For a state that is enamored of all things pork related, you don’t see the word “charcuterie” appearing on many menus. Originally a way to cure and preserve meats, the art of charcuterie is practiced now mostly because cured meat is delicious. A meal experience with classic charcuterie is not out of the question in Little Rock, though, because Tomas Bohm at The Pantry has a variety of prepared meats on his menu, and the man knows his business. I saw “The Pantry Board” listed on the menu back when we first reviewed The Pantry, but it’s taken until now for me to get back and give it a try. This sampler board of bratwurst, smoked pork, prosciutto, pork terrine, and cheese is true delight, and it’s clear that Chef Bohm takes a lot of care in the preparation of his meat dishes.
It’s hard to know where to begin in describing the items that make up this sampler. Even though everything on this board is made from pork, the variety of textures and flavors is astounding. The prosciutto was thinly sliced, and the unctuous texture was matched by an excellent light flavor that was just salty enough without being overpowering. In contrast, the smoked pork shoulder had a deep, round flavor that worked in perfect contrast to the ham. The bratwurst was juicy with a slightly spicy flavor that worked well with the Dijon mustard served to the side, and I loved the creamy chevre and tangy feta with olives as well.
For me, though, the star of the plate was Chef Bohm’s terrine, a wonderful dish of bacon-wrapped forcemeat layered with asparagus and almonds. As far as I’m aware, The Pantry’s is the only menu in Little Rock that features a terrine, and I urge all of you to put aside your ideas about pate and give this dish a try. In older times, such dishes were made from the trimmings and end pieces of the pig, but Chef Bohm uses only good-quality pork shoulder wrapped with bacon in his terrine, and the texture and taste of the dish is sumptuous – a definite guilty pleasure food, especially when eaten with the grilled French bread and cornichons provided. After our meal, Chef Bohm stopped by our table and when I complimented the terrine he told us that he sometimes breads a slice and pan fries it, making a sandwich of it with cornichon relish. I’d like to go on the record and say to the Chef: if you put that on your menu as an occasional special, I will eat it every time.
The Pantry is located at 11401 N. Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock. They’ve got an excellent bar with happy hour specials between 2pm and 6pm. If you’re a lover of all things pork, rest assured that Chef Bohm and crew are doing things right. Enjoy!