Love in the Time of Cholera (El Amor en los Tiempos del Cólera) is a novel by Colombian Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez, one that has been said to show that “the extraordinary is contained in the ordinary.”
Though it may not be a romance, Amor Y Queso — a new take-home cheese and charcuterie board business in Dallas — is a love story during the time of COVID-19, one with ordinary origins and extraordinary results.
Every Friday, the Amor Y Queso team hands off a sold-out batch of hand-curated meat and cheese “snack boxes,” which are priced at $45 and can feed several people comfortably, depending on how hungry they are. The contents of the boxes change every week, providing a differing experience to first-time and recurring customers alike.
“We started the Friday boxes the third week of the first lockdown, in part, because the events I would usually work with were no longer happening,” says Sarah Carlock, founder of Amor Y Queso.
The road to the Friday snack boxes started long ago. Before it became a commercial operation, Carlock started putting together meat and cheese boards at home with her mother to celebrate the music and movie awards season.
This became a regular occurrence with friends and family, who gave her encouragement to start doing it professionally. Over time, Carlock became more intentional with the craft, bringing these boards to events, and eventually, becoming a paid consultant. Through Amor Y Queso, Carlock continues to offer larger boards and tables at a higher price point.
But with the collapse of many in-person events caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Carlock had to adapt.
“That’s where things got really spicy for me, cheesily speaking,” she writes in the Amor Y Queso origin story, where she lets her personality shines through: “I’m a Gemini and Mexican and a writer, there’s no way I wasn’t gonna give y'all a whole long story.”
Unlike the shy writer stereotype, Carlock doesn’t wilt under the spotlight: Her personality and passion shine through during an interview with the Observer.
“2020 is the year where — like in the show Whose Line Is It Anyway? — time is made up and nothing happens. So we are trying to make something happen with these boxes, trying to give people something to look forward [to] when other options aren't available,” Carlock says.
Carlock spoke with us inside the kitchen of The Jelly Queens, a Dallas-based jelly and jam wholesaler that is often featured in the boxes, where founder Donna Collins, has welcomed the Amor Y Queso crew with open arms.
“They needed a place to put together boxes and have people come pick them up … since they’ve been here, it’s brought such wonderful energy,” Collins says.
“I like to think people come for the cheese and stay for me,” she says.
More than 50% of her clients are repeat customers.
“Growth has been rapid and almost entirely driven via word of mouth,” Carlock says.
She attributes that in part to the highly Instagrammable nature of her boxes, but also to her focus on quality and community. Amor Y Queso boxes are presented beautifully and focus whenever possible on local food producers.
In the box we were able to sample — along with incredible homemade biscuits by Collins — a number of local products were featured: jelly and bread made in Dallas and peaches and pecans grown in Texas.
“I’m big on supporting Latinx and Black-owned [businesses] when I can. ... The more we take care of each other, the more we will flourish as a community,” Carlock says.
Prominently displayed on the homepage is a call to action, soliciting donations to Know Your Rights Camp, “an organization dedicated to advancing the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities.”
If you’d like to join the growing Amor Y Queso community, check out their website, where you can sign up for the email list that announces the weekly Friday grazing boxes. And if you’re trying to feed a few more people and can plan ahead, consider one the larger boards or tables. You won’t regret it.
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