Savor these seafood finds, served here on slabs from Lowell’s American Stonecraft, which upcycles fieldstones from local farms.
1. Traditional Smoked Salmon from Spence & Co. ($20/8 oz. at Whole Foods Market)
Silky, delicately smoky and more tender than most commercial versions, the cold-smoked salmon from Brockton’s Spence & Co. is just as at home piled on a bagel with schmear as it is draped over a slice of good Irish brown bread (like this one from Brookline’s Matt Murphy’s) or dressed up with a mustardy sauce, dill, capers and a squirt of fresh lemon juice.
2. Smoked Mussels from Ducktrap River of Maine ($7/6 oz. at Whole Foods Market)
Plump, briny mussels paired with smoke are like Pringles: Once you pop them open, you can’t stop eating them. Plus, they’re bite-sized, which makes them natural party food. Don’t forget the toothpicks!
3. Pickled Herring from Bazaar ($6/lb.)
Meaty chunks of herring tossed with crunchy red onion rings and bathed in a sweet-tangy brine are a smorgasbord staple, and they make a great addition to a largely smoked seafood spread. Like smoked salmon, it’s great on coarse brown or black bread. For a richer result, stir a generous scoop of sour cream into the brine.
4. Smoked Bluefish Pate from Matt’s Amazing Smokehouse ($9/8 oz. at the Brookline Winter Farmer’s Market, City Feed and Supply, Foodie’s and other local markets)
After smoking Cape Cod-caught bluefish over hickory, attorney-turned-pitmaster Matt Baumann flakes the fish into coarse pieces and mixes them into a cream cheese-based spread that’s at once rich, clean and perfectly balanced with red onion and lemon.
Area farms and purveyors offer a tempting array of flavors and textures.
1. Prufrock from the Grey Barn and Farm ($21/8 oz. at Formaggio Kitchen)
The tawny color and rough-hewn rind of Eric and Molly Glasgow’s flagship cheese hint at its pungency, but six weeks of aging and washing on the Martha’s Vineyard farm give this cow’s milk paste a delicate, nutty sweetness, too, not to mention a supple consistency that spreads nicely at room temperature. Hit it with something rich and jammy, like Central Bottle chef Stacey Daley’s plum/Concord grape conserve.
2. Ben Nevis from Bonnieview Farm ($37/lb. at Central Bottle)
Vermont’s version of a young Pecorino is salty, rich, a tad barnyard-y and vaguely spicy near the rind—everything a good sheep’s milk cheese should be. But it’s much less sharp and breaks into pieces that are smooth and creamy rather than dry and crumbly.
3. Ada’s Honor from Ruggles Hill Creamery ($10 at Central Bottle)
The tiny Ruggles Hill Creamery uses its own goat’s milk to produce this four-ounce round, named for the Hardwick farm’s first nanny and modeled on a traditional French chabichou. Cutting through the bloomy rind reveals a liquidy ring that gives way to a core that’s clean, milky-rich, dense and smooth.
4. Harbison from Jasper Hill Farm ($17/10 oz. at Formaggio Kitchen)
You can’t go wrong with anything in the Vermont farm’s fleet, but this cow’s milk round stands out with its tingly, faintly spicy bite—that’s from the strip of spruce wrapped around the exterior—and unctuous, gooey consistency, which makes it good spoon food. Simply cut off the top and dig in.
5. Pimento Cheese from Cutty’s ($7/8 oz.)
The anti-cheese snob’s cheese of choice, Charles and Rachel Kelsey’s “p cheese” spread is more savory than most versions, thanks to sharp cheddar, roasted red peppers, garlic, Worcestershire, Dijon and just enough Hellmann’s. Smear it on a baguette, a saltine or, per their suggestion, Melba toast with a strip of the house-pickled Allandale Farm cherry peppers ($6), which they sell alongside the cheese in the Brookline shop’s front case.
6. Stracciatella from Fiore di Nonno ($10/8 oz. at Somerville Farmer’s Market)
It’s like inside-out burrata: shreds of just-pulled fresh mozzarella that Somerville cheesemaker Lourdes Smith bathes in gobs of ultra-rich, salty heavy cream. We like it by the forkful, but it does equally well on crusty bread with a slice of prosciutto or speck and drizzles of honey and extra-virgin olive oil.
Meet these prime pates and salumi, gathered from some of the best local restaurants and butchers.
1. Truffle Salami from New England Charcuterie ($27/lb. at Moody’s Delicatessen)
One of New England Charcuterie’s most popular salumi come holiday time: heritage pork that’s rubbed down with Italian truffle salt, touched with white wine, garlic and black pepper, fermented for a few days and dried for the better part of two months. The result is intensely savory and pairs particularly well with a plush, buttery brie.
2. Coppa from New England Charcuterie ($42/lb. at Moody’s Delicatessen)
Chef Joshua Smith has particular affection for this preparation. After a lengthy salt cure, the pork collar gets rinsed with wine, coated with a mix of paprika, pepper, bay leaf, cayenne and orange zest and stuffed into a beef casing before being dried for at least four months. The paper-thin slices match up nicely with melon—or, Smith says, coppa on a baguette with Parmesan and honey makes “a sensational ensemble.”
3. Smoked Bratwurst from Karl’s Sausage Kitchen ($8.50/lb.)
Smoky depth and satisfying snap are the hallmarks of these all-pork links, one of more than two dozen sausages made in-house at this North Shore institution. Because this is a raw-cured product, the paste is soft and almost spreadable; for a firmer texture, sear, grill or steam the links. Either way, have some sliced rye and pickled onions on hand.
4. Game Bird Pate en Croute from the Butcher Shop ($22/lb.)
“This is one of Chef Barbara’s classic recipes,” says Butcher Shop sous-chef Matthew Mahoney. The featured bird rotates based on availability—pheasant and squab make frequent appearances—but the rich pastry comes whimsically embossed with a duck icon that gives away the staple fowl.
5. Foie Gras and Oxtail Pate from Savenor’s Cambridge ($35/lb.)
Savenor’s chef Sam Ferguson’s recent rainy-day experiment turned out so well, he’s showcasing it for the holidays. The alternating layers of foie gras mousse—faintly sweet, thanks to a splash of Sauternes, and as rich as buttercream—and braised oxtail meat, plus a cap of amber beef gelee, add up to a striking and decadent charcuterie pick.
American Stonecraft available at Good on Charles St. and americanstonecraft.com
Bazaar 424 Cambridge St., Boston (617-787-1511) bazaarboston.com
The Butcher Shop 552 Tremont St., Boston (617-423-4800) thebutchershopboston.com
Central Bottle 196 Mass. Ave., Cambridge (617-225-0040) centralbottle.com
Cutty’s 284 Washington St., Brookline (617-505-1844) cuttyfoods.com
Ducktrap River of Maine available at local Whole Foods Markets (207-338-6280) ducktrap.com
Fiore di Nonno available at many local markets and farmers markets (617-764-1231) fioredinonno.com
Formaggio Kitchen 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge (617-354-4750); 268 Shawmut Ave., Boston (617-350-6996) formaggiokitchen.com
Karl’s Sausage Kitchen 1 Bourbon St., Peabody (978-854-6650) karlssausage.com
Matt’s Amazing Smokehouse available at many local markets and farmers markets (248-872-4125) theamazingsmokehouse.com
New England Charcuterie at Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions 468 Moody St., Waltham (781-216-8732) moodyswaltham.com
Savenor’s 92 Kirkland St., Cambridge (617-576-6328); 160 Charles St., Boston (617-723-6328) savenorsmarket.com
Spence & Co. available at local Whole Foods Markets (508-427-5577) spenceltd.com