Over the weekend I tackled one of my September intentions- finding a hobby. Saturday afternoon I tried out wood burning, a craft I’ve never done before… or really even thought of. Last month I connected with Johanna, owner of Graze Gourmet, a Chicago based charcuterie/ platter company. She and I contributed to an event a mutual friend coordinated, and I reached out as soon as I saw her post about the “Grazing Board Workshop” on Instagram! Saturday afternoon was centered around customizing our own serving tray and learning how to assemble a delicious and aesthetically pleasing charcuterie board! The event was hosted at Indigo & Violet Studio, a “Chicago-based venue for craft workshops and art parties, focusing on unique and modern

Crafting and community space in Chicago

 handmade projects taught in a relaxed studio environment”. Indigo and Violet Studio provides a “creative outlet to both novice and experienced crafters. To help get the creative juices flowing, all events are BYOB.”

They “also partner with local makers who are experts in their fields”- how cool! The studio is located in North Lakeview and is quite literally steps from Southport- two of my favorite areas in the city. A few years ago I spent quite a bit of time in the area. Being at the studio and connecting with people reminded me why I love Chicago so much. We’re a community that loves adventure- whether it be skydiving and climbing to the top of the Sears Tower, or a simple crafternoon. Whatever the plan and day has ahead, Chicagoans are up for it. Another thing I love about Chicago is the people. While we’re all busy and going about city (or suburban) life, we have no problem introducing ourselves to people at events, welcoming others to the table and getting to know the people we’re around. Chicago is an intentional community and my favorite… although, I am a bit bias 😉

I asked y mom to join me at the workshop and it was amazing! It has been ages since we crafted or tried something new together. It was fun not only creating, but learning something new and sharing this memory. Plus, she helped me with freehand drawing- a skill that definitely skipped a generation… yikes!

When we arrived at the studio, my breath was taken away. It was as if I walked into a Pinterest board brought to life. The tables were arranged and ready for participants to dive in. There were 3 long tables set up in the middle of the room. Each had various fruits, cheeses, meats and nuts on them. In front of every place, there was a wooden tray and name tag welcoming the crafter in!

Before the crafternoon officially started, we uncorked the bottles, selected a Grassl wine glass and introduced ourselves to the people at our table and the others! We explored the room checking out all the nooks and crannies Indigo & Violet Studio has to offer.

Grassl Glass decanter and brunch drink ideas

The crafternoon

The first part of the day was the crafting! Leigh (the owner of Indigo & Violet Studio) walked us through the process.

Step 1: create

Decide on a design for the platter and either sketch or select the stamps for an outline. Like the woman in the photos below, I opted to follow along from a design I saved ahead of time on my phone.

step 2: the wood burning

In the back of the room there was an island where the wood burning tools were located. We had these pen like hot tools to trace over our design and metal pieces that look like stamps to burn a design or letter onto the board. It was incredible burning the design on the board. The design I chose is close to my heart. I opted for the Ivy Grapes logo and sketched it by hand (with a little help, thanks mom.. you’re definitely the most crafty between us). Burning the design on the platter and feeling the wood take to the heat, darkening each curve and line of the logo reminded me just how real- how exciting.. and a little bit terrifying a new business venture can be. All in all, I was proud of myself- I was struggling big time with my vision during this workshop. My eyes weren’t focusing on the craft in front of me and the amount detail was really tricky for m head/ eyes, and holding the hot tool on the board waiting for it to show my design was poetic. It was a reminder for me that sometimes we have to feel the heat in order to see the design. Each time I went over the line reminded me of the patience I have learned to develop with myself the past 2 years. If I would have rushed through the wood burning process or given up when the board didn’t adapt to my tracing the first time, I wouldn’t have the beautiful board.

Wood Burning and Wine Craft Activity in Chicago with Ivy Grapes Stemware at Indigo and Violet Studios

Easy and affordable wood burning craft hobby

Step 3: charcuterie board 101

First and foremost decide on the ingredients and select a board to arrange the accoutrements on. See the tips below Johanna shared with us and how I’ve built off of her incredible insight!

Ivy Grapes partnered with Graze Gourmet and Indigo and Violet Studios for a wine and craft event in Chicago, IL

5 tips for assembling/ styling
a charcuterie board:

1.place the cheese on first

Johanna shared her first step is placing the cheese on a platter. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to assemble a charcuterie board or a specific type of cheese to select. There are many different ways in determining which cheeses to arrange- the most important being to have a variety! Here are a few additional things to consider:

  • Branch out! Don’t be afraid to shop around for cheese. Check out Trader Joe’s, Whole Food, Marianos, Fruitful Yield, or any preferred local grocery store, the farmers market and even the specialty cheese shops.

  • Experiment with the types of cheeses. Take into consideration the firmness of the cheese- include the hard, semi-hard, semi- soft, soft, blue, and goat cheeses, etc. 

    • Hard Cheese: Parmesan, Aged Gouda

    • Semi- Hard: Petit Basque, Cheddar

    • Semi- Soft: Port Salut, Mozzarella

    • Soft: Delice de Bourgogne, Brie, Camembert

    • Blue: Stilton, Gorgonzola

  • Notice the different textures of the cheeses as well, and keep in mind where the milk is coming from- cow, goat, etc.

  • Lastly, embrace the cheeses of different origins. Who knows, you may discover your new favorite cheese is from France or Spain!

    tip: Play around with whole chese and sliced cheese blocks. Cubed cheese, thin sliced, and cheese with holes are all important varieties to showcase on a board!

Charcuterie ingredients

2.add in the meat

Tear up pieces of meat or shred them- roll them up, and fold ‘em, too! Play around with the placement and the display. Leigh’s tip for folding meats is to fold each piece in half, then fold that in half a second time. Pinch the corner and allow the twice folded piece of meat to flower open slightly. Arrange these in groups on the other end of the board or next to the cheeses already on display. Use the cheese as a support to keep the meat in shape and keep this in mind as an option when adding the other ingredients onto the board.

3. select the accoutrements

What should be included on a grazing board? Now that we have the meat and cheese, it’s time to add in additional color, texture and tastes! It’s important to have a mixture of salty and sweet, too. Johanna suggested to consider including the following:

  • Nuts

  • Olives

  • Pickles

  • Dried fruit (apricots, figs, persimmons, oranges)

  • Don’t forget crackers or baguette on the side!

How to arrange a charcuterie board for serving

4.make room for Preserves + dips

  • Fig is a popular option right now

  • Whole grain mustard

  • Honey

5.top off with Fresh ingredients

Same with the cheese and meat selecting process, of course, pick your favorite fruits to include but also venture out to include different colors, textures, and firmness of fruit and veggies!

  • Fresh fruits- specifically berries, peaches, cherries, figs, and whatever fruit is in season are wonderful additions to any board.

  • Fresh veggies are a great way to create a healthy board and incorporate more color. Slice veggies in half, in thirds, etc. Peppers for instance can be a variety in and of themselves. Between the multiple colors, sizes and ways to slice, this is a great vegetable to play around with. Plus, this pairs well with dip. The next time you include peppers on your board, play around with slicing them differently. Take three peppers for instance. Cut each pepper in half and cut the top off. Take one half of each of the peppers and slice from top to bottom. Alternate thickness of the slices between the colors and group them either by size, shape or mix them. With the second half of the pepper you can keep them in half and arrange those halves around the board or slice in thirds. Personally, I’m playing around with the arrangement of all three on one tray. I find this works best for larger boards as too many big pieces overwhelm a small board.

Charcuterie Board Assembly

Bonus Tip: Experiment with Specialty Boards

Your next platter doesn’t have to be cheese and meat- I love a dessert board! Another great things to do is have a theme. For example, ingredients from a certain region, season, etc. Dietary restriction boards are also important- especially for group events. Pro tip: avoid peanuts just incase someone has an allergy.

Grassl Glass and Ivy Grapes luxury Chicago stemware

Stunning charcuterie board assembly and photography

Check out how amazing my mom’s charcuterie board is!

I love how there were flowers as an option to add in at the end. This was the best final touch and really polished the board off, pulling everything together and filling in those little odd spots where additional food items were too large/ overwhelming for the section of the board.

Wine and charcuterie travel writer for hire

What do you think?

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Would you attend a wood burning and charcuterie board workshop? If you have attended one, please share with me where you went. I’m always on the hunt for more crafts and fun activities like this!

Chicago Charcuterie board

Graze Gourmet, a Chicago based charcuterie board delivery service

Next Up: The Secret To Having The Best Wine Night

as seen in this post:

crafting- indigo and violet studio
Charcuterie- Graze Gourmet
stemware- Grassl Glass

How to assemble and style a cheese and charcuterie board

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