On Boarding

Jump on the charcuterie trend and impress away

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Thanks to quarantine, we’re all practically experts at sitting around picking at a plate of snack food for hours now. So, why not level up and eschew the Cheetos and Oreos for something a little more elevated and a lot more delicious? Charcuterie boards were already beloved before COVID, but these days nibbling on amazing meats, cheese, fruits, and the occasional praline should be weekly and mandatory.

The queen of charcuterie in Wilmington is CHRISTI FERRETTI, the owner and chef at Pine Valley Market on South College Road. For years, Ferretti’s grazing tables have wowed eventgoers in town. Last year, Ferretti and her staff were serving up to 300 people from 30-foot-long tables, overflowing with everything from artisan meats and cheeses to beef tenderloin and shrimp cocktails. But, of course, in a pandemic-minded society, grazing tables aren’t exactly recommended.

“We literally watched 60% of our business vanish within twenty-four hours, almost within an afternoon,” Ferretti says. “Thankfully, we have a retail outfit as well. It allows us to keep people employed and at least keep things running and moving. I do well in panic mode, even though I don’t welcome it, but I don’t stop breathing. I don’t shut down. I took a minute and then I said, ‘Okay, well what are we going to do?’”

Pine Valley quickly became a general store, doing grocery deliveries by curbside and stocking up on necessities such as toilet paper and wipes. But, once they settled into a new reality, Ferretti found herself with another problem to solve, and the Charcuterie Box was born.

Pinevalleymarket 9“The name of the game for me was how can we sell product that we don’t have to buy cause we already have it? All the cured meats and cheeses?” she says.

So, Ferretti found a box online and started experimenting. The first time she posted about it online, they got fifty orders immediately. The boxes feed two-six – two if it’s dinner; six if it’s appetizers, and they’re available to order through the Market’s Toast app page.

The grazing tables presented a little more of a challenge. As weddings started to trickle back, brides still had their hearts set on their elaborate tables, but guests milling around over the same tables isn’t really an option. So, Ferretti started using paper cones filled with all the favorite items that would normally appear on the table, including their famous candied bacon. This way, the bride still gets the mingling atmosphere she wanted, but everyone gets to keep their hands to themselves.

That Ferretti is good at adaptation isn’t really a surprise, since building a good charcuterie board is somewhat improvisational.

“I personally always start with meat and cheese; that’s your base,” she says. “I think keeping things in groups is really important. You start to lose the impact of what you have when you start spreading things out too much. You don’t want two slices of meat in twenty places. Keep them together and fan them out or arrange them, so visually it doesn’t look like someone just dropped something when you’re done.

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“Then, I come in with vegetables and pickled items. I’m addicted to little tiny bowls, so I like to stick those in different places and fill them with what makes sense nearby. Next, fruit, grapes, berries – those are the things you can spread out. Finally, fill gaps with crackers or breadsticks.” Her two biggest pet peeves? “Cut your grapes into small bunches. Grapes look beautiful as a whole, but then everyone has to pull at something, and you take half of it with you. I also don’t like things you wouldn’t eat – don’t use raw cranberries because they’re red. What if someone pops one in their mouth? Nothing goes with that.”

Her recommendations for items? Keep it local. With so many small businesses struggling, it’s a delicious way to support the North Carolina community.

To view more of photographer Logan Burke’s work, go to LoganBurkePhoto.com

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Categories: Taste