There’s meat, of course: smoked and sliced and sausaged and spiraled. And then there’s cheese, as many kinds as can fit on the plate. Something briny. Something sweet. And maybe some rustic crackers or bread to give the whole thing context. What else do you need?
The charcuterie is the feast of kings, the insider’s favorite, the giver of gout, a literal sampling of the finest meats and cheeses in the house, and whatever else the chef wants to throw in, generally served on a board or platter, meant to be shared but it’s okay to order one on your own.
Like all things of culinary importance, charcuterie is French in origin, translating into “cooked meat,” but the Italians have their version, antipasto, and the Germans do it with sausage and mustard. Even Japanese sashimi has elements of the charcuterie plate, minus the “cooked part.”
Sure, it sounds fancy, but charcuterie is nothing to be intimidated by. Technically speaking, an Oscar Mayer Lunchable is charcuterie, though we can do much better than that.
In the Triad, charcuterie has come to mean a meat and cheese sampler, sometimes ordered early on for the table or as an appetizer, sometimes as an entrée for a discriminating diner and sometimes alone at the bar. It’s never a bad idea. And these are the places that do it best.
White and Wood took over the former Fincastle’s space on South Elm Street in downtown Greensboro with a refined aesthetic. Their curated, rotating charcuterie selection pulls cheeses from around the world; meats often include selections like duck or wild-boar prosciutto and always an array of imported salamis. The plates are customizable and available in different sizes, or let the chef put something together.
On the north side of town, Gia has been serving up a charcuterie since its inception. The Smoke & Salt plate changes daily inside the swanky lounge, with items like pickled vegetables and truffled meats. They even have gluten-free crackers.
Natty Greene’s Kitchen + Market cures all the meats in house, down to the salami and prosciutto made from local beef and pork. It’s all the same stuff they sell in the market alongside the restaurant.
Four Flocks & Larder’s charcuterie plate doesn’t change every day, but it gets fancy with cured quail egg yolk and red-wine mustard. The current incarnation includes imported salami and duck prosciutto.
In Winston-Salem, the downtown Katherine Brasserie holds to the French tradition with its fromage/charcuterie menu. You’ve got to choose between cheese and meat here — the cheese plate holds four different cheeses with a few sweet spreads and bread, while the current Butcher Block is built from saucisson sec (sausage), duck rillettes (sort of like pâté) and Austrian speck (very fancy ham). There’s also a traditional pâté grand-mère plate and a salmon rillette.
Vintage Sofa Bar on Burke Street serves a more casual charcuterie that changes daily but often includes house-cured olives and homemade beef jerky that was made in a food truck.
And on the west side of Fourth Street, Quanto Basta breaks the charcuterie concept down into the Salumi — with speck, soppresatta (kind of a rustic salami), capicola (a cured ham, this is what Italians on television are referring to when they say “gabbagool”), and mortadella (a pork salami with cubes of fat in it, and much better than it sounds).
The cheese plate enjoins the pantheon of Italian cheeses: mozzarella, pecorino, gorgonzola and parmigiana.
Sure, it’s the Mediterranean version, but it’s still charcuterie.