Double Morning Gold

It is a good day to be Canadian. We rose early this morning to watch our fellow countrymen systematically do what they do best, play hockey at an elite level. The weather was even onside – rare Vancouver snow fell to the ground in true Canadian fashion as our men took home the gold. Today is a day of Canadian stereotypes. We really do love hockey – a lot.

Embedded image permalink

Hockey Love!

The game started at 4:00 AM and ended less than three hours before the sun had a chance to rise. Needless to say, my day has had two mornings – an early hockey morning followed by the ‘sun has been up for hours post-nap’ morning. With victory in hand, what are we as a nation supposed to do with ourselves? Watch the sports media say good things about our countries’ favourite game, make a sandwich, and drink beer. But to keep the victorious stereotype alive, make it an all Canadian super sandwich.

Bacon, the maple kind of course, and smoked salmon BLT club with an egg – a nod to Canada’s hockey gold double-morning. A sandwich and morning friendly beer – Central City Brewing ISA - is a good choice.

Today is our day. Cheers Canada!

Erik

Flemish Beef Stew

Winter is getting close to its timely departure, but we aren’t through it yet.  There is still time left for stews, braised meats, and warming winter ales.

Sometimes the simple things in life are the most enjoyable, and stew is just that. Something as simple as meat braised in a flavourful liquid, when served with the right drink, can make the winter months more than bearable – with the right stew, winter is almost a delight. Stick-to-your-ribs hearty fare is winter at its best.  Most of us enjoy the luxuries of modern life, which includes central heating, but we still crave warming slow-cooked foods during these dreary months.  I will endure the cold wet misery that is a west coast winter as long as there is a stew on the table.  If I haven’t made my point clear enough – I love stew.

Stew - Finished

Carbonnade à la Flamande (Flemish Beef Stew), which is beef slowly simmered in a mixture of onions and dark Belgian ale, is a simple dish by modern culinary standards.  But do not confuse simple with bland or boring, this Belgian staple is proof that there is beauty in survival.  How so few ingredients can turn into something so fantastic amazes me.

Stew has a very pragmatic lineage – meat, bones, vegetables and whatever else is available was slowly simmered on the hearth until hungry workers returned home for their evening meal.  This meal did not just nourish the body, it was a source of pleasure and joy – it tastes that good.  We do not feed like animals; we take pleasure in what we eat, we dine, making sure even the simple taste good.

Very little culinary talent is required to make a proper stew and neither are exotic or hard to find ingredients – time is the only requirement.  I enjoy making stew, just about as much as I do eating it.  Food that takes more time than skill to prepare has always been my preference.  I believe every meal should be enjoyed to the fullest and that we can all make great food – life is too short for bad food.

The interweb is full of great Carbonnade à la Flamande recipes and I do not wish to add to the noise.  For a few good recipes please go here, here, or just Google it. People have been simmering and braising cheap cuts of meat for centuries and the basics of this stew are very simple: pour beer over beef and a chopped onion, add heat, wait three hours, eat.  You will need three hours as a minimum if you want to do this right.  If you do not have time in your schedule to make a proper stew, you may be living life wrong.

If you plan on making this Belgian dish, here are a few small tips that will help make your meal that much better.

  1. Buy the right meat.  Stewing beef is cheap and more flavourful than tender quick cook cuts (steak).  Premium cuts are tender and take little time to prepare, but as a result they offer less in the flavour department.  In a world short on time, we value meat that is tender when cooked quickly.  Heavily worked muscles develop collagen, which makes meat tough, but also adds flavour and body.  When beef is slowly cooked, collagen breaks down, meat becomes tender and the cooking liquid is fortified with a rich flavour and an enhanced mouth feel.  Brisket, Chuck, Shank and Short Rib are all good stewing cuts.  Ask your butcher and they will steer you in the right direction.
  1. Sear your meat hard.  Use more heat that you think necessary.  Meat needs colour, so don’t worry about burning it – be brave!  As meat browns the sugars caramelize and the maillard reaction also takes place.  Both of these processes add flavour.  So be bold, don’t worry if it looks too dark, it will be fine.
  1. Use a sour Belgian ale.  The stew is meant to have a sweet and sour flavour.  An Oud Bruin or a Flanders Red Ale would be best.  If this isn’t possible, cheat and add vinegar and sugar, but be sure to add both in small increments as too much of either could ruin your meal.   Some recipes may call for Stout or even light beer, but just don’t do it, it’s not right.
  1. Salt! Salt! Salt!  Food needs salt to taste good.  Taste your stew, if it seems timid, add more salt.  Continue this process, adding salt in small increments until your meal reaches maximum flavour.
  1. Serve with beer.  Again, an Oud Bruin or Flanders Red Ale would be the best and also the most traditional pairing, but anything dark and Belgian will do just fine.

Cheers,

Erik

Happy Pancake Day

pancakes frying in duck and bacon fat

pancakes frying in duck and bacon fat!

It’s Pancake Day, which is a big deal.  Not many foods have a day, but pancakes do, so let’s celebrate!   Those who do not like pancakes (who are these people?) may refer to today as Shrove Tuesday or, if you are a New Orleans native, Mardis Gras, but not me.  Today I celebrate Pancake Day.  These fluffy round disks drenched in a coma inducing glop of sticky syrup are delicious, and they make life better.  Sure, pancakes are a prime example of sloppy food and they are far from gourmet, but I do not care.  I’m not a gourmand after all; I am a beer drinker in search of good food, and pancakes are just that.

I did a quick Google search for “beer pancakes” and apparently beer pancakes are already a thing.  Add beer to flour, eggs, butter, baking power and apply heat – viola, beer pancakes.  Some articles online argue that the carbonation in beer gives the pancake a greater rise, making for a fluffier and more delicate texture.  Others claim that the malt flavour enhances the pancake by adding an additional layer of malty sweetness.  One recipe even claims that real beer (beer with yeast sediment) will further increase the pancakes rise as the yeast will convert starch (flour in the batter) to alcohol and C02, providing an additional lift.  I’m not sure how real these claims are as many sound like a bit of stretch.  I think people just like putting beer in their food as an excuse to drink more beer, which is fine by me.  But validating these claims is not today’s purpose.  Pancake Day is a day of feasting, so let’s feast.

Pouring beer into pancake batter seems like a waste of beer to me, but I am curious.  There is no need to justify mixing beer with pancake batter and I know that the outcome will most likely be neutral, neither enhancing nor detracting from the pancake-y goodness.  I like beer and I like pancakes, so why not put the two together and see what happens?

Beer Pancakes

Beer Pancakes

Pancakes are what happen – delicious fluffy pancakes.  The beer didn’t do much to improve the pancake – the texture may have been a bit lighter than usual.  Nonetheless a pancake feast was had.  If you are interested in making your own beer pancakes, the instructions are simple.  Replace all or some of the wet ingredients with beer, and make pancakes as usual.

Happy Pancake Day!

Cheers,

Erik

PS> To make your pancake experience that much better, always use two eggs when the recipe calls for one or two eggs, use melted butter, not canola oil, and fry the pancakes in a layer of animal fat to get the edges crispy – bacon or duck fat preferably.

Bestie: Bringing the Sausage Party to Chinatown

I met Dane Brown last August at the Gastown Cask Carouse where he told me about his new restaurant Bestie, which means beast in German and “best friend” in teenage girl. Bestie is billed as Chinatown’s finest currywurst and it surely will become so when it opens, since I know of no other currywurst venues in Chinatown (or in Vancouver).  They plan to sell local versions of German street food such as fresh baked pretzels, organic sausage, and Berlin street treat currywurst (I previously wrote about currwurst here), accompanied by local craft beer.  When I asked Dane what beer they had lined up he indicated they planned to serve Driftwood, hopefully something from the new Brassneck Brewery, and a German lager.

I was reminded of Bestie today when a colleague shared their innovate indiegogo campaign with me today.  They are pre-selling sausages for their early 2013 opening via Magic Sausage Cards.  Their campaign started today and, at the time of writing, has already sold $3325 of their $10000 allotment!  I imagine most of this money is going towards finishing construction and setting up shop.  Pretty great way to raise seed money, eh?

Bestie Magic Sausage Card Campaign from Bestie on Vimeo.

When I talked to Dane in the summer, he told me they planned to open Bestie in late October.  Since that hasn’t happened yet,  I reached out to Dane to see what’s the what (unsecrectly hoping they were having trouble getting a liquor license, so I could complain about the process).  He said getting the necessary building permits took way longer than expected and “more than anything we were just optimistically naive about the process and the timeline.”  Well, I appreciate the optimism and I hope it works out because I’ve pre-bought myself some sausage.

Cheers,

Chris

The Great Vancouver Pizza Explosion

Pizza has exploded in Vancouver.  I’m not talking about standard, run of the mill, delivered to your door in less than 20 minutes or it’s free pizza, many of which still claim to be made with 100%  real cheese –  since when was fake cheese an option?  I am talking about the wave of 90 second Neapolitan pies that are quickly becoming the new pizza norm.

I’ve posted many times about pizza and beer inVancouver. I started with Marcello’s on Commercial Drive, where they have been making thin crust pizza long before it was in fashion.  The pizza here is good and was arguably one of the best pizzerias in Vancouver for a number of years.

I then moved on to Incendios West (now closed) and The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, hoping to find the best pizza Vancouver had to offer.  I was excited about both locations, the beer menus looked good  and so did the pizza. The crust at Incendios West fell flat - under-baked, gummy and a bit soggy. RockyMountain, it turns out, doesn’t use salt – enough said.  I’ve heard from a number of trustworthy sources that Incendios Gastown location has stepped things up since a fire, which gutted the restaurant a few years back, forced them to restart.

Then along came Nicli Antica Pizzera in Gastown. Things changed after Antica Pizzeria opened.  People started to crave Neapolitan pizza.  Foodies began to talk, all of them claiming to have found the best 90 second pie in town. Restaurateurs took notice.  And now Vancouver is a pizza town.

I am more obsessed with pizza than ever before.  I overheard a friend of friend, whom I met just hours earlier, visually describe the chewy naan-like crust at a new pizzeria on Commercial Drive last night. I may have told this near stranger that I loved him – perhaps I came on a little strong?

I am going out for pizza tonight.   I am probably going to visit two places – Pizza Farina and Viva Tevera Pizzaria.  Yes, two pizza place in one evening may be a bit excessive, but what is life without a little excess now and again?

Want great pizza in Vancouver? Check out some of these places:

Nicli Antica Pizzaria – Makers of what many consider to the best pizza in town (I am one of the many).  The beer is good and the pizza is out of this world.  The ambiance is a bit stuffy for Gastown, but when the pizza is as good it is, ambiance doesn’t really matter.

Red Card – If you like sports, good beer and pizza you will like Red Card.  Rick Green, local food and beer aficionado, turned me on to Red Card.  The pizza is heavily charred, in a good way, and the craft beer selection is a big plus.  Possibly the best foodie and beer geek friendly sports bar inVancouver.

Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and EnotecaThe pizza here is good, delicately chewy crust with a healthy char and traditional Italian toppings.  Located right next to Rogers Arena, Verace Pizzeria is a great pace to go before a game.  Be warned; arrive early on game days if you want a seat.

The Golden Boot – Located in Coquitlam, The Golden Boot makes what may be the best pizza outside of the Vancouver core.  Probably not worth the drive if you live more than 30 minutes away, but if you happen to be in the area and have an urge to eat good food it is worth a stop.

Viva Tevera PizzeriaI have heard great things about Viva Tevera, but never been.  Having recently opened their doors just weeks ago the wait to get a table can exceed 90 minutes.  Viva Tevera is one of the two pizza stops for tonight!

UPDATE:

Viva Tevera Pizzeria was good. The crust was chewy but also a bit dense. The flavours were a bit heavy and didn’t allow the the distinct taste of each ingredient (cheese, tomato, basil etc) to come through. Overall an enjoyable experience and in a very interesting part of Vancouver. But not the best. I’d still give that to Nicli Antica Pizzeria.

Pizzeria Farina - One of my most trusted food sources tells me that Pizza Farina makes the best crust inVancouver.  After this evenings pizza adventure I hope to confirm or deny this lofty claim.

UPDATE:  

Pizzeria Farina impressed me. Not as traditionally Italian as the others (which doesn’t really matter), but very well made pizza  -  fantastic dough/crust.   The restaurant, although very small, was inviting. I’ll be back.

Cheers,

Erik