HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT CHARCUTERIE BOARD
Written by Taylor Roberts
We are here to help you shop for, assemble, and enjoy a perfect charcuterie board for any fun occasion. Luckily, local Santa Barbara companies offer amazing ingredients to include in our spread and share with our dinner guests. If you are running tight on time and want to leave it to a professional, Alexandra Chandler, owner of Slate Catering Co., is known for her colorful custom grazing tables, charcuterie boards, and edible centerpieces.
Do It Yourself
1. The Star of the Show: Charcuterie
You can’t have a complete charcuterie board without an exciting array of uncured soppressata, thinly sliced prosciutto, and spicy calabrese. It is important to include meats of different texture, cut, and spice. Smoked salmon is also a fun accoutrement for your board.
Local grocers and specialty butcher shops tend to satisfy all of our charcuterie needs, saving us a trip to an additional store. Lazy Acres and Whole Foods have amazing selections of all things meat, cheese, crackers, and olive oil to fulfill your charcuterie board dreams.
2. Cheese, Please
Picking the right variety of cheeses for a charcuterie board is often the most difficult due to all of the flavors, textures, types, and prices. Cheese can also be plated in its plain form or dressed up as a baked brie or fig-goat cheese spread.
Drake Family Farms sells their goats’ cheese at the Santa Barbara Saturday Market with different types of chèvre and feta.
Paso Robles-based Central Coast Creamery can be found in stores throughout Santa Barbara and has an amazing cheese selection. I’m partial to their creamy, buttery Holey Cow and their crumbly Big Rock Blue cheeses.
Stepladder Ranch and Creamery is also a great place to shop cheese, at the Santa Barbara Farmers Markets on Tuesday or Saturday (or online!). They have amazing hard and soft cheese varieties. I love incorporating Ragged Point cheese, which is peppery and pairs perfectly with apples, honey, or a crispy bread. Stepladder also offers Paso Vino, a unique wine-soaked hard cheese made from cow’s milk.
3. Nuts and Bolts
Nuts add an important crunch to any happy hour, whether they bring saltiness or sweetness.
Salty--When looking for a salty-savory note, the Lemon Zing, Crushed Garlic, or simply Salted pistachios from Santa Barbara Pistachio Company fit the bill.
Sweet--Candied nuts are crowd pleasers and offer a break from savory cheeses and olives. Rosemary Truffle Candied Almonds or Candied Pecans from Black Bow Sweets can be found in stores across Santa Barbara and Montecito, such as Pierre Lafond Market, Viva Oliva, and the Santa Barbara Company.
Without going nuts, you can also shop Fat Uncle Farms' Coconut Honey Almonds, Garlic and Herb, and Cinna-monds at Sweet Wheel Farm & Flowers in Summerland and Montecito.
4. Something Sweet: Fruit
Fresh--There is no better place to shop fresh fruits than the bountiful, local farmers markets of downtown Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria, and Goleta and Sweet Wheel Farm & Flowers in Summerland and Montecito. Sliced apples, grapes, figs, cherries, and berries are all crucial for both flavor and decor on any charcuterie board.
Dried--When it comes to dried fruits, think dates, figs, apricots, and even blood oranges. Dried fruits are a great way to incorporate a unique texture to your board and can be found throughout the Santa Barbara Farmers Markets, such as at Avila and Sons Farms.
5. Something Salty: Olives and Pickles
Olives--While trying to avoid the debate between green or kalamata olives, look no further than the Santa Barbara Olive Company. Olives pair great with cheese, whether you include pimento-stuffed, italian style, or feta-stuffed olives.
Pickles--It seems like just about anything can be pickled. Be sure to include a pickled vegetable, such as okra, asparagus, cauliflower, or brussels sprouts (no, that’s not a typo) in your spread. They look great in a jar to add height to your charcuterie board!
Pacific Pickle is based in Santa Barbara and sells their pickled goods in numerous stores and at Sweet Wheel Farm & Flowers.
6. Skinny Dips and Spreads
There are endless options for spreads and dips to include on your board. Hummus, jams, jellies, and tapenades are just a few of the many ways to accessorize your vegetables and crackers.
Apricot Ginger Jam and or Fig and Olive Tapenade are two great choices that can be found at the Santa Barbara Company.
For a special sweet touch, include a local honey that can be perfectly paired with cheese and creatively jarred on your board. Dylan’s Raw Hive Honey bottles honey from their Santa Barbara-based bees and can be shopped online or at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market.
Personal favorite, Oat Bakery, is a one-stop shop for your bread needs. Whether you decide on their seeded or olive sourdoughs or fresh focaccias decorated with local vegetables, you won’t want to leave their bread off your charcuterie board.
Crackers are also an important mode of transportation for our charcuterie. Be sure to include basic rice or flatbread crackers, in addition to exciting crisps or breadsticks.
8. Something to Sip
Between bites of goat cheese, prosciutto, fig jam, and pickled okra, a glass of wine is a perfect addition to the charcuterie board ensemble. Folded Hills Winery, rooted in Gaviota, has you and your happy hour guests covered. Their rosé or red wines not only hit every flavor note, but they are also crafted in small batches with health in mind. Think wine with zero residual sugar, only one gram of carbohydrates or less, low sulfites, and biodynamically grown.
Tips from Charcuterie professional, Alexandra Chandler
Alexandra Chandler is the talent behind Slate Catering Co., a grazing style catering company. They create extravagant grazing tables, charcuterie boards, edible arrangements, and centerpieces. Each arrangement includes locally sourced ingredients that perfectly decorate any happy hour, dinner party, or picnic. Slate Catering Co. is now also offering workshops, so you can bring the art of charcuterie and cheese board-ing to you and your friends (*also offering virtual workshops)! Check out their website to scroll through pictures of their creations, to order a customized board, or to schedule a workshop.
Alexandra's top four tips for the perfect charcuterie board:
1. Sourcing: Shop locally!
We have farmers markets right downtown two days a week. Think outside of the box when shopping, choose fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, etc. that you might not normally associate with a cheese board. Think rosemary, radishes, sage, flowers, snap peas, broccoli, cherries, pomegranate seeds, and cucumbers!
2. Diversity: Choose cheese and charcuterie types that are totally different from each other in both flavor and texture.
For example, a variety of soft, hard, stinky, crumbly, nutty, and creamy cheeses. For meat, prosciutto and salami are a great place to start. For a fuller platter, you can include dips like hummus, jams, honey, and other spreads.
3. Design: I like to think about the “rules” of photography or art when making a cheese board.
Think the rule of thirds, repetition, texture, color, etc. What will catch your eye first and where is it led to next? You want larger items to act like an “anchor” for the eye and other items to help lead you around the board. Use techniques like “waterfalls & rivers.” Remember rules are meant to be broken, have fun!
Use edible flowers, herbs, and leafy greens to make your board pop.