Whether you call it a charcuterie board, a fruit tray or a cheese & cracker platter, the concept of serving a buffet on a tray has always been a tremendous crowd pleaser. The only difference between each of these food creations is that, every now and then, they get a rebrand. Currently, the almighty fruit board is all the rage. And, boy oh boy, do some people have a knack for creating mouthwatering cornucopias! But fear not, they’re not creative geniuses, all they have on you are some tips and tricks. We’ve scoured every cookbook, the entire internet, and picked some caterers’ brains so that we can share all the secrets that will have your guests thinking that you, too, are a mastermind.
Step 1. Beg, borrow or steal an extra-extra large cutting board.
Step 2. Go on a cheese crawl so you end up with a fabulous assortment of cheeses, 3-4 types. Consult your local cheesemonger who’ll generously ply you with samples, recommendations and unique stories about each cheese.
Step 3. Search high and low for an eclectic assortment of olives, and other oil-packed delights like sundried tomatoes.
Step 4. Track down gherkins/cornichons/pickles (even if you’re not a fan).
Step 5. Head to your local bulk food boutique to load up on an assortment of dried fruit.
Step 6. You’ll need hummus, but not the kind you’d typically find in your local grocery store. Find a specialty shop that makes their own. Authenticity makes a world of difference!
Step 7. You’ll need mustard and red pepper jelly. Again, as with hummus, opt for small batch offerings and, if possible, locally made. There’s a world of difference taste-wise and visually between spreads made by artisanal methods.
Step 8. The day before your event, lay out everything you’ve bought so far, and observe the colours of the assembled board. Only then make up your shopping list for fruit and vegetables. Everyone’s got a different aesthetic, some people aim for a rainbow of colours, others prefer using a calmer palette and sticking to muted colours. It’s completely up to you! For the freshest flavours, shop for what’s in season.
Step 9. Figure out how many ramekins (tiny serving dishes) and serving spoons, forks, cheese knives, and napkins you’ll need.
Step 10. On the day of, pick up fresh baguettes and an assortment of gluten-free crackers.
Step 11. Bring cheese to room temperature by pulling it from the fridge 3 hours before your event.
Step 12. Time to lay everything out! Remember: there’s no right or wrong way to do this. If you don’t trust yourself, have a peek at some charcuterie boards on Pinterest.
PRO TIP: Give yourself two to three weeks to source everything you’ll need. If you’re a minimalist and prefer not to keep an extra large cutting board on hand, or any of the serving cutlery, consider renting all your needs from a catering company. If it’s your own cutting board, care for it with these tips.
Photo by Marc Babin