If you take a look at my last name, you'll quickly realize that I'm no stranger to those Eastern European delights like just-smoked-this-morning kubasa, dark burgundy pickled beets and thinly-sliced salty ham. That's why I'm so happy that the old-world art of charcuterie-after being in vogue in the big cities for years-has found its way into Winnipeg restaurants.
Truth is, I've never strayed far from this thing called charcuterie, which by definition is the ancient process of preserving meat using fat, salt, spices or smoke. Typically, pork was on the receiving end of these applications, but today, nothing is out of bounds.
I'm a regular at the butcher shops in Winnipeg like Karpaty Meats & Deli, located in the colourful North End, where rings of sausage get wheeled out of the smoker in the back, still warm. Probably because it reminds me of being at the table with my grandparents, where a ring of kubasa was never far away. Plus I like the fact that my rings get wrapped in brown butcher paper and not indestructible plastic.
At the tres hip Segovia Tapas Bar & Restaurant, Chef Adam Donnelly belongs to the club of 30-something year old (maybe 20-something) chefs who believe the old ways need a bit of limelight. That's why he's immersed himself into the art of curing, and we're glad he has. His chorizo is a big, bright star on a charcuterie board that features many stars, most of his own making. He's also a big fan of Granville Island's Oyama Sausage Company. Treats from this British Columbia shop often make an appearance on Segovia's board.
The board comes to the table with a side of thin, grilled bread that you'll want to slide into your purse and then ask for a refill. In keeping with the tradition of a charcuterie board, it's the little touches that make it personal. Segovia's comes with a bunch of mini pickled carrots, asparagus and dills, plus olives and a pot of grainy mustard with a kick. But it's the other pot, the one filled with vinegary pickled beets, just like Baba's, that steals my culinary heart.
Peasant Cookery is new to Winnipeg Exchange District, yet their philosophy is old. As in old world. Chef Tristan Foucault includes foie gras and chicken liver terrine, cassoulet and pork chops with perogies and cabbage on his menu. And a charcuterie board. Beyond cured meats, charcuterie servings most often include mousses and pates and it's here that Peasant's pleasures come to the forefront. The country-style pate is irresistible-you'll be chunking it onto that warm sourdough bread (be sure to ask for this, along with the toast points) like it's going out of style. And be sure to get your fork on a slice of duck breast before your tablemates beat you to it.
Your charcuterie board at Peasant gets decked out with an addictive smear of holy-smoke hot mustard, skinny dill pickles and garlic-stuffed olives as well as the aforementioned toast points. As tempted as you might be, please do not steal the colourful jars of pickled, beets and onions from the sunny dining room. Instead, head to the St. Norbert Farmers' Market and get your own stock.