Charcuterie, cheese boards, delicious spreads, and more: these flavorful concoctions seem to be popping up on restaurant menus and Instagram feeds everywhere. As we head into colder months and spend more time at home, they can also be the perfect way to brighten up your own table, whether it’s a cozy evening alone, a festive holiday meal, or a fall picnic outing at McAlpine Park. Best of all, you can find delicious specialty items in unique shops and markets all around the Monroe Road area to add an international flair to your creations.
What is Charcuterie anyway?
Charcuterie is a centuries old French culinary tradition for preparing and serving cured meats. Usually enjoyed as an appetizer in France, it can easily substitute for a full meal, depending on the quantities and garnishes you choose to include. No need to stick to meat either. Charcuterie is often served along with other delectable assortments of artfully arranged food.
The options are really limitless and no cooking is required. Any kind of serving board, tray or plate will do. Choose your favorite cured meat, cheese and/or spread as the main attraction and garnish it with whatever sounds good to you. Olives, veggies, tapenades, chutneys, hummus, nuts, dried fruit, grapes and more can all find their way onto a specialty board. Add some crackers or warm bread (have you discovered Verdant bread yet?) and you’re ready to go.
If you need some extra inspiration before you start, check out Charlotte food blogger extraordinaire Chrissie Nelson Rotko’s new book, “Stunning Spreads,” with recipes and gorgeous boards for every occasion.
Then head to one of these great local shops to find everything you need!
A&A International Food European Delights
1636 Sardis Road North
A family-run business for 26 years, this shop is filled with a wide variety of products sourced from all over Europe. Here you can find everything from Hungarian Salami and Polish Kielbasa to German cheese and Norwegian herring. Looking for a unique beverage to serve? Try a Czech beer or a Romanian wine. Garnish your board with one of the 25 types of pickled mushrooms. And don’t forget the desserts!
Don’t miss: The smoky flavored Armenian Bruschetta Eggplant Caviar is delicious.
Bonus: Owners Ashot and Irina Shirazyan are super-sticklers for COVID-era safety. Expect a spritz of hand sanitizer when you enter, directional arrows throughout the store, and mandatory mask-wearing at all times.
1816-G Galleria Blvd.
Right around the corner from A&A is Gleiberman’s, the only Kosher market in North Carolina. Even if you do not adhere to Jewish dietary laws, you can find great products to include in a mediterranean style board or tray. Check out Israeli spreads like baba ganoush, hummus, spicy s’chug, and Amba (pickled mango and spices). Or go for some New York deli—corned beef, pastrami, and beef salami. Hard to find items like whitefish spread and bialys are available here too. If you have food allergies, owner Jeff Gleiberman reminds buyers that dairy is kept strictly apart from any foods with meat and there is absolutely no shellfish in anything.
Don’t miss: The pita bread is excellent. Warm it up and serve it with your favorite spreads.
Agora Greek Market
5122 E. Independence Blvd.
If you’re looking to prepare a Greek themed cheese board, Agora Greek Market has lots to offer. Owner Steve Mavroidis recommends a variety of sheep milk based cheeses, including Kasseri (soft textured and mild), Kefalograviera (saltier and similar to a Gruyère), and Kefalotyri (similar to a Parmesan or Romano). Loads of olives from Southern and Northern Greece, as well as other locales, are available too.
Don’t miss: If you need a drizzle of olive oil for your platters, you can find authentic Greek varieties here at a low price.
Mino’s Imported Foods, Inc.
11016 #B Monroe Road
More like a warehouse than a traditional shop, an enticing aroma of mediterranean spices fills Mino’s. Tucked away off of Monroe Road, this business run by Serafim Makas and his two sons carries primarily Greek specialty items, which it also supplies to restaurants throughout the Carolinas. Here you’ll find items like delicious Kalavrita Feta—made from sheep and goat’s milk, imported olives, and several varieties of spanakopita. On the sweet side, you’ll find baklava, imported Greek chocolates, traditional fruit preserves, and medjool dates. Pair these with strong Greek coffee prepared in a “Briki” or brew some herbal Greek Mountain Tea, renowned for its healing properties.
Don’t miss: High quality imported Greek olive oil and bargain priced spices.
Looking for more great items at a reasonable price? Check out Aldi (4006 Connection Pt Blvd) and Lidl (9318 Monroe Rd). Both chains originated in Germany and are popular throughout Europe. You can find a wide assortment of specialty items and get your regular grocery shopping done at the same time.
~ Liz Rothaus Bertrand