Charcuterie is how the French refer to the world of cured meats, and it’s way classier than “cold cuts.”
The word derives from the French “charcutier,” pork butcher, but the category includes any meat that has been preserved by the ancient methods of salting, smoking and/or drying, from bresaola (air-dried beef) to merguez (lamb sausage) to duck prosciutto.
The Italian term “salumi” gets to the heart of the matter: its root is sale, Latin for salt. In the days before refrigeration and freezing (most of human history), fresh meat didn’t last more than a day or so. If you wanted to save it for future consumption and/or resale, you had to treat it in a way that would discourage spoilage. Since salt inhibits bacterial growth (and has done so since long before humans discovered bacteria), the best way to preserve that leg of pig was to cover it with salt and hang it up so the breeze could dry it out. That’s ham. Or grind up the meat, mix it with salt and fat, stuff into casings and hang it up to dry. That’s salami.
What started out as a necessary means of preservation has evolved into an art form. In the past few decades, Americans have developed both an appreciation for fine European cured meats and have even started curing their own. (Salumeria Biellese in New York and La Quercia in Iowa are only two of many domestic charcutiers.)
On Long Island, charcuterie boards are becoming de rigueur at establishments that seek to blend modern sensibilities with traditional tastes. Share them with friends at the outset of a meal, or settle in at the bar with nothing more than a board and a beer.
At Mirabelle, the four-star restaurant at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook, chef Guy Reuge prepares a charcuterie board balancing textures and tastes.
“And we try to find things that are more exotic,” he added.
Reuge and others offer cheeses, which traditionally stand alone on their own board. But he also sends out a board that combines meats and American cheeses from New York, Vermont and California.
Finding their way alongside the meats and cheeses at some establishments are jams, chutney, fresh and pickled fruits, olives, grapes and nuts. To go along with all this: good bread, sometimes toasted, and perhaps savory or plain crackers.
Getting to the meat of the issue, cured and otherwise, here are a few Long Island destinations where the charcuterie board is at home and often reigns.
Virgola Oysters & Wine Bar
Virgola Oysters & Wine Bar (5 Village Green Way, Patchogue): A salumi board with robiola cheese, Felino salami, speck and a pomodorini misti salad is served at this tucked-away oyster-and-Italian-wine bar. More info: 631-714-5000, virgolausa.com
Barn Door 49
Barn Door 49 (59 W. Main St., Bay Shore): Barn Door’s charcuterie board for two is overloaded with spicy boar sausage and hunks of blue cheese, plus grapes, candied walnuts, honey, blackberry jam, grainy mustard and toasted bread. More info: 631-969-3655, barndoor49.com
American Beauty Bistro
American Beauty Bistro (24 Central Ave., Massapequa): A destination for lunch, brunch, dinner and cocktails, American Beauty in Massapequa lists meat and cheese boards, either a la carte or with three, five or seven selections. Among them are duck salami, spicy soppressata, spicy dried chorizo, Serrano ham, cured pork loin and cured pork sausage. The cheeses range from aged Mahón and Manchego to soft goat’s milk cheese from Spain. More info: 516-590-7477, americanbeautybistro.com
Da Gigi Trattoria & Bar
Da Gigi Trattoria & Bar (174 Merrick Rd., Lynbrook): Meat and cheese boards at Da Gigi Trattoria & Bar may include buffalo ricotta with honey, Parmesan cheese, dry salami, 'nduja sausage, speck, prosciutto di Parma and porchetta. More info: 516-500-3400, ptwelvecatering.com
City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill
City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill (1080 Corporate Dr., Westbury): City Cellar in Westbury, a modern American restaurant, offers charcuterie, “artisanal meats” and cheeses on its menu. Pick one to five or more. The selections include smoked duck breast, mortadella, bresaola, soppressata and prosciutto; and cheeses such as Humboldt Fog, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Rogue Smokey Blue. More info: 516-693-5400, citycellarny.com
Michaelangelo's Wine Bar
Michaelangelo's Wine Bar (119 Front St., Massapequa Park): This casual spot in Massapequa Park presents a series of boards. The “big board” includes capicola, prosciutto, soppressata, provolone, goat cheese and ricotta salata. You also can select the ingredients for your own board, from mortadella and pancetta to Asiago, Gouda, taleggio and Manchego cheeses. More info: 516-882-9463
Salumi Tapas and Wine Bar and Plancha Tapas and Wine Bar
Salumi Tapas and Wine Bar (5600 Merrick Rd., Massapequa) and Plancha Tapas and Wine Bar (931 Franklin Ave., Garden City): Meat and cheese boards at the Massapequa and Garden City locations of this tapas bar are designed to showcase preservation diversity and a rotating cast of imported meats and cheeses. The Italian features one large muscle meat (Prosciutto di Parma), a more meaty sausage (felino), a more spice-forward small muscle (capicola) and three cheeses, each with a different texture. The Spanish board follows the same principles, three meats (serrano ham, chorizo sausage and lomo, a dry cured pork loin) and three cheeses (a hard Manchego, a soft and creamy Tetilla and a bloomy rind Cana de Cabra). More info: salumibarli.com
Publicans (550 Plandome Rd., Manhasset): At the newly resurrected Publicans in Manhasset, chef Richard Schoenacher changes up the meat atop each day’s charcuterie plate. On a recent evening, paper-thin slices of tangy Spanish chorizo were flanked by ribbons of prosciutto and fatty twirls of coppa. Charred crusty bread, crunchy whole-grain mustard, house-cured pickles and red-onion slivers rounded out the board. More info: 516-627-7722, publicansmanhasset.com
Verde Wine Bar and Ristorante
Verde Wine Bar and Ristorante (450 Commack Rd., Deer Park): Verde’s executive chef James Ahearn strives for variety with his six-meat board at this Deer Park restaurant: mortadella from Bologna, finocchiona (a sweet fennel sausage from San Francisco’s P.G. Molinari & Sons, established in 1896), Speck (smoked prosciutto) from New York’s Salumeria Biellese and spicy chorizo from Spain. The chef is a self-described offal nut, so he makes his own liverwurst. Boards come with house-cured pickles, Moroccan olives and a seasonal jam. More info: 631-242-8902, eatdrinkverde.com
Tullulah's (12 Fourth Ave., Bay Shore): Building a meat-and-cheese plate at Tullulah’s in Bay Shore can require some hard decisions: There are at least 13 add-ons, from wobbly burrata to house-made kimchee. Or, you can let the kitchen serve its own selections, which morph with the seasons. A winter board is loaded with Napoli smoked salami, ribbons of duck prosciutto, creamy Bucheron chevre, sliced Manchego, marinated Calabrian chilies, house-made raspberry jam and house-cured pickles. More info: 631-969-9800, tullulahs.com
Mirabelle at Three Village Inn
Mirabelle at Three Village Inn (150 Main St., Stony Brook): Expect variety and imagination at Mirabelle, in Stony Brook. The charcuterie board may include Serrano ham, Rosette de Lyon, the cured pork sausage, saucisson sec, similar to a Gallic salami, duck pâté and duck prosciutto, rillettes of rabbit and duck, smoked duck breast and wild boar sausage. The restaurant also is readying a ham board, with Serrano, Bayonne, tasso and mangalitsa. More info: 631-751-0555, lessings.com
Viaggio Wine & Cheese
Viaggio Wine & Cheese (324 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre): The annex space to the larger Viaggio next door was created to showcase the owner’s sudden access to a new cache of imported cheeses and meats from Spain, including botifarra (a Catalonian sausage) and fuet (a dry-cured Catalan salami), both of which are little seen on these shores. There is no pre-designed board at this Rockville Centre restaurant, though they’re happy to craft one for you with a little guidance. Instead, meats and cheeses are priced by the piece, which can quickly add up. You’ll need the funky jamón Ibérico de Bellota, an exclusive ham made from free-range, black-footed pigs (an ancient breed native to the Iberian peninsula) whose diet includes acorns, and Los Beyos, a hard goat’s-milk cheese that melts on the tongue. More info: 516-208-7789, viaggiotapas.com