Food Matters – Holiday Platters

New shop just down the street from me!

New shop just down the street from me!

The holiday season is officially in full swing, with many calories to be consumed at dinners and parties now until New Year’s. If you want to be on trend with some of the goodies you plan to serve your guests, here’s some advice I shared on this week’s edition of Food Matters on CBC Radio’s All Points West program.

Sometimes I think I could almost live exclusively on cured meats, cheeses, sausages and all the condiments that go with them. These kinds of foods have been making a big splash in Canadian restaurants and specialty shops for the past few years, and more and more at home as part of cocktail and dinner parties. I was at the Out of Hand Craft Fair in Victoria over the weekend and saw one artisan selling refurbished barrel staves to be used as charcuterie platters and saw a few people walking around with these beautiful staves in their shopping bags and they were quite pleased with their purchases, looked like their guests are in for a treat during upcoming parties.

Two of Cure's Terrines

Two of Cure’s Terrines

There are a lot of choices to make, though, when you are considering putting together a platter, and that’s why I sought some help from Chef Brad Boisvert. Many people in the Cowichan Valley know him from his restaurant, Amuse, which has been in a few different locations of the years, he’s now comfortably ensconced at Cherry Point Vineyards, but Brad has also recently opened a little shop in the Valley View Mall called Cure, Artisan Meat and Cheese. Because the restaurant at Cherry Point is more of a seasonal operation, he decided to devote even more time to a craft he has been fond of for years. Brad says it started when he was in training at the Culinary Institute of America. There was one class in charcuterie, it was only 12 hours long, though! He knew he wanted to do more so he took as many extra classes from the instructor as possible. What hooked him was the ability to take a piece of meat and turn it into so many different things, like using pork belly to make pancetta and bacon.

Cure platter with duck liver pate, smoked duck breast, cheeses, mustards and pickled quail's eggs

Cure platter with duck liver pate, smoked duck breast, cheeses, mustards and pickled quail’s eggs

When it comes to making a platter with all the choices that are out there, Brad is always looking for balance. And balance is in the textures of the different items, chicken or duck liver pate, a nice sausage, smoked duck breast, for example.  And you can’t forget the cheese. Brad says we are very fortunate here on the island since we have so many local cheesemakers making some products perfect for a tasting platter, including Salt Spring Island Cheese, The Happy Goat and Hilary Abbott’s Creamery at Cheese Pointe Farm.

Cheese counter at Cure

Cheese counter at Cure

The condiments are a very important part of any platter, Brad makes several of his own, including three different types of mustard, a spicy ketchup, red onion jam, and these beautiful little pickled quail’s eggs. When it comes to your starch, you don’t want to get in the way of the flavours in your meats and cheeses. Simple baguette, or perhaps, some crostini, thin slices of baguette toasted with a little olive oil and some sea salt. To drink, Brad loves some of the Alsatian-style whites produced in the Cowichan Valley, especially a champagne-style bubbly from Cherry Pointe Vineyards, high in acidity and crispness to help you cleanse your palate in between bits of all that rich meat and cheese. Brad and I had a much longer chat about his love of charcuterie and his new shop, so click here for your listening pleasure

Time challenged? Let Brad make up a platter for you. And if you’re in Victoria, I heartily recommend the products and platters done up by Cory Pelan at The Whole Beast Salumeria. Act soon, these shops are probably already busy with orders for the holiday season.

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