From the Holidays, a baby shower, or a casual night in, conversation and food typically become the centerpiece of any gathering! If I’m bringing anything, I want it to be easy, and most importantly, a showstopper!
Meat and cheese are practically universally liked by all and grazing trays/tables always have something for everyone. If you’re looking to impress, big or small crowd, this is definitely the best way to go!
First things first, how many people are you “feeding?” I put that in quotes because you need to figure out if this is just an appetizer, is it’s the only appetizer or is this the only thing being served. Then you can assess how much food you’ll need to keep your guests satisfied! After that, you can move on to one of the most fun steps, SHOPPING!
Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and your local cheese shop are going to be your best friends. What’s also great about these places is that you can try before you buy! The last thing you want is to pick a cheese you’ve never tried before, let that sucker get to room temperature, and stink your party up with a funky odor! Talk to your cheesemonger (a person who sells cheese) and pick QUALITY popular cheeses/meats! I put emphasis on quality because let’s be real… meat and cheeses are a premium product and once you try the good stuff, there’s no going back. Variety is also key; hard or soft cheeses, goats milk, cows milk, etc. Switch it up! Some of the go-to crowd-pleasers are a quality Brie (everyone is familiar with Brie), English Cheddar, Manchego (aged or young, find what you like), a flavored goat cheese log, and any and all Bellavitanos (bourbon and merlot are the bomb .com)!
Moving on to Charcuterie (pronounced “shahr-ku-tuh-ree”), keep it SIMPLE! Grab a couple of packs of salami and prosciutto, and call it a day. Maybe grab some turkey for your non-porkers, but as I said, simplicity is key! Once meat and cheese are taken care of, snag your favorite produce (fruits and veggies), sweet and savory treats, jams/ spreads, crackers and nuts, and you’ll have everything you need for a graze!
When it comes to assembly, there are no rules, BUT there are a couple of tricks to get that aesthetic just right!
- Rule of Thirds: Place things in small sections of 3. Typically looks the best that way versus one giant area of one thing.
- Build up versus out: Think Abundant! Your graze will look much more lush and abundant the more layers you add. If you keep it layered thin and spread things out too wide, it’s going to look minimal and sad.
- Color: That’s where produce can make the biggest difference! Choose vibrant colored produce that can make your graze pop! Layer your blackberries with blueberries so those sections aren’t dark and faded into the background.
Start with the cheese, I recommend pre-cutting your harder cheeses and letting your guest cut the softer ones! Figure out if you want slices or dices, or leave it whole! Arrange it all however you want it. Moving on to meat, there’s nothing prettier and funnier than a nice long salami river! Fold your salami in half, then fold it in half again, and you have the start of a beautiful way to display your meat! After meat and cheese, fill in the gaps with produce, bowls of pickles, olives, or jams. Next, fill in the smaller gaps with your sweet or savory treats and nuts, then finish with garnish (fresh herbs are my favorite, makes it all look fresh from a garden)!
Before your guests arrive, be sure to snap a pic of your creation! You should be proud of your work and it’s bound to get some cheesy love on social media!
Just remember, there are no rules, make it fun, and put your personality into your graze! Whatever you come up with is guaranteed to please your guests and leave them satisfied! Happy Grazing!