I love a good spread of cured meats. And I’ve had some excellent boards lately, which are perfect for warm-weather grazing. There are plenty of places that do a fine job of collecting excellent charcuterie from expert outside sources. Parc, Teresa’s Next Door, Martha, Bar Hygge, and Barcelona are just a few. But I’ve always been most impressed by kitchens that take on the time-consuming and technically challenging task of curing and potting their own.
Eli Collins at a.kitchen (135 S. 18th St.) reliably makes some of the best charcuterie in the city, and the selection constantly changes. Recently, it included a selection of livery-soft pâté de campagne and sheer pink rounds of tender veal head terrine. Chefs Steve Forte and Nicholas Elmi flex their French charcuterie chops nightly at Royal Boucherie (52 S. 2nd St.), where, aside from the often spectacular terrines made with game meats and foie gras, my recent platter showcased pistachio-studded mortadella, air-cured bresaola beef, fat-marbled coppa garnished with 24-hour roasted apple sauce and seasonal pawpaw jam. RB also has been known to make impressive prosciutto, which takes up to 21 months to cure — but ran out last year. Elmi says more prosciutto, and some faster-curing culatellos, should be ready again in a few months.
Speaking of Italian meats, Le Virtù (1927 E. Passyunk Ave.) remains a primo destination under chef Damon Menapace for classic Abruzzese salumi slow-aged in its cellar — such treasures as guanciale, capocollo, lonza, duck prosciutto, and a spalleta they’ve dubbed “prosciutto di Philly.” (I fully expect Le Virtù alum Joe Cicala to dig just as deep into the salumi canon when he and wife Angela Ranalli-Cicala finally open their self-named restaurant on North Broad Street, Cicala at the Divine Lorraine). Barbuzzo (110 S. 13th St.) anchors Midtown Village with its own excellent array of housemade charcuterie; mortadella, saucisson sec and a rabbit terrine with foie gras and fermented turnips are on the current menu.
But good charcuterie skills are hardly limited to restaurants that are themed to strictly European menus. The Twisted Tail (509 S. Second St.) offers a treasure trove of aged country hams curated from America’s best producers (Benton’s, Burger’s, Col. Bill Newsome’s, and La Quercia) to savor on a brunch trip to the Sunday Head House farmer’s market. A little farther south in Pennsport, I loved the bacon-scented pâté with punchy house mustard at Musi (100 Morris St.) so much, I ordered it twice at the same meal.
The house pork belly pâté, chicken liver mousse, and porchetta di testa were among the more impressive offerings on Chef Mike “Pate Bae” Jenkins’ menu at Keep (417 York Rd.) in Jenkintown. An ever-changing selection of house charcuterie is also a good way to start the meal at Hungry Pigeon, where a fall meal last year brought turkey pâté and cured lonza.
The whole animal-driven kitchen at Kensington Quarters (1310 Frankford Ave.) in Fishtown has always had charcuterie ambitions, and current chef Matt Harper is no exception. KQ’s current board offers curried lamb “cotto,” dry-cured pepperoni, pork salami, lonza, kielbasa, and rosemary bacon. Philly’s original gastropub, Standard Tap (901 N. Second St.), is another place with a charcuterie-minded chef in Joel Mazigian, who turns out a surprisingly gamey variety, currently featuring a jerk-spiced goat sausage, venison summer sausage, lamb liver pate, and a bratwurst rarebit that, with its smoked Gouda cheese sauce, is a stand-alone indulgence that isn’t technically a charcuterie platter item. But once I’m this deep in happy charcuterie grazing mode, I doubt I’d be able to resist.