Cheese and charcuterie are sure to please just about any palate, especially when handcrafted and paired beautifully with fruits, nuts, and sweets. The premise is simple, but the endless combinations and presentation truly make it an art form.
Michelle Nix of Grosse Pointe Farms has turned the art of charcuterie-crafting into a profitable side hustle since starting cheese + honey at the end of 2019. What began as putting together a cheese board for a girlfriend who needed help with an event has evolved into a business offering various sizes of boards as well as picnic boxes, mini personal boxes, and brie kits equipped with everything you need to make a seasonal baked brie dish.
Nix says making her first boards “lit a fire in me.”
As the wife of her lifelong friend, John, mom of two children (Henry, 6, and Penelope, 1), and a working dental hygienist, Nix’s days are full — but she’s always strived to find time for herself and her passions. She credits cheese + honey as being the missing piece to a puzzle she had been trying to complete for years.
“Prior to my current career in dental hygiene, I went to both Michigan State University and a private design school in Chicago for interior design. I’ve always had a passion for design, and these cheese boards were the perfect way to combine my love for design and food,” Nix says.
Nix comes from an Italian family and loves the emotions attached to certain smells and dishes, and how they bring people together. She credits her nona for her entrepreneurial spirit: “She was a hardworking businesswoman who came to the United States from Italy. She and my grandpa had a produce stand at the Eastern Market, among many other business ventures. She was feisty and fierce, but smart and hardworking. I try to channel her business sense and spirit.”
Nix also notes her mother’s hosting and planning skills, which have been an inspiration to her in life and in business. “Everything in my life leading up to this business was the perfect road map to cheese + honey,” she says.
“There are so many beautiful and creative charcuterie boards on the market,” Nix continues, “and they’re all unique. My boards feature carefully placed floral designs and a variety of seasonal garnishes and produce. I try to use Michigan cheeses like Idyll Farms (Northport) goat cheeses or Farm Country Cheese House (Lakeview) cheddars. I also work closely with Carmela Foods (Fraser) for products. My boards also feature a Michigan small-business owner’s allergy-friendly crackers (from The Real Renee). During some holidays I collaborate with Grosse Pointe Park’s Cute Sugar to give customers the perfect balance of sweet and savory.”
Nix’s presentations also always include honey (a small jar or a stick, depending on the size of the board).
Through cheese + honey, Nix is able to merge her love of food, design, and bringing people together. While business slowed last year due to COVID, things have picked up again as people want to connect with friends and family more than ever. Cheese + honey has become a way for people to say hello, happy birthday, thank you, or to express their sympathy.
For those who want to make their own presentation at home, Nix’s No. 1 tip is to start with the cheese: “The cheese is your focal point — the fireplace mantel, the art piece you want everyone to see. Then go from big to little.”
To place an order or learn about updates, check out cheese + honey on instagram @cheeseandhoneymi. Facebook features menu updates at https://linktr.ee/cheeseandhoneymi. Or contact Michelle Nix, shown below, directly at email@example.com. Delivery is available in metro Detroit, or you can pick your order up in Grosse Pointe Farms. Nix plans to offer workshops in the future for those interested in learning more about creating a great charcuterie presentation.
Charcuterie is a French term for prepared meats, says Michelle Nix. “Technically, it has nothing to do with cheese and is often misused when referring to cheese boards. Our cheese + honey boards are filled with cheese and charcuterie — neither prepared by me, but carefully selected and presented thoughtfully on a board. I like to say ‘curated cheese and charcuterie.’ ”
No Meat, No Dairy? No Problem!
The beauty of a cheese and charcuterie board is in the customization, including options for vegans.
Here are a few tips for vegan (or any) charcuterie boards:
1. Keep it simple. No need to overcrowd — simply highlight a few star items.
2. Make it colorful. Focus on seasonal fruits, like strawberries and cherries.
3. Add texture. This can be done through breads, crackers, and dips. Consider gluten-free crackers, if needed.
4. Experiment. Try different vegan cheeses and meat substitutes until you find the right ones. Ask your local grocer or farmers market vendors for their suggestions.
Staying True to Red, White, and Blue
Michelle Nix loves a theme, and Fourth of July is no exception. Her business, cheese + honey, has curated Fourth of July boards in the past that include red, white, and blue items plus different elements like star-shaped cheese and candies. “A must for Fourth of July is berries — they’re the perfect festive summer treat!” Nix says.
Some suggestions for Fourth of July gatherings, plus some starring products:
1. Include blueberries and strawberries. You can’t go wrong with these fruits, especially in the summertime.
2. Use dried cherries or other chewy elements. Sour and gummy candies come in the right colors, and are fun for kids and adults.
3. Have fun with shapes. In addition to star cutouts, think about arranging items in the shape of the American flag, or use star-shaped bowls for dips, candies, and nuts.
1. The THIRTYSTONE Stars Marble & Wood Cheese Board is the perfect serving piece for your party. $112, Macys, multiple locations, macys.com. 2. Go bold with THIRTYSTONE’s Wood & Enamel Tray. $134, Macys, multiple locations, macys.com. 3. The Festa Glass Red Star Dish by VIETRI adds a fun and festive touch to your spread. $58/four, The Italian Dish, Birmingham, theitaliandish.com, vietri.com. 4. VIETRI’s Santorini Stripe Square Platter is chic and stylish — great for Fourth of July gatherings and beyond. $54, The Italian Dish, Birmingham, theitaliandish.com, vietri.com. 5. This versatile American Flag Tray from WILLIAMS-SONOMA makes an ideal serving tray or gift for the hostess in your life. $16.95, multiple locations, williams-sonoma.com. 6. Dish out patriotic charm with WILLIAMS-SONOMA’s American Flag Appetizer Plates. $35.95/four, multiple locations, williams-sonoma.com.