by Ron Bechtol
Before refrigeration, drying and salt-curing was a way of feeding both high and low on the hog (or other critter) through winter and spring. Today, pearly slivers of chestnut-fed swine seem more like luxury products, to be turned out by obsessed artisan types and sold in precious portions on elaborate charcuterie boards.
So we especially appreciate the efforts of Charc Week to shine a broader spotlight on the craft. And we’d like to expand on those efforts by suggesting that there are liquid accompaniments that will make your charc sessions even more rewarding. All below are available by the glass.
Brandon Waddell is the special events chef at Biga on the Banks, a restaurant that doesn’t do charcuterie. But restaurants are required to make everything they serve for this event, and he and his teammates are fully into it this year. “We’re using the wine room to cure [different products],” he says. Look for wild boar salami with sage and fennel, pressed pork belly, a duck breast prosciutto … “and maybe something smoked on the mesquite-pellet smoker.”
Waddell’s chicken liver pâté with white port, brandy and amontillado suggests its own pairing: white port (the bar is bringing it on for the week) or one of the drier sherries by the glass. For the duck and boar, think the impressive Il Fauno blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon from charc-happy Tuscany.
A lot of beautiful charcuterie comes off of that snazzy, red slicer at Bliss — but none of it is made in-house. Charc Week gives chef de cuisine Tony Hernandez the opportunity to remedy that. “We’re doing a pork pâté with peppercorn and bay, a seafood terrine with mint marigold with maybe a little chorizo ‘for bite,’ some smoked beef tongue … ” What to match to all this? Consider the lilting Italian Contadi Costaldi rosé sparkler. An August Kessler Riesling Kabinett with just a whisper of sweetness would be great with almost everything — including accompaniments. For red lovers, there’s the beautifully flexible High Head Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast.
For the charc board at Downstairs beneath The Esquire, chef Brooke Smith routinely makes almost everything in house. Bar manager Hank Cathey has had lots of experience with pairings — and he doesn’t stop at wine. “I also like to suggest ciders,” he says, pouring a small glass of the Isastegi Sagardo Naturala from Spain’s Basque region. “I recommend sherry as often as people will let me,” he also confesses — indicating the Gonzalo Byass Tio Pepe Fino en Rama. But one advantage of his list is that 3-ounce pours are also available, so you can match wines to specific parts of the plate. A dry pinot noir rosé from Germany comes to mind. So does a Muscadet Sevre et Maine whose brightness cuts across fatty meats like a knife. There will be many to consider. Go crazy.