Cured Wine Bar
2307 Ellwood Dr. SW  (off 91 Street, south of Henday Drive)
780-756-3722
www.curedwinebar.com

Food - 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience - 4 of 5 Suns
Service - 4 of 5 Suns

Mon. to Thurs. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Fri. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sun. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
 

Dinner for two excluding drinks and tip: Basic, $32; loaded, $50


What’s the point, I’ve always wondered, of ordering charcuterie - cold-cuts and cheese served on a wooden cutting board – at a restaurant?

Go to the Italian Centre, buy deli meats and cheeses and make a charcuterie at home for a third of the price!

Then I heard about Cured Wine Bar on the South Side, so far south as to be closer to the International Airport than to downtown.

Charcuterie is the entire focus of the restaurant, along with small plates, deserts, and mostly Okanagan wines by the bottle and glass. On Cured’s Enomatic wine preservation system are eight top-end wines which can be sampled in one, three or five ounce servings.

There’s charcuterie, then there’s Cured’s charcuterie.

Cured’s hard-working and imaginative chef Phang Au has been given free rein by owner Field Pieterse to smoke, bake, cure, infuse or grind whatever meats and fish he can think of into 16 charcuterie board offerings.

Cured offers a small cured-meat charcuterie board – the customer’s selection of five cured meats weighing 40 grams each – or a “big board” with five meats at 80 grams each. From a 12-cheese selection, you can add cheeses at $5 an ounce.

A small board with cheeses is dinner for two, a big board for four. Our party of three was filled by one small board, two plates and dessert.

Every one of the five charcuterie "toppings" that we ordered – wild boar kabanosy (Eastern European sausage), venison salami, smoked duck prosciutto, smoked salmon, rabbit and blueberry terrine – had wonderful uniqueness of character.

The charcuterie presentation is so pretty, it feels sacrilegious to tuck in and disturb the portrait. A beautiful, bright, edible violet orchid centres the platter. Circling it are the colours, textures and shapes of the meats. The next rung out is made up of the cheeses and three colourful sauces, blueberry, pesto and mustard grain.

Filling in the edges of the big wooden serving board are artfully arranged slices of toast on which to heap the charcuterie meats - grilled and buttered ciabatta, hot buttered French.

From the visual in an eatery, one must move to the olfactory and gustatory senses.

The rabbit terrine was delicate and serene, its blueberry highlights coaxing the best out of the rabbit pate. The venison sausage was rich, oily and scrumptiously gamey.

If I had to pick a favourite, it was the smoked duck prosciutto. The smoke brought a silky richness to the smooth duck slices, both its meat and, equally important, its beautiful smooth fat.

The texture of the wild boar kabanosy was coarse, purposefully tilted to the dry side. Combined with the grainy mustard, the taste was dark and earthy. Rarely have I so enjoyed smoked salmon. It was simple, smoked and salted for melt-in-your-mouth elegance.

Wow!

Still to be tried at Cured are its chipotle jerky, maple duck mortadella, Westfalian ham, air-dried beef, prosciutto, elk andouille, spicy soppresata, speck bacon, pork coppa, pork liver pate and steelhead rillette.

One of our shared plates was composed of three excellent aranchini balls stuffed with lobster and grana padano cheese. The only disappointment of the evening was the second shared plate, gnocchi and spinach in a gorgonzola cheese crème. Overpoweringly salty, the heavy gorgonzola did not go well with the gnocchi.

The fruit-tray dessert, with champagne sorbet and honeyed yogurt to be paired in the mouth with sliced kiwi and strawberries, was an unexpected unfolding of sweet and tart.

The genius of Cured is its versatility. It can be a wine bar with snacks to start off one’s evening, a full evening of simple, excellent dining for two or 10 or a night of conversation over fine wine or craft beers. It can genuinely be all things to all people.

The décor is warm and unique – industrial retro twinned with rustic. The bar counter is all white and antiseptic, the dining area full of weathered barn wood, exposed brick and even a chandelier constructed of antlers. Conversation is possible.

***

Having a grand opening this Saturday in St. Albert is visual artist/hospitality veteran Gracie Jane Genereux’s beguilingly charming and licensed Gracie Jane’s Art Gallery and Lounge, steps away from the Sturgeon River at 31A Peron Street.

It’s far more Harry Potter than Starbucks. Every square inch – every chair, every table surface, every wall - is covered in Gracie Jane’s deeply colourful and happy art.

The food is simple, whatever is being made in Gracie Jane’s crockpot that day. On our soft-opening visit, it was a crockpot Reuben, long-simmered cheese and corned beef served on toast: As delicious, fun and eclectic as Gracie Jane herself.