavy in butter, eggs and cream, as those items don’t translate well poolside in sauces or side dishes,” he explains. “We also try to avoid temperature-sensitive items like lettuce or things that will wilt, unless we can store them in a portable cooler or freezer near the pool deck.”
The Rooftop Pool at the Colonnade Boston Hotel chef Nicholas Calias agrees, adding that stews and soups are obvious no-no’s. “You also don’t want dishes that have a lot of carbohydrates that are heavy or salty,” he adds, noting the Mediterranean mezze and housemade guacamole are popular choices. “No one wants to feel bloated when they’re laying poolside.”
And when temps go up, appetizers tend to go down. “We consider portion sizes and recognize that people don’t tend to eat as much when they’re laying out in the sun,” says Moynihan. “We keep in mind dishes that are easy to eat with your hands or with a fork.”
You should also consider creating dishes that are easily shared and portable. “Smaller bites are always going to translate better,” says Calias. “They’re not coming for dinner. They’re want to munch on while laying out with their friends.”
Image is Everything
Don’t discount sexy. Bikinis and sunhats look fantastic next to an Instagram-worthy plate of colorful dragon and star fruits or perfectly packed fish tacos with mango salsa.
“When we look at a rooftop menu, we think of fresh ingredients that people don’t just want to eat but want to be seen with,” he continues. “It’s all about creating something sweet, cool and fresh. They also don’t want to feel bad about eating the ingredients either.”
And at the end of the hot day, it’s all about staying cool and keeping it simple, according to Dutson. “Most importantly, cold menu items are much more refreshing than hot menu items on a warm summer day.”