The Art of the Charcuterie Board

Have you ever been to a party, walked in and felt impressed and welcomed by an array of colorful food, flowing beverages and an effortless host? Hosting parties doesn’t come easy to everyone. I get that. There are plenty of times where my hair still isn’t done, I’m pulling something out of the oven that needs five more minutes, the doorbell rings with eager guests and my eyes fixate at the clock praying it will rewind. But I always remind myself that there is no such thing as the perfect party (or anything in life for that matter).

And before you correct me and tell me about Nancy who ALWAYS throws the perfect parties, I can assure you that even Nancy has her moments.

So are there tricks? YES, of course.

One of the best tricks out there is the Charcuterie Board.

Art of the Charcuterie Board

The charcuterie board is so much more than some snacks that you put out to be nice. The charcuterie board buys you more time and is as beautiful as it is practical. It’s any host’s number one trick. When guests arrive, a charcuterie board:

1) provides a focus on what to do and where to gather. 

2) puts something in your guest’s hand immediately (maybe even before you have time to open the bottle of wine!). This is important for making people feel like they are doing something (instead of having your mother-in-law hover in the kitchen asking how she can help you finish the Coq Au Vin).

3) pleases guests of every age (think of the starving toddler or your grandparents who usually eat dinner at 5 p.m. sharp). 

There are three important rules of the charcuterie board: 

Rule 1: Do not put the charcuterie board in the kitchen. Put it somewhere where people can gather away from the kitchen so you have time to finish dinner or throw some mascara on. If you have a small group or a kitchen island, that’s okay. Simply pull up stools and finish cooking while your guests help by opening wine.

Rule 2: Don’t, I repeat, don’t put out a board that you are going to be nervous about people cutting on. If you do this, you will spend more time worrying and reminding people not to cut on it than actually enjoying yourself. When the hosts can’t relax, it’s the worst. 

Rule 3: Know your crowd. If you are having people over who are Kosher, you will need a meat board and separately, a cheeseboard. If you are having over a lot of children, cut the grapes in half. If you don’t know your audience, c’est la vie. It will all work out. 

Every cheeseboard should have components that make up the 5 most common human tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. I’ve given some examples below (no need to stick to these!) 

Sweet – Fruity jam (raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, etc), berries, apricots, apples, pears, candied ginger, chocolate, grapes, goat cheese, honey

Sour – Pickled veggies (pickles, beans, beets), kimchi, cherries, cranberries

Bitter – Broccoli, cauliflower, kale chips, candied orange peel

Salty – Roasted or candied nuts, burrata, camembert, olives, cheddar

Umami – Cured meats, bacon jam, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes

The last and final touch that elevates every charcuterie board is a sprig or two of fresh rosemary! 

By knowing your audience, following some basic guidelines and using your creativity to design a charcuterie board, you will set yourself up to host gracefully and worry-free!