Just type in #charcuterie or #cheeseplate on Instagram, and watch your feed fill with images of artfully arranged platters of gourmet cheeses, cured meats, nuts, fruits, veggies and spreads. This appetizer staple has skyrocketed in popularity recently, awakening the imaginations of millennials who love to entertain.
“At the heart of it, charcuterie boards are really about human connection,” says Boo Simms, on the allure of aesthetically pleasing meat and cheese spreads. “They are beautiful, nourishing and bring people together.”
Boo and her identical twin sister, Sarah, are the masterminds behind Lady & Larder. This Santa Monica shop has become a hub for the Los Angeles community, thanks to an emphasis on hyperlocal producers and farmers.
It has also earned national attention for its show-stopping grazing boards, featured by O Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Forbes and Buzzfeed’s viral food platform, Tasty. Snackable masterpieces, Lady & Larder’s creations have become so sought-after that popular US homewares retailer Williams Sonoma now carries the brand.
The Simms launched their business in 2016, first as a delivery-only brand that offered three sizes of cheese and charcuterie boards. With a combined background in restaurant operations, private kitchens and food styling, the twins financed the company with their credit cards then steadily grew the business through word-of-mouth.
In 2019, they opened a brick-and-mortar shop, where they also sell locally grown flowers, fresh bread, gourmet canned goods, and wine. “We called Lady & Larder ‘our little dream shop’ because it’s filled with all of our favorite things,” says Sarah. “We wanted a shop that celebrated a true sense of place – about 90% of our cheese, wine, goods and beer are locally sourced from here in California.”
Community is at the heart of everything they do, from stocking local producers to sharing their love for high-quality, artisanal foods with fellow Angelenos. And that mission has become even more pronounced during COVID-19.
“This global pandemic has magnified everything precious in life, like relationships and access to food,” explains Sarah. “Freshly baked bread, small-batch cheese, wildflower honey, seasonal jam – it all feels like actual gold.”
That’s also why they support small-scale businesses on their grazing boards. “Smaller producers and farms always have the best quality,” says Sarah. “We love the personal connection, attention to detail, and passion that you find when working with smaller local producers.”
This simple, straightforward approach for clean, local, gourmet foods has earned them so much success in the grazing game. “Our secret really isn’t a secret,” says Boo. “We find the very best ingredients we can get our hands on and then champion the farmers and makers who create those ingredients.”
Interested in making your own photo-worthy grazing board? Follow these six tips, which Lady & Larder teach in their virtual DIY Cheese Board workshops:
1. Aim for room temperature. Always serve your cheese and cured meats at room temperature, so you can really taste them. If it’s too cold, the flavor will be muted; too warm, and the cheese and meat could lose their optimal textures.
2. Work with odd numbers. Choose one, three or five cheeses and meats depending on the size of the board. Remember to choose a nice variety of flavors and textures, like pairing a creamy brie alongside a bold bleu or nutty manchego.
3. Add volume. When it comes to laying out sliced meats, don’t let them fall ﬂat. Salami, for example, can be folded in half and fanned out like a deck of cards.
4. Freshen it up. Slice up some fresh fruit, such as blueberries or apple slices, to add zing and zest to your board. Pro tip: whatever is in season will taste the best!
5. Go green. Garnish with unexpected greenery, like herbs from your garden, edible flowers, or a few sprigs from a lemon tree.
Need more inspiration? Find more ideas for flavours, producers and assembly via their Instagram page, @ladyandlarder.