A taste of the Old World is available at local eateries, where dried and cured meats are transformed into a culinary art form.
By Bria Balliet | Photos by Jody Tiongco
From the smoked game eaten by early Native Americans to the salted meats that nourished 15th-century sailors as they spent months at sea, charcuterie has been enjoyed for ages. And though the name is of French origin (derived from the words “chair” meaning flesh, and “cuit” meaning cooked), the category includes bold specialties such as German sausage, Italian salami and Spanish jamon (ham).
In the modern world, dried and cured meats are a trend among local chefs, who take pride in their carefully sourced selections and house-made creations—whether it’s chef Azmin Ghahreman’s imported jamon iberico at Sapphire Pantry or Selanne Steak Tavern’s recipe for venison sausage.
Taking their creativity one step further, each chef also offers some form of homemade accouterments for their charcuterie boards. The Loft currently provides lavender and jalapeno mustards, while Wine Gallery smokes its own mozzarella, for example. Partner their handiworks with the right wine or whiskey, and you have a recipe for the ultimate party platter.
Three Seventy Common
Three Seventy Common Kitchen & Drink chef-owner Ryan Adams likes the exclusivity of creating much of his own charcuterie in the kitchen, as guests won’t be able to find it anywhere else.
The board changes regularly to keep frequent visitors on their toes, but chicken liver pate, porketta (a boneless pork roast), pork cheek and chicken terrine are among the varieties crafted in Ryan’s kitchen. One of the restaurant’s most popular items is the lengueta pastrami made from beef tongue, which differs from a typical brisket pastrami with its more velvety texture.
These specialty items are prepared with care, taking anywhere from three days to four weeks to make. The kitchen also creates all accompaniments to its board, from pickles and olive oil crackers that pair well with the porketta to apricot mustard, fig preserves and sour cherry chutney that lend themselves to spicier, domestic salamis.
Sourcing dozens of options that include popular jamon serrano, duck prosciutto and wild boar salami, Sapphire Pantry can create custom platters for groups of all sizes—from large gatherings to a couple’s beach picnic. Each variety the shop carries has a flavor specific to its origin, including the pricey jamon iberico, which is named after the black Iberian pig that it’s made from. “They have to let it dry [for] up to two years,” says chef-owner Azmin. This drying time, the type of pig and its acorn-heavy diet all combine to create a dense meat with bold flavor.
As for pairings, Sapphire Pantry is known for its selection of more than 100 cheeses, and Azmin loves the spice of a prosciutto with the creaminess of an Italian cheese. “… At room temperature on a toasted ciabatta with olive oil and pepper, and then you put a piece of prosciutto on it, … that’s heaven,” he says.
Chef de Cuisine Casey Overton loves utilizing The Loft’s house-made sausages, and not just on his charcuterie board. The menu almost always includes at least one entree that highlights the most recent cured creation, and other variations like lardo (a soft and extremely fatty cut) have been melted down and spread on toast or whipped to a butter-like consistency for use in risotto.
The Loft also carries a wide variety of domestic and imported options like bresola, a bold beef that pairs well with lemon and lavender mustard; duck prosciutto and prosciutto di Parma, an Italian import that boasts a gamier flavor than domestic varieties, work well with a lighter and fruitier pinot noir.
“When I look into pairing something, I look at [either] complementing it or contrasting it,” Casey says. He uses country ham and bourbon as an example, as the fiery bite from the whiskey can combat the salty, rich flavor of the ham.
Though chef Josh Mason of Wine Gallery has had to cut back on the amount of drying and curing he does in the restaurant to accommodate space constraints, he still houses a carefully honed selection and puts his own creations on the menu whenever possible. Favorites of Wine Gallery customers are Josh’s pork and wild boar pancettas, which he presses for seven days in a seasoning mix. “The wild boar [version] is a lot gamier and a little leaner,” the chef shares. “I use the same recipe for both and let the variations in the flavors of the meat shine through.”
In addition to its specialty meat boards—which can be served with cheeses, cornichons, mustards or jams—Wine Gallery also uses various sausages, salami and prosciuttos on its pizzas, such as the peppery calabrese salami. “It’s very spicy, so we use that in place of pepperoni,” Josh explains.
One of the newer restaurants in town, Selanne Steak Tavern also serves a refined variety of venison sausage on its charcuterie board.
“The original recipe is a Selanne family secret that has been in [owner] Teemu’s family for many, many years,” says Joshua Severson, the restaurant’s executive chef. “What makes it so different from traditional venison sausage is that it uses reindeer meat, which comes from wild deer. … Their meat has a deeper and more robust flavor than domestic deer due to their diets.”
When it comes to the robust and gamy taste of venison sausage, a wine that can stand up to stronger foods—such as a bold pinot noir—is a safe bet. However, Joshua emphasizes that pairings are more about personal preference than hard and fast rules.
“The whole idea is to try different meats with an assortment of accouterments to really create a unique flavor profile and determine your own personal preferences,” he shares.