Have a party for pies and friesJuly 6, 2016 3:16pm

July 06-- For many, poolside potlucks and backyard buffets bring about a feeling of nostalgia for food and fun from summers past. And it doesn't have to be the Fourth of July to constitute a pie-eating contest, or french fry festival. While the sun is still shining, switch up entertaining and dining with two of America's favorite foods-pies and fries!

THINK OUTSIDE THE PAN (AND FRY BASKET)

An event in which an appetizer/side dish and dessert go head-to-head may have a host wondering if he should insert a main course in the middle. Depending on how you look at it, you have your main dish in both the pie and/or french fry.

"Serve savory pies made with brûleed raclette cheese," says Adelee Cabrera, regional director of Starr Events Miami, "Or savory fries such as a traditional poutine."

Or, take creative license from Katie O' Reilly, owner of Kenmare Catering and Events, and expand the culinary definition of a "fry." It need not be potato in nature.

"Create chicken strips into fries, pork strips (with BBQ ranch), clam strip fries or calamari fries," O' Reilly suggests.

As for more savory pie options-have guests contribute their own version of the pot pie to share-such as curry pot pie or garam masala pot pie.

Surprise guests by accompanying savory pies with fruity fries.

"I like to serve sweet dessert fries made from plantains, pineapple and apples," O'Reilly says. "All of these can be tossed with sugar and cinnamon, along with a sweet creme anglaise for the dip."

"Guests could also choose from different fruit fries using a dough batter-with fruits such as mango and stone fruit," Cabrera says.

YOU SAY POTATO, I SAY THERE'S A LEEK

Not all versions of the french fry originate from the potato. In addition to the previously mentioned sweet options, other vegetables are perfectly suitable for transfer from patch to pan.

"Let's consider sweet potato fries with chipotle mayo, purple potato fries (slightly different taste but so fun for color), zucchini fries, fried green beans, beet chips and even fried leeks," O'Reilly says.

Consider an entire buffet solely dedicated to assorted-vegetable fries. House them in a ceramic french fry cone (see BeyondtheRack.com) or purchase paper-funnel cones for a laid-back carnival feeling. And don't forget the dip!

Check out Ambitiouskitchen.com for a selection of sweet and savory dips perfect for a variety of fries, such as blueberry ketchup, yogurt dill sauce and sriracha mayo.

Nothing says summer like fruit pie.

"My favorites are banana cream pie with salted caramel bourbon sauce and fresh whipped cream and blueberry citrus pie served with vanilla bean gelato," says Pazzo Ristorante Pastry Chef Alisha Falkenstein. "For the banana pie I use three layers of fresh bananas, salted caramel bourbon sauce, and pastry cream and for the blueberry pie, the trick is to use locally grown blueberries, fresh ground cardamom and lots of lemon zest."

If going for an all-American traditional feeling, Cabrera suggests providing a "sweet station" that would include traditional sweet fruit pies such as cherry and peach pies.

To make things interesting, take a spin on a traditional pie favorite like apple, and pair it with cheddar, but in an unusual way.

"Instead of an apple pie with a cheddar crust," Falkenstein says, "try serving a classic apple pie with cheesy fries."

PIES, FRIES, NO SHOES OR TIES

To stay inline with nostalgic summer decor, think relaxation and picnic ambiance.

"When I think of fries and pies, I think of a laid-back environment with picnic tables covered in red checkered tablecloths, colorful buckets of drinks on ice, and paper or melamine plates," Falkenstein says.

Pies and fries in the summer season can also be apropos for sports-themed entertaining.

"Serve pie a la mode in a sports-helmet bowl," O'Reilly recommends.

Team colors and logos can be extended to table coverings, dishes and beyond.

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