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Appetizer Platters – Dress Them Up !

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Appetizer Platter, Cheese Board, Antipasto, Cheese & Charcuterie Platter… there are many names, but they all mean the same thing. Meats and cheeses mingled with pickled veggies, fresh fruits and veggies, dried fruits, nuts, sauces, condiments and just about anything your heart desires. At this time of year, these appetizer platters are made for holiday parties all around the world.

I love making these platters, but I also know it is easy to get it in a rut putting out the same items time after time. So on Sunday, my neighbor Natalie along with her kids and her parents came over for Happy Hour. So I took the opportunity to put together some boards that may have some new ideas for you to use the next time you need to put our a spread.

But before we go there let me say, if you do not have the time or the inclination then run to your local gourmet cheese shop or counter and tell them you want something magnificent.  In Charleston, we are lucky to have goat.sheep.cow in two locations, and they do an incredible job.

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Here is an example of a bountiful platter from goat.sheep.cow from their Instagram account.

Boards, Platters, Bowls and Utensils

To start your board, you can use a butcher block, traditional platter, or an actual cheeseboard. That works perfectly fine, and I do it frequently. But I also like to mix it up by using pretty much any flat object that I have lying around in my house. In the picture below you will see a round, white platter, (albeit it has an artsy design) a small bamboo cutting board, two marble boards of different styles, a ceramic raised tray that I bought at an art fair and three ceramic floor tiles.

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I love using the floor tiles (barn wood, slate, grey marble) because they are quite inexpensive, are a great size, provide a unique look, and it is easy to clean up. Many times I may start with the floor tile and stack other objects on top to give the board some height variation.

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I started today looking at all the utensils and small serving containers I have. These include ramekins, pint mason jars, tartlet tins, small glass bowls, spreaders, cocktail spoons and forks, cheese cleaver, cheese forks, small tongs, cheese knives, and ceramic reusable cheese signs.
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Pint Mason jars are the perfect size for some veggies, and the smaller tongs make it possible to reach all the way to the bottom without a fuss.

I have assembled a variety of cheese board utensils over the years. Some are specifically for serving cheese and others have a variety of uses. As I show you some of the items that I used on my boards from Sunday, I will also talk about the container and or utensil.

On The Appetizer Platters

Before I dive into the details, please note that I made five boards for Sunday and there were only five adults and two young children. Usually for so few guests that would mean just one platter with maybe two cheeses, two types of meat, and a couple of veggies, fruits or nuts. As such the board would be packed to look more “full” with plenty to everyone to nibble on.

The boards shown in this post are what I might do if I was having a big gathering and I wanted to scatter the appetizers about the house, so a nibbly bit is always within reach without wasting a lot of food.

Spanish Board

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This board includes Manchego cheese drizzled in Wildflower honey, Corn Nuts, Spanish Dry Chorizo, and the Wildflower Honeycomb.
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Spanish Manchego Cheese drizzled with wildflower honey
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Spanish Chorizo (this is a dry salami-style versus the raw Mexican sausage)
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Corn Nuts – This might seem like an odd addition, but you will frequently find these in Spanish Tapas bars throughout Spain. The vessel is a spoon made from cow horn that I bought while in Kenya. It makes a great display piece.
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Wildflower honey with the honeycomb is a must on a cheese board. And yes you can eat all of it.

Small Olive Platter

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I used these tin tartlet pans as a vessel to hold these olives and peppers to keep the juice from leaking onto the platter. I love the look of these pans. The wooden dish, I paid a couple of bucks for when in Myanmar. It was just raw wood. I oiled it with mineral oil to bring out the wood grain and color.

Dark Chocolate Platter

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Dark Chocolate and cheese can be a match made in heaven. On this marble tray, I have included various pieces of fair trade dark chocolate with at least 60% cacao. Some of the chocolate includes dried fig, but most are all chocolate. Also added on the tray is Royal Raisins and crystallized ginger. All this great chocolate came from Bar and Coco, currently online only but opening a retail location in Mount Pleasant on Dec 19th.

 

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Basque Ardi Gasna Semi-hard Cheese (Purchased this at Costco)
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Royals Raisins stand out for their size—in fact, they’re the largest variety of raisin on Earth. Royals have a gorgeous deep purple hue and a subtly spicy yet sweet, caramel-like taste. The skin of Royals is also notable for its pleasantly firm texture. Available at Nuts.com
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Crystallized Ginger is an excellent digestive. Intended to be eaten on its own as it is quite strong in flavor. This brand is the freshest and best I have found. Available at Nuts.com
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Had fresh figs been available they would have absolutely been on this board.

The Big Board

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Thanks to Natalie for letting me borrow her enormous cheese board. So what is on this bad boy? Starting at the top left, we have Cappacola and Bresaola, fresh blueberries, jumbo golden raisins, cherry butter, Brie cheese wedges, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, artichoke hearts, toasted baguette, genoa salami, coarse ground mustard, Pork Pâté with truffles, Gruyére cheese, fresh plum wedges.
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I get these meats at my local grocery store. They are Volpi brand and come in a 3-4 ounce package. They are sliced thin and quite flavorful.
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In my mind, every cheese and charcuterie board needs a pâté. Also found at the local grocery. This one is pork. If I wanted to kick it up a notch, I would have picked up a duck mousse and a country pâté.
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This soft cheese is your typical, every day French Brie that you will find anywhere. What sets this combination apart is the Cherry Butter. Think Apple Butter only with cherries and you know the texture. This is tart and the perfect accompaniment to this mild French Brie. Cherry will be hard to find unless you live in Michigan or the Pacific Northwest so substitute with Apple or Pumpkin Butter. The fresh blueberries and the Jumbo Golden Raisins are the colorful, edible garnish.
Sun-dried Tomatoes in olive oil is a must on any board. I like to plump them up with a quick dip in boiling water then back in the jar of oil until its time to eat. Yum!
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These artichoke hearts were the bomb! They are Vigo Marinated Roman-style Artichoke Hearts. They are small. They are tender. One bite for the heart and a second for the stem. Delicious! They may be hard to find, but they are the perfect heart on a festive party board.

Almost done…. keep going… its a big board.

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When my baguettes start to go stale, I slice and toast, so I always have some for my cheese boards.
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This is “my heart” cheese – Gruyére from Switzerland.. I had this for the first time when living in Sweden back in 1976. As a kid back in Ohio, there were two kinds of cheese okay for an appetizer, Colby, and Swiss. Once I started eating European style cheese, I have never looked back.
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Fresh fruit and cheese are heavenly. Be sure to pick a fruit that will not brown as there is nothing appealing in that. In addition to the aforementioned blueberries, I chose plums.

The Slate Board

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The items on this platter should have been mounded onto The Big Board. But I wanted to show how nicely the slate floor tile works. The items include Marcona Almonds – the best almond in the world, in my opinion. More Brie served with Pomegranate Paste and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds and fruit. Next is the English Stilton Blue Cheese followed by the Caperberries in the tartlet tin; and then Genoa Salami. The fresh thyme is a garnish for color and texture.
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Pomegranate seeds are juicy, tart and crunchy. They offer a beautiful color and a punch to the otherwise mild Brie. They are the devil to get out of the pod though. Slow and steady wins the race.
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Fruit paste is a New Zealand item. Publix carries several flavors. They are located in the gourmet cheese area. This is Pomegranate Paste, and it adds substance to the creamy cheese. I stack the cheese with the paste and a seed or two. Shoot me now!
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Be careful as you remove the seeds. You do not want to smash the seeds and release the juice.
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I am partial to English blues and usually go for a Stilton. Stilton has a good crumble but is also moist and creamy. It is a strong tasting blue and will stand up to most any accouterment.
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I love the salty brine of capers, but they are so small that you can not put on a board. Enter the caper berry. Caper berries and capers both come from the same Mediterranean plant; Capparis spinosa. The difference is that capers are the early flower buds, while the berries are what forms after they have bloomed and been pollinated.  

Additional Items and Information

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If I had any of my Tomato-Fennel Butter in the fridge, it would definitely be on one of these platters.
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Blackberries make a beautiful addition to a platter. I added some fresh mint leaves to scatter around the berries.
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Major Grey Chutney is spicy and sweet and can send your taste buds to the moon and back. None of my cheeses other than the Brie worked. Otherwise, I would have used it.
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Make a point of stopping at your local resale shop. I bought both of these platters for under $5.00
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The is the best vessel for round crackers. Look in the image at the top and you can see how nicely the water crackers fit into this dish.

 


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That is all for now.

Cheers,

rick


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2 Comments

  1. I love the idea of the ‘themed’ trays – especially that Spanish one! I didn’t realize Corn Nuts were popular there, but I’m very happy to learn that. I love me some Corn Nuts! Definitely using your ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Steven E Clem

    It was a mistake to read this post late in the afternoon – now I need a snack!

    Everything looked great – loved the individual themes, and will definitely “borrow” some ideas for my next event!

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