Whether you’re an amateur sommelier or a total wine novice, we’re willing to bet that the folks at Nomad Charcuterie and Wine will pour you something surprising. This cozy cafe-esque eatery, first opened in spring 2022, is making a splash in Downtown Bellingham thanks to its well-curated menu, warm ambience, and enviable wine list.
Nomad is the work of partners Frances Jones and Brian Kenney, two restaurant industry veterans hailing from North Carolina. In curating their menu, they put an emphasis on natural wines that are approachable, diverse, and– above all– very drinkable.
“I wanted to give people a place where they could explore the world through wine, and try things that they usually wouldn’t have access to,” Jones says. “Our partnerships with local purveyors allow us to shine a light on the agriculture that the state of Washington has to offer.”
I arrived at Nomad with the intention of sampling just one or two dishes, but Jones had another plan. Instead, she offered to drive our tasting experience, and what ensued was a veritable trip around the globe through sips and small plates. Pro tip: If Jones or Kenney offers you a menu suggestion– no matter how small– you should run with it.
Small Bites, Big Flavor
We kicked off the feast with a snack of Marcona Almonds ($5), an elegant Caviar and Spring Onion Dip ($13), and Olives ($4) marinated in a warm mix of orange zest and chili. Jones then paired these nibbles with a taste of The Marigny “Wine-Like Beverage” Piquette, a crisp wine spritzer made from refermented grape skins in the Willamette Valley.
Moving down the menu, Nomad’s small plates further exemplified what I found to be the restaurant’s strong suit: simple, high-quality ingredients carefully combined to create exceptional flavors. I particularly loved the Beets ($11); served atop a bed of creamy labneh, their earthy flavor was contrasted by a subtle sweetness from sumac and pistachio.
Perhaps my favorite non-charcuterie bite was the Escolar Crudo ($17), a delicate fish that’s flown in from Hawaii and served with blood orange and citrusy ponzu. All this was washed down with a taste of Sono Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia di San Gimignano, an earthy, dry white from Tuscany.
When it comes to reviewing restaurants, there are plenty of dishes that I look forward to trying– but salads usually aren’t one of them. That’s why I was so surprised by my love for the generously portioned, Southern-inspired Gem Lettuce ($13). Don’t let its simplicity fool you– this salad is a flavor bomb, with funk from the blue cheese dressing, crispness from the lettuce and apple, and an extra kick of acidity from pickled red onion. We enjoyed it alongside a Radley & Finch “Summer Sessions” Cinsault Rosé, a lush rosé crafted in South Africa. Take it from us: If you’re dining with a rosé skeptic, this is the bottle you should order.
Charcuterie Worth Savoring
Next up was the undisputed main event: a Charcuterie Board ($13-78 depending on party size). When ordering their board, guests can choose between international, domestic, and even plant-based meats and cheeses. All versions are accompanied by accoutrements both sweet (fig jam, grapes) and savory (pickles, spicy mustard), plus the requisite bread and crackers.
Our board was locally-inspired, and each ingredient introduced a new flavor or texture. Standout items included Tuscan Salami from Salt Blade in Seattle, four-year-aged gouda from Samish Bay Creamery, and– our favorite– a hazelnut-topped chevre from Olympia-based Lost Peacock Creamery.
Jones paired the board with my favorite sip of the afternoon, the outstanding Villalobos “Viñedo Silvestre” Carignan. Carignan grapes are typically planted around the Western Mediterranean region, but this bottle hails from a winery in Colchagua Valley, Chile that’s been left in its wild state for 80 years, without pruning or irrigation. In addition, the yeast used to ferment the wine is as wild as the vineyard itself. If you’re curious about natural wine, this organic, unfiltered red makes an ideal introduction.
Closing Treats and Takeaways
Just when we thought we’d finished, Jones surprised us by bringing out Vanilla Ice Cream ($7) topped with olive oil, fleur de sel, and a Biscoff cookie. It was paired with not one but two tastes from the digestif menu. First was Ximenez-Spinola’s “Exceptional Harvest,” an aromatic Spanish white made from late-harvested grapes fermented with their own skin and aged with lees in American oak casts. The second was a Jean Bourdy Macvin du Jura, a fortified French dessert wine that was second only to the carignan in my book.
Our tasting experience at Nomad made two things clear: Firstly, Jones and her team are pros when it comes to pairing flavors. Secondly, if you’re looking to broaden your palate, Nomad is the place to do it. The restaurant is never pretentious, and in true Southern-hospitality fashion, Jones is welcoming to all who stop in. Looking ahead, she’s excited to share all of Nomad’s offerings– familiar and otherwise– with the community she loves.
“We are happy to be here and we want to be an asset to the community. We aim to be a safe and fun environment for people to explore through food and wine and create memories with their family and friends,” Jones says. “It’s our goal to make our guests feel special and well taken care of every time they walk through our doors– they could spend their time and money anywhere, but we feel honored that they chose us.” 10 Prospect St., Bellingham, 360.922.8804