Local charcuterie artists on how to create the perfect spread

Photo courtesy Little Graze.

Sure, the seven-layer dip has had its good times at parties through the years, but with all those flavors tending to muddy each other’s waters, it may be time for party snacks to make like a last-minute Chopped recipe and deconstruct. Enter: the charcuterie board. While perhaps a bit of old news for those prepped and primed in the ways of home entertaining, charcuterie has nonetheless renewed its popularity year after year in part due to its changeable nature. No matter the season, no matter the trend, the art of the spread lies in its mix-and-matchable variety, and companies proffering their possibilities in Baton Rouge have begun to take center stage—or at least center counterspace.

Curious for more, we reached out to Nicole’ Keller of Bayou Boards and Blends and Cassie Treuil of Little Graze, who laid out on the table some tips and tricks for putting together a charcuterie board of your own.


Bites for the boys:

In partnership with Nicole’ Keller’s coworker Leann Ringe, Bayou Boards and Blends sprung up in recent months as a creative outlet inspired by wine pairing classes at 3Tails Wine & Cheese in the now-closed White Star Market. Nowadays, these working moms have partnered with Chris’ Specialty Foods for their particularly meat-centric trays, from smoked andouille and smoked brisket to textural treats like hog’s head cheese and cracklins.

“Men especially love variations like our Cajun board,” says Keller. “They don’t realize charcuterie can be like this, that it can be hardy if you want it to be. But no matter what you’re pairing together, the key is that you want to pair anything salty or savory with something sweet. Honey or dried fruit like apricot always pairs really well, and honey and blue cheese is particularly amazing. We’ve also included gingersnaps from time to time, or Chris’ Oreos dipped in chocolate with a candy fleur-de-lis.”


 

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Socially distant holiday parties:

If someone wants to have a holiday get-together but still wants to keep COVID in mind, Keller recommends looking into charcuterie cones, the individually wrapped variations Bayou Boards and Blends recently created for a bridal shower.

“You can basically still give everyone the same flavor combos, but in bite-size packages,” she says. “Always use seasonal fruit, like grapes or figs or strawberries. And if you want to make sure that everyone gets to try something that suits their taste, I say you can’t go wrong with a good cheddar, which pairs with any meat. Brie with prosciutto and honey is also really popular, as is a blue cheese with a sweet coppa and dried fruit. Make sure to use a plain cracker—no rosemary or salt or pepper—and try to keep them apart from the meat and fruit, since they can absorb the moisture. You basically just want a conduit for the things going on top.”


Perfect wine pairings:

Now that the plate is stacked, what should you use to wash it down?

“You can’t go wrong with Champagne,” says Keller. “The bubbles really cut through the fat of the meat and pair with the creaminess of the cheese. Or, if you want a different wine with the same concept, look for something fruity: a pinot noir for red or a dry riesling for white. They’re fuss-free choices you barely have to think about.”


Keep kids in mind:

As a mother of five, Cassie Treuil of Little Graze understands the chaos that comes with trying to plan a party for little ones, whose preferences can fluctuate with each passing day. Still, she knows that even kids like to feel a little fancy from time to time, and like to share in the special treats grownups also enjoy. So, just a couple of months ago, Little Graze was born.

“With all my clients planning for children’s parties, I’ll start by asking about the child’s favorite treat, because you want to give kids a little something to help them feel special. I think it’s good to start planning a spread with a staple item—that favorite item, for example—and then build around it. You never want tons of candies or sweets, but I do like to add some as a little garnish next to the main events, whether it’s a fruit leather roll or a piece of rock candy. Always make sure to add a bit of fruits and veggies to keep some healthy options in there.”


 

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Do it for the aesthetic:

Treuil, who has also worked as a children’s photographer for 10 years, likes to organize her boards around an aesthetic, usually a color. Orange and gold for Thanksgiving, perhaps? Red and green for Christmas?

“Sometimes you just need to think outside the box to tie different foods together,” she says. “To match a red pear, you can add in a sprinkle of Swedish Fish, or some orange Starburst with actual oranges. I’ve added purple sprinkles to ordinary cookies to tie into our gameday boxes. You don’t have to rely on just the items as they are—you can add bits of creativity yourself.”


Don’t forget the palate cleansers:

Treuil’s children turned her on to this one: For a board packed with potent flavors of meat and cheese, fresh fruit or even a piece of dark chocolate can serve as a palate cleanser, improving each successive bite of a new meat-and-cheese combo.

“I love a Trader Joe’s white cheddar with something sweet like a honey or a raspberry or fig preserve, alongside some type of salami,” she says. “Hot pepper jelly would also be great. But with all those flavors, I like to add grapes as a palate cleanser. Those meats and cheeses can get heavy, so I suggest adding something to refresh the flavors so they don’t become overwhelming.”


Bayou Boards and Blends offers classes for dates, girls’ nights and kids’ parties, with options for gatherings or simple orders available at bayouboardsandblends.com. Orders for boards can also be placed via email at [email protected], by messaging via social media, or by calling 225-588-7644 or 225-480-7330.

Little Graze orders can be placed for a variety of gathering sizes—including individuals—at littlegrazela.com or via Instagram or Facebook, with delivery included in prices for Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge orders.

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