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Building Grazing Boards with Foodie Art

February 8, 2021

What is Foodie Art?

As next-door neighbors Toni Donahue and Cathy Marks got to know each other, they learned they share a love for entertaining, experimenting in the kitchen, and especially putting together cheese, charcuterie, and grazing boards. With their corporate careers behind them, and years of experience entertaining friends and family under their belt, they decided it was time for their hobby to evolve into something more. Toni remembers, “I was visiting my daughter, Erin, exactly two years ago and she essentially challenged us to turn that passion into a business.” Cathy adds, “I come from a large Italian family where gathering always centered around food, and lots of it! It seemed like a natural fit to combine our passions into a business that focused on food and bringing people together.” The result? A quickly growing grazing board business that showcases their stunning artistic and culinary talents.

Creating the Perfect Board

When asked how they manage to create one masterpiece after another, the ladies humbly proclaim, “Practice does make perfect!” They express it is a continual process of refining their use of color, texture, and taste appeal, but contains three main steps.  

Step 1: Start with a Base of Cheese

“I think every board should have a selection of cow’s milk cheese, sheep’s milk cheese, and goat’s milk cheese,” Toni advises. “That forms the basis of almost every board we create.”

Step 2: Add a Variety of Charcuterie Pairings

Next is the cured meat. “The cheeses, of course, need to be paired with delicious charcuterie, such as a tongue-tingling choice like peppered salami or something everyone likes, such as a Genoa salami,” Toni recommends.

Step 3: Where the Fun Begins

“As the saying goes, you eat with your eyes first!” Cathy declares. To create a true Foodie Art Grazing Board, staples that Cathy and Toni like to add include fresh and dried fruit, fresh crudité with a savory dip, various nuts, including marcona almonds or pistachios, and gourmet chocolates. Cathy further illustrates, “We create something that is not only delicious but visually appealing as well.  We feel that our grazing boards provide an experience with many layers, kind of like a treasure hunt. You never know what delectable you will uncover!”

Seasonality & Local Ingredients

Choosing seasonal produce for boards ensures that items are fresh and at their best quality-wise. Seasonality also allows the Foodie Art team to change up their offerings and continue to make their boards interesting and visually appealing. “We have to be a bit more creative in the winter months, but this allows us to play up beautiful dried fruit, sometimes finding items like chocolate-dipped figs,” Toni expresses. “The great thing about owning your own business is that you can make your boards any way you like and are not constrained by corporate mandates or cookie-cutter approaches. We have struck up some wonderful partnerships with local bakers (macarons), candy makers (chocolate-dipped strawberries), etc. to help highlight their fabulous products on our grazing boards as well.” Cathy affirms, “Supporting local businesses, especially during the pandemic, is a priority.”

Getting Creative with COVID-19

As with the majority of the food industry, the COVID-19 shutdown was a blow to Toni and Cathy’s fairly new business. However, with time they were able to come up with creative solutions to cater to the new environment. “We were able to adapt by offering individual “Charcutie” Cones, cups and individual grazing boxes,” Cathy discloses. “In the midst of the pandemic chaos, our customers were still looking to add something special to their smaller gatherings and continued to support us by ordering one of the items listed above or by ordering smaller grazing boards.” Toni points out, “We are very respectful of COVID guidelines in everything we do, including always wearing masks and social distancing when delivering to clients’ homes.” Moreover, as last summer’s trend of celebrating special occasions outside grew, it sparked the creation of BohoGraze. Toni explains, “[BohoGraze] takes picnicking to a new level with beautiful décor elements such as table runners, cloth napkins, Moroccan poufs and lanterns. I thought it was the perfect sister company to Foodie Art as an outdoor picnic calls for food and what better picnic food than a grazing board!  My husband and I run the operation for BohoGraze and it was a great way for us to spend our weekends last summer and fall… We will start scheduling again in late spring/early summer.”

Signature Foodie Art Tips

Cathy: “Personally, I love the unbeatable combination of Blue Cheese and Honeycomb!  In regard to color combination, the duo of blackberries and mango make a stunning statement. Add an edible orchid to the mix and you are well on your way to creating a piece of art. We also ask if the order is for a special occasion such as a birthday, then will incorporate items to highlight the celebration.”

Toni: “I love the combo of fresh figs and Manchego cheese with a drizzle of locally-sourced honey, especially paired with a crisp white Sauvignon Blanc. I also think a lot of folks underestimate how well chocolate pairs with cheese and wine and can help take a grazing board to new levels with the right pairing. Our favorite chocolates come from Mmelo Confections (local) and Maggie Louise Chocolates (Austin, Texas). We also adore chocolate-covered strawberries from Sadie Baby Sweets (local) and chocolate-covered dried fruit from Manhattan Fruitier.”

2021 Plans and Beyond

As Cathy puts it, “The future of Foodie Art looks bright!” A growing loyal customer base and their innovative approach to change propels Foodie Art forward. “We introduced a few new options last year such as S’Mores Grazing Boxes and Holiday Cookie Trays (offered through a partnership with Just Frost It Desserts),” Toni highlights. “We found through trial and error that many people preferred to be able to order specialty boards that were more vegetarian- or keto-focused so we adapted to that.” Cathy confirms, “We will continue to adapt and add new offerings to keep the momentum going. We feel it is important to keep things fresh, to keep ideas new and to evolve with the changing times.”

 

Written by Marianna Marchenko