Despite being a state enamored of all things pork related, there aren’t many restaurants serving authentic charcuterie in Arkansas. While originally developed as a method to preserve meat, the art of charcuterie lives on in this age of refrigeration as a testament to all the delicious things that can be done with a pig. One of my favorite places to get a wide variety of prepared meats is The Pantry on Rodney Parham Road, because they combine bratwurst, smoked pork, prosciutto, and pork terrine, with bread, cheese, and olives to make a huge appetizer called “The Pantry Board.” The board is easily large enough for a table of four, but I’ve split it with a companion for lunch more than once.
Even though the items in the sampler are all pork products, the variety of textures and flavors is astounding. The thinly sliced prosciutto has a light, salty flavor and a slightly fatty texture that melts on the tongue. In contrast, the pork shoulder is deep and smokey with a more rounded flavor and a tender texture that makes a nice contrast with the ham. The bratwursts, while smaller than might be expected, are juicy with a spice that goes well with the tangy Dijon mustard served to the side. As a break from all the meats, I always enjoy the briny olives, salty feta and creamy chevre along with bites of crusty bread.
The star of the plate, however, is a fresh pork shoulder terrine layered with blanched asparagus and wrapped with bacon. As far as I’m aware, The Pantry is the only menu in Little Rock that features a terrine, and while I know that pork meatloaf flavored with liver isn’t everybody’s thing, this dish is worth a try. The texture of the pork is sumptuous and rich, seasoned lightly and brought to a state of perfection when sliced onto grilled French bread and topped with a crunchy cornichon. It’s an old-world taste that seems to work just fine here in Arkansas, and the freshness and quality of the ingredients are matched only by the Pantry’s excellent service.
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