Holiday Entertaining with Stonewall Kitchen

Food not only nourishes us, but it connects us and brings us together in the most wonderful and delicious way! Stonewall Kitchen & the team at Branding and Buzzing did just that!! Recently, I had the honour of partnering with Stonewall Kitchen to bring together a group of beautiful and talented women for a Holiday Board Food Styling Worksop in the stunning space of The Edible Story in Toronto.! It was a fun evening of Drinks, Food and most of all working together to create gorgeous Holiday Boards to satisfy all your guests palettes! Now, I would like to introduce to you Stonewall Kitchens, their story and share tips and some of the beautiful boards my guests created to inspire and help you create your own for your Holiday celebrations.

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

Stonewall Kitchen's believes that food should be exciting and every moment should be memorable!! Their story starts from humble beginnings, Jim Stott and Jonathan King wore many hats. Setting up shop in Jim’s family summer cottage, they spent endless hours cooking, hand-writing labels, taking photos and selling products. Often it became a full family affair: nephews and nieces filled jars one-by-one, Jim’s 90-year-old grandmother, Pearl, helped glue burlap onto jar lids and Jonathan’s mother worked as a store clerk. Their original recipe, “It’s inspired by my grandmother Pearl’s delicious blueberry pie,” says Jim. “I wanted to create the smell of her freshly baked pie filled with tasty, ripe blueberries. And we did just that. Every time I open our Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, I think of my grandmother.” We’ve grown from producing a few dozen jars for the farmers’ market to about 75,000 jars daily.

In 1991 is when it all began at a farmers' market in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where they sold their original recipe of Wild Maine Blueberry Jam and today, an award-winning company, that produces over over 75,000 jars daily of different jams, chutneys, jellies, sauces, oils and mustards. With their family recipe, values and philosophy, it was a collaboration I was excited about. Lets face it, if Astronaut and Maine native, Chris Cassidy, requested their Wild Maine Blueberry Jam because it reminded him of home, who wouldn't want to have Stonewall part of their pantry.

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

Customizing boards is one of my favourite ways to entertain. Not only does it bring people together but its a fun way to strike up conversation as well as satisfy all palettes and dietary restrictions. (One of the most important steps, is knowing your guests and their dietary restrictions or allergies to ensure everyone has an enjoyable experience and gets fed. ) Boards can also be an inexpensive way to serve a large crowd with so much variety. Using quality and local ingredients that are in season makes them fresh, colourful and taste delicious. With the winter months, there are still many options to bring lots of colour and freshness to your board. Citrus such us clementines and oranges, figs, pomegranates, grapes red and white are all in season and available at your local grocer.

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

For the meat lover, dry salami and kelbasa sausage cut in small bite size rounds are perfect for picking up and topping on crackers and serving with chutney such as Stonewall's Major Grey. Pates are also another wonderful pairing and easy to spread.

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

Lets face it, us humans always eat with our eyes first and follow our senses to guide us to what we want to enjoy. Being visual as well as our sense of smell plays an important part as to what we put on our boards to satisfy and make our guests experience a memorable one. Using colourful vegetables, a variety of meats and cheeses will definitely do the trick but that can sometimes be over whelming in what to choose and the aroma. To help with that, using labels to let your guests know what they are about to enjoy is a welcome added touch. With strong smelling cheeses such as blue and Oka, adding fresh herbs of thyme, rosemary and sage brings in holiday smells, helps tone the strong aroma and adds beauty to your board. For your cheese selections I suggest visiting your local cheese mongers as they will be able to guide you on the perfect pairings.

A few inexpensive DIY's, to help bring a special touch to your boards, using wine corks by slicing half way through them and putting a small card to identify the type of cheese or meat you are serving on your board. Tying fresh herbs in small bundles with rustic twine also is a great way to pretty up your herbs and keep them from scattering when guests help themselves to nibbles. Ensuring you have separate cheese knives for your cheeses also keeps them from mixing with other cheese flavours. Get a little fun and personal with your serving utensils, little spoons and cocktail forks for your chutneys and spreads such as Stonewall's Cranberry Pepper Jelly, Pickled Asparagus, Carrots and my personal favourite, Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives that have little sayings that welcome your guests to your boards and condiments.

Shopping at vintage or discount stores not only helps with the costs but you can also discover some unique finds just for you. Homesense is a perfect home store to purchase wooden boards, bowls as well as spoons and cheese knives, especially in their clearance isles. Layering boards with lazy Susan's is another great way to present your boards and make it easier for all your guests to access all the wonderful and delicious things you have to serve.

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

There is nothing more frustrating for your guests than having to stand around a crowded board to wait to be able to enjoy the same thing someone else is grabbing. To keep your guests scattered and happy around your boards, equal distribution of the ingredients is very important. Keeping your meats, cheeses, veggies and condiments equally scattered avoids crowded spots, everyone reaching and of course happier quests. This does not mean that you have to double your cheese, meats or condiments. Slice your cheese wedges in half, make smaller bundles of meat around your board and uses small bowls to divide your chutney's, jellies and condiments. To keep your veggies fresh, don't add all of them at once. Keep a bag of washed and already cut in your refrigerator for quick and fresh replenishing. I usually estimate abut 250 g per person as you also have your crackers, bread and dessert. I find that guests tend to fill up quicker with Grazing boards paired with cocktails, wine or beer.

Save the veggie scraps to avoid waste as well as decorate your boards. Keep radish and turnip ends to decorate your boards. Leave some of the green stems on your carrots for added colour and a farm to table fresh look. No need to peel cucumber skin, radish skin, carrots, just wash well and it is where all the nutrients are

Combing sweet and savoury combos is another must and makes for a flavourful bite. Pairing Stonewall Kitchen’s Hot Pepper Cranberry Jelly next to fresh figs and prosciutto with crackers such as Stonewall Kitchen’s Simple White and Rosemary Olive makes for easy flavourful building in reach. Boards also tend to feature rich cheeses and lots of meat, serving a variety of vegetables as well as pickled condiments, gives them a lighter option and provides something for guests who are vegetarian or vegan. Stonewall Kitchen offers their Tillen Farms Pickled Crunchy Carrots, Pickled Asparagus and Blue Cheese Stuffed olives that make a perfect addition.

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

It's always nice to create a flavour combination for your quests just to reach out and grab. Here I have put together a crostini with deli shaved sea salt and pepper roast beef, swiss cheese, arugula and gave it a flavourful explosion with Stonewall's Horseradish Aioli.

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

I have shared below some beautiful boards that my talented workshop guests have teamed up and created to inspire you and show you how easy it is to get creative for your own holiday entertaining. Serving boards is a great way to prepare ahead with less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the evening with your guests.

Here are some final tips for you to keep in mind.

  1. Pour yourself a drink, turn up the jazz music, relax and have fun while building your boards.

  2. Keep it casual and rustic and not overly perfect when building your boards. Spread ingredients out and use little mounds for meat for easier pick up with forks, toothpicks or skewers.

  3. Filling up gaps and spaces will create a full lush board by using grapes, herbs, dried fruit and pickles on skewers which makes it more inviting and beautiful.

  4. Place smaller foods such as olives, nuts, seeds into decorative bowls.

  5. Take meats and cheeses out of the fridge 20-25 minutes prior to serving.

  6. Add additional theme and colour with plates, napkins and cutlery by placing them around the board to ensure all your guests have access.

Head over to as Tiffany Leigh has written a fabulous piece on our evening with Stonewall Kitchen.

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

It was an absolute honour and a wonderful and delicious evening to spend with Stonewall Kitchen, the Branding and Buzzing Team and these beautiful talented ladies. A heartfelt thank you to our talented photographer who captured such a special and memorable evening for all of us. For more information on Stonewall Kitchen's Story, product offerings and where to purchase yours, visit them at

Wishing you and your families a wonderful and most delicious Holiday Season!!

With Love,

Irene (aka The Spicy Olive)

Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic @KHzen

From Left,, Vijaya, Libby, Solmaz, Me, Michelle, Liv, Erin and missing from our photo Tiff.

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