If there is one food trend that has dominated in the past 12 months, it's the cheese platter.
And we're not talking cheap crackers and cubes of tasty cheese.
Abundant grazing tables where cheese, cured meats, breads, biscuits, dips and fresh fruit are meticulously styled among decorative florals and greenery is the must-have for any type of celebration these days.
Grazing tables, along with platters and picnics, is a fast-growing industry in Newcastle and the Hunter.
Leading the pack is Miss May's Picnics, the Newcastle-based grazing table and luxury picnic service that boasts 35,000 followers on social media and a calendar that is already filling up with bookings into 2020.
Since launching two years ago, their boho-inspired picnics (think Persian rugs, peacock chairs and ornate table decorations) are in high demand, as are their grazing tables. On Sunday, September 1, they will unveil an eight-metre berry season grazing table at Harris Farm Markets in Cooks Hill in a joint collaboration to offer customers a sample of the store's produce. The free event is open to the public from 7am.
And for those that have ever tried to master the art of creating the perfect grazing table, but failed, The Goods catering service is hosting a hands-on workshop on September 8 in Wickham. The class will share the tricks to assembling the perfect grazing table, covering everything from food placement and styling, to food floristry tips and where to source quality produce (book at thegoodscatering.net).
Here are five others (find them all on Instagram and Facebook) to check out for your next event:
Functions co-ordinator Cassie Varley started out creating grazing tables for friends and family before noticing a gap in the wedding market. Word spread and she had more requests to create the elaborate grazes, which led her to found Midtown Platters. "In the last two years it has has taken off - everyone wants platters and grazing tables," Varley says. "I love food and I love cheese, of course, so I find it's easy to style that kind of food and present it to make it look pretty." Two years on, Varley creates grazing tables (catering for anywhere from two to 150 people) as well as platter boxes and, more recently, styled picnics. She mainly focuses on antipasto picnics and grazes, but also offers dessert platters and breakfast picnics, with a focus on sourcing locally produced food where possible. "I try to do it from a food focus, but also a design point of view where I make the grazing table a little more luxurious," she says. Midtown also offer the option of a live musician to perform at their picnic events.
Meat You At The Cheese Platter
Like the name suggests, Jaimi-Lee Burrow's grazing tables are all about cheese, meats and everything else that pairs wonderfully with the two. The Hunter Valley-based Burrow creates perfectly presented grazing tables, as well as platter boxes, and has serviced the Hunter Valley, Newcastle, Port Stephens and the Central Coast for almost two years. As well as antipasto-style food, she also offers sweets, cupcakes, baguettes, rice paper rolls and chicken caesar lettuce cups, with plans to introduce salads as an option as well. Waste is one aspect that Borrow consciously works toward reducing. She uses as many biodegradable items as possible, such as recyclable platter boxes, cardboard fibre plates and wooden cutlery. She also has a worm farm for her fruit and veggie scraps. "Reducing waste is something I am very passionate about," Burrow says.
The Ornate Table/The Goods Catering
Nicole Minter and Sophie Brown officially started trading in May, with a focus on styling luxurious picnic set-ups. They're in charge of creating the perfect look for each picnic, incorporating rugs, floor cushions and lanterns in their set-up. They also offer optional extras such as vintage lawn games and speciality drink stations. As for the food, they collaborate with The Goods Catering who provide locally-sourced produce which can be arranged as a grazing table or as individual platters (baguettes, homemade desserts, sushi, wraps). "Our speciality is really the styling of luxury picnic set-ups to accompany the graze platters. We realised that while there were starting to be quite a number of graze and platter businesses, there wasn't nearly as many that were doing the picnic side of things, especially at the luxury level that we had in mind," Minter says.
Sharp + Co Platters
Sisters Laura and Jess Sharp took inspiration to start their platter box and grazing business from their own love of food and celebrating with their big family. They offer a range of platters boxes (breakfast, cheese, fruit, sweets, wraps, rolls or ploughman's) as well as decadent grazing tables, starting from one-metre grazes to cater for up to 30 people, and beyond. Each grazing table is created using fresh artisan produce including premium cheese, cured meats, antipasto and savoury accompaniments, fresh bread and seasonal fruit, with the addition of greenery and flowers to achieve that Instagram-perfect look.
Portable Platter Co
Emily Mills and Liam Hardy are the brains behind platter business, Portable Platter Co. Their idea is to offer convenient platter boxes that can be ordered in advance, then picked up and taken away to cater for your occasion without too much fuss. They create small, medium and large portable platter boxes, including options such as grazing boxes, sweet boxes, wrap boxes and baguette boxes. "There are so many amazing platter companies out there, we wanted to focus on the portable side of things to hopefully differentiate us from everyone else," Mills says. She says they are eventually planning to tap into the picnic market, too. Watch this space.
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