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Charcuterie Styling 101

How to make a meat-and-cheese board worthy of a centerpiece
Photo by Anne Watson

By Sarah Pfledderer

“The meat is the star.” That’s the key to upgrading your cheese board to a charcuterie board, says Venissimo Cheese owner Gina Frieze.

Ever since she opened her first store 15 years ago, Frieze has been San Diego’s authority on tricked-out party trays of cured meats, cheeses, and other hors d’oeuvres.

To start, pick a platter that speaks to your event. Consider a wooden cutting board for a rustic affair, a marble slab for a modern party, or a silver tray for more traditional soirees.

Then, measure out your ingredients. You should have more meat than other ingredients, and equal amounts of different kinds of meat. “A half pound of this, a half pound of that—but the design should be asymmetrical.”

Do this by incorporating different textures and colors of meats. For example, prosciutto is great for a lighter color, bresaola is darker, and salami is right in between. Disperse them in a swirly or S-shaped pattern on the board “to give the tray some movement” and, to really impress guests, roll or fashion flowers out of those thinner cuts.

Then use whatever you have the second-most of (typically cheeses, fruits, and veggies) to add height to your spread. Stack pickled green beans into tepees and use cornichons and carrots to continue creating swirly patterns, nestling them next to contrasting ingredients.

“I love green cornichons next to red meats, and bright, dried apricots next to mustards. I always like a good mustard.” For the spreads, rummage your cabinets for vessels to hold your jams, jellies, and honeys. Everything from a bell jar to a martini glass will do, Frieze says.

Finally, sprinkle your “fillers,” or smallest ingredients (nuts, olives, dried fruits, even flowers) into whatever holes are left on the board. “There’s no rules. If you want it to be all pickled things, great! If you want it to be fruits and nuts, great! Raid the fridge.”

Frieze’s personal stamp is to always include one thing that’s stinky or experimental. She’s tossed chili mangos, granola, even chocolate and caramels onto a charcuterie board. “Chocolate is so good with meats,” she says. “Think of mole. And caramel and nuts go so well with cheeses.”

But the one category that should never show up on your spread? Nonedible items—and one in particular.

“Don’t leave the casing on the outside of the salami. No one wants to peel that out of their mouth.”

Learn more at a platter-making party at Venissimo Cheese in Del Mar, November 5. venissimo

Charcuterie Styling 101

Charcuterie Styling 101


Who’s on Board

1. Fresh figs, Specialty Produce

2. Duck salami, Angel’s Salumi & Truffles

3. Berkshire pork black truffle salami, Angel’s Salumi & Truffles

4. Rye and pumpkin seed crackers, The Butchery

5. Quicos (Spanish roasted corn), Venissimo Cheese

6. Spicy soppressata, Venissimo Cheese

7. Pickled asparagus, The Butchery

8. Speck, Venissimo Cheese

9. Robiolina 3 Latti in Foglia di Castagno (cheese made from sheep, goat and cow milk wrapped in chesnut leaves) from Piedmont, Italy, The Butchery

10. Wild boar prosciutto, Angel’s Salumi & Truffles

11. Prosciutto di San Daniele, RoVino The Foodery

12. Red cerignola olives, RoVino The Foodery

13. Midnight Moon aged goat cheese, The Butchery

14. Sicilian cured olives, RoVino The Foodery

15. Ficelle (mini baguette), Bread & Cie

16. Landrauchschinken (Swiss country smoked ham), The Butchery

17. Noord Hollander (aged Gouda), Venissimo Cheese

18. Castelvetrano olives, RoVino The Foodery

19. Prosciutto di San Daniele, RoVino The Foodery

20. Temecula Valley Honeycomb, The Butchery

21. South African peppers stuffed with fresh chèvre, Venissimo Cheese

22. Wine-cured salumi rose, Venissimo Cheese

23. Moliterno al Tartufo (sheep cheese with truffles), The Butchery

24. Wild boar salami, Angel’s Salumi & Truffles

25. Dried apricots and figs, Venissimo Cheese

26. Marcona almonds, Baker & Olive

Where to Buy

Angel’s Salumi & Truffles

5621 Palmer Way, Carlsbad

Baker & Olive

215 South El Camino Real, Encinitas; Liberty Public Market, 2920 Historic Decatur Road, Point Loma

Bread & Cie

350 University Avenue, Hillcrest; also available at numerous Vons, Whole Foods, Gelson’s, Jimbo’s, and Ralphs locations

The Butchery

One Paseo, 3720 Camino Court, Carmel Valley 

RoVino The Foodery

969 Market Street, East Village

Specialty Produce

1929 Hancock Street, Mission Hills

Venissimo Cheese

Locations in Del Mar, Mission Hills, North Park, and Liberty Station

Charcuterie Styling 101

Photo by Anne Watson

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