Your Meat and Cheese Dreams Have all Come True

Photos by XYZ

Clinking glasses, upbeat music, lounging patrons, and the low murmur of servers taking orders… If you let yourself go, you can almost imagine you’re on the patio of a Parisian cafe, enjoying a lazy bite to eat and soaking in the scenery. Only this is Salt and Board, and it’s smack in the middle of what could only be a university commercial area, saturated with sandwich shops, take-out joints, and loud signs catering to the college crowd. But for anyone enthusiastic about meat, cheese and wine with a European flair, it’s just the ticket – college town vibes or not.

The brainchild of Adam Moffett and Doug Crowder, who also own the local favorite Slice Parlor locations, Salt and Board offers cured meat and cheese in all their glory: their signature chef’s board gives a seasonal sampling of 3 meats, 3 cheeses, and a host of pickled and preserved extras. When I visited the month-old establishment, the latest chef’s board iteration starred a lomo embuchado – a type of Spanish cured pork – French saucisson sec, and a Spanish chorizo, accompanied by Brie, Funkmeister from Denver, and a Welsh cheddar. The menu also offers a full range of toasts with delicate toppings and hearty sandwiches of various melty and meaty persuasions. A burrata toast topped with the soft mozzarella variant, house-made bacon jam, fennel salami, and lightly dressed arugula, in particular, delighted with its jumble of flavors, equally creamy, crisp and sweet.

The toasts and sandwiches, including the “Italian” with prosciutto, Fra’ Mani soppressata, ham, swiss and olive tapenade, and the “Grilled Cheese and Fig” with aged gouda, Spanish manchego and fig jam, are casual and un-fussy, mirroring the laid-back hum of the airy space, formerly inhabited by Bricklight Dive. “Conceptually, the key word there is shareable,” Moffett said, reinforcing a sentiment that has turned the restaurant world on its head of late, as evidenced in an ever-growing wave of small-plates only, family-style eateries. “As long as each dish is a shareable, it’s not a sit-down kind of entree. It makes it less uptight.”

But don’t mistake casual for hurried – Crowder, who had a personal thing for preserved meats, enlisted the help of Mike Hill, former chef de cuisine at Richmond, VA’s critically acclaimed Heritage, to design and implement the menu, spending months pulling together a final collection of carefully selected meats and cheeses from France, Spain, and the U.S. Each is complemented by the house-made accompaniments, which, in their own right, are tiny bursts of color and complexity. Pickled carrots are crisply acidic, Marcona almonds add a pleasant crunch, and the bacon jam has a deep molasses flavor that makes the cheese sing. “I had a couple bother me for about 45 minutes solid the other night trying to figure out how to make that bacon jam,” kitchen manager James Woodhouse said. “I told them I’d give them an item every time they came back in.”

The drinks list, too, reaches further than their other endeavors to pair specifically with the food – no local wines, but a purposeful selection of subtle, light to medium bodied wines round out the offerings.

Certainly, there have been difficulties to weather. Take, for example, the pocket-sized kitchen, big enough for two people, astounding in its feats but for the relative ease of charcuterie preparation. “The challenge is how badass we can be in a kitchen this size,” Moffet said, seemingly having already taken it in stride. Staffing, as in any new restaurant, has been a bit rocky, but seems to have landed gracefully – the flannel button-down clad servers, busy but approachable, rattle off wine recommendations and descriptions of items like “apricot mostarda” with ease. “What we want out servers’ knowledge to be is very high, so finding people who are willing to take that extra step to put out the service that we want is a challenge,” front of house manager (and daughter of Doug Crowder) Graeson Crowder tells me. “Now that we have a staff that is comfortable. … I think that we’re just rolling every day.” And with what Moffett says is a slightly older, more sophisticated “foodie” crowd than the owners expected – including, recently, Mayor Tim Keller – quality service is in high demand.

And, as in all commercial spaces in Albuquerque, there is limited to no recycling – but John, one of the cooks, has been working with the city’s pilot program to wrangle some green recycling bins for the whole block. Other efforts at local-mindedness come from Salt and Board’s collection of local draft beers and regular patronage of the nearby Moktezu-Mart, a small grocery owned by Fidel Gonzalez, billed as an indoor farmers’ market that works with New Mexican farmers to make their organic produce more accessible year-round.

Salt and Board has been slammed from the get-go, but their laid-back vibes and addictive bites make it easy to forget all else around you as you lose yourself in leisurely conversation with friends. Stop by for the charcuterie board you never knew you needed.

Salt and Board
115 Harvard Dr. SE Ste 9, Albuquerque, NM 87106
www.saltandboard.com

Moktezu-mart
115 Harvard Dr SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106

Sophie Putka

Sophie Putka

Sophie Putka is a Massachusetts transplant in love with New Mexico. She writes, makes lattes, and haunts Albuquerque eateries in search of a good bagel. She can usually be found in the kitchen trying to use up as many leftovers as possible and plotting her next adventure.
Sophie Putka

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