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Best of Toronto

The Best Charcuterie Plates in Toronto

Posted by Rick McGinnis / June 25, 2009

Charcuterie TorontoThe charcuterie craze overtook Toronto restaurants less than five years ago, when an interest in local food and traditional methods drove chefs into back rooms to start making their own prosciutto, salami, bresaola, sopressata and sausage. In essence it's an expression of the cult of the pig, which began thriving when chefs sourced their own Berkshire, Yorkshire, Hampshire and Saddleback hogs, carefully finished with acorns, whey and grains. To most people, though, it's a plate of cold cuts and pickles.

Chefs are competitive by nature, and the result has seen the humble pig joined by duck, horse and bison on the wooden charcuterie boards of restaurants, as kitchens try to outdo each other with ever more distinct flavours. It's also a celebration of fat, in thick rinds and ivory veins full of smoke and spice and salt, but it tends to scare away those who would eat to stay thin but not happy.

Ten years ago you probably couldn't have scared up a half dozen charcuterie plates across the length and breadth of the city. Today, there's a richness of choice that will probably grow as chefs try to nudge each other in the ribs with the quality of their wild boar prosciutto and venison salami.

Here's a look at 12 of Toronto's best:

The Black Hoof

The Black Hoof

Chef and co-owner Grant van Gameren has garnered the respect of his peers in less than a year at this wildly popular Dundas West restaurant that advertises its charcuterie and serves up a constantly revolving selection of in-house specialties. What’s amazing is that Black Hoof has made its name selling such a challenging selection of charcuterie, from the horse bresaola and baby goat salami to tongue, pig’s ear, and brain tortelli. Van Gameren’s long board also comes loaded with more simply satisfying cuts, like the bison and blueberry salami and his sopressata, with its big, creamy chunks of fat. More »

Cava

Cava

Cava’s austere platter comes with a generous side of bread and pickles, and features a chorizo loaded with hefty spice and a duck bresaola that’s hung to dry for almost two months. There’s a lot going on in the pork and duck terrine – a complex slice of fowl mixed with Berkshire pig that will reward you for the trip to midtown. More »

Loire

Loire

This Harbord eatery’s charcuterie plate is the most summery, from the dense chicken liver parfait to the sweet pickled beets and the jam-like maple and tarragon mustard, but the star is the buttery, alabaster-white layer of fat capping the pork shoulder rillette. No two chefs make their speck – an alpine cured ham – the same way, and Loire’s is a particularly subtle version, but chef Jean-Charles Dupoire says that theirs will be giving way to a house-made prosciutto by the fall at the earliest. More »

Harbord Room

Harbord Room

Charcuterie often seems like a butch culinary pursuit, but the Harbord Room boldly offers a remarkably dainty selection of flavours, centred around a scoop of impeccably light, ice-cream-like chicken liver parfait. They break the mold even more with an olive-oil poached fried egg, and a pig’s head terrine with delicate trumpet mushrooms, and a few morsels of currant compote with a Riesling jelly that they really should consider bottling for sale. More »

Table 17

Table 17

It’s appropriate that this barn board-lined space should serve such a rustic plate of cured meats, featuring a hand-cut and pressed farmer’s sausage from local Mennonites and a cured pork loin with some impressive spicy heat. The wild boar and black truffle dried sausage is more reserved, and the chicken liver and Grand Marnier pate is positively aristocratic in this context. More »

Bymark

Bymark

The charcuterie plate at this Bay Street fixture is a very civilized affair indeed, from the perfect Parma ham to the sweet salami and the spicy sopressata, neither of which stray too far into extremes. There’s a big dollop of grainy mustard and a little pile of fleur de sel to help you season everything according to your own tastes, as befits any lion or lioness of commerce. More »

Czehoski

Czehoski

It was a Queen St. fixture when it was a derelict storefront, and its presence hasn’t diminished as an eatery, thanks to high standards such as those that produced the frothy but intense chicken liver mousse with Chinese five spice to the duck breast cured with juniper berries, with its lovely rind of flavourful fat. Everything is made in house, with an emphasis on dry-cured meat, such as the paper-thin bresaola and the emphatic wild boar prosciutto. More »

The Drake Hotel

The Drake Hotel

The Drake is a hip place, but there’s nothing coy about their charcuterie plate, which aims to please in size alone. The emphasis is on dry-cured meats – two kinds of prosciutto and an intense bundnerfleisch lead the way – along with forthright flavours like the spicy horse salami and the thick slab of maple smoked bacon that I could taste for days. Extra points for the big slices of grilled corn bread. More »

Pic Nic

Pic Nic

The meats are outsourced at this Broadview Village eatery, but they hail from points east – Bulgaria to be precise, and they have names like spekov, selski, deboya and chabi, and taste darkly of salt and smoke, mustard and paprika. PicNic keeps a large selection which you order a la carte. The spicy selski is assertive, but it’s the milder salamis and sausages that have more complex flavours, and go very nicely with the sweet fig goat cheese. More »

Discussion

35 Comments

somechick / June 25, 2009 at 01:06 pm
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definately NOT KOSHER!
sippy / June 25, 2009 at 01:12 pm
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I need me some duck prosciutto.
cupcake08 replying to a comment from somechick / June 25, 2009 at 01:14 pm
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waaaaah?
somechick replying to a comment from cupcake08 / June 25, 2009 at 02:07 pm
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we don't eat pork silly!
mmmmm replying to a comment from somechick / June 25, 2009 at 07:01 pm
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We don't?
Randy / June 25, 2009 at 07:59 pm
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Us Montrealers consider ourselves cathews (catholic jews) so we only eat Kosher Pork
Richard / June 26, 2009 at 12:45 am
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God....more predictable than James Chatto. Is that even possible?

No mention of Reds?
Glen / June 26, 2009 at 10:08 am
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yeah I think Reds should have been in there somewhere. Chef Steh does a great job on his Char plates.

G.
rick mcginnis / June 26, 2009 at 10:32 am
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The list is a product of readers' votes - chalk it up to a bug, not a feature, of simple democracy.
somechick / June 26, 2009 at 06:32 pm
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I don't know if you are trying to be funny with your "cathew" comment, but it isn't. Goodness me if i made a rude comment about somebody's vehement vegansim. And for you ignorant people out there who think all jews must be like John Stewart or Larry David, there are alot of us out there and many "observant" jews don't eat pork.
jameasmallon / June 29, 2009 at 10:44 am
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But 'somechick', we goys tend to have Reform friends, because they'll befriend us.
apetimberlake replying to a comment from somechick / June 29, 2009 at 10:56 am
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For shits sake get a grip.

I understand that there are many "observant" that don't eat pork.

Just as not all jews are like Larry David, not all jews are like Shlomi Goldstien in Lodz Polland Circa 1857.

I posted my comment because i think that it is rather funny that you come into a review of "The best charcuterie" and scream in caps "NOT KOSHER".

You can certainly do the same to me if i post in "The best Kosher Deli's" in all caps "NOT ENOUGH JAMBON"
jameasmallon / June 29, 2009 at 12:18 pm
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Hey 'apetimberlake', there is an old joke about the type of person who identifies themselves as most authentic, and explains a lot about the so-called 'Jewish lobby' (they don't represent my friends, but my Jewish friends deign to befriend goyim like me, or even marry goyim for love!):

An 'orthodox' jew will do anything for Isreal, except live there (or serve in its army).
keven replying to a comment from jameasmallon / June 29, 2009 at 01:48 pm
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You have the word Jew confused with the word Zionist.
apetimberlake / June 29, 2009 at 01:54 pm
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Ok Ok.

Can i have my smoked meat sandwitch from Schwartz please without the side of fighting :(
keven replying to a comment from apetimberlake / June 29, 2009 at 02:03 pm
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*splits kosher pickle with you*
Bad_Self / July 1, 2009 at 09:20 am
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Cold cuts just ain't the same since that Maple Leaf fiasco...
Jeff / July 8, 2009 at 08:26 pm
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Why would an article about something as beautiful as Charcuterie attract a conversation about something as ugly as religion? :D

I pre-blame this article for a future cardiac arrest. This is information I probably didn't need, but I'm oh so glad I have it now.
Charlotte / July 9, 2009 at 02:47 pm
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those plates look delicious! i am happy to hear that t.o. has such a diverse collection of charcuterie.
Sean / July 23, 2009 at 03:08 am
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Wow! It looks so delicious. Can't wait to try out these places. Thanks to the author for introducing us to such fine quality meats.
Rita / August 31, 2009 at 07:02 pm
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For me, a great charcuterie plate is made up of meats that are made in house i.e NOT the plate at the Drake. Save your money and don't bother - it's nothing but meats that you can go buy yourself at Loblaws. Serious.
Take your money over to Cowbell (he even makes his butter) or to the Black Hoof where the chef is not only making the salumi himself but experimenting with crazy concoctions that will have you smiling.
buddaluva / June 6, 2010 at 01:11 pm
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For small batch flavour and authentically French, check out Provence Delices in Cabbagetown
allison / November 13, 2010 at 07:57 pm
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Hands down Marben has the best in the city...How restaurants have a in house butcher..They do and yo can tell with the top quality product they provide
Michelle / April 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm
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I love Luma's charcuterie plate! Really good.
Cosplay / September 26, 2012 at 09:53 pm
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those plates look delicious! i am happy to hear that t.o. has such a diverse collection of charcuterie.
Jenna / November 13, 2012 at 11:07 am
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Suggestion: Fiorentina on the Danforth
LArry / January 14, 2013 at 02:06 pm
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Also try Quinta on Dundas W. at Dovercourt. Owner/Chef is formerly of Czehoski.
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