From Monday, July 18 to Sunday, July 24, Texas restaurants, cooks, and chefs are invited to participate in Restaurant Gwendolyn's Charc Week 2016, a regional celebration of the culture of handmade charcuterie.
This is the fourth year of Gwendolyn Charc Week, which features various culinary creations like sausage, ham, bacon, garde manger, salami, and other smoked or cured meats. This year's event, labeled “An Academic Show-And-Tell,” involves 25 restaurants, spread across three Texas cities— San Antonio, Boerne, and Austin.
Charc Week isn't an event centered in one location. Rather, it takes place in the restaurants that participate in it.
Chefs and cooks from every restaurant listed below are participating in Charc Week 2016 purely for the expression of creativity that it permits, above and beside the hard work that they already do to run their restaurants. Please go and see what they have done.
San Antonio newcomers include Bakery Lorraine, Folc, Grayze, Edera Osteria Enoteca, Feast, Rebelle, Embassy Suites Riverwalk, and Il Forno. Fredo’s Ristorante from Boerne and Austin-based Hopfields also are participating for the first time.
Returning participants include Tre Trattoria, Lüke, the Granary 'Cue & Brew, Faust Tavern's Crossroads Kitchen, Boiler House, the Cookhouse, Cullum’s Attagirl, El Machito, Kimura, and, of course, Gwendolyn.
Charc Week Rules:
Rule #1: You must be in control of your own menu.
Rule #2: You must make everything on the plate yourself. Exceptions are naturally occurring components like salt crystals or honey.
Rule #3: Each Charc Plate must contain at least four meat or meat-like items.
Rule #4: To level the playing field, each restaurant must sell their Charc Plate for $25.
Having Charc Week rules that limit participation is important because they pare the message down to a meaningful nugget: What comes from our hands tells the story of us.
It has become so easy – and a completely assimilated practice – to buy products ready-made, which are then folded into a restaurant’s offerings. We – both professionals and consumers – tend to forget that all of these products, before they were ready-made, originally fostered an intimate connection to our food, our own connection.
The consistent number of participants in Charc Week each year proves that many of us seek this intimate connection. Additionally, I feel that this direct emotional contact is increasingly hard to come by in a world filled with touch screens and instant everything, and that chefs’ and cooks’ inspirations and aspirations on the plate are a reflection of a larger picture.
I find it remarkable that an all-handmade charcuterie show-and-tell has spun out of a totally unassisted, unsponsored group of people simply based on an interest we all have in common – preserving and honoring the craft of handmade charcuterie. That is no small feat.
As I think about the next generation of thinkers and doers, their pursuit fills me with hope.
For more information, check out Gwendolyn's Charc Week Facebook page here.
Top image: Charc Week features a range of handmade charcuterie at participating restaurants. Photo courtesy of Michael Sohocki.