If you want to skip the crowds on a Saturday night, opt for a stunning night in, complete with a bottle of wine and a grazing board. With a quick stop at the store, some cheese, cured meat and fruit create a beautiful board to share with that special someone. To make it easy for you, we talked with a pro—Nicole Simper from Maven Oak Creative, on how to build the perfectly romantic board.
Nicole, the founder of Maven Oak Creative and self-styled “Platter Maven,” went to art school at the University of Utah and studied photography. “Right out the gate at 16, when I got a job, it was in the food industry. I’ve had every job under the sun,” she says. But it wasn’t until she did soul searching after a long trip she realized she could combine both loves: food and art.
It’s food. It’s art.
When building the perfect board for sharing, Nicole has a few tips—starting with planning the perfect bite. “Variety is probably the biggest thing. Building your little bites is the whole beauty and fun of eating off a platter.” She also recommends mixing cheeses—one soft, one hard, and one that is a “surprise” so that your board isn’t monotonous. Think of blue cheese or a flavored cheese. Next, consider seasonality. What fresh fruits are in season? For example, in February, pomegranates are in season.
Finally, consider how everything on the board looks and tastes together. For Valentine’s Day, “I feel like chocolate is brilliant, and probably strawberries,” says Nicole. “Got to bring those berries back out for sure. This is probably going to be a very red platter.”
‘The cheese will tell you what to do.’
Getting into the technical details of presenting the cheese on a board, Nicole assures, “the cheese will tell you.” On how to showcase it, she advises “If you try to slice a brie, it will be a hot mess. So I would just put a knife in it and call it a day. Harder cheeses, like manchego or anything aged, will slice easier. Cheddar can be more versatile. It can be cut and crumbled because the moisture content is not dry and it’s not soft. It’s somewhere in the middle.” But ultimately, “You don’t have to slice the cheese. It can just be the cheese with a knife, and that’s enough. So ask the cheese.”
We’re lucky to have some fantastic local purveyors here in Utah. Here are a few of the local products Nicole recommends for a board:
•Caputos for anything from olives, meats, crackers, local jams and cheeses
•Creminelli for salamis and cured meats
•Local Cheeses: Beehive Cheese, Park City Creamery, Heber Valley Cheese
•Cache Canning & Ferments for pickles & chutney
Up the romance with a good wine pairing to accompany your board. “A nice juicy red would be fun, but I would go with a sparkling. Keep it effervescent and light because sparkling pairs well with chocolate,” says Nicole. “Let’s say a sparkling wine of your choice. Prosecco. Or sparkling rosé.”
Not ready to build your own board? Nicole and Maven Oak Creative can do that for you with 48 hours notice. Platters are available for pick up or delivery.
The perfect Valentine’s Day Board Combo
•2-3 seasonal fruits
Grazing Board Guidance
•Double Cream Brie +
Beehive Cheddar + Feta
•Manchego + Drunken
Goat + Mahon
•Burrata + Parmigiano
Reggiano + Gorgonzola
•Fresh Berries or Fruit
•Olives or Tapenade
•Jam or Chutney Jars
See more stories like this and all of our food and drink coverage. And while you’re here, why not subscribe and get six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of life in Utah.