Meat, Cheese, Meat, Cheese...and Olives!

I was out with friends for dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in Guelph, OX, and we ordered some wine, their Fried Olives and a Charcuterie Board to begin our meal.  The hard and soft cheeses along with the spicey and smokey meats, mixed with the salty olives, crusty baguette and sweet mustard allows for a perfect taste sensation with every combo you put together. The chef at OX regularly changes up the combinations of the meats and cheeses on their boards and you can always be sure that what they serve is of the utmost quality and flavour as they're able to source their product from Ouderkirk & Taylor (a specialty food store in Guelph, who shares owners with OX).

There are days that I would be happy to only eat meats and cheeses for every meal...throw in a bit of crusty bread & olives and I'd be in heaven. Growing up, we were a family of grazers and most weekends, we'd watch sports or movies with a spread of meats from the butcher (Greens Meat Market in Wingham) and cheeses from local cheese shops (Pine River Cheese outside of Kincardine). 

We were planning a gals brainstorming get together and as I was inspired by my meal at OX, I decided I was going to bring some meats and cheeses. I headed out to my favourite local gourmet market.... Market Fresh to stock up on yummy goodness. 

I filled my basket with hard and soft cheeses. I chose a Jalapeno Chedder, a Herb and Garlic hard cheese and a soft and creamy goat's milk cheese. I then headed to the deli counter and selected a Spicy Salami, a Sopresatta (another spicy option) and a sentimental favourite, Noah Martin Summer Sausage. I asked that they be sliced quite thinly (almost the thickness of shaved, but not quite that thin) and they came out perfectly! I then wandered over to their olive bar and chose some green and black olives with feta cheese in oil. Then it was time to decide on crackers....I chose Table Water Crackers and some scrumptious sweet/savoury Raincoast Crisps in Fig & Olive. 

I grabbed a few more items (freshly baked Chive & Feta Scones and fresh flowers) and headed home to prepare my 'board'. Instead of a rustic board, I decided to use a crystal platter.... I cut, arranged, taste tested and ended up with this as the final result....

I was so glad to be able to taste test a wee bit as I put this together as my mouth was absolutely watering in anticipation of fully diving in!

The spicy meat, combined with the sweet/savoury crackes and soft cheese.....or the summer sausage with the jalapeno cheddar and an olive.....the flavour combinations were endless!

I wandered next door and our afternoon of brainstorming and snacking began! Of course, we had to snap some photos of the 'spread' before we dove in! 

I can't think of a better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon then with gal pals, having great conversations while snacking on scrumptious food (complete with Caesars)!

Whether you're planning on having some friends over or are feeling like having a 'loungey' Sunday afternoon on the couch with yummy snacks, here are a few tips for putting your own charcuterie board/platter together:

  • Use only quality ingredients. Find a local shop or market that you can count on for consistent quality and a wide selection.
  • Use only fresh ingredients. If you can go to the market the morning/day of your party or lounge session, I believe having the meat and cheese as fresh as possible makes a huge difference.
  • Use products you're familiar with, but don't be afraid to try something new too! I take an 80-20 approach. I use 80% of products I am familiar with and know will never disappoint and the other 20% allows for me to experiment and try something new. I tend to ask the staff at the market for their suggestions and see what they recommend too.
  • Use a variety of textures and flavours. Spicy and smokey meats, hard and creamy cheeses, sweet and savoury crackers....This ensures that the board will appeal to a wide variety of people and allows them to try something a bit outside of their comfort zone.
  • Try some 'add ons'. Olives just naturally marry with meats and cheeses, but you could also introduce fruit (fresh or dried), spreads/mustards or even pickles/pickled veggies. These bring another dimension of flavour and other textures to the board.
  • Have fun! These board/platters are supposed to be rustic and organic...whether served on a wooden board or crystal platters. How you decide to present your selections is absolutely up to you and don't be worried about making the presentation 'too perfect'!

Cheers to getting back to basics.... Meat, cheese, meat, cheese...and olives!