These three San Diego charcuterie experts are here to help us craft better gatherings, one board at a time
Here's a collection of charcuterie opportunities to graze on.
Mike Eastwood likes to let cheese speak to him. He trusts the cheese to tell him where to cut and how to be arranged on a tray.
“Aged goat cheese is harder, so I slice it into little slivers,” says Eastwood. “It has a wonderful geometry to it when you fan it out.”
Eastwood creates new and different charcuterie boards for clients at Smallgoods in La Jolla every day. Each board’s ingredients are based on what the customer is planning to drink and do. For a ladies' night, as an example, he knows to select foods that pair well with rosé and champagne.
Eastwood strives for a balance between salty, savory, and sweet. He layers salt from cured meats like Il Porcellino’s spicy coppa, the 2020 charcuterie master’s grand champion. In addition to taste and texture, the marbled dry-age meat adds a visual punch to charcuterie boards. Savory flavors come from raw milk cheese while sweet elements are often dried mangoes or fresh strawberries.
He always gives the customer something new to try—like elk, wild boar, lamb, and turkey.
“Game is unexpected for the American palate,” says Eastwood. He pairs new ingredients with the tried and true favorites: brie and camembert.
True to its namesake, Smallgoods specializes in small-batch American products, and because of that, every platter is different than the one before.
“I want people to pay attention to the products we’re using,” says Eastwood. “American makers are so underserved in this country, but more are coming into light in different cheese shops. The product comes first.”
Smallgoods charcuterie boards are the perfect blend of want and need.
“People keep coming back for the uniqueness,” Eastwood explains. “It’s based on pure desire. At the end of the day, we’re doing something we love. We’re representing small-batch producers and calling them out by name and place. It’s a labor of love.”
Hero image: Stop by the Smallgoods shop and find plates perfect for that spontaneous picnic. Image: Courtesy of Smallgoods.
Ilona Rennert launched her charcuterie business, Bits & Bites Graze Boards, in 2021. Her job is to add the “wow factor” to events. For those seeking something unique for weddings, cocktail hours, or networking, Rennert has you covered. She offers grazing boards for groups of 20 people or less and multi-foot-long grazing tables for larger groups.
“It’s a feast for the eyes as much as the belly,” says Rennert.
She starts with a solid base of cheese, meat, fresh produce, vegetables, briny bites, nuts, and a crunch factor. From there, she fills in with foods to build colors, flavors, and textures.
“The cheeses and the meats are fatty and coat the palate,” she explains. You have to add contrasting briny bites like olives or cornichons—that cleanse the palate.”
She loves to “zhuzh” up boards with uniquely colored cheeses, edible glitter, and stencil designs.
She offers a Locals Only board made exclusively with farmers’ market finds and local products. She goes to the Oceanside Farmers’ Market to find black lemon gouda from chef Elliot Dogbe of Chez Elliot, a catering and cheese specialist. At Carlsbad’s State Street Farmers’ Market, she selects honey and picks up Double Batch vegan cheese. Olli salami from Oceanside and macarons from GelatoLove in Carlsbad are also incorporated into her designs.
Her favorite grazing ingredients mirror the seasons—Rennert uses peaches in summer to bring out the sweetness of a brie. In the fall, she incorporates homemade candied walnuts with brown sugar and cinnamon. Early winter brings persimmons—she loves adding unexpected nibbles to grazing boards.
Want to try your hand at arranging your own board? She brings all of the elements so you can do it yourself at a Bits & Bites charcuterie workshop.
“Don’t get discouraged on your first board,” she advises. “There’s no perfect board. Some people like it really balanced and structured—and for others—it’s organized chaos.”
Brad Wise, chef and owner of TRUST Restaurant Group
“Soppressata,” says Wise. “The fennel, the peppercorns, a touch of heat with crushed red peppers, and a hint of red wine. It’s one of the more flavorful salamis out there, and I love it any time I see it on a charcuterie board. I also love ‘nduja—it’s a spreadable salami. It’s spicy because it’s made with fermented Calabrian chilies. Just spread it on a piece of bread—so good.”
“I love to see pâté on a charcuterie board. My favorite is a country-style pâté with pork, chicken liver, and pistachios,” Wise says.
The Wise Ox has two locations in San Diego and La Costa that butcher and cure meats in-house to sell to customers and supply meats to the restaurant group’s dining destinations:Trust, Fort Oak, Cardellino, and Rare Society.