If you’ve lived in Fort Worth longer than the pandemic has lasted, you know what constitutes the perfect summer evening: a prime spot on a blanket on the lawn at Concerts in the Garden (which is coming back this year!). And you know even deeper in your heart that this scenario must — MUST — include the perfectly packed picnic. I can’t imagine a better two hours than the ones spent lounging on a blanket listening to the Fort Worth Symphony’s tribute to the music of Queen or the Beatles with the perfect cold rosé and a spread of everyone’s favorite munchies.
And the best way to pack a perfect picnic of everyone’s favorites is to learn the art of the snack board, better known as the charcuterie board.
But just because you’re not at a table with the fine china doesn’t make a meal any less worthy of being special. In fact, a picnic or a late lunch at the pool, or just an easy “snack dinner” can be even more beautiful than a plated banquet (and so much easier). This is made possible by the evolution of the charcuterie board trend that has been taking house parties and wine bars alike by storm. What started as a simple cheese and salami tray has spun out into an elaborate system of pairing complementary foods in an artistic and beautiful way. No longer is it just a cheese plate as an appetizer – these boards are a meal in themselves and can feed a crowd.
“Snack dinner” is a favorite at my house, and it happens on those evenings where no one really wants to cook, no one wants to sit still, and everyone wants to eat. Snack dinner is also known as a living room picnic and allows everyone to eat what they want, sit where they want, watch a movie, play a game, or read a book and unwind during mealtime. It’s also a great way to rid the fridge of leftovers, and an even better way to pair something with that bottle of Zin you’ve been dying to open.
We do snack dinners on a large marble platter (because I’m fancy like that). Leftover pizza gets toasted and cut into small bites and arranged with veggies, berries, cheese cubes, toasted baguettes, and whatever sauces we have on hand for dipping (ranch and bruschetta are usually favorites). Sometimes some smoked turkey or roast chicken chopped into cubes makes the cut.
Throwing together a snack board at home is a fun way to make an easy meal, but the idea has expanded past snacks and cheese to dessert boards, breakfast boards, candy boards, movie-themed boards, and so much more. There are entire Instagram accounts dedicated to the art of arranging food on boards. At Christmas, little ones love nothing more than a hot chocolate board. There are classes on how to arrange the perfect board (and one is coming up at Lost Oak Winery in April, find tickets on the winery’s website or their Eventbrite page). In a pinch, or if you’re not feeling artistic, you can buy them pre-made at a variety of local places. The grab n’ go boards at YaYaYum Boards in Grapevine are a beautiful option. Meyer and Sage, famous for its take away options, makes custom charcuterie boards.
If you prefer to have your board of snacks served to you, there are dozens of restaurants that make good ones. The first one that comes to mind is the South Main location of Rancho Loma Vineyards — they have a meat and cheese board that goes with a selection of marinated olives that you won’t regret skipping supper for (not to mention the great wine).
Or maybe you want to create an appetizer tray from scratch with some new recipes. Popular recipe site Food 52 lists 50 best appetizers to make instead of dinner at Food52.com. Or, try these sweet potato bruschetta bites I make all the time. Just peel and slice up a few sweet potatoes, coat them in garlic butter and bake for 30 minutes. Top with bruschetta mixture (I use a store-bought one from a jar!) and goat cheese crumbles and voila — the perfect appetizer, and it’s gluten-free if you like that sort of thing. Pair them with some cut veggies, melon slices, prosciutto and berries and you have a healthy board everyone will love.
Eating is such an integral part of our lives, sometimes we barely think about it. We eat while we work, eat while we drive, design holidays around food — everything we do revolves around food. So it is natural that we will eschew the traditional table meal on occasion for a picnic or a snack supper. No table, no problem — if you have a board.
For more recipes and tips visit me at ModernHippieKitchen.com. If you make a charcuterie board this month, pic it and tag us on Instagram @modernhippiekitchen and @fwbusinesspress to be featured in my stories!