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Cheese at its best

By MARTIN HINTZ

 

Cheese and charcuterie at Indulge.


Sometimes you feel like merely dining from a small plate with an accompanying wine. Combine delicious meats, a touch of cheese and a good pour. What more does one need on an almost-spring eve?

Allium
2101 N. Prospect Ave.
(414) 287-2053

This jewel-like hideaway is adjacent to the Prospect Avenue bridge over the bike trail, within walking distance of the Oriental Theater and the neighborhood’s more boisterous bars. At Allium, a diner can eat slowly and talk softly. Laid back and cozy, the restaurant offers four Wisconsin cheeses and a fancy selection of cured and smoked meats for its platter.

Distil
722 N. Milwaukee St.
(414) 220-9411

Cheeses from Mineral Point, Plymouth, Thorp, LaValle and Theresa, among other award-winning offerings, are on the small plate menu here. A Chef’s Selection charcuterie platter includes four artisan meats, with a toasted baguette. A mixed platter consists of three cheeses and two meats, also with the baguette. Many of the meats are processed by chef Aaron Patin of the Surg Restaurant Group.

Wisconsin Cheese Mart
215 W. Highland Ave.
(414) 272-3544

Founded in 1938, this place at the corner of Highland and Old World Third Street has grown from a small cheese store to one of downtown’s best locales to find artisan cheese and good drinks. So hunker up to the cheese bar, or perch at a table for one of nine different cheese platters. Each has four different cheeses, to be paired with wine or Wisconsin beer. A recommended selection is the Wisconsin Sampler, with its Bleu Affinée and a Grand Cru Gruyère from Roth Käse in Monroe, a 12-year-old cheddar under the Cheese Mart’s private label and a Merlot BellaVitano from Satori in Plymouth, Wisconsin. The Mart’s cheese whiz Jeremy Falk suggests an earthy red wine as the accompaniment.

Envoy Lounge, Ambassador Hotel
2308 W. Wisconsin Ave.
(414) 345-5015

The charcuterie and cheese plate at the cozy Envoy features Italian-cured Sopressata salami, marinated olives and black figs. At least three top cheeses are provided, as well, such as an herbaceous Iberco Bonvallis, a Maple Leaf cranberry by certified Wisconsin cheese master Jeff Widermann and a port salut. Crackers and crostini, those crunchy "little toasts," complement the presentation.

Indulge Restaurant
708 N. Milwaukee St.
(414) 390-9463

Sleek, elegant, cool — that’s Indulge, where the Juneautown restaurant’s name sums it up. Making it work is the Italian-made gravity feed, commercial scale Sirman meat slicer, only one of a few in the United States. This critter can shave prosciutto with more precision than the Barber of Seville ever could. Guests can order charcuterie by the ounce, whether Nueske’s duck breast from Wittenberg or the Serrano ham from Valencia, Spain. And did we mention the truffle flights?

Rumpus Room
1030 N. Water St.
(414) 292-0100

Noted for its cured meats, Joe and Paul Bartolotta’s latest success offers a wide range of pre-dinner nibbles or stand-alones, from a country pork paté and duck liver mousse to a Chef’s Meat Flight consisting of duck rillettes, La Quercia prosciutto and Molinari sopressata, a pork salami. Guests can see much of the slicing and small plate prep just inside the restaurant entrance, at a Grab and Go Counter for those in a rush. And don’t get executive chef Andrew Ruiz started chatting about his love for Wisconsin cheese, especially Widmer’s six-year cheddar and Marieke Penterman’s Gouda.