With Phoebe’s Pure Food’s Help, Score a No-Fuss Dinner Party in a Box

I have a confession: I have a love affair with Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Perhaps you can blame my Pennsylvania Dutch and Mennonite upbringing, my high school gig at a small-batch apple butter factory, or my plain-Jane, royally epic good taste.

Although I forever wished I was raised in agricultural landscape of Lancaster County, learning to live off the land like my dreamworld Amish neighbors, my real-life zip code was always Berks Co. and it’s comparable—almost. So, since my prime driving age of 18 (I’m a late bloomer!), I’ve hightailed it over to Dutch Country on a regular basis to be with “my people,” to discover new culinary discoveries at the Central Market and to drink pints and pints (and more pints) from their next-door neighbor, Spring House Taproom.

In the process of my south-central PA exploits, it’s been a true treat to discover writer-publisher-Lancaster advocate Phoebe Canakis of Phoebe’s Pure Food, who is leading the city’s garden-to-plate movement and exposing the talented purveyors and artisans creating within its limits. On top of her quarterly magazine, her daily blogging and private catering, the Lancaster Co. expert is also collecting the hottest gourmet products and making them available to you!

That’s right: Canakis has expanded her Phoebe’s Pure Food business to feature an online store. The carefully chosen inventory features the finest artisan goods available in southeastern Pennsylvania—all easily available with just a few quick clicks. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s debuting dinner party collections that’ll allow you to host the ultimate low-prep, minimal-cooking affair with her help.

I decided to test out two of the collections, and being the self-proclaimed biggest Lancaster supporter, what could be better than receiving the tastes of Dutch Country without having to make the drive? Well, nothing.

First up: Just Add Cheese Box, which is basically all the necessary pieces for a successful cheese board without having to wreck your noggin when considering accompaniments. The box had all the pieces for a sweet-and-savory display, including strawberry and fresh mint jam from Lancaster’s Christina Maser Pantry, horseradish, hemp and honey mustard from Lancaster’s Hempzels, rosemary sea salt crackers from Mt. Pleasant Mills’ Rip Rap Bakery, and a dipping oil herb medley from Phoebe herself.

As if that wasn’t enough to work with, the box arrived with pairing recommendations for all products plus a recipe for easy-as-pie herbed chevre with fresh mint and basil. Success!

Second up: Get Grilling Box (variation of the Chef’s Box), which I’m proclaiming to be everything you need for a local-infused feast—minus the meat. If you are looking to experiment with small-batch condiments and spices, this box is for you! The life-changing box featured new favorites like Somerset Sweet Garlic and Onion Jam from Somerset County’s Laurel Vista Farm, roasty Jersey Tomato Ketchup from the Garden State’s First Field, chipotle olive oil from Bethlehem’s Seasons Olive Oil & Vinegar Taproom, and Alaea Red Sea Salt from West Chester’s PureBlend Tea (now a kitchen staple).

Tasting notes: I invited my closest food-loving friends over for a casual exploration of the cheese and grilling-centric boxes, each hungry-eyed snacker eager to discover the next best culinary marriage of their lives. I stuck primarily to Vermont Creamery’s cheeses and butters to complete the party spread, including the Bijou, the Double Cream Cremont, the Bonne Bouche, and the heavenly cultured butter blended with sea salt crystals. To offer an additional base for snacking, I whipped up a loaves of artisan sourdough (recipe here).

The day’s most popular pairing was with the Bijou, an aged, crottin-style goat cheese with mild notes and a nutty finish. Party-goers opted to smear the French-style hunk on warm toast and then, add a layer of onion jam—it was an onion tart in one bite. The dreamy, creamy Cremont worked swimmingly as a centerpiece with the rosemary crackers as dippers, and also paired well with punchy, sharper mates like the hemp mustard and pickles. For the Bonne Bouche, which couples well with pours of saison, we married the ash-ripened goat cheese with the strawberry jam. The jelly’s mint component worked magically with the complex award-winner.

I threw a few additional mainstays to the spread because, welp, I’m an overachiever. Other crowd-pleasing additions included: Dogfish Head and Brooklyn Brine’s Hop Pickles, Righteous Felon’s chipotle and hickory jerky, Jenkin’s JelliesHell Fire Pepper Jelly, and Lord Nut Revington’s bloody mary nuts.

Since coupling beer and cheese is the world’s most successful fermentation experiment, our event’s bar program stuck with the all-things-local theme, pouring samples of Other Farm Brewing Co.’s English Setter Ale and Cherry Saison, Tired Hands Brewing Co.’s Only Void, and Armstrong Ales’ Guepe Colere Saison, among others.

Consider repeating my cheese party and score a dinner party in a box for yourself by visiting phoebespurefood.com. Trust me—your guests will love you! Custom boxes and individual products are available.

Disclaimer: While writing this article, the reviewer received complimentary products.

  • Photography of Phoebe Canakis and Just Have Cheese Box: Phoebe's Pure Food
  • Photography of Products: Amy Strauss