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Sarah and Boo Simms of Lady & Larder bring the cheese and charcuterie party home to Carmel.
PUBLISHED ON
March 26, 2024

Words by Becky Duffett

Photos by Kelsey Wisdom

Video by Grant Kinsey

The Simms sisters know how to have a good time.

They’ve served private dinners for Hollywood stars, large-scale soirees in stunning locations, and, of course, the daily offerings of their wildly popular cheese and charcuterie boards, which fly out of their shop, Lady & Larder in Santa Monica. Now, they’re bringing the party home with the opening of a new location in Carmel Valley. 

Lady & Larder’s showstopping boards—a gorgeously styled selection of seasonal fare—make entertaining at home look effortless.

“We’ve always filled this space between what you can get at a grocery store and a full-service catering company,” Sarah says. 

“It saves you from going to three farmers markets and six shops,” Boo adds. 

The twin sisters were born in Los Angeles, but moved to Carmel in the fifth grade. “It was a magical place to grow up,” Sarah says. Away from the noise and light of the city, they stared at the stars in their driveway, walked to the beach after classes at Carmel Mission School, and learned to ride horses at Holman Ranch. They got their first jobs spinning milkshakes at R.G. Burgers at just 14 years old. Their dad had to sign a work permit, but that was no problem for Scott Simms, who himself was a restaurateur. The family business was behind half a dozen restaurants in Southern California. 

Sarah followed in her dad’s footsteps, becoming a chef and sommelier. Boo became an artist and graphic designer. But the real magic happened when they combined their talents and skills, with Sarah’s gorgeous food styling, and Boo’s photography and packaging design. Together they opened Lady & Larder in Santa Monica in 2016. The shop quickly gained notoriety with features in publications like Cherry Bombe and The New York Times, and a spot on Oprah’s Favorite Things. The sisters always planned to move back to Carmel to raise their kids and open a second location. But when their dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2020, and ran out of treatment options in 2023, “it lit a fire under us to come back and maximize our time with him,” Boo says. Immediately upon their return, their dad began encouraging them to set up a shop in their hometown. He passed away only a few weeks after reviewing their lease. 

“Our business is really a love letter to California.”

<div class="quote-attribute">Boo Simms</div>

Lady & Larder opened quietly in December, offering the brand’s signature cheese and charcuterie boards. “Our business is really a love letter to California,” Boo says. “I would say radically seasonal,” Sarah adds. “It’s the best of what’s available at the farmers market that week.” The cheese comes from California, including nutty jack from Stepladder Creamery, ultra rich Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery, and leaf-wrapped rounds from Andante Dairy. The charcuterie is all American, from women-owned Coro salumi in Seattle to La Quercia prosciutto from the Midwest. And the boards overflow with kishu mandarins, strawberries, sugar snaps, and flowers. 

The plan is to add a sandwich menu this summer, stacking three or four specials. Fans will expect the “Franch Girl,” featuring shaved ham, shaved radishes, whipped butter sweetened with Medjool dates, and a sprinkle of sea salt. The sisters’ personal favorite? The “Hot Girl Salami,” with two types of salami, alpine-style cheese, shaved red onion, and hot mustard. But don’t expect the exact same menu as Santa Monica—they’re leaving room for the current cravings in Carmel, and all sandwiches will come on local sourdough and crusty baguettes from Monterey’s Ad Astra Bread Co. 

The sisters will also set out small bites, such as local cultured butter, warm Medjool dates, and marinated olives. As well as pour natural wine by the glass. “Sarah’s curated such a rad list,” says Boo. They took care to avoid bottles already sold by their winery neighbors, given that “this is big pinot and chard territory.” Instead, Sarah’s filling in the holes with orange wine, pet nat, and fizz from small producers across California. 

Eventually, they might add a curated shelf of pantry items, but it will stay small. The space itself is a “gem box” of only 1,000 square feet, tucked just off Carmel Valley Road between tasting rooms, and only a few minutes from where the sisters grew up. Inside, it’s an open kitchen with a simple counter, drenched in natural light from picture windows, and trimmed in green and white cafe curtains. Outside they plan to open up two patios when the busy season gets rolling. But they’re always keeping an eye out for additional locations, with opportunities to grow. 

“Carmel Valley Village is a little gem that most people don’t know exists.”

<div class="quote-attribute">Sarah Simms</div>

They already have local fans. As soon as they put their pink logo in the window, people started poking their heads in. “That’s the cool part of being in a small town,” Boo says. “People walk in saying, ‘I know your dad. I know your mom.’” But the sisters are also pulling in a broader audience. A fourth grade follower from Instagram showed up wanting stickers, and fans have driven all the way from Salinas and San Francisco to pick up boards. 

“Carmel Valley Village has become such a wine tasting destination,” Sarah says. Beyond the crowds of Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Big Sur, “It’s a sleeper hit. They haven’t realized there’s a whole day of the most beautiful drive down Carmel Valley Road and wine tasting in the Village. It’s a little gem that most people don’t know exists.” <img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/6457f19f1c1e1601e2c9c3f6/6487a9355b63a6818c705cea_CC-Icon--20.svg"alt="CC"height="20" width="20">

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Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. She was the deputy editor at Eater SF, and her work has appeared in Bon Appétit, EatingWell, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Eater SF, and Edible SF. Follow her on Instagram at @beckyduffett

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