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Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Month: April 2021

Pizzeria Grano, #PizzaChallengeYVR 2021

Amidst the new restaurant regulations of April 2021, and the need to support the hospitality industry more than ever, Vancouver Foodster’s #PizzaChallengeYVR is giving foodies and pizza aficionados a reason to dine in on patios and take out at home. And as one of the 3 judges, I have been tasked to visit each competing restaurant, to try each creation; then pick my favourite based on Taste, Originality, and Presentation. And as diners, you are invited to do the same, voting online for your favourite, to be crowned the people’s choice.

Today I was at Pizzeria Grano on Main Street, the vegan restaurant, who is highlighting their Patate al Forno for the competition. Grano prides itself on preparing traditional Neapolitan pizza, which includes utilizing properly hand-stretched dough that is traditionally topped, then baked in their domed shaped brick oven. The result, a delicious crust and the ideal base for their plant-based menu. 

Their competing pizza features a cashew bechamel base with whipped potato, cashew mozzarella; and is finished with crispy bacun bits, chives and their house-made sour cream. I likened it to a deconstructed baked potato over airy pizza dough. I liked the idea, but would have preferred the potatoes baked firm to better contrast the crispy dough. Though the flavours were all there: with the refreshing chives and the “bacun’s” smokiness being the highlight. I just wished there was more of the latter, and in larger chunks to easily make out and provide that contrasting texture I was looking for above.

We also tried the Tartufo pizza, which is my guest’s favourite pizza from Grano. For those who need their cheese dairy-free and love the strength of flavour that truffle provides, this one is for you. Roasted garlic purée, olive oil,  cashew mozzarella, crimini mushrooms, truffle pate, and parsley. You got exactly what you expected with this one and then some. No complaints, just a top notch mushroom pizza. I can see why this is her favourite.

I was more enamoured by the Eggplant Parmesan. I have only just tried this fdish or the very first time, here. Baked layers of roasted eggplant with marinara sauce, walnut pesto, and cashew ricotta; served with house made focaccia. Upon first blush impression it reminded me of a vegetable version of lasagna with the layered thin slices of eggplant, and marinara sauce thickly coating it, all baked to order. This was super tasty, the perfect sauce to scoop up with the pieces of in house baked focaccia on the side. I would gladly take this out any day and would come back for more when they are allowed to seat patrons indoors again.

Overall Pizzeria Grano is a gem, vegan or not, they prepare delicious pizzas and are worth checking out for yourself for pizza that you will try and crave for again in the future!

Pizzeria Grano
3240 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3M5
(604) 876-5408
pizzeriagrano.com

Sciué Yaletown, #PizzaChallengeYVR 2021

Restaurants may be forced to shutter and dining-in is no longer an option; but luckily takeout is a go and pizza continues to be one of the easiest to do just that with. And this strange year, I am once again helping to judge Vancouver Foodster’s annual #PizzaChallengeYVR. Local restaurants are invited to pit their pizzas against one another, in hopes of finding the best in the city. And as it was for previous years, you are invited to try all the pizza competitors, then vote for your favourite as people’s choice winner. As a judge, I will be trying each myself and critiquing them on Taste (20 points), Originality and Uniqueness (10 points), and Presentation and Appearance (10 points).

And today, my first pizza stop in the challenge was Sciué. Their Yaletown location has erected a tent and is seating would-be cafe goers outdoors, under covered, kept warmed by heat lamps. And as soon as the weather gets sunnier, these plastic walls will come down, and their tables over cobblestone will become a hot spot.

With a handful of locations available, I am surprised that I am only just now visiting the chain. Everything is available for point and order within the cafe. Stacks of sandwiches, towers of dessert bars, and rectangular pizza available by the slice. We would start with their challenge pizza, and the reason why we came down in the first place, then explore the rest of the menu a la carte.

Their pizza is authentic Roman Style Pizza, similar to those found in the pizzerias of Rome. It is notably cooked straight on stone to enhance its flavour, and is served by the weight you choose. In hindsight, I wish we tried more than just one of their pizza offerings, as it was definitely my favourite out of everything that we had.

The La Ligure Nera is available by the slice, or as a whole pizza to go. Created by their Chef, as a tribute to his hometown of Liguria, in the Italian region. This striking pie combines traditional ingredients like pesto, roasted potatoes, and green beans with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil; then piles it atop a charcoal activated dough. Visually, this one is stunning, a pizza with a crust like no other. The hue allows the greens to pop all the more. Not to mention, when was the last time you saw green beans on pizza? As a fan of this vegetable, this was an extra treat to eat. As for taste, it felt more like a flatbread than pizza. Great seasoned and tender vegetables pair with a slightly dry breading. Though truth be told, we came later in the day and didn’t want to put the staff out by getting them to make a fresh pizza for us. Especially when there was plenty waiting behind glass, only needing a reheating. Worth noting is that the highlight was the perfect olive oil and herb seasoned potatoes, and they are featured on their everyday brunch menu (from 8am-3pm). Worth visiting for more alone.

Seeing as they make all their bread/dough in house, I wanted to try one of their paninis. However they were out of chicken on this day, and my first and second options were off the table. So instead we took their suggestion and went for the Focaccia Al Crudo. House made rosemary focaccia with proscuitto crudo, bocconcini, and mixed greens. It is toasted to order for melty cheese and crispy bread. Although, I wished that they added the greens in after the toasting so that they wouldn’t be wilted as they were here. This was my second favourite menu item of the night.

Ideally, I wanted to pair the above with one of their soups for dipping into. I was hoping for a rich and creamy, tangy tomato based one; and thought that was what I was getting with their minestrone soup of the day. However, it turns out that what I was imagining was the North American take on the classic soup. Whereas the traditional Italian version is sans tomato and is a more cabbage focused broth with plenty of hearty boiled vegetables resting at the bottom. Sadly no good for dipping, and not for me. Maybe more salt and seasoning would have helped in this regard?

Similar in critique was the Nonna Maria Lasagna. A beef lasagna with mozzarella, parmesan, bechamel, and Sciué’s rustic tomato sauce. It was cozy and comforting with its softened texture. Whereas I prefer a more flavourful bake with additional salt and seasoning; coupled with firmer noodles and crispier edges from burnt gooey cheese. This was good, but not quite what I was expecting. In hindsight I should have done some additional research, realizing this was not classic Italian style cuisine, but Roman instead?

And when visiting a more authentic Italian restaurant, you must not leave without trying their coffee. A couple of fulsome lattes with stunning art hit the spot.

In short, this is a fantastic option for a quick and tasty bite, with great service and a lovely set up in Yaletown. I will definitely have to return to try their brunch menu and pick up more of their fun Italian candy that taste like liquor, without the actual alcohol content.

Sciué Yaletown
126 Davie Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2V4
(604) 689-7263
sciue.ca

Planetary Burger

Looking for a quick bite on Main Street, we stumbled upon and in to Planetary Burger, know for their plant-based burger, fries, and shakes. The smaller shoppe is ideal for take out and go, as your neighbourhood fast food option, without the excess grease.

Their menu is on the smaller side with 4 salad options, 5 choices in shakes made from cashew or coconut milk, 4 types of burgers, and 3 differently dressed type of fries; plus 4 new sides. We ordered 2 burgers and 3 sides to get a good scope of their menu, taking it all home to eat.

The Cauli Spice burger was a cauliflower and chickepea patty seasoned with cumin and parsley, topped with chipotle mayo. Each burger also comes with lettuce, tomato, onions, and red relish. The patty had a good substantial chew to it, with a nice zesty flavour. And as a whole, the burger ate hearty and finished with a spicy note at its end.

The Shroom Dip was bland by comparison. Mushrooms, roasted garlic, oregano, and caramelized onions; topped with garlic mayo and a side of gravy. The latter was completely necessary for flavour and sumptuousness. Other than that, this was not so memorable, I preferred the sides below as a meal, instead.

The Chili Cheeze Fries were crispy fries topped with chili, shredded cheeze (vegan), and green onion. I liked how fresh they ate and how similar their vegan rendition of chilli ate to ground beef.

Just as tasty was the Poutine, prepared with more crispy fries, gravy, shredded cheeze, and green onion. It begins with quality ingredients and you could taste the quality in the potatoes used. Most surprising was how stringy and creamy the dairy-free cheeze ate.

Taste wise, the Fried Brussels Sprouts topped with dairy-free parm, avocado drizzle and green onion was my favourite out of the lot. However I just wanted them cut down to smaller bites, for a more even distribution of vegetable to creamy sauce.

Overall this was a great option for vegan fast food, that ate like it, but didn’t taste like it.

Planetary Burger
3088 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3G5
(604) 873-2559
planetaryburger.com

Cooking and Cocktail Crafting with @fruitsfromchile.

#fruitfromchilecanada

With spring flowers comes the Chilean fruit harvest. And with the newest restrictions on restaurants, comes the need to cook and create on your own. So when at my local Real Canadian Superstore I looked to Chile’s grapes and plums to spark my creativity.

Plums and grapes are available from December to April thanks to Chile’s counter seasonal harvest. Meaning that when it is winter here it is summer in Chile and we get to enjoy the fruits for their labour in the Northern Hemisphere. And fun fact, Chile is the main plum supplier in the South Hemisphere. Similarly, at this time of the year majority of the grapes we enjoy comes from Chile.

So I gathered a bushel of large green table grapes, hoping for a more tart taste and likewise some firm black plums. The goal, to utilize these fruits in a savoury dish, instead of the usual desserts that they are featured in.

Here are tips on how to pick the perfect grapes from @fruitfromChile

  • Select ones that are firm, plump, and attached to the stems
  • Look for consistent colouring. Stems should be green and flexible
  • Any powdery-white coating on the grapes is bloom, and perfectly safe to eat. Bloom is a naturally occurring substance that protects grapes from moisture loss and decay
  • Avoid sticky, mouldy, or shriveled grapes and dry and brittle stems

Here are tips on how to pick the perfect plums from @fruitfromChile:

  • Chilean plums at this time of year have a firmer crunchier texture
  • You don’t want the plums to be super soft
  • A slightly firmer is ideal
  • To ripen plums, place them in a brown paper bag for 1-2 days and store at room temperature
  • Storing them in the refrigerator will slow down the ripening process

And now that we have all our supplies, here is what we came up with and how you can replicate this recipe yourself.

Given that pork is already notoriously known for being a good pairing with fruit in the form of apples, we decided to do a pork chop in plum sauce instead. And to roast our grapes with root vegetables, for an added level of flavour. I like purchasing my meat from Save On Foods, where you can also get your grapes and plums from as well.

Wash then roast nugget potatoes and heirloom carrot in the oven. No need to dress either. Roast both until tender and a fork easily pierces them. I like the look of these colourful ones.

Further cook potatoes in a cast iron pan with olive oil. Brown on both sides. Then toss with garlic and butter. Finish with fresh chopped dill. The herbaceous of the dill offsets the sweetness of the fruit.

Remove heirloom carrots from the oven. further cook in a pan with butter. Simmer and add in sliced chilean table grapes. Sauté with sliced garlic, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In the meanwhile, slice plums and simmer in a pan with water. Keep an eye on this and add more water as needed. You are looking for a softened paste with a chunky consistency. Or you can cook everything down and strain for a more smooth liquid sauce.

Prepare pork chops by making cuts along its edges. This ensures that the meat doesn’t curl up, and continues to lay flat as you cook. Heavily season with salt and pepper on both sides. If you think it is enough add two more churns of your pepper and/or salt mill, or another pinch or two by hand.

Heat quality olive oil in a cast iron pan. Place chops in pan. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Use tongs to help brown edges as well. Allow pork to rest, we suggest a bowl for easier pooling of excess blood and juices.

Then pull it all together. The key to plating is vegetables first and piling them high. Then laying the featured protein over it before dressing it with garnishes and additional seasoning.

And to further extend your fruit, you can also incorporate it into cocktails to pair with your meal. Choose your spirit and mix muddle fruit with a carbonated beverage over ice.

Fruit is a healthy and easy way to add flavour and sugar into any food or drink. Look to seasonal offerings to inspire your next meal.

#fruitfromchilecanada

Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza

As soon as I heard that Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza was offering a durian pizza, I had to bee-line it towards their Richmond location for a try. As a tropical girl, and a fan of the uniquely pungent fruit, I am always in search of having durian in new and exciting applications. From liquor to ice cream, candy and cookies, the latest durian makeover is for pizza.

Walking into the small store front you are forced to smell the gasoline-like fragrance of the fruit. There is no masking it behind the corrugated cardboard box it comes in. The pizza is basically the traditional base with bready crust, a little marinara, and cheese to start. Then dollops of pulled durian fruit scattered around to finish.

Having it fresh and warm, you get more of the regular savoury cheese flavour from your pizza. Allowing it to cool or sit overnight in the fridge before biting down, gives you a more sweet durian flavour. This isn’t one you would crave, but definitely one for the fans and one you won’t soon be forgetting. I highly recommend giving it a try as one of my new favourite durian applications to date.

The impressive taste above was enough to have me returning the week after. Back again, but this time to try their some of their regular offerings. If such an oddity was so good, then what they sell on the regular should be that much better, no?

When it comes to pizza they have all the regular offerings of pepperoni, Hawaiian, and deluxe. However, in order to get a true taste of their abilities I went for “The Ultimate”, which came with a warning online. Declared only for those with an appetite, and I can see why. Pretty much all the available toppings seem to have made it on to one pizza, and it works. Pepperoni, ham, sausage, shrimp, mushroom, green peppers, tomatoes, red onions, olives, and pineapple; all over the classic marinara sauce base with melted cheese. Guaranteed to leave you feeling full, this laundry list all works. Fresh ingredients and a flavourful recipe made up the foundation of a pretty stand out pie.

However, it was the sides that impressed me more. I wasn’t expecting the likes of fried chicken and potato wedges to be as good as they were from a pizza place, but they were, if not better. The “Broaster” chicken is honestly one of the best fried chickens I have had to date, in the Lower Mainland. It delivers on its printed promise of being “fresh, tender & juicy”. And it indeed “flat out tastes better than ordinary fried chicken”. And the reason is, “Broasted chicken” is oil fried, within a pressure fryer. Have devoured my dark meat drum, I would recommend Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza for the chicken alone.

And what is fried chicken without a potato side to accompany it. And these wedges were the perfect pairing. Like the chicken, they are crispy on the outside, with a soften centre. Plenty of flavour and the perfect amount of salt. Good as is, but great with ketchup to help change the taste, as needed.

In short, don’t let the name fool you, more than just pizza. With pizza worth paying full price for. I have already said it, but here it is again: the name does not do them justice.

Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza
108-8531 Alexandra Rd, Richmond, BC V6X1C3
(604) 270-9999
order.canadian2for1pizza.com

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