Sunday, July 3, 2011


*Editor's Note: Once again I find myself apologizing for a lack of updates. I have found that the style of post that I been involved with up until this point, which rely heavily on my acerbic wit and obscure references, often takes a while to inspire and even longer to write. In its place I will switch to a much more straightforward style - pics of Sandwich, a few lines of commentary & review followed by the much-loved and highly controversial Opa rating all displayed on a minimalist tumblr site.*

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. 

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. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On a (Lobster) Roll

Things seem to looking up for this humble Sandwich blogger: the weather is finally starting to warm out, law school is officially done forever and new Sandwich compatriots are emerging in my life. Clearly I'm on a roll personally and what better way to celebrate it then by talking about one of my favourite Sandwiches: the Lobster Roll.

The Lobster Roll is a quintessentially American take on a classic summer food; for whatever reason it has not caught on in the same way in the Maritime provinces. It takes a certain kind of only-in-America excess to take what is now considered upscale food like Lobster (despite the fact that it was considered unfit for prison consumption in the 18th century)

The Lobster Roll features freshly cooked lobster, sometimes tossed in Mayo, served on a grilled/toasted and buttered Hot Dog bun. The best ones tend to be understated, emphasizing the freshness of the Lobster with a nice hit of fat from the butter.

To sample one, I decided to hit up Luke's Lobster in the East Village.

Luke left a Finanical Industry job to start slangin' Seafood Sandwiches, noting that:

"We make our rolls Maine-style! The seafood is served *chilled* atop a buttered and toasted New-England-style split-top bun with a Swipe of mayo, a sprinkle of lemon butter and a dash of secret sauce."

I ordered the "Taste of Maine" Combo which came with half a Lobster Roll, half  a Crab Roll, a half Shrimp Roll, 2 Empress Claws, chips and a soda.

(Left to Right: Shrimp Roll, Lobster Roll, Crab Roll)    

Ms. Vickie's BBQ Chips + Blueberry Soda!

The Shrimp Roll was the most surprising of the Sandwiches. I felt that this Sandwich had serious underwhelming potential as I never thought of as Shrimps as having enough flavour to anchor such a less-is-more Sandwich.

Forest Gump's Bubba would have known just how wrong I was:

It was DELICIOUS. Buttery soft shrimp fit snuggly in the toasty bun led to a taste sensation which hit me harder than Forrest facing off against a ping-pong ball (that will be the final Forrest Gump reference of this post).

The sauce worked very well with the soft shrimps, and the whole package seemed like an excellent conduit for the richness of the mayo and butter.

Next up was the Crab Roll:

The Crab Roll was also tasty, but I found the Sandwich as a whole to be a little bit more bland than its Shrimp cousin.

I also found a small shard of shell, which is both understandable and regrettable.

The Main Event: The Lobster Roll

The Lobster Roll's at Luke's feature a nice mix of Claw and tail meat. Despite being located outside of Lobster Country, the Lobstie tasted very fresh and the luxurious texture of the meat held up throughout the Sandwich. I scarfed the thing down so fast that there was little room for Sandwich strucutural integrity issues. 

The Sauce and lemon-butter worked best on the Lobster Roll. 

Overall Impressions:
  • Great, classic split-top buns
  • Good traditional approach to the Seafood Roll
  • Very fresh tasting shellfish
  • Very good ratio of mayo:lobster (or other seafood) meat
Final Judgment:

8.75/10 very treyf Opas.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


After my Fry-filled trip to Steelers Country, I decided to fly to NY to visit my sister on a whim. One of the things I love about going on Sandwich trips with another person is the chance to get two Sandwiches and share them with a valuable Sandwich Associate.

Sandwich Sibs

At this point, I've become pretty familiar with the NYC food blog scene and whipped up a few Sandwich spots on the fly.

Former Pen Pal, Prost Alumnus and overall good guy Adam Rossi accompanied me to my first spot:

Locanda Verde.

The place caught my eye based on their Lamb Meatball Sliders with Goat Cheese.

While probably closer to the Burger spectrum that this blog ventures likes to venture into these delicious morsels were a great start. The meatball was extremely tender with just a hint of spice in the marinara. These little darlings packed a consistent and well balanced bite - crunch from the cucumber, creaminess from the Goat cheese and a great meat:bread ratio.

Next up was the Broccoli Rabe Sausage Grinder. One thing that was really appealing about this particular Sandwich was that it had some of Locanda Verde's signature Sheep's Milk Ricotta. I'm a sucker for the delightful bitterness of Rabe in an Italian style Sandwich.

The Sausage itself was very good. Solid mixture of pork, fennel, spice and herbs.

The best part of this Sandwich was the  Ricotta. Silky smooth with a nice bite of herb.

 The roll was nice and crusty, and for a Sausage based sandwich it mostly retained structural integrity.

Overall Judgement: 8.5/10 Opas

Next up was The Smile, where at my sister's request I HAD to try there Breakfast Sandwich

This is one of the better Breakwiches I've had.

The ham added a nice saltiness without overpowering the Sandwich with grease like Sausage or Bacon often does. The Carmelized Onions gave it a nice rush of sweetness and the Eggs were cooked in a perfect manner for a Breakwich - light and fluffy. The English Muffin was solid but wasn't as above-average as everything else in the Sandwich.

8.75/10 Breakfast Opas

While I was there, I wanted to visit the latest piece of hype Eataly.

Eataly is a HUGE (50000 Sq Feet) marketplace. Here's a sample of the layout:

Source: NY Post

After getting simultaneously claustrophobic (there must have been a thousand people in there), hungry, confused and curious, I settled on the Panini Bar:

I went for a toasted Portobello Panini with Gorgonzola. For a two ingredient Sandwich the tastes were incredibly layered. The nutty almost umami of the grilled portabello made me forget that it was a meatless Sandwich. The gorgonzola melted evenly and was clearly of a much higher quality than I am used to. It got scarfed faster than a hipster in a wind-filled city.

My sister got something, but my Sandwich memory isn't what it once was and I can't recall what delicious Italian deli meat was in there. Pretty f'in tasty though:

These Sandwiches featured fantastic in house baked bread, a selection of delicious and well-aged meats. What more could you want?

9.25/10 Chaotic Opas.

Till next time: Keep your mustard in sight at all time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Steeltown Sandwiching

My a product of the post-graduate school selection process, I am a Steelers fan. My parents got married and then tried to get accepted at the same places for grad school. My parents elected for UPitt over Berkley, giving me the name Jesse instead of Moon Apple and making me a 2nd generation Steelers Fan.

As such, Rubin and I took a little Football Aliyah, to Heinz field for a Steelers vs. Jets game in Week 16. What better time to write about it, the day that the Steelers take on the Packers in the Superbowl!

Stop # 1: Steel City Sandwiches
We stopped midway to Pittsburgh and a Steelers themed joint called Steel City Sandwiches in Erie, Pennsylvania deep inside Browns territory.

The place is famous for having Primanti Bros style Sandwiches (more on that below).

With my Williamsport Cheesesteak fresh in my mind, I ordered another.

The Bun was very good. Nice and squishy. Unfortunately the meat felt more like steakums then diced ribeye. Decent provolone, but nothing to write home about.

Rubin ordered a mixed Hoagie that looked a lot better.

Overall Judgement:
6.75/10 Opas

(but extra points for all the Steelers tchotchkes' )

Stop #2 (Essie's) The Original Hot Dog Shop

While falling clearly into the Quasi-Sandwich category, this was way to good not to write about.

The Hot Dog Shop is a neighbourhood stable that dated back to my Dad's years in Pittsburgh. Located in the heart of the neighbourhood of Oakland, this place has been a pillar of the community.

With amazing hot dogs like these its no surprise how they could become such a permanent fixture. You get your choice of an Original (Pork and Beef mix) or Kosher Style Pure Beef. Ever the indulgent treyfe Jew, I opted for the Original, with Chili and Onions:

The Dog itself is fantastic with a great 'snap' from its natural casing, and great taste of meat throughout. The chili was a nice, almost Cincinnati style Chili with some smokiness and a bit of bite to it.  Could have used a better quality bun though.

The dogs are griddled until they get delicious grill marks as seen here:

They are also known for their Mountains of fries. This is a small: (it goes up to XL which looks like a Pattater-horn)

Overall Judgment: One of  THE best Hot Dog I have ever eaten.
9/10 Quasi-Sandwich Opas

Stop #3: Primanti Bros

I have aspired to eat at this place, since my 2nd entry in this blog.

Primanti Brothers is a local legend for their Sandwiches. As the Sign notes:

No matter the Sandwich, it comes stuffed with freshly-made French Fries, a heap of coleslaw and think tomatoes, served on their fresh Italian Bread.

I opted for the Pastrami, instead of their famous "2nd best seller Pitts-burger Cheesesteak".

When doing my pre-trip Sandwich research, I worried that it would be too bread-y. It seemed just to thick for proper balance. Luckily the French bread was nice and squishy, allowing you to choke up on your mega-Sandwich

The fries added a nice salty crispness. The coleslaw was nice an vinegary-y and the tomato was particularly fraiche.

My only major 'beef' with the Sandwich was that the Pastrami did not seem properly proportioned with the rest of the Sandwich.

I wanted at least a 40:60 type ration and got more like 25:75.

That being said, the Fries and Slaw added a great element to an otherwise excellent Sandwich.

Overall Judgement: 8.25/10 Opas.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Just Sandwich Reviews - straight, no chaser

Entry #1 - Pancer's 

The Pancer family recently sold the their eponymous shop after more than 53 years in the deli game.

Although I've already blogged about it, out of respect, I thought I'd lead this entry off with two classic Sandwiches I had at my most recent visit.

Combo 1: Corned Beef & Tongue!

Combo #2 -The Triple Decker - Chopped Liver, Onion, Coleslaw and Pastrami on Challah bread. 

Comments: After being a loyal patron for 15 + years I can't believe I never tried either of these before. 

The tongue + corned beef combo was awesome,  but I was truly blown away by the triple decker. It's like the long lost Jewish club Sandwich of my dreams. 

Chopped Liver and Challah work perfectly together (see: most of Friday night dinners with my parents). The Onion added a nice crunch and the sour tang of the coleslaw played well against the dense salty perfection of Pancer's Pastrami. 

Attention new owners: Keep this Sandwich on the Menu or be prepared to face the wrath of one angry Sandwich blogger. 

Entry #2: Schnitzel Queen

I've heartily supported Schnitzel since my parents used to take me to a long-deceased Hungarian joint at Bathurst and Bloor. 

Schnitzel Queen is a Schnitzel only cafe operated by two loving Germans  Theresa and Bernard (yes I put those two words next to each other INTENTIONALLY).  


They offer many variations on the same theme - BAVARIAN STYLE SCHNITZEL.  Arguably my favourite of the pounded-meats, they offer up one hell of a product, in one helluva sketchy neighborhood (Moss Park)

I ordered mine with Cheese, Mayo and Carmelized options.  A popular variation of this is the Cordon Bleu which adds sliced Ham into the mix. 

The Schnitzel itself is excellent. Good crispness with an earthy pork essence to it. The batter is thin and not too oily. Bernard is constantly frying up fresh schnitzels, while Theresa entertains the customers with her banter. The last time I was there we discussed the 2012 phenomenon, the reversing of the Earth's polarity and why my friend Brian sucks for being 30 minutes late. 

This is one of the cases where a low-brow ingredient won the day. They only use processed cheese and I think it works great! It adds a kind of familiar, grilled cheesiness to it that pairs well with the fried Schnitzel and the gobs of Mayo. 

Overall Judgment: 8.5/10 Opas 

I'm rooting for these guys and their fantastic product, so do yourself a favour and brave the sketchiness to sample one helluva Schnitzel!

Next up, a very special Canwiches Superbowl Special Edition!! 

Keep it mayo'd