by Andrew Coppolino | October 2022
Meats and local cheeses … check
House-made pickles and focaccia … check
Friends to share with … check!
Charcuterie – the art and craft of preparing meats and creamy pâtés – has been around a very long time. Centuries, in fact. While the name today evokes images of artisanal food experiences at upscale-casual bistros, the process was originally a very practical one: that of preserving meat in a time before there were refrigerators.
In restaurants, a charcuterie board is a composed combination of meat and cheese, bread or crackers, sauces and condiments (pepper jelly and grainy mustard are popular), and a pickle or two (red onions or cornichons fit the bill there).
Waterloo Region has many great charcuterie boards – on which kitchens combine local products to make delicious sharing.
Here are just a few:
House-made Charcuterie at The Charcuterie Bar, St. Jacobs
As part of their re-visioning and renovation of 3,500 sq.-ft of the former Stone Crock Restaurant, Fat Sparrow Group has opened this unique charcuterie bar with specialty meats crafted by butcher and chef Spencer Vella. His is a craft that requires care and precision.
“Right now, we’re making pâtés, terrines, liverwurst, smoked meats and sausages, and brined meats,” says Vella, also the Market’s general manager. “Our dry-cure program is developing (in tandem with Waterloo Region Health) and will be available as we move forward.”
Look for several classics in the near future, he says. “Prosciuttos, salamis and coppas, but the culatello, to me, is the best. It doesn’t get any better.”
Charcuterie Board at Blackshop!, Cambridge
Genoa salami, soppressata and prosciutto share a board with triple-cream Brie, a three-year-old Quebec Cheddar and New Hamburg-based Mountainoak truffled Gouda. “We also have house-made pickled veg that varies with the season, our roasted nuts and seeds and our house-made crostini,” says chef de cuisine Jordan Hood.
Ploughman’s Board from Little Mushroom Catering
This is Cambridge-based Little Mushroom Catering’s take on bread and cheese – a farmhand’s meal-in-the-field, washed down with ale, that dates to 1394. The Little Mushroom version is much fresher and very local: meats from Stemmler’s, Oakridge Acres bison sausage, 3GenOrganics kielbasa, Mountainoak Gouda, Barrie’s Cambridge asparagus and an assortment of other house-pickled vegetables along with home-made peach chutney.
“It’s the best of southwestern Ontario flavours year-round,” says Little Mushroom owner Stephanie Soulis. “It’s palate pleasing with tantalizing textures and complementary accompaniments at four locations.” Try their Ploughman’s Board at Babylon Sisters, Sugar Run, and Centre Stage Lounge in Waterloo and Kitchener.
Grazing boards and boxes at The Grazing Table, Kitchener
You’ll find a wide selection of boards and boxes chock-a-block full of meats, cheese, condiments and breads – many local ingredients – according to The Grazing Table owner Celine Brancier.
“Our small box or board serves four,” she says. “And we have vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free boards as well.”
Halal boards are by request; pre-order required. “We also have our Indulge board with sweets,” Brancier adds.
Antipasto board at The Bauer Kitchen, Waterloo
TBK Chef de cuisine Tyson Murr says he could polish off this shareable himself. The board is Niagara-area meats (from beloved Pingue), along with New Hamburg Mountainoak Gouda.
“I love this cheese. I’m a big fan,” Murr says.
There’s also truffled pâte, some Cornichons, the renowned Kozlik’s grainy mustard (“Best I’ve ever tasted,” says Murr) and TBK’s version of “rainforest” crisps. “The board is a nice mix. It ticks all the boxes,” he adds.
Charcuterie board at S&V Uptown, Waterloo
S&V Uptown head chef Kris Simmons and his kitchen offer Serrano ham and smoked hunter’s sausage as the base for the board.
“Then it’s Five Brothers cheese from Gunn’s Hill and Mountainoak Gouda from New Hamburg,” Simmons says.
Cornichons, house-pickled beets and red-onion marmalade provide acid and piquancy. “We also make our own sour dough for crisps and seed crackers bound with Chia,” he adds.
Andrew Coppolino is food columnist with CBC-KW and Metroland newspapers. The author of Farm to Table (Swan Parade Press) and co-author of Cooking with Shakespeare (Greenwood Press), he is the 2022 “Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence” at the Stratford Chefs School. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @andrewcoppolino.