When I was growing up, my mom almost always served cold meats, sausage and cornichons with her cocktail hour cheese plates. Since I was not a cheese-eating child, I assumed the saucissons and pickles were for me. I've since realized that she was simply honoring the ages-old tradition of charcuterie, the French art of taking bits of this and that and making delicious terrines, head cheeses and sausages out of the scraps.
Of course, these days, charcuterie isn't all about scraps - foie gras appears almost as frequently as the ubiquitous chicken liver - but don't worry. They still give you plenty of whole grain mustard on the side.
On Saturday night, Cristin and I visited Bar Boulud, the latest and greatest addition to Manhattan's charcuterie scene. Sure, they ("they" being Daniel Boulud, proprietor of Daniel on the Upper East Side) serve real food, too, but the draw is the brightly-lit case of terrines, rillettes and sausages that runs almost the entire length of the bar. Also on offer: a fantastic selection of wines, including three tasting flights. I started my evening with the flight of whites, a collection of white Burgundies, and Cristin sampled the red, which included a Burgundy, a Rhone valley, and a Bordeaux.
We ordered the escargots, which came out of their shells and were served alongside four delectable potato croquettes. Coated in the requisite parsley, butter, and garlic, they were delicious, though not quite as tender as I would have liked.
Next up, the charcuterie! We sampled the pork rillettes, which was the terrine du jour, and the pâté grand-père, a pork and foie gras concoction. Both were delicious; the rillettes were made with olive oil instead of pork fat, which made them wonderfully light, moist and slightly tangy. The rich pate paired beautifully with my flight of whites (and, later, my glass of Meursault). We splashed out and ordered some pommes frites to go along with our meat (I'd heard good things about the fries). To my delight, they came with mayonnaise - I didn't even have to ask! - and were crisp, light and decadently salty.
For dessert, we each ordered the flight of sweet wines and promptly fell in love with the Banyuls. It paired marvelously with the fraisier coupe, and we left floating on a cloud of fortified wine and strawberry cream. Not a bad Saturday night, nor a bad way to kill three and a half hours.