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Feast On This: Home Entertaining Gets Hands On

The following story was recently featured in ON THE TABLE™, a supplement to GOURMET INSIDER®. The brand just debuted a new look and new content, which can be seen in full in the July/August 2018 edition. 

The dinner party has evolved during the past few decades taking many forms beyond the formal affair. The latest gathering trend involves dining off of cheese boards, charcuterie boards and feast boards, something that evolved from their popularity at catered events.

Not only does eating this way make prepping and presenting meals a bit more fun, they also make for a visually enticing display that often becomes the star of the table — a feature that today’s photo-centric consumer is fond of.

“While charcuterie and cheese boards have always been around, I think the trend to elevate cocktail hour nibbles is something that has become more popular because of food blogs, Instagram and Pinterest,” said Annette Joseph, photo stylist, lifestyle expert and author of the new book, “Cocktail Italiano: The Definitive Guide to Aperitivo — Drinks, Nibbles and Tales of the Italian Riviera.”

While feast boards may be seen as a casual home entertainment option, the composition of these boards is anything but. An array of meats and cheese are accented with brightly-colored accoutrements, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Nuts, olives, fruits, crackers, rustic slices of bread and jams are all designed to come together in order to create a feast board that is as delicious as it is photographable.

“When building a board, I think that going to your local market using the freshest ingredients is key. Then, from there, you should delineate the board with the larger products like cheese wedges and bowls of olives or spreads first, and then fi ll in the composition with smaller food items like nuts, fruit and crackers,” Joseph explained.

The growth of this style of eating and entertaining at home gives gourmet housewares retailers a new style of class to add to their line-up. Retailers can host feast board workshops even if they don’t have a kitchen and can also team up with a local photographer who can suggest proper lighting, angles and styling for food photos.

Jamie Butler, owner of The Butler’s Pantry in Escalon, CA, has recently been offering classes on building charcuterie boards at her store, including a “Mommy and Me” themed one.

“I was looking to do more community-focused events in the store and we thought this was a great way to educate customers on local cheese, meats and honey that we carry. It has also proven to be a great way to bring people together. Once our students start making their boards, they start chatting and swapping ideas. People really love that sense of community,” she explained.

It is this kind of interaction and shared creativity that has made the classes so successful, Butler said, and why learning how to recreate them at home as been increasingly popular.

“We’ve been asked to do more classes and plan to do so for the holidays, especially kid-focused ones. Today, kids are entertaining their friends too and to be able to educate kids on different foods, but also to watch their creativity is so fun,” she said.

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