It is no longer a challenge to find a restaurant or pub in Vancouver that offers a good selection of craft beer, thanks in part to the efforts of CAMRA Vancouver for helping promote a craft beer culture in Vancouver. It is also not a challenge to find great food in Vancouver. Those who live in the Vancouver area are fortunate enough to enjoy a food & drink culture that is diverse, and for the most part, unpretentiousness and affordable. Although at times this unpretentious laid-back approach to food migrates so far from an exclusive haute cuisine experience that an establishment once again develops and air of exclusivity where entry is determined by the tightness of ones pants and the number of speeds on ones bicycle (one is preffered). Do keep in mind that these comments, particularly the latter, come from a kid born and raised in the sticks and still living in the backwoods of Vancouver’s quiet suburbia.
Restaurants come and go. The successful establishments rise above their competitors and remain standing by either continually adapting their menu to remain current with foods trends or transitioning themselves into a local institution that resists change but maintains a high level of service and food. I will travel a good distance for a good meal, but it is somewhat rare that I will return a second time. The options in this city are too great to not try something new. But occasionally a place worthy of a second visit emerges. And if the second visit impresses, the second will quickly turn into a third and so on.
Uli’s, a long-standing White Rock establishment has managed to win my business time and again simply by offering good beer and consistently delicious food in an unpretentiousness atmosphere. I have been a semi-regular at Uli’s for over two years and the quality of the food has continued to rise with every visit and the selection of beer has remained seasonal and well thought out. I now find myself close to being a regular.
Uli Blume, restaurant founder, has passed the daily operations over to his son Tyson. After sitting at a table for only a few minutes it becomes clear that Tyson has a passion for what he does and takes time to personally ensure that his customers enjoy their dinning experience. He also has love for good beer and keeps the cellar well stocked as the seasons change. Tyson and a number of team members approach and serve beer from the perspective of true fans continually searching for the next best beer. Tyson is always happy to chat about his current favourites and what he would suggest.
Instead of offering a large quantity of craft beer on tap, Uli’s has opted for a limited selection of draft beer with a well stocked and regularly rotating bottle selection. The most recent selection includes two Saisons from Fantome (both delicious) and the Westvleteren 8 and 12, the latter being a hard to find Trappist ale.
The menu is typical Westcoast fare with a number of modernized European classics. The dishes are not over-the -top creative, but are always flavourful and cleanly platted. The most popular item on the menu seems to be the 2.0 burger, which is easily one of the of tastiest burgers I have ever had. It seems one of every two plates arriving at a dinner table is the 2.0 burger. The burger alone is enough to warrant visiting, but it’s the combination of good food and good beer that will keep me coming back.
A new authentic Neapolitan pizzeria recently opened in Vancouver. Located in Gastown, this new eatery is home to a traditional wood-fired pizza oven capable of producing the coveted 90 second pie. It takes a hot oven to bake a pizza in 90 seconds; 900F is the magic number, and Nicli Antica Pizzaria’s oven is more than capable of this temperature. The modern pizza originates from Napoli and the Specialità Tradizionale Garantita stipulates that authentic Neoplitan pizza must be formed by hand and baked in a hot oven at 900F for approximately 90 seconds.
Gastown is home to some of Vancouver’s best foodie destinations and many of these establishments offer a great selection of craft beer. I am completely obsessed with good pizza, and nothing pairs better with good pizza than good beer. I was over the top excited to a see a new pizzeria open in Gastown knowing that good beer should be available.
We visited Nicli Antica Pizzeria that past weekend and I can say this is the best pizza in Vancouver, bar none. The pizza arrives at your table, in a perfectly imperfect circular shape, with a lightly charred and blistered crust. The pie has a crispy exterior while remaining chewy and tender on the inside. The chef follows the less is more approach and tops his pizza with the perfect amount of flavourful, cheeses, tomatoes, Italian cured meats and other traditional Italian pizza toppings. Delicious.
The drink list boasts a small but good selection of craft beer. Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, which compliments a thin crust pizza excellently, and R&B Bohemian Lager are both available on draught. A number of other beers are also available in bottle form.
Nicli Antica Pizzeria makes the best pizza in Vancouver. With craft beer on the drink menu this new Pizzeria is hard to beat. I would encourage anyone who appreciates good food to make their way to Nicli Antica Pizzeria as soon as possible.
The weather in England is getting rather cold, dark, and generally grim. We thought we still had time for one last weekend foray and only realised we were wrong while freezing our asses off in Canterbury. We went to visit the Cathedral, which was pretty cool, but we had more fun at The Goods Shed. It’s a farmer’s market, foodhall, and restaurant rolled into one awesome culinary experience. Turns out it’s also the best non cathedral part of Canterbury, maybe even better.
When we walked into The Goods Shed, conveniently located right beside the main train station, we were blown away. It was cozy and warm and full of awesome, fresh, local food. There was a butcher, a fishmonger, a cheese guy, a baker, a chocolate guy, a pastry guy, a wine guy, a produce guy, and, most importantly, a beer guy selling local beer. I didn’t buy any of the beer because I didn’t want to carry it around all day, but I did have a taste (and a delicious burger) at the attached restaurant. I had Green Daemon Helles lager from a local Kentish brewery called Hopdaemon. I’ve come across far too few English lagers (it’s mostly heineken, peroni, and stella when it comes to lager hereabouts) and I was pleaseantly surprised by Green Daemon. It had actual flavour.
Every town needs its own version of The Goods Shed. Check out crappy iPhone photos below.
Green Daemon Lager from The Goods Shed
The view from The Goods Shed restaurant
Local produce in The Goods Shed
Local beer selection at The Goods Shed
Steak tastes better with wine than beer. I do not care how passionately Garrett Oliver argues that the rich roasted malt flavour in an English Porter compliments the charred caramelized exterior of a grilled piece of beef. Cabernet Sauvignon is king when it comes to steak. Beer is certainly not offensive alongside steak, but it is just not number one. Steak Sandwich on the other hand, is a whole different story.
A steak sandwich is beautiful thing and can be tasty a pub staple. But sadly this sandwich is often times massacred by a passionless line cook who places a thin cheap slice of beef on a soggy piece of garlic bread which is than called a steak sandwich – tragic. A proper steak sandwich, that combines crispy fried onions, toasted bread, a 21 day dry-aged (minimum) piece of beef and perhaps a thin layer a blue cheese compound butter with hint of grainy mustard, stands firmly in a beer territory. Wine simply cannot handle these diverse flavour combination, but beer can.
The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the world’s most talented brewmasters; many specializing in hop heavy ales. The relatively new style of beer known as a Cascadian Dark Ale is the perfect match for a Steak Sandwich. The Cascadian Dark Ale is in essence a brown ale or porter combined with the hop profile of an IPA. The roasted malt flavours in this new beer compliment a charred steak while the crisp hop flavours balance the power of blue cheese and the sweetness of fried onions. The Cascadian Dark Ale was brewed for the steak sandwich.
Over the weekend I decided that it was time to work towards creating the ultimate steak sandwich. Here is the recipe from my first attempt:
- Thinly slice an onion into rings (a shallot may work even better) and coat with a mixture of half flour and half cornstarch. Let the rings sit until ready for frying.
- Heat frying oil to 360 F in a pot with high sides and fry the onions until golden brown.
The Compound Butter
- Mix together half room temperate butter and half blue cheese.
- Season the steak with salt and pepper (be heavy handed with the salt and pepper) and grill to medium rare. My choice of steak for this is the T-bone as it combines both the strip loin and the tenderloin and when sliced and mixed together the flavours and textures of the two cuts work well together. If the steak is not dry aged for at least 21 days it is no good. My butcher in Langley, Heritage Meats, dry ages their beef for 30 days and although it is pricey, it is worth it. If your butcher can’t tell you how long they hang their beef I suggest you shop somewhere else.
- Let the steak rest for 3-4 minutes and thinly slice the steak. Pour any resting juices over the sliced steak.
- Grill slices of quality bread (not Wonder Bread) over high heat until lightly charred. Rub a clove of garlic over the grilled bread – this will give a nice garlic flavour to the bread.
- Thinly spread the compound butter on the bottom of the toasted bread. Spread a very thin layer of grainy mustard on the top (the lid) of the sandwich.
- Place the steak slices on the bread with the compound butter.
- pile the crispy fried onion over the steak
- pile fresh arugula or any other flavourful salad greens over the onions
- Close the sandwich and enjoy – some people like an open faced sandwich and omit the lid, which is fine I suppose.
- Enjoy with any dark hoppy beer. My choice was Deschutes Hop in the Dark. This is a delicious beer brewed by one of my favourite brewers.
Back in the colonies one of my favorite breweries is doing something extremely rad. Central City is offering a bacon tasting menu all September using bacon cured with their own beer. The three course menu only costs $35 and features bacon and corn cakes paired with Red Racer Lager, country bacon terrine with Red Racer ESB, and maple chocolate bacon cheesecake prepared with Red Racer Stout. Can you believe that? A three course meal and beer pairings for $35 based on bacon, the world’s most delicious food (fat and salt, mmmm)! I might have to fly back for this.