By Katie Riley
If there’s one food trend that took off during the pandemic, it was cheese and charcuterie boards. Cheese and crackers are nothing new when it comes to nibbles, but suddenly our social media accounts were flooded with photos of pepperoni roses, Marcona almonds, and beautiful displays of brie, bleu, and gouda. The visual appeal of a beautiful cheese board is undeniable, yet it satisfies our desire to graze and indulge in one of life’s great culinary pleasures.
“Cheese and charcuterie boards embody all the hospitality of breaking bread around the table and enjoying something as a group,” says Megan Vaughan, founder and proprietor of Vaughan Cheese, a café and artisan cheese shop in North Beach. “If you can take that with a product as humble and delicious as cheese, it’s just fantastic.”
There are plenty of spots in our region to indulge in a beautiful board that is perfect for sharing with friends. Whether your favorite is a stinky bleu cheese or a sharp cheddar, we’ve narrowed down the best options for satisfying your cheese and charcuterie fix.
If there are experts on cheese in the Chesapeake Bay area, it’s Megan and Tyler Vaughan, owners and founders of Vaughan Cheese, a cheese shop, café, and counter in North Beach that opened in the fall of 2021. Professionally trained at the Culinary Institute of America, the Vaughans share a passion for American artisan cheeses, and honed their expertise through years of experience at some of New York City’s best restaurants, including Eleven Madison Park, one of the world’s best restaurants. When the Vaughans moved home to Maryland in 2018, they founded their business devoted to procuring and selling artisan cheeses.
The Vaughan’s personal relationship with dozens of American dairy farmers allows them to serve only the best and freshest gourmet cheeses that would excite any connoisseur. In addition to providing cheese to some of DC’s top restaurants, Vaughan Cheese has a dine-in counter where guests can order an endless variety of cheese and charcuterie boards, curated from the more than 85 cheeses they sell in the shop. Indulge in a board focused on DMV area dairy farms or ask the cheese monger to create a bespoke board based on the freshest wheels in the shop.
“Our most popular cheese is whatever the cheese monger has identified as the most perfect, in-season cheese that day,” Vaughan says. Vaughan Cheese also specializes in private parties, home delivery, cheese tasting classes, and special events.
4116 7th Street, North Beach
Annapolis Market House
In the heart of Annapolis, there’s no better spot to get your cheese fix than at the Annapolis Market House. “Our cheese and charcuterie boards are our most popular item,” says chef and Market house co-owner Michele Bouchard. The boards feature imported meats and cheeses with accompaniments like candied nuts, honey, fig jam, olives, and tapenade. Each pairing includes a hard and soft cheese, and charcuterie served with house made crostini. The pairings ensure that diners can snack on something sweet, salty, and crunchy, exciting the palate with every bite.
“We rotate what cheeses we offer because we have so many regulars that come in for them,” Bouchard says, noting that the boards are also available for carry out and in larger sizes for parties. With live music offered on Thursday “locals” night, Market House is the perfect spot to unwind and share a board with friends.
25 Market Space, City Dock
Grapes Wine Bar
Established almost twenty years ago adjacent to Annapolis Wine Cellars, Grapes Wine Bar and restaurant has a curated selection of top shelf wines, French-inspired cuisine and an ever-evolving cheese and charcuterie selection. Diners can choose from several kinds of soft and hard cheeses, including Laura Chenel Chevre, a fresh goat’s cheese, or Fourme d Ambert, a bleu cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk, to name a few.
The cheese and charcuterie boards are beautifully presented with dried fruit, fig jam, mustard, and nuts, and are best accompanied with Grapes’ house made crusty baguettes, the closest you’ll find to France on this side of the Atlantic. In addition to the cheese and charcuterie selection, Grapes offers a full menu of entrees and daily specials.
1410 Forest Drive, Suite 6
Newcomer Curate Coffee and Wine Bar on West Street offers a mouth-watering array of pastries and small plates throughout the day and on weekends, they stay open late for wine nights, providing a relaxed and lively environment for one of their customized cheese or charcuterie boards. Featuring an array of artisan cheeses, the boards include nut crisps, cranberry compote, and fresh honeycomb. No board is complete without Curate’s house made crackers or fresh focaccia, which showcase the talents of the in-house pastry chef.
Seasonal cheese offerings like fall-inspired goat cheese with prosciutto are rotated throughout the year, while a variety of soft and hard cheeses and artisan charcuterie combinations are a mainstay of the café’s small plates menu. Curate’s intimate atmosphere, distinctive wine pairings and fresh, elevated ingredients make for a great spot to indulge in a beautiful board with friends.
141 West Street, Suite 102