Courtesy of Charcutebri
A boon of entrepreneurs dedicated to attention-grabbing planks of artisan cheeses, dried meats, and more has arisen in the county, eager to feed the guests at your next party.
Entertaining: It can run the gamut, from servers passing canapés on silver trays to opening a bag of chips and putting them in a plastic bowl. During the pandemic, cheese boards begat charcuterie boards, and many iterations would follow: breakfast and brunch boards, dessert boards, and fruit-and-veggie boards. Instagram is now showing butter boards (whether that one takes off remains to be seen).
“At the start of the pandemic, people were getting together outside and socially distanced,” says Rachel Kaplan (@boardsbyrachelny). Kaplan says initially, customers were looking for small boards or individual boxes for their “pods.” Then, in the spring and summer of 2021, “there was a more celebratory feel,” and larger boards and grazing tables rose in popularity. “The whole concept of people eating from the same table or board of food brings home the concept of getting together again in a creative way,” Kaplan says.
Creativity and gathering are themes noted by other women who create boards. Stephanie Scala (@rocboards) notes that as people had time on their hands to browse Instagram, they “really picked up on food that looked aesthetically pleasing, and businesses took off as companies differentiated themselves with their offerings.” She points out that food is a great conversation-starter, and that’s what she looks to do with her boards. “Food evokes certain memories in people, and I look to spark those connections through both presentation and offerings,” Scala says. Over the summer, she opened ROC Boards in Valhalla (rocnyboards.com), dedicated to charcuterie boards; in the future, the store will offer make-your-own-board classes.
Those connections, whether they be in-person or online, is what Jessica Daniels (@traychictreats) is bringing to her boards. “I’m working with influencers and others to spell out with food when someone hits a certain number of followers or to write the word ‘Mom’ for a Mother’s Day celebration.” Daniels says she started out with boards but is morphing into working with boxes. “I was hearing the boards were too big; with the boxes, I’m able to more easily customize the size.”
“Customers are not only looking at trends; they also want a fun way of setting up their food, and with boards and tables, there are so many options,” says Desiree Mandarino (@boardappetiteny). She notes that the opportunities are extensive when it comes to what you can do with the concept of boards. “Whether it be for a date night for a couple, with either a small board or individual cups, or a grazing table for a wedding, the beauty of the boards is that they have evolved.” Mandarino says it’s not only cheeses and charcuterie meats that are front and center. “Customers are using this concept for a range of foods and to entertain at different times of day and night.” Mandarino and others are now using themes to build their boards. She recently did one for a man who enjoyed cigars and bourbons, so she used cigar boxes and filled mini bourbon bottles with honey. Daniels also created a specialty box for a fishing afficionado, with Swedish Fish and cheese in fish shapes.
Shari Ivler (@graze_newyork) says boards and grazing tables are ideal for giving people flexibility. “I’ve created boards for vegetarians, ones where breads were front and center, or ones that feature an array of desserts.” Early on, Ivler was supplying people with graze boxes or individual cups filled with such items as fresh mozzarella, local tomatoes, French bread, and some pesto. “People were looking for food that was a little more exciting than takeout,” Ivler says. Now, the boards and tables still provide a novel entertaining idea, as opposed to dining at a restaurant, she says. “Customers are still looking to entertain in their homes and want to keep it interesting.” Ivler tries to frequent local shops and farmers’ markets in season, such as Folkways Wine in Croton Falls, A&S Marketplace in Mount Kisco, and John Jay Homestead Farm Market in Katonah.
“This trend has really taken off in two plus years; there’s a great network of us in Westchester.” —Briann Cambareri
For Briann Cambareri (@charcutebri), the ability to be adventurous, both for herself and her customers, is one of the attractions of boards. “Getting into this business has taught me to play around with different foods, and I encourage clients to taste cheeses and meats they may never have tried.” She’s seeing more people ask for grazing tables, where customers can use their kitchen islands for the presentation. “The grazing tables are not only beautiful to look at but also allow people to gather around a communal area again.”
The holidays are particularly popular times for the boards. For the people hosting a gathering, there’s convenience, and the guests can sample an array of food. Looking forward, the trend toward hosting make-your-own-boards classes should continue to grow. And several businesses are partnering with stores such as wine shops to host events. “This trend has really taken off in two plus years; there’s a great network of us in Westchester, and it’s exciting to see what other people are doing,” says Cambareri.