Wedding Planning 101: Seven questions you should ask your wedding caterer

No bride wants to think about it, but a catering disaster can strike on a wedding day.

The team at Cotton Blues has tended to thousands of weddings, and they know all the ins and outs of catering. Together, they’ve compiled a list of the most critical questions you should be asking your wedding caterer so you can be sure the business you hire is up to the challenge.

1. Will we run out of food?

Avoid caterers that want you to plan using “piece counts.” For example, this is where a caterer intends to bill you for 200 crab cakes for 200 guests.

“Piece counting” is an efficient business model for the caterer because it allows them to assure no food is wasted. But “piece counts” are lousy news for a bride and groom and places a significant burden on them to guess the right amount of food.

A quality wedding caterer will use a per-head pricing model.

A stellar caterer will do the same, but also prepare for a 10% increase over your final guarantee.


Caterers that are in the business for the long haul know their name is on the line when they cater a wedding, and they’ll want to ensure your family and friends are well fed.

2. Are there hidden fees?

Just like buying a car, sometimes you may only consider the sticker price. But anyone that’s purchased a car before knows you’re also going to have to cough up extra cash for the taxes and title.

Once your caterer gives you their estimate, be sure and ask them if that includes the tax, service fees or any other hidden charges.

3. What happens once the food is delivered?

Some caterers may only give you a quote for the food, but who’s responsible for the food once it arrives at your venue? A caterer that offers servers can be critical to ensuring your friends and family enjoy your wedding.

Is the food being dropped off?
Who’s responsible for serving guests food and drinks?
Who’s maintaining that trays are full and food stays at the proper temperature?
Who’s responsibility is it to bus tables?


Your wedding is your day, and it’s supposed to be stress-free. If your caterer can affordably provide some servers, take them up on it.

4. Does the price include serving dishes, plates, cutlery, tables, and tablecloths?

An experienced caterer knows how to make your wedding food beautiful. Be sure and ask the caterer if they have a creative way to display the food.

Wedding Catering Hattiesburg Laurel Mississippi
Disposable serving trays do not display as well as a themed approach using heavy duty platters.

If it’s within your budget, your display should be consistent with your theme and venue.

Wedding Catering Tips
A great caterer will offer creative ways to display your food. Choosing real cutlery and serving dishes can make a big difference in your presentation.

5. Can your caterer provide a reference list of previous wedding parties?

We now live in a world where you can find ratings of most businesses online. However, many independent caterers are small operations and crowdsourced reviews of their company may not register online.

If you’re considering using a “mom and pop” catering operation, don’t hesitate to ask if they can show you some references or testimonials from their past work. It may also be wise to ask your venue coordinator if they’ve ever worked with the caterer you’re considering?

6. Does your caterer use a contract?

When it comes to booking a caterer, contracts are a good thing.

It’s typical for a caterer to want money in advance of the event, but you deserve some guarantees as well.

Do not give your caterer money unless you have a contract that guarantees they will execute your function or return your money.

Local news stations have covered hundreds of wedding day horror stories where caterers have taken cash and then vanished.

Further, many caterers operate on thin margins, and they sometimes go out of business before your event. Don’t get burned by a fly by the night caterer.

Best wedding Caterer Hattiesburg Mississippi

7. Does your caterer work out of a state health inspected facility?

The thought of a bunch of your wedding guests getting sick right after your wedding is a nightmare. If your caterer works out of a facility that is state health inspected the bar will be very high for them to run a clean operation. Another plus, the history of a state health inspected facility can usually be pulled up online with a quick google search.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about ways Cotton Blues can help at your next catering event email Ryan at ryan@cottonblues.com or call 601.450.0510

Or visit our Event & Wedding Catering webpage.

All Rights Reserved. Cotton Blues 2018.


Best Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe

How To: Cotton Blues Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe

Cotton Blues Lemon Icebox Pie is one of the most popular desserts on the Cotton Blues menu.

With its picture-perfect meringue and the delicate balance of sweet and sour, the dessert screams south Mississippi.

Between 2012 and 2016, patrons of Cotton Blues begged pastry chef Shaun Davis to share the recipe. In May of 2016, Chef Shaun and owner Chris Ortego let the cat out of the bag by publishing step-by-step video instructions.

Making lemon icebox pie

“You can find some great lemon icebox recipes on the internet, there’s no secret ingredient in ours,” says Cotton Blues owner Chris Ortego. “But Chef Shaun’s execution of our lemon icebox pie is what sets it apart. That’s why we wanted to offer recipe in a video format.”

In the video, you can see how Chef Shaun makes the gingersnap/vanilla wafer crust and pipes a beautiful meringue.

“Great food is not the only aspect of a great restaurant. Service and atmosphere also set a restaurant apart,” says Ortego. “We’re comfortable sharing some recipes because we believe it makes an overall great experience for our customers and it allows us to play a bigger roll in the culinary community.”

All Rights Reserved. Cotton Blues 2018.

Rainy Day Distractions

Are you struggling to stay awake on rainy days?



Here are a few tips to stay productive at work:

• Reorganize

Reorganize your filing cabinets or prioritize your to-do list

• Get up and stretch

Take some time to walk around before the rainy weather lulls your to sleep
• Music

Listen to upbeat music to put a little pep in your step
• Goal set

Get yourself organized for next week and make a list of goals you need or want to accomplish. Your future self will thank you!

Weddings & Things


My name is Kristen and I am the Event Coordinator for Cotton Blues. Before I begin, I would like to thank you for attending the Premier Bridal Show and congratulate you and your fiancé on your engagement. Hopefully, we had the chance to meet and speak for a few moments!

I know this must be an exciting time for the both of you. I’m sure you know by now that along with all of the pre-wedding excitement and jitters comes copious amounts of stress. That’s what I’m here for.

Remember earlier when I said I’m an Event Coordinator? Let me explain that a little better for you: I do everything and I work with everyone. Is your soon-to-be MIL driving you crazy? Is your aunt trying to be your wedding coordinator?

Call me. I can help. Seriously.

Cotton Blues is a family owned restaurant located in Hattiesburg, but don’t let that fool you. We specialize in all the fun stuff – engagement dinners, rehearsal dinners, bridal brunches, reception catering, bartending, cakes and pastries. For all of these events (except cakes and pastries), you would be working with ONE person: me. Being able to tie everything down to working with one person who understands what you are going through definitely lightens the load of stress.

Shaun Davis is the Pastry Chef at Cotton Blues and he makes the most phenomenal desserts (and I’m not just saying that because I work with him.) He attended Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas, where he sharpened his culinary skills. He operates our full-service bakery, located in our restaurant. Chef Shaun makes any type of cake or pie you could dream of. Below is a sample of a cake he made for a photo shoot:

Like I said, he’s mega-talented. If you are interested in contacting him, please email him at shaun@cottonblues.com or call us at 601-450-0510.

Back to catering:

We have several different styles of catering to fit different wedding budgets, so if you have any questions about them, let me know! We can be as basic or as over-the-top as you’d like! We are versatile; we know that each wedding is different and we strive to bring to life the vision every bride has created in her mind.

Since we are a southern-style restaurant, we use a lot of cast iron to decorate with. We like the rustic stuff. I’ve included a few really cool pictures of events we’ve catered (as well as a really awesome photo shoot we were part of):



If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me! My email address is kristen@cottonblues.com or you can call and ask to speak with me at the restaurant: 601-450-0510.

DuBard School for Language Disorders

DuBard School for Language Disorders is a school dedicated to serve children with speech and language disorders.

Each year, it is my pleasure to work with DuBard School for Language Disorders for their Thanksgiving lunch. It is truly a humbling experience to give back to the community and to interact with children who are so polite and thoughtful. These children work so hard and they are more than deserving of this feast. The teachers are incredible and selfless and dedicated to helping the students learn and grow and develop into wonderful individuals.

IMG_1394(2015 Thanksgiving Luncheon) Pictured is Chris Ortego, owner of Cotton Blues, and Kristen Barber, Event Coordinator, with students.


(2016 Thanksgiving Luncheon) Amanda Strange and her daughter, Kylie, enjoying lunch time together. Amanda had just surprised Kylie at the school. In reference to DuBard school, Amanda said, “They are a miracle for children with language disorders. I think it is simply amazing. Kylie went in with a very limited vocabulary with gibberish between words. Now, she speaks and writes in full sentences!”


(2016 Thanksgiving Luncheon) Mr. Ortego is interacting with the Pilgrims and Indians during the luncheon.


For opportunities to give or donate, please visit https://www.usm.edu/dubard/giving-dubard-school



Tales of a Brunch Lover

If you’re like me and you like (love) brunch, do as the Romans do and stop at these incredible brunch places. I promise you won’t regret it.

I travel to Nashville as often as a full-time working 20something Mississippi gal can, which is probably 3 times a year. Two years ago, some friends and I happened to stumble upon a beautiful little gem called Biscuit Love. Let’s just say, I’ve been going ever since.

Last year, my mother, best friend and myself braved the torrential downpour of rain just to go to Biscuit Love. We had to park across the street and run to the restaurant. It was about 9:30 on a Thursday morning and there was a line…..OUT THE DOOR. In. The. Pouring. Rain.
That’s what I call dedication to brunch. That gives you a glimpse of how delicious and perfect Biscuit Love really is.

Not only was there a line, but there was an employee standing outside with waiting guests. He was handing out menus, holding the door, recommending options for guests to try and smiling the entire time. I’m not sure I would have been able to happily stand in the rain and greet customers around 9:30 on a Thursday morning before having, like seven cups of coffee.

Anyway, here is a picture we quickly snapped of myself, the unnamed employee and my best friend Jessica. Whether or not he is still employed there, I’m not sure, but I do know he was a valuable and wonderful employee on that day!

Biscuit Love
If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by! You’ll be glad you did.


Kishan Patel has been working in the restaurant industry for years. Aside from being an avid Hattiesburger supporter, he also owns a small company. Some of you may have heard of it:

Conner’s Q Sauce.

Kishan originally opened the business for his son, Conner (pictured below), to build his college fund. He has been in business for nine years. If you ever venture into Cotton Blues, you will have the opportunity to try Kishan’s original BBQ sauce. It is served with several items on the restaurant’s menu; such as the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich or the Chipotle Rubbed Baby Back Ribs.

Outside of Cotton Blues, you can find Kishan’s homemade sauce at Live @ 5 or at any local cooking competition.

I asked Kishan how he would describe the flavor of his BBQ sauce and he said, “It’s a combination of Carolina, Memphis and Kansas City sauces.” Now, if you don’t know much about the famous BBQ regions, you’re in luck, because I did my homework. Check out this cool link from Huffington Post to learn more about it:

(Spoiler: There are four major BBQ regions in the U.S.)

Kishan sells three different styles of sauce:

• Sweet Fire Roasted Jalapeño

• Texas Black Pepper Heat

• Original

If you’re like me and your job doesn’t allow much time for Live at 5ing or you need to soak up some extra couch potato time, there are other ways to find the best BBQ sauce in Hattiesburg. Conner’s Q Sauce will be hitting grocery stores soon, so keep your eyes peeled and your appetites ready!



“I think the serving size of ice cream is when you hear the spoon hit the bottom of the container.”

– Brian Regan

If you ever find yourself in Starkville, Mississippi do yourself a favor and drop by Strange Brew Coffeehouse. Try one of their fall seasonal coffees, like the Maple Harvest Latte – it’s anything but basic.

There’s also a new store right next to Strange Brew: Churn & Spoon. I’ll have to admit, my expectations were high due to the reputation Strange Brew has built and they didn’t disappoint. They had a lot of house made ice creams, but I decided to go with the nitro ice cream. This is where they make nitrogen ice cream right in front of customers. The mixture freezes at -321 degrees. Wow.

These are not the typical run-of-the-mill flavors, either. Each one is as unique as the name its given. You like the Albino Squirrel coffee? Check out the Albino Squirrel ice cream.



They also have a variety of homemade ice creams. Below is one of their original recipes:
NETFLICKS & CHILL: Caramel ice cream, M&Ms, chocolate, freshly baked popcorn (Just remember that the weirder it sounds, the better it tastes)


I know I blog a lot about ice cream, but it’s near and dear to my heart. By the way, I tried the Bulldog (highly recommended).

If you’re looking for a couple of places full of charm and flavor, here they are!


LEARN MORE AT http://strangebrewcoffeehouse.myshopify.com


Is it a coincidence or is it fate that National Taco Day falls on what most refer to as Taco Tuesday?

For the past week, my friends and I have pondered and planned our Tuesday night. It’s finally feeling like fall in South Mississippi, so we decided to have a little bonfire in celebration. We normally make turcos (turkey tacos) during the week, so I’ve been doing a little research on how to spice things up. In the midst of my research, I came across an article and quickly learned something. I’ll share this little nugget of information with you guys: No matter how you celebrate – with friends, alone, with a nice bottle of tequila; you will not celebrate National Taco Day as well as the people of Corpus Christi.

Chacho’s Tacos is home to the All-Mighty Chacho’s Taco Challenge – where customers are challenged to scarf down a nearly four pound taco in under 10 minutes 😳 The grande taco is made up of 14 inches of homemade tortilla, beans, cheese, carne guisada, egg, potatoes and bacon. (Picture posted below.)


Fun Fact: Only 5 people have finished the challenge in 18 years. Talk about a lot of taco OR if you’ve tried challenges such as this and failed, all you have to say tomorrow is simply, “I don’t wanna taco bout it.”

Tacos wouldn’t be right without tequila, so I have included a refreshing drink recipe, courtesy of Don Julio. Here is the link:



Fall & Football

The two most anticipated times of year have finally arrived: fall weather and football season – unless you live in Mississippi and you’re just experiencing the second season of summer.

Football is known to bring fans across the country together (or in some cases, tear them apart). One of my favorite traditions is tailgating, for obvious reasons. I love food. All food.

If you are tailgating anytime soon – and I hope you are – you will more than likely bring food along for your friends to enjoy. Today, I’m sharing two fall-inspired tailgating recipes that I really enjoy. I hope you do, too!


AUTUMN SANGRIA: (from The Gingered Whisk)
• One bottle of Pinot Grigio (I like Villa Pozzi)

• Four cups of fresh apple cider

• One apple (cored and chopped)

• One pear (cored and chopped)

• Three cinnamon sticks

• Half a cup of Brandy

• One cup of club soda

• Half a cup of fresh cranberries

Combine all ingredients and let sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours. Before you serve it, add the club soda.


Now, with all that alcohol, snacks are needed. One of my favorite, jaw-dropping treats is Salted Pretzel Marshmallow Bars (shoutout to Food Network for coming in clutch with this one).

I have attached the link to the recipe for this one, because it is a little lengthy, but SO WORTH IT. Plus, they’re really cute.


I’ll keep you guys posted on how tailgating in the deep, hot south goes. Hope you all enjoy the sangria and the tailgating appetizers. I know I will!