From January to March of 2011, I found myself working at a law firm in North Vancouver as part of Osgoode's Intensive Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources and Governance. As always I took my Sandwich investigations with me.
Entry #1: La Grotta Del Formaggio
At my first day of work at the firm I was placed with, I sent out an introductory email referencing this very blog, and soliciting Sandwich recommendations. The most common one pointed me towards La Grotta Del Formaggio on Commerical Drive.
On old fashioned Italian deli, this place has been making pretty bella Sandwiches since Bill Bennett became premier.
At La Grotta, you get your choice of bread, meat, and a whole range of fresh toppings.
I opted for: the large bun, capicola, smoked provolone, and the works (lettuce, tomato, red onion, green olives, roasted red peppers, hot pickled eggplant and artichoke). The place definitely reminded me of La Bottega in Ottawa.
The Sandwich is assembled expertly in front of you, with all the expert Sandwich steps being taken (tomatoes are splashed with coarse salt, aged balsamic placed on the bun, ingredients carefully stacked to avoid mushiness etc.):
The thing came out to be the size of a Football:
When I first bite into it, I knew this was the kind of Sandwich that got me into Sandwich Blogging. The Sandwich arrangement worked perfectly with sweet, sour, spice and salty working together in concert to tickle my tastebuds on every bite.
- Fantastic bun. Crusty and great form for maintaining Sandwich structural integrity. Even by the last bite of this monstrosity, the Sandwich did not get mushy
- Very fresh ingredients
- First time I've TRULY enjoyed Olives on a Sandwich
- SO many different tastes in each bite
- Excellent 60:40 ratio of topping to meat
Overall Review 9.5/10 Opas.
This, IMHO, is what a well made Sandwich is all about. A ABSOLUTE MUST for Vancouver Sandwich Lovers
Entry #2: Meat & Bread
Where La Grotta is part of the Old-guard of Vancouver Sandwiches, Meat & Bread is the young funky upstart. With an atmosphere and clientele which makes you feel like you are in a club that you are not hip enough to be in, Meat & Bread was constantly talked about as another must-do on my trip.
The place features a few standbys (meatball, grilled cheese) but is primarily known for its Porchetta.
Porchetta definition from Wikipedia:
"The body of the pig is gutted, deboned, arranged carefully with layers of stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolled, spitted, and roasted, traditionally over wood. Porchetta is usually heavily salted in addition to being stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel"
A critical aspect of the Porchetta Sandwich for me is the careful arranging of the loin and belly and whether the Sandwich keeps its structural integrity. As well, I enjoy a truly crispy piece of crackling because if you are going to eat essentially a caramelized pork rind, it might be as well be crispy in addition to being deadly.
Here we see the carvers carefully slicing the Roast and placing it onto the Sandwich with healthy dollops of grainy mustard.
The resulting products is:
- For a place with bread its name, I had high expectations. They were not entirely met. It was a solid bun, but I found it that it was not that fresh, and probably used a few seconds in the toaster or press.
- The Pork loin was excellent: very fresh flavors from the seasoning of the loin (garlic, parsley etc) + the addition of a very tasty Salsa Verde
- Cracklings were super crunchy and even had a touch of sweetness to them
- It was not the best constructed porchetta. I got a few bites that had too much meat in them, followed by a mostly bread bite. I felt that this may have been due to the layout of the Porchetta itself, but this was proved wrong at a later trip to Porchetta and Co(... which will be reviewed later)
- Price point seemed a bit high
Judgment: 8/10 Opas.
Entry # 3: Benton Bros Fine Cheese
When I mentioned to my schoolyard chums that I was gonna be in Vancouver for a couple of months, my pal Shaky *aka Brian Higgins* told me in his ever excited tone, that I simply HAD to visit his engineering pal's Cheese shop which just started making Sandwiches.
This place is the kind of artisanal joint where just about EVERYTHING is done in house: cheese is expertly sourced and aged, meats are lovingly smoked and preserves and condiments crafted as if were guided by the hands of the most delicate of Grandmothers.
I opted for the: House Smoked Duck Breast with Avonlea Cheddar, Brandied Cranberry Sauces, Tomatoes, Arugula on a Ciabatta Bun. The result was worth all the effort that went into it!
- Duck was quacktacular. It didn't feel too heavy for such a rich meat, and had a very appropriate level of smokiness throughout
- Excellent flavour pairings. This Sandwich felt like a mini-holiday dinner wrapped in a Cibatta. Sweetness from the Cranberry Sauce worked great with the Duck Breast.
- As expected, the cheese was expertly selected.
- Very good Sandwich construction. No structural problems like @ Meat & Bread
Overall Judgement: 9/10 Opas.
Keep a look out for these brothers, they are gonna continue to make a major splash on the Vancouver food scene.