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Charcuterie 101: Putting your best board forward

As much art as it is snack-worthy, charcuterie is a mainstay of the hors d’oeuvres department. Relatively easy to prepare; fancy, yet casual – who could resist? Here are five places to find a great charcuterie board in Spokane, and, if you’re feeling creative, a few tips from the experts for making your own at home.

Rind and Wheat

The word “charcuterie” gets thrown around a lot, Rind and Wheat head chef and owner Ricky Webster said. Technically, the term refers to a French style of cooking concerned primarily with preserved meats and, in particular, pork. However, the popular use of the term has a broader significance encompassing not only cured meats but also cheeses, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, pickles and various condiments.

Choosing which items together involves quite a few considerations.

“For me, it comes down to quality and variety,” Webster said. Pork is a must, whether that means prosciutto, speck, Copa or Serrano, to mention a few.

Once you’ve selected your meats, the next step is cheese.

“A good way to select the cheese is to either choose from firmness (fresh, soft, semifirm, firm) or milk variety (cow, goat, sheep), making sure to not overlap,” he said. “Of course, you could always add a blue … those are a category all their own.”

After meats and cheeses, Webster prefers to choose his fruits and other assorted additions according to the season.

“I like to serve in-season produce or, in colder months, pickles, jams, chutneys or mostardas that represent that produce picked and processed at its peak.”

Right now, Webster particularly recommends trying mostarda – an Italian condiment meant to be served alongside fattier foods – and nduja – a spiced prosciutto that goes particularly well with many different cheeses.

To finish off your board, add a few slices of bread, crackers, a savory cookie and a salted or spiced nut.

“Have fun with textures and flavors, and try not to replicate the same flavor on any one component,” he said. “If you have an almond spiced with black pepper, don’t pair it with a cracker that is flavored with black pepper.”

Rind and Wheat’s made-to-order platters range from $14-$110 depending on the number of people you’ll be serving and whether you want meat included.

Info: 1516 W. Riverside Ave., (509) 596-9900 and rindandwheat.com.

Wanderlust Delicato

Wanderlust Delicato owner and “general monger” Amber Park recommends starting with a variety of meats and cheeses and sticking to ingredients that can actually be eaten.

“(Avoid) pointless fillers,” she said. “I see a lot of boards with branches, whole fruit, pumpkins and other stuff. It can look pretty, but (it’s) wasteful.”

In addition to Marcona almonds, sweety drops and Castelvetrano olives, Park suggests trying Roomano, a Dutch cheese that’s aged three years or longer .

“It’s salty, sweet and has a great crunch,” she said.

Wanderlust Delicato offers a selection of artisan cheese and charcuterie from around the world. Each plate, platter or board is cut-to-order by the ounce. Wine pairings are also available.

Info: 421 W. Main Ave, (509) 822-7087 and wanderlustdelicato.com.

Beacon Hill Catering

When it comes to building a board, the creative team at Beacon Hill Catering recommends starting with at least three different ingredients or “charcuteries” featuring a variety of textures and flavors. In addition to various cured meats, a board should include a cheese or two, dried fruits and, of course, a few crackers and slices of breads to pair with each.

Beacon Hill’s “grazing boxes,” available to order through its Beacon at Home online store, also feature scratch and house-made items including smoked almond hummus, pesto torte, apple and fig relish, olive tapenade and “just-sweet-enough” pecan shortbread cookies.

When designing your own board, Beacon Hill recommends sticking with a few high-quality ingredients over a larger number of lower-quality options.

“Don’t forget attention to detail,” executive chef Ryan Jordan said. “It will elevate your charcuterie board. Simple touches like a sprig of rosemary or a unique piece of fruit will finish your board. A splash of color can really take even a simple product to the next level.”

Beacon Hill offers made-to-order grazing boxes for four starting at $44.

Info: 4848 E. Valley Springs Road, (509) 482-3556, beaconhillathome.square.site and beaconhillevents.com.

The Sprinkle & Crumb

“Charcuterie to me is all about the social aspect,” the Sprinkle & Crumb owner Megan Stokes said. “It’s time spent with family and friends grazing while connecting. When I make a board, I always think about this: ‘What can people pop in their mouth while engaged in a conversation?’ ”

Charcuterie is fun for the whole family, Stokes said.

“I have a 6-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old niece that we home-school, and charcuterie is their favorite lunch,” she said. “They love to mix and match … it’s fun and a great way to get them thinking of new flavor profiles in the kitchen. Future chefs in the making.”

For Stokes, every board needs an assortment of olives, chocolates and a good strong blue cheese with grapes. And, when it comes to meats and cheeses, she favors local and fresh.

“I always try to include sourdough toasts made from my fresh sourdough bread, and I tend to avoid anything that cannot be eaten in one bite,” she said.

Info: (509) 251-1330 and “The Sprinkle & Crumb” on Facebook.

The Supper Club

Martha Domitrovich, owner of the Supper Club, is partial to boards that have a lot to choose from, but her favorite pairings are brie with honeycomb and fresh smashed raspberries; blue cheese with hot honey, green grapes and pecans; and, of course, lots of cheese.

When it comes to creating “flights” of different flavor experiences, she said, “Everything and anything is fair game.” “I’ve even used bugs on a tray – if it means a good bite, it has a place on the tray.”

When it comes to decorating, however, stay away from Baby’s Breath.

“So many people use it on their trays, (but) it’s toxic,” she said.

The Supper Club offers grazing trays from $25-$150 and candy grazing trays from $10-$80.

Info: 1908 W. Northwest Blvd., (509) 599-1868 and letmarthamakeit.com.

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