Heading to Vancouver? Bring Your Appetite!Wednesday, July 3
If You’re Visiting Vancouver Bring Your Appetite!
Vancouver certainly has no lack of extremely talented chefs, preparing surprisingly well-valued dishes, packed full of great flavours and creativity.
I would be hard pressed to say that there was one meal I had while I was there that was disappointing.
Sure, some weren’t mind-blowing, but there was seldom a dish that missed the mark. As surprising as the quality was the price of the meals. Given the high cost of living and doing business in the large metropolitan I expected the ticket prices to match.
I was pleasantly surprised to find most appetizers hovering in the $10-15 price range, and seldom an entrée crossing the $30 mark. Now I am sure there are high-end steakhouses and formal dining concepts that more than make up for this, but the trend seems to be towards more casual rooms, with a greater focus on value.
In talking with a few of the chefs I met while visiting, they all seemed to share the same story. The recent trend started with the slumping economy some five years ago. The shift from over-the-top meals and exuberant pricing was almost forced upon them. Their guests weren’t going to shift their dining habits, but they also couldn’t afford to continue to spend the money they were previously. The strongest of businesses saw this evolution coming and adapted their formula to survive, those that didn’t adapt didn’t survive. This shift in priorities put these chefs to the test. Gone were the days of searing foie gras and grilling tenderloin. The chefs had to learn to adapt, using cuts that were previously seen as undesirable, and bringing back almost forgotten skills like braising, stewing and charcuterie.
Out of this necessity has come a rebirth of old classic dishes, along with a swath of new flavour combinations. During my visit there were so many delicious experiences, but there was one that stood out above all else. That was my visit to Meat & Bread. Even before getting to Vancouver I had been told by several chefs that I had to pay a visit to this sandwich shop. With all of the recommendations how could I not?
As I approached the entrance I could see quite a lineup weaving its way out the front door. I almost considered turning away, saving it for another, quieter day, but then it hit me. The waft of fresh baked ciabatta bread combined with roasted porchetta could not be ignored. There was no chance I was giving up a chance to taste those intoxicating aromas. Thankfully the line moved along quickly and in a matter of minutes I was at the counter, forced to make a tough decision, porchetta sandwich or meatball sandwich. After talking it over with the cook I settled on the meatball, and boy was I not disappointed.
The little balls of goodness were packed with herbs and were incredibly moist. The ciabatta had the perfect balance of chew and tenderness. In my first few bites I knew that this was the sandwich I would ask for if ever faced with a last meal scenario.
What makes a concept like Meat & Bread so successful? It’s the sheer simplicity of the business model. They only serve four sandwiches a day, all on the same fresh bread, made right in house. They don’t do anything unless they can do it the best. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, they know who they are and make no excuses for it. If you are looking for a low-fat, gluten free, vegan sandwich this isn’t the spot for you. They are what their name implies, a sandwich shop with incredibly good meat and bread. So if you make your way to Vancouver anytime soon bring your elastic waist pants and be sure to check out as many of the town’s incredible restaurants, and whatever you do, pay a visit to Meat & Bread. Your taste buds will thank you for it. If you can’t make it there yourself try my attempt at recreating their delectable concoction.
Italian Meatball Sub
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Makes: 24 meatballs, or 8 subs
1 lb.lean ground beef
½ lb.lean ground veal
½ lb.lean ground pork
1 Tbsp.minced garlic
1 cupfresh grated parmesan
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp.dried oregano
1 tbsp.dried basil
½ tbsp.dried thyme
½ Tbsp.chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup olive oil
1 lt. tomato sauce
½ lt.chicken or beef stock
Sundried Tomato Mayo
¼ cup sundried tomatoes
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup mayonaisse
2 Tbsp. fresh basil
For the subs
8 ciabatta buns
8 oz. arugula
8 oz.fresh parmesan
•In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients together and work to combine with your hands until all of the ingredients are combined
•Roll the meatballs into approximately 1.5 oz. portions
•Place a large pan on high heat and then begin to sear the meatballs in batches, lightly browning them on each side•Drain fat, set meatballs aside
•In a pot combine the stock and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer
•Submerge the meatballs in the sauce and proceed to braise on low for 45-60 minutes. You can also cover the pot and braise them in the oven atabout 300F
•Once the meatballs are braised, it’s time to put the sandwiches together
•Slice the ciabatta buns open and toast in the oven
•Smear the bottom bun with a generous tablespoon of the mayo, then top with 3 meatballs each
•Finish the sub off with shaved parmesan and fresh arugula