2012 On the road – Vancouver B.C. Food and Drink Part 1

Some of the things that set Vancouver, British Columbia apart from many cities… and pardon the oft borrowed real estate phrase “location, location…” are its size, its diversity and its idyllic location smack dab in the one of the Planet’s most gentle and dreamy climates.

And if you can tolerate the risk of having perpetual gray skies for your visit and enough rain to wash any irregularities out of Vancouver’s weather beaten sidewalks, then maybe, just maybe, this is the place for you.

Andrea and I had a weekends attendance scheduled at Vancouver’s EAT Vancouver food expo at the newly refurbished B.C. Place as media – and although not as glamorous as the Portland SCAA event from a month or so ago, it seemed worth the time to book a room at one of our favorite Delta hotels downtown… and then travel by B.C. Ferry to the mainland from Victoria.

Normally, it is Andrea who is on University business and I go along for the ride… so they are day trips, or even better, single overnight getaways… allowing me the luxury of checking out the latest and greatest in Vancouver coffee or lunch culture.

Because trust me folks, Vancouver never lets you down when it comes to coffee cruising and the lunch places are infinite in number and you could never explore all of them in a lifetime.

So, after an hour or so at the EAT Vancouver show – which seemed to be little more than a showcase for Starbucks, Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s latest syrup based beverages – an event only buoyed up by the Western Canada Barista preliminaries, we high tailed it out of there. So, we missed some WBC action. That’s life.

During this particular visit we decided to get caught up on some of the new cafe’s in town and some of the more interesting lunch places – and some slightly different dinner joints.

1st stop was Meat & Bread – 370 Cambie near Hastings – In all fairness I have been here a couple of times already on a previous visit. The formula is simple. Bread… and meat. Fresh out of the ovens. At least the meat part. I believe that the ciabatta buns come from a bakery. OK I guess. The meat? Well, it is slow roasted and their signature sandwich is “Porchetta” which is pork belly – the yummy part of the pig. My first sandwiches were the pork belly, hot out of the oven, infused with a salsa verde, salt and pepper likely… dead simple and drop dead tasty. I think the key here is to be drop in at opening or within the cycle of one pork round coming out of the oven – that you do not get stuck with getting the “tailing” or the last part of the beast suring its final chop up. I noticed a slight drop in the “pop” of the sandwich if your “slices” were toward the tail end of the round being prepped.

I also had the Moroccan lamb on a next visit – and it was crazy delicious. I grew up on a small sheep farm and the lambs never tasted quite like this – then again, they weren’t slow roasted in a great big oven and had their goodness nursed out of them by young food savvy 21st Century hipsters.

On our most recent visit, Andrea and I shared the Porchetta and the Chicken sandwich. OK. Here is where the whip comes down. Avoid chicken sandwiches unless you are prepared to keep them silly simple. Chicken takes on the flavor of whatever is applied to it. So, if you go a little crazy with the saucing, like Meat and Bread did with this particular interpretation, then the whole chicken experience is going to be lost. Avoid it. Get the Porchetta and share the daily special if it looks interesting. They also do an attractive looking Meatball sandwich and a simple grilled cheese. There is generally a soup and a salad and you can drink water (free), beer, wine or soda for a modest fee.
Question is: Is this the best sandwich you will ever taste? Close, but not quite. For Vancouver, maybe yes. But as Andrea and I were to find out, there were more delights between slices of bread to be discovered in Vancouver on this visit!

Coffee for Cool Vancouver Cats – It is pretty clear that Revolver Coffee at 325 Cambie Street (right across the street from Meat and Bread) is leading the pack in the hip factor in Vancouver. They do a variety of classic Western coffees (Oregon, Calgary and San Francisco) a variety of modern ways; like Aeropress and Koava Cone – as well as the basic espresso based drinks… really, really, really well. You can get a small pot of coffee (enough for 2-3 refills) for around $3 depending on the “breed” of the bean prepared 1 way or a variety of ways. They even have a high rollers “flight” menu selection; 1 coffee 3 ways or 3 coffees 1 way – where you, the drinker, can test your coffee taste buds on picking which is which… for $9 or so. And that is a LOT of coffee sipping!

While in Vancouver for an earlier visit I stopped in at Matchstick Coffee in East Vancouver to sample their wares… Lucky me, I was the 1st person ever to sample their in-house roasted coffee. Honored. Truly.
Matchstick is a very spacious room with very clean lines that reminded me of some of the neatest new cafes in San Francisco – friendly and highly educated staff as well. they are tucked away at 639 E 15 Ave – you might need to hunt a bit to find them – they are right near a park/green space not far from the corner of Fraser (I think on the North west side of the intersection.
Matchstick is clearly one of those cafes that is truly focused on the quality of the bean that they roast and serve and the direct relationship with the farmer and their community – it is becoming a more prevalent philosophy in the coffee business and that is a good thing.

Bike friendly coffee in a city of Bikes at 1262 Burrard (access via a back alley or near the Pattison Lease return lot!) Mussette Caffe is quite simply unique! The name Mussette is based on the simple cloth bag that long distance bike racers and tourists carry their food and drink in. And Mussette is simply an oasis in a neighborhood governed by car powered commerce. It took me a couple of passes but it was worth the search. Seriously, I should draw a map – it is not obvious how to get there. When you do, you will never forget.
Coffee at Mussette is provided by the legendary 49th Parallel Roasters and baked things come from the bakery next door. Brilliant. Coffee is competently brewed by passionate staff anyway you wanted it. I think I spied cones and Aeropress units. Good times!

Some of the things that set Vancouver, British Columbia apart from many cities… and pardon the oft borrowed real estate phrase “location, location…” are its size, its diversity and its idyllic location smack dab in the one of the Planet’s most gentle and dreamy climates. And if you can tolerate the risk of having perpetual…