As the world shifts into a new normal, families are desperately searching for ways to keep a bit of excitement and variety in their lives, while still abiding by important social distancing guidelines.
Restaurants, too, are seeking ways to stay afloat, turning to creative to-go options for customers.
That’s certainly something that Donna MacPherson, owner of Golden Isles Olive Oil, has been looking to do. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, patrons could be found sipping wine while enjoying bites at live music at the Redfern Village location. MacPherson was also busily booking events and gatherings, like bridal parties.
As with the rest of the world, that scene has changed dramatically.
“It has been hard ... it’s been hard on all small businesses. It’s disheartening, but we’re doing the best we can,” she said.
Now, however, MacPherson is pivoting. She is offering re-heatable take-aways, like home-made lasagna, turkey pot pie and cauliflower crust pizza. There’s assembled meals that just need to tossed in the oven as well as discounted bottles of wine.
“We’re also planning a special to-go menu for Easter. We’re doing ham, scalloped potatoes, things like that, and we’ll have a brunch menu too. Orders can be placed on our website, www.goldenislesoliveoil.com,” she said.
But one of the location’s signature pieces is also being re-worked for families to take home — the charcuterie board.
Charcuterie and variations of it — depending on the language — means meat or a place that sells prepared meat, such as a deli. The boards can also be the edible centerpiece of fun, especially when families are looking for creative ways to entertain themselves.
“It’s a really fun thing for families to do together, it’s a ‘team experience.’ We’ve put together kits for it so folks can pick them up and take them home to create their own boards,” she said.
Each family member can help customize, selecting items that interest each member.
When MacPherson prepares charcuterie boards at her shop, varieties of dried meat are a must but so too are cheeses, nuts and olives, among other ingredients. When creating charcuterie boards at home, the basic rule of thumb is 1½ to two ounces of each ingredient per person.
“A lot of medleys of cheeses, dried fruits and nuts,’’ she suggests.
Among the more popular items at Golden Isles Olive Oil are roasted marcona almonds flavored with rosemary olive oil, pink peppercorns, sea salt and ground rosemary.
“We sell 100 pounds a week, and put them on our boards,’’ she said.
She also recommends a variety of textures.
“You typically want soft cheese, semi-soft cheese and hard cheese to give it some texture,’’ she said.
She also includes sweety drop peppers, a medley of olives and flavorful caper berries.
“It’s also nice to have something fruity, dates stuffed with good cheese, dried apricots,’’ MacPherson said.
The charcuterie board is just an extension of a form of hospitality that has been around for years.
“People have always served cheese and crackers and they expanded that to the charcuterie boards with more ingredients,” she said.
Prior to the outbreak, the concept was often expanded to include an entire a tablescape.
“We have had grazing tables, taking a whole tabletop and covering it with food,’’ MacPherson said. “That’s further experience.”
Those building grazing tables can simply use the same standard of 1½ to 2 ounces per person. It’s true that some items are more popular than others, but the boards and tables almost invariably end up bare, she said.
In preparing charcuterie boards in her shop, she opts for healthy and nourishing items. And she suggests that home-bound families do the same.
“We like to promote healthy living and healthy eating. Our motto is, ‘eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring anymore,’’’ MacPherson said.