Meal Overboard!

Local Charcuter-queen Dishes Her Secrets on Crafting the Ultimate Grazing Board

Deck the halls! Dust the nooks! Relatives shall converge for a holiday feast at your house. It’s that most wonderful time of merriment…until personal opinions collide and worldviews jostle. Better enlist the ultimate ambassador.

“Charcuterie […] makes everyone happy,” attests Elizabeth Philbrick, co-owner of EsoTerra Ciderworks, an establishment synonymous with wine-like ciders and jaw-dropping grazing boards.

Grazing boards are grand assemblies of any snackable foods. By contrast, a charcuterie (sharh-KOO-tuh-ree) board showcases a selection of cured meats expertly paired with foods that enhance flavors and textures.

From Survival to Splendid

Grazing board cousins span the globe, dating back eons. Before refrigerators, food preservation via curing, fermenting, and pickling shepherded humankind through sparse seasons.

Today’s grazing boards are quite glamorous. “The first bite is always with your eyes,” Philbrick says. She also notes the best boards will capture the local goût de terroir, or the quintessential flavors of a region infused by climate, soils, and elevation.

“A charcuterie board made in Durango is going to taste very different from one made in Denver if you’re doing it right,” she says. In other words, the grazing board you make can literally taste like “home for the holidays,” especially if you follow her One, Two, Three: Charcuterie guide for crafting the ultimate board.

Step One: Boards, Bottles, Buildings

Cutting board, plate, or platter—boards can be any item. Before any food adorns that board, first select a bottle. Determine the bottle of wine, cider, or special beverage you’ll be serving. As Philbrick advises, “A properly made charcuterie board […] elevates the wine experience.”

The drink shrinks your choices from endless to salient. Bold, tannic wines pair with earthy palates. White wines pair with creamy flavors.

Time to erect some buildings. Use the jars of jams, mustards, dips, and spreads. Ramekins are great, too. Establish these vessels as bulwarks across the board. “[These items] are places to lean things up against,” Philbrick notes.

Step Two: Bases, Biggies, Buddies

Layer the board with a base like arugula or cabbage. Inedible garnishes are a waste of time, money, and taste, Philbrick notes.

Biggies come next, as in the big flavor items like meats and cheeses. Nest in your buddy flavors, such as sliced fruits, veggies, pickled items, and breads or crackers. For the grand finale, add berries, nuts, and dried fruits, like apricots and crystallized ginger.

Step Three: Bets and Bedfellows

It’s a well-kept secret that the best grazing boards bet on lucky coins. Heads or tails? It’s a coin—you can’t have one without the other. Sweet demands sour. Pickled needs fresh. Soft accompanies crunchy.

While placing your “bets,” allow the edibles to be bedfellows. As they caress, drip, and cuddle, new flavor combinations emerge, seducing guests to mix and match unusual items.

By now, your board should resemble a treasure chest of colorful gems, vibrant jewels, delicate pearls, and gleaming gold coins. That means you’re ready to make your loved ones feel truly treasured.


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