By Cheese Monger Cindi Patterson
The last year has shaped us in a way we never thought we’d see in our lifetime. Millions of people have suffered horrendous loss and have endured the painful struggle of this pandemic. Many are strait up tired of hearing about it and just wish to be back to where we once were. Though that’s easier said than done, I do feel that we are getting there.
Not being able to share meals and conversations or to gather really made it feel like I lost a year full of holidays, special events, and casual friend and family dinners. I know many people feel this way, especially for us social butterflies and family-driven hearts. The foundation of my family stands on food. Spending time in the kitchen, sharing food prep duties, cooking and eating with loved ones is the way I was raised to share my love. Tradition and normal seemed to be put to the back burner making a small group get-together only a possibility for the future.
In the current month, there has been a bit of a shift in the pandemic. With Covid-19 cases decreasing in California and the privilege to get vaccinated, I was recently able to get together with a few of my closest girlfriends for our annual SPRING FLING weekend. After a year of not being able to gather, we came together as fully vaccinated friends and celebrated life.
Being the resident curd nerd at Le Vigne Winery, my duty is to bring the cheese! Following the latest cheese and charcuterie trends (yes, that is a thing), I wanted to create a board that was of individual portions, colorful and delicious. The way cheese boards are currently evolving to distribute in a crowd-friendly style is in individual cones, grazing boxes and “jarcuterie”. These are a few of the ways caterers, food stylists and cheese mongers are adapting in the cheese market during the current pandemic, to serve at events like weddings, birthdays and showers, to name a few.
Individual servings are perfect for any event, large or small, a great way to serve personalized snacks and a hip way to create a fun treat at your own event. To create an individual cheese portion or grazing box, use the same method as you would for building a customary cheese and charcuterie board. The same components are used, just on a smaller scale.
Let’s Get Started!
Pick your vessel. It can be a small mason jar, paper boat, handmade paper cone, paper to-go boxes or any creative container. (I found paper berry baskets at Michaels craft store).
Charcuterie aka cured meat
You can find a variety of cured meats in the retail cheese store at Le Vigne Winery.
Some I would recommend are the following:
Salami Chubs, typically 6 to 10oz can be hand cut into thicker slices, moon or half-moon shapes.
Pre-sliced salami, prosciutto, coppa, etc. can be put on skewers, folded or rolled into a rose shaped creation.
I choose cheeses with a variety of textures and colors. A crowd-pleasing cheese plate should consist of a couple of semi hard and/or hard cheeses, a soft cheese like brie and a blue cheese.
Here are some of my favorites from the Le Vigne Cheese Shop:
Drunken Goat: semi soft goat milk Spanish cheese. It has a smooth texture and make sure to keep the rind on for color.
Manchego: semi hard Spanish sheep’s milk and the rind adds great texture.
Rustic Red: cow’s milk cheddar from the UK. The color is a brilliant orange and it has a crumbly texture.
Any type of gouda. You can’t go wrong with a Beemster brand gouda or Honey Bee. Pick your angle: creamy, crumbly, bold or sweet.
If you are a fan of blue, I recommend Big Rock Blue from Central Coast Creamery. It is firm and easier to work with for grazing boxes. If you want to step it up a notch, it can be complimented by a small piece of honeycomb.
Dried fruit to add texture and color: apricots, peaches, figs or cherries.
Dried nuts and/or crackers to add crunch.
Fresh fruits or veggies to add life and color. Pick whatever is in season.
Sweet treat like chocolate or caramel. Always a nice surprise.
For many of us, cheese bites are enjoyed with our favorite wine or beer. Especially with the days ahead warming up, a cold crisp pale ale or rosé is encouraged. My current favorite Le Vigne wines to enjoy with cheese and charcuterie are the 2020 Rosé and 2018 Sangiovese. Both are very complimentary to a warm spring day when enjoyed chilled.
And please remember: enjoy, have fun with it and cherish the time with your loved ones. There’s nothing quite like great wine, gourmet food and good conversation. Happy spring!