At a young age, Cortney LaCorte learned from her Godmother, Kar Garfield, not only the art of creating spectacular cheese boards but an appreciation for the way these small boards brought people together - picking little bites from the board and lingering over it for conversations. Today Cortney, the founder and owner of Cheese Gal (@CheeseGal), is crushing it as a female business owner, a mom to two young daughters, wife to her partner in all things, Chris, and living a crazy, hectic and wonderful life. “I feel blessed beyond belief.”
Feeling uninspired as a stay at home mom and missing her touring musician husband, Chris LaCorte, Cortney kept busy crafting cheese boards for family and friends and posting her photos to Instagram.
After the blessing of having created her first “paid” board, Cortney was determined to use cheese as a creative outlet. No matter how big or busy Cheese Gal becomes, Cortney’s number one rule is “Quality, quality, quality”. Cheese Gal has a well recognized plating style and aesthetic, and while the boards look beautiful, it is the quality of ingredients and scrumptious tastes which are most important and keep people coming back.
With a location in Nashville's Fairlane Hotel, Cortney can offer workshops teaching participants how to create fabulous cheese boards at home. Workshops are generally offered once a month through a sign up on her website (cheesegal.com) but if you want to join in the fun, you must act fast, as spots sell out quickly.
Encouraged by her 88,000+ Instagram followers, the journey to create Cortney’s famous “Martini as Dirty as the Cumberland River.” is preserved in stories on her Instagram. After more than a month of making a martini a day, Cortney hit upon the “perfect” Dirty Martini recipe. Most recently, LaCorte perfected the Apple Cider Bourbon Martini. And while that martini has yet to make it into a Cheese Gal workshop, Cortney’s newest workshop, The Cheeseboard and Dirty Martini making class, coincides with the introduction of the Cheese Gal Martini Gift Box which includes everything (except the alcohol) you need to make her “Dirty as the Cumberland River” Martini at home. Kits are available for purchase in the Cheese Gal shop and online.
Apple Cider Bourbon Martini
(Just as delicious as a mocktail by omitting the alcohol)
4 ounces Apple Cider
2.5 ounces Bourbon
1 ounce fresh lemon juice (save the wedge to coat the martini glass rim)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and some additional for the sugar cinnamon rim plate
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar for rim plate
1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1-2 cinnamon sticks
1-2 apple slices
Mix granulated sugar and some ground cinnamon and place on a plate.
Rub the lemon wedge around the rim of a martini or cocktail glass until well coated.
Dip the lemon juice coated rim of the martini glass into the sugar and cinnamon mixture to coat.
Pour the apple cider, lemon juice, bourbon and ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon into a cocktail shaker full of ice.
Shake like it will save your life (this is how you get ice chips and froth and also incorporate all the cinnamon throughout the cocktail).
Pour into prepared glass.
Garnish with cinnamon sticks, rosemary, and apple slices.
How to create the perfect cheese board at home
First, always use fresh, quality seasonal ingredients.
For an appetizer serving, plan 3 ounces cheese and 2 ounces of meat per person
Cheese: (2 - 3) Consider mixing textures and milk for variety. Cortney's favorite cheeses for home created boards include: aged cheddar, Roth garlic herb chèvre (available at Walmart), Trader Joe's blueberry vanilla chèvre and triple crème Brie
Meat: (2 - 3) Consider prosciutto, salami, soppressata, dried coppa, and pepperoni
Fruit: Seasonal fruits for fall include: strawberries, blueberries, grapes, figs, apples, and dried cranberries
Fillers / Salty: Olives, nuts, pickles, cornichons
Garnish: Sage, rosemary, fresh oregano
Sweet (in ramekins): honey, fig jam
Carrier: Selection of crackers (water, black pepper, fig, rosemary, pita chips, bagel chips, fresh sliced baguette)
Charcuterie board, cutting board, plate, anything goes when creating a charcuterie board at home.
To achieve a layered, lush and bountiful looking board, start by laying the foundation for your board- place the honey and fig jam ramekins on the board.
Next add cheese (be sure to cut hard cheese into bite size pieces). To add some interest, cut the other cheeses into triangles, slices, or crumble onto the platter.
Arrange meat. For salami, Cortney suggests folding it in half and then half again and placing it on the plate.
Add seasonal fruit (seasonal fresh fruit is inexpensive and adds visual interest to your board.)
Use olives and nuts to fill in any blank spaces.