Charcuterie (pronounced shar-KOO-tar-ee) is a curious word having originated in France in the 15th century. The traditional definition refers to charcuterie as a method of preserving meat by curing it before the advent of refrigeration. Today, charcuterie has evolved into artfully-arranged trays or boards piled high with meats, cheeses, olives, nuts, dips, sauces and fruits. What goes into a charcuterie presentation is only limited by one’s imagination. The French word for a person who delves into charcuterie is a charcutier.
Helena has its very own queen of charcuterie, Lexie Julian. Born in Dallas, Texas, Lexie and her sister would eventually relocate to Billings. Their nurturing foster family set the wheels in motion for learning how to reach out a helping hand to those in need.
“I loved how on Thanksgiving we would go and serve meals at the Billings Rescue Mission and deliver meals to those who couldn’t make it to dinner," Lexie said. "We got to meet some of the best people that way. We learned how to listen. We were taught to be in the service of others because there would always be someone worse off than us.”
To this day, Lexie, a people pleaser, remains intent on ensuring her customers are cared for with the best service and creations she can provide.
Lexie graduated from Gonzaga University in Spokane. Her path took her to Las Vegas, where she became a senior buyer for Verizon and got involved in setting up their events. It was a trip to Washington, D.C., with her sister that would change the course of her life. Charcuterie had always been a hobby, and crafting events for her employer got her thinking about a business of her own. She moved to Billings with her kids, where the idea of starting a charcuterie venture took shape. She finally settled in Helena. With the help of her sister, she developed a business plan, got all the necessary licensing and permits, and devised marketing materials. She was ready to launch Savor and Graze in February 2020.
When asked how she came up with the name Savor and Graze, Lexie said with a grin, “My mom always called me a grazer. I peck and eat all the time.”
The pandemic coincided with her opening and presented several challenges. Requests for catering at weddings were filling up her calendar. She needed a plan for individual charcuterie servings for guests as a safety measure. Her solution was cones filled with meats, cheeses, fruits or whatever the bride requested. To display the cones, she took wooden wine boxes, flipped them upside down and drilled holes to hold them. That first year she did 14 weddings. This year, she is up to 95, ranging from Miles City to the Flathead.
Last Best Plates: Montana, Malaysia join forces in Fishtail
Every event is unique, so being creative and calculating with portions is a huge part of where Lexie excels. One of her most recent challenges was the Cowboy Christmas Ball at the Windsor Ballroom in Helena. She had to plan how to keep 250 people grazing for four hours. She recalled a Bozeman wedding last summer where the bride was from Hawaii and requested Hawaiian-themed food. As Lexie tells it, sourcing fresh food from the islands, such as horned melon, was a learning experience. In addition to grazing boards, boxes and cones, Savor and Graze can fill large cardboard letters with charcuterie.
Lexie’s creations work for bridal and baby showers, weddings, anniversary gatherings, grand openings, corporate events, and fundraisers. Her culinary marvels add a touch of elegance and an infusion of color to any event. With the recent acquisition of Party Plus Rentals, Savor and Graze can supply all the table decorations, napkins, plates, cutlery and everything but tables and chairs for any function. While her business is located in Helena, her services aren’t limited to the capital city. She has done catering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington. She has a client in New Hampshire with whom she’ll overnight her creations using refrigerated packaging.
Beyond her stunning boards, Lexie now offers charcuterie classes in Helena, teaming up with local breweries for the class locations. I signed up for one of Lexie’s classes, which was nothing short of fun and camaraderie on a dreary Saturday afternoon. I took home enough goodies for not one but two nights of dinner.
If you can dream it, Lexie can do it. Options include fruit and cheese boards, dessert boards, plant-based boards, and crudité/veggie boards. She can craft a full-sized salmon and lox board with bagels, lemon-zested cream cheese, red onion, lemon, smoked salmon, English cucumber, capers and tomatoes. Plant-based boards include three vegan cheeses, fruit and veggies with house-made beet lemon hummus. Dessert boards come with a mixture of chocolate-covered strawberries, mini cupcakes, meringue cookies, chocolates and seasonal fresh fruit.
Lexie uses Boar’s Head Brand meats from Big Sky Provisions, an authorized Montana purveyor of the Boar’s Head brand, and Brooklyn Cured meats and sausages. Pork products are sourced from the Cascade Hutterite colony. Grotto’s Meats in Livingston supplies her specialty meats. Pekin duck breasts come from Mary’s Free Range Ducks out of California. Costco, according to Lexie, has the best grapes.
Last Best Plates: Bringing the Mediterranean to Montana
In addition to catering, folks can order a board or tray online or by calling, with a 24-hour notice required. For me, this is an excellent solution when I’m not in the mood to fix dinner, which is usually five nights out of seven.