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If you’re anything like me, the chime of the clock at 5 p.m. during the summertime signals your favorite time of day. No, not happy hour – although we love that too. Charcuterie hour.
It’s no mere assortment of beers and cocktails to mark the end of the day. It’s a ritual – with some yummy snacks built in – which sparks the best conversations, the most curious taste-tests, and a mutual sigh of contentment.
The boards themselves vary, but whether you’re a newbie to the concept or the go-to assembler at every holiday gathering, we’ve collected our favorite boards, knives, cheeses, meats, crackers, wines, and garnishes that will make your next charcuterie board a hit.
Start With A Good Foundation
Part of the appeal of the charcuterie board is its visual presentation: that wow factor not present with other appetizers. You’ll want to evaluate how many people will be partaking, and size your board accordingly.
Made with responsibly sourced West African ebony, the Café Paddle ($59) from Stella Falone is an excellent choice (that doubles as a cutting board). The brand is founded by Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars, so you know the wood is of the highest quality.
For a larger gathering – or a statement piece – the Endless Entertaining Board ($150) from Addison West takes our breath away. At a whopping 53” in length, you can perch wherever you like at the table and still have easy access to your bites.
Add The Cheeses
My personal taste tends to be mild, creamy cheeses, but I’ve had the luck and pleasure of trying several direct-to-consumer versions that have pushed me from my comfort zone.
When I moved away from home, I realized for the first time that pimento cheese was a Southern tradition; many places simply do not have it. I was born and raised on Palmetto Cheese ($6), a superior blend, and my tubs are treasured items. Made with Wisconsin sharp cheddar, cream cheese, mayonnaise, chopped pimentos, and more, this delightful recipe is an absolute snacking must. (For those of you unfamiliar, pimento cheese is spicy, creamy, and perfect.)
Not a dairy person? Try this marinated hemp seed goat cheese courtesy of Grounded Foods Co. Its semi-firm, silky texture is incredibly versatile, and it’s marinated in olive oil, garlic, thyme, and lemon – plus, it’s plant-based, dairy free, nut free, gluten free, soy free…you get the picture.
For hard cheeses, I tried and loved raw milk cheeses from Consider Bardwell Farm based in Vermont. The Rupert cheese was a favorite – deep, buttery, and flavorful.
Then The Charcuterie, Obviously
Did you know charcuterie is actually a Spanish staple? A good ol’ happy hour board encourages family and friends to slow down over a bite. We’ve definitely adopted that practice in the U.S. when possible but until now, we haven’t had access to those same high quality Spanish meats.
Enter Mercado Famous. Co-founders Carmen Chen Wu and Aaron Luo were both raised in Spain by Chinese parents, and aimed to bring Spanish cured meats to the U.S. at a low cost. Their The Grazer Specialty Bundle ($57.15) features a range of cuts that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
Nuts, Spreads, Drizzles, Oh My!
Any good chef knows you should balance out your flavors. Salty, sweet, nutty, savory. Each cheese plate can evoke different taste combinations if done well, a skill that makes each board vastly different.
For a quick pick, the Elevated Entertaining Box ($68) from Here Here Market ensures you don’t have to think twice about how to garnish your board. Your package includes crackers, smoked honey (!!!), truffle salt, apple butter, small batch pickles, apple pie fruit jerky, salsa verde, and more, allowing guests to create seemingly-infinite flavor combinations. Bonus points for being extra giftable.
Add a little razzle-dazzle with some additional snacks like pistachios, almonds, and olives. The variant texture can be layered onto an existing cracker and cheese or enjoyed separately.
My family also enjoyed Indian-inspired PARIVA Yogurt Bites with our spread: small spheres of fresh, hand-rolled yogurt immersed in a savory mix of extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, herbs, and spices. The combo pack ($38.98)? Divine.
The Wines To Enjoy With Them
Vinos, charcuterie hour is your time to shine.
If you have a big crew, a magnum of wine can be the ideal choice to serve everyone. Enter BONDLE Wines, an organic, artisanal French label offering an accessible range of seasonally curated picks. Currently, the brand offers Rosé, Red, Sparkling, White, and Orange (my personal favorite), each priced at $95. I busted these out at a family gathering and they were extremely popular, allowing me to serve everyone without having to haul a dozen bottles.
If you’d prefer conventional sizing, father-daughter founded Et Fille Wines is highly regarded. The brand’s name means “and daughter,” combining the family’s passions for engineering, biotechnology, business, and of course, wine-making in Oregon.
Its 2018 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($34) and 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($32) are both classic summer sips. Drink for a cause by choosing the STEM & root varietal ($20), the charitable result of a desire to devote their 2020 wine to something greater. Each purchase directly supports the Girls Inc. PNW’s Eureka! Program, a STEM-based approach to engaging and empowering 8th-12th grade youth.
Maybe you’re still more of a can person, or on a health kick! Enter Maker Wine, a women-owned and led canned wine company that supports small, minority and/or women-led wine producers. Canned wines are oh-so-convenient when you’re on the go (or just love an incredible chilled drink) and these are dry, with zero sugar and minimal carbs. Shop the Best-Sellers Mixed Pack at $54 for 6 cans – approximately two bottles’ worth.
…And The Glasses To Keep Them In
Elevated glassware will win me over every time. (Don’t believe me? Shop this glassware edit.) I recently followed my mom and grandmothers’ leads by procuring a set of rosé glasses from Lenox, a beloved choice of Southern wedding registries.
For a more modern take, try the Magnum Wine Glasses ($49) from Eva Solo. Their trademark angled rim adds breathless elegance to any table – although it’s actually there to improve the bouquet of the wine rather than serve an aesthetic purpose. With these combinations, you can’t go wrong.