PHOTO CREDITS: Photography by @eatwithshannon
Perpetual snackers know that the search for the next new bite-sized nibble is a quest best embarked upon on an empty stomach. Whether you prefer sweet or savoury, like to dip and dunk, crunch and munch, or sample two tidbits at a time – there’s nothing that can’t set the world to rights like a little gourmet grazing.
When it comes to food and its power to bring people together, bonding over a meal is one of society’s most fundamental shared social experiences. Enter Simone Metlege, founder of Halifax based specialty grazing company Boxed Bites Catering, who is elevating this experience to an art-form.
A social worker by trade, Metlege is making a name for herself on the city’s foodie scene with Boxed Bites’ artisanal array of customized grazing boxes, boards, and tables that are nothing short of Insta-worthy. What began as a hobby on evenings and weekends allowing Metlege to combine her passion for food styling, presentation, and flavour-profiling has now turned into full-fledged home business with room for limitless creativity.
“When I first started, we were not aware of any other grazing companies that were in existence,” says Metlege. “We are proud to be one of the very first Halifax based grazing companies within Nova Scotia. We felt as though there was a gap in the culinary world and, when we were hit with COVID-19, I realized that I could use my hobby and fill this gap in a way that helps alleviate some of the stresses associated with the systemic impacts that the pandemic was having on our community.
By offering curbside pick-up and free delivery, I was able to not only increase the psychosocial well-being of our community by providing a novel experience, but I was able to provide meals for individuals unable to or apprehensive to go to our grocery stores.”
Featuring an array of locally-sourced staple ingredients, no two Boxed Bites creations ever look the same; instead, each is presented in its own unique way. When it comes to sourcing quality ingredients for her products, Metlege says she currently has 12 partnerships with local suppliers – a number she hopes will grow further in 2021 along with a demand for new flavour profiles.
“Local, gourmet, and fresh are the three words that can best describe our new menu and there is definitely something for everyone,” she says. “I think people are looking for something sweet and salty; they’re looking for something that can check off all of the boxes – dinner and dessert. Brie and honey seems to be the trend right now!”
Crafting the perfect grazing experience for each customer is a labour of love that can take anywhere from an hour-and-a-half for a bespoke box, or even up to two days for a larger grazing table based on the scope of an order. Yet it’s a process that allows Metlege to apply her imaginative touch to the fullest.
“We love stretching our culinary creativity in a way that allows us to encompass more than a board or box of treats,” she explains. “My personal favourite thing to do is create gorgeous grazing tables; but we can also do charcuterie boats, cones, numbers, letters…the options are endless! Over Christmas we had a really popular ‘charcuter-wreath’. It is so important to us that we remain innovative and continue to come up with new and interesting ways of grazing that inspire others within our community.
One of our most popular boxes of 2020 contained a lot more high-end ingredients – things you can’t pick up at the grocery store – which is why, moving forward, we are hoping to expand upon that and provide more high-quality, trickier-to-source products. Our customer is the number one priority and we try to accommodate any request that we receive and, sometimes, that might not be in a box.”
This includes collaborating with customers who have food allergies or other dietary restrictions to curate a Boxed Bites offering that meets their needs without compromising on variety or taste. Metlege says she is happy to source alternative products such as meats or cheeses when preparing a bespoke box for a customer with certain dietary requirements – though such orders typically require a few extra days’ notice.
With the festive season behind us and Valentine’s Day looming large, Metlege says that it’s not uncommon for her to receive requests for special holiday themes – and Boxed Bites already has a few custom theme boxes and boards lined up for release ahead of V-Day. For Metlege it’s yet another opportunity to let her food styling skills shine, as presentation goes hand-in-hand with taste.
“Presentation is so important,” she says. “I love food styling, so this is where my focus initially began. Over the last year, I have learned a lot more about varying products and food pairings and I am so excited to showcase my culinary growth partnered with my presentation throughout 2021. We definitely eat with our eyes, but the taste has to be there too. It is wonderful when you can have something beautiful enough to act as a centerpiece, but also as an appetizer.”
Metlege credits her cultural background with instilling in her a sense of food as a vital link towards strengthening community bonds, and takes pride in the knowledge that her work with Boxed Bites not only helps nourish people, but also brings them together. It’s this aspect of enjoying a shared experience through food that she believes is the reason behind the surge in popularity in recent years towards shared dining.
“I am a Lebanese-Canadian, so food has always been a shared activity – a way to share time and share love,” she says. “Eating is a necessity and, in a world where we can often be consumed by technology and in-person social interaction is often limited, connecting over food allows us the time to truly interact with one another and strengthen our social connections – whether among family, workplaces, or other community groups.”
Building upon this sense of connection, Metlege says Boxed Bites is proud to have the opportunity to give back to the local HRM community with “catering for a cause.” Using the brand’s sizeable online presence, Metlege has offered up Boxed Bites’ digital platform to shine the spotlight on the work of local charities and non-profits who are making a difference in the lives of Nova Scotians.
“We feel so lucky to have gained a large platform over such a short period of time and we really hope to continue using that as a way to advocate and raise funds for important organizations within our community,” she states. “We have been able to work with the Mental Health Foundation twice, and have an exciting new fundraiser coming up this spring with another local organization.”
Looking back at the gauntlet of challenges heaped upon Nova Scotians in 2020, Metlege is confident that the New Year ahead will be one of renewed hope and opportunity.
“We have many changes coming your way in 2021; more local partnerships, and a whole new menu that represents our growth over the last year,” she divulges. “Trying to remain innovative, we are going to begin providing experience boxes – our first one being a DIY Baked Brie box where we have provided everything required to curate an awesome appetizer for you or your friends. We have a lot of new ideas and we cannot wait to share them with you all.”
Hungry yet? Get snacking @boxedbitescatering on Instagram, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.