I first met Mariana Campos in August when dear friends hosted a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party for Dan and me. The owner of a new and thriving business, Grazefull & Cured Handcrafted Charcuterie, Mariana demonstrated how to create a beautiful and artistic charcuterie board. All the guests sliced various cheeses and meats and we even made rosettes out of salami! Then we got to eat our creations.
A resident of Peachtree City, Mariana lived in Peru until her family moved to Georgia when she was ten. Married and a mother of two boys, ages 10 and 2, Mariana developed an interest in charcuterie during the 2020 pandemic when people started nesting at home, She noticed on social media sites that elaborate charcuterie boards were trending, as people looked for more ways to be creative at home. Mariana watched DIY videos to master the art of styling food and to learn what specific knives were needed to slice each specific cheese. She taught herself the art form of creating a beautiful charcuterie experience.
With the encouragement of her family and friends, Mariana started her charcuterie business in March, 2022. She preps all her boards at a shared commercial space, HH Artisan Kitchen in Newnan, and is a fully licensed and insured.
While the term, “charcuterie” is often used loosely to describe a selection of finger foods arranged artfully on a board, an authentic charcuterie board provides a bounty of foods and flavors that include cheeses, smoked and cured meats, bread and crackers, dips, fruit, nuts veggies, and sweets. Those grazing a charcuterie board will get to sample and savor a multitude of combinations of sweet, savory, briny, crunchy and smoked food items.
Creating a charcuterie board is the perfect way to entertain during the holidays because you can feed any size crowd without cooking! Much of the work of slicing and dicing can be done ahead of time, so you will be fresh and energetic for your party. An added bonus is that the charcuterie board itself becomes your holiday centerpiece and focal point of the celebration when you style the surface with holiday-appropriate florals, vases, candles, herbs and ornaments, tucked around the food.
Mariana’s Tips for Hosting a Holiday Charcuterie Party
- Your party can be as simple or extravagant as you choose. Simplify by using partially homemade items and partially store-bought items, or go super simple by purchasing everything at local stores.
- Always offer a variety of cheeses and meats with different colors, textures and flavors with your spread. Three to five different cheeses and at least three different meats are the appropriate amount. If your platter is an appetizer, provide 1-2 ounces each of cheese and meat per person. If your spread is the main course, double the amount, with 2-4 ounces each of cheese and meats per person. Places labels next to your cheeses and meats to let guests know what they are sampling.
- Pick at least one cheese as a conversation starter – something that most guests may not have tried before. Good choices are a truffle goat cheese or a blueberry vanilla goat cheese that will delight guests with its unique flavor and start a conversation as guests ask you where you got it!
- Slice and cut up your cheeses in advance of your party into bite-size chunks. Let your firm cheeses breathe for about an hour before cutting. Firm cheeses slice best at room temperature. Soft or semi-soft cheeses slice best when cold. For a clean cut, slice soft cheeses with a wire cuter or dental floss. Wrap individual cheeses tightly in wax paper. Place in a container in the refrigerator.
- Leftover cheese should be wrapped in cheese paper, parchment paper or wax paper and then placed in a Ziploc bag. It will last up to two weeks with this method.
- Salami roses and prosciutto fans can be folded and styled in advance and then placed in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator. To learn how to make a rose or fan, search for DIY videos on YouTube.
- For a Thanksgiving-themed table spread, style pumpkins and fall florals around your boards. Pumpkin butter, orange marmalade, cinnamon sticks and maple-flavored sweets are added fall touches. Use cheese with a nutty taste, like manchego or pecorino and offer a cranberry cinnamon or cranberry orange goat cheese. Smoked Gouda or smoked goat cheese offers a depth of flavor reminiscent of fall. A baked Brie wheel in a puff pastry shell, drizzled with honey, topped with chopped pecans, and served hot, is a delightful autumn treat.
- For a Christmas-themed spread, add dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and touches of greenery from the garden to style your runner, including magnolia leaves, holly with berries, rosemary sprigs, pomegranates, poinsettias, and Christmas ornaments. Tuck Christmas cookies throughout your display.
- Manage the flow of your party by placing a charcuterie runner or board in different locations of your home, like the kitchen island, or your living room – wherever you would like guests to mingle.
- For last minute entertaining or to make up a quick hostess gift, keep charcuterie items with a long shelf life stocked in your pantry including jars of Calvestrano olives and cornichons, preserves and jams, marcona almonds, small logs of salami, two to three firm cheeses.
Mariana’s Tips for Assembling a Grazing Table or Centerpiece Runner
- Line your table or island with parchment paper.
- Set out small bowls for dips, olives, and preserves.
- Stage props like floral centerpiece, cake stands, trays, and larger bowls on runner.
- Place bread slices and crackers.
- Add in statement fruit – large pieces like grapes, whole apples, pears, oranges or grapefruits sliced in half.
- Place your sliced cheeses and meats in different areas on the runner. Add labels.
- Add some embellishments like salami rosettes, prosciutto fans and even a salami river.
- Fill in remaining empty spots with salty and sweet nuts, berries, candied oranges, dried apricots, figs, pretzels, dark chocolate, cheddar sticks, marcona almonds, etc.
- Fill any empty bowls with dips and preserves. Make sure to add spoons for scooping.
- Add garnishes like rosemary, thyme, fresh basil, and flowers of choice.
- Supply small tongs and cheese knives for serving.
- Be ready for all the compliments, since your guests are sure to be wowed by your creation!
Rooted Café Lounge in Peachtree City provided the beautiful space to style Mariana’s holiday charcuterie spreads for this story. Mariana likes to support the talents of local vendors in her charcuterie boards. She uses florals from Melanie’s Garden Farm, located in Moreland, custom cookies from Sweet Sugar Laine and The Cookieverse, honey from Castle Rock Honey, herbs for garnish from ALO Farms and seasonal produce from Peachtree City Market vendors. You can find Mariana on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month under her pink canopy at the Peachtree City Market. For more information, contact Grazefullandcured@gmail.com or call 770-988-5015.
Mariana’s Wine Pairings for Charcuterie Boards
Take your guests on a flavorful tasting adventure by pairing your charcuterie cheeses and meats with the wines you will be serving at your gathering…
White wines pair best with cheese because of their lighter notes. Combine with the following:
- Pinot: Gruyère or Comté (nutty flavor in the cheeses makes it a great choice)
- Sauvignon Blanc: Goat cheese (subtle grassiness of the cheese makes a classic pairing)
- Rosé: Havarti (its mellow flavors doesn’t overpower)
- Cabernet: Aged cheddar cheese (complex flavor that pairs well)
- Malbec: Gouda (flavorful, semi-hard cheese that is not too salty)
Champagne and sparkling wines: Pair with creamy, rich cheeses, like Brie or Camembert to cut through the rich fattiness of the cheeses.
Merlot: Pair with a firmer cheese, with a deeper flavor, like BellaVitano Cabernet or BellaVitano Merlot (cheeses soaked in a barrel of wine during the aging process)