Amaze and Graze
Grazing and charcuterie tables are like edible art
By Rebecca Padgett
Main photo by Charlotte Fristoe Photography
Grazing and charcuterie tables are a sight to behold, and you’ve likely seen them everywhere from a friend’s wedding to your Instagram feed. Arranged with delectable chunks of cheese, a variety of meats and brimming with fruits, spreads, nuts and more, charcuterie displays are almost too pretty to eat … almost.
Where much of the appeal is the aesthetic of grazing tables, many adore them for the simple act of grazing — being able to select a few tasty bites before dinner. This experience allows you to savor the flavors without getting too full for the main course.
Couples and caterers alike love charcuterie and grazing tables for the ability to arrange, create and build something unique.
“No two charcuteries are the same,” said Christopher Holbrook, chef and owner of Signature Catering 30A. “They make for a dramatic and inviting entrance while being easy and versatile. The options are endless and you can do whatever you want, but you should keep it enticing with more than just meat and cheese.”
Grazing options can include cheeses, meats, fresh fruits, dehydrated fruits, nuts, crackers, crostini, olives, pickles, pickled vegetables, fresh vegetables, chocolate, jams, spreads and more.
Amanda Morrison, managing partner of Social Catering & Events, agrees that the sky is the limit where charcuterie is concerned, but she also knows there is a formula to a great grazing table.
Start with the cheese by selecting four different styles — a soft cheese, like goat or brie; a harder cheese like parmesan or manchego; a bleu cheese; and then something familiar, like a cheddar. The next layer is adding edible garnishes, such as fresh herbs, honey, nuts, crackers, olives and pickled vegetables. Then come the inedible garnishes, such as flowers and greenery.
With so much of charcuterie revolving around produce, meats and cheeses, Cara Varn, sales manager of Andrew’s Catering, emphasizes seeking local labels.
“We work to utilize both locally sourced and exotic items which means no two displays will ever be the same,” said Varn. “Many of the most delicious items are seasonal, meaning that you can curate your menu and design with the season. We work closely with local farmers to ensure the highest product quality.”
A fun yet informative option is to label the cheeses with where they come from, along with flavor profiles and wine pairings. Having the cheese in different shapes, selecting an array of bright-colored foods and having different heights and layers will create a lush and vibrant display.
“The belief that we eat with our eyes first is very true, and grazing tables always have a ‘wow’ factor for guests that is hard to achieve with other menu items,” said Morrison. “The beauty of grazing tables is it’s a rare food display that brings together so many vibrant colors and textures that all photograph well. We like to call it the ‘Pinstagram Effect.’ ”
Grazing tables are a wonderful welcome to a reception. Many couples opt to utilize them during cocktail hour because they promote mingling while munching. No one will complain if photos run a bit long when there are tastefully presented options alongside refreshing libations. Another option is to have several themed stations for your main course, charcuterie being one of them.
Beautiful and bountiful, grazing tables and charcuterie boards have a staying power in our minds, mouths and Instagram photos.