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Farina a Legna, brunch

With all that is going on with COVID-19 restaurants and the hospitality industry are doing their best in these times to stay a float. Remaining open and making money, without being able to pay their staff or serve a gathering of customers in their physical restaurants. Social distancing and staying at home is encouraged, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy good food from your favourite establishments. An initiative to serve local business by serving customers from the comfort of their own homes. Spearheaded by local marketing company SMC, meant to support local businesses through an initiative called “breaking bread now”.

What started off as a noble attempt to continue to reassure the community with the highest of cleaning and hygiene standards, has now transformed into take out menus. And “Farina” is offering their food to go from Wednesday to Sunday, between 4-9pm. Wherein you are able to place your order via phone at 604-980-3300.

Here is their full messaging on the situation, as taken from their website.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO OUR VALUED GUESTS:

Due to the uncertain conditions in our community, we are taking measures above the requirements mandated by the government and have made the decision to close the dining rooms of all of our restaurants. The health and safety of our staff, customers and people in our community is our top priority.

IN THE MEANTIME – We are doing our best to help those who can’t get groceries, or want to avoid the crowds, by offering takeout friendly menus. We will keep you informed over social media as things progress and more details are available.

Please know that we are listening intently to the advice from government and health authorities and are taking all extra precautions in sanitation and cleanliness to ensure everything and everyone is safe. As things change we will keep you informed.

We thank you all for your patronage – friends, guests and staff, and we look forward to having you dine with us in person again on the other side of this.

I have yet to try this abbreviated take out menu, but I can speak to the skill of their chef and the quality of food through the limited run they had of their new brunch. Naturally, the following won’t be available, but I am choosing to still cover the full experience, as hope of things to return.

A couple of weeks back we were the first ones in for the launch of their new brunch menu, at their North Vancouver location. This would be the last restaurant I dined at for a while.

This Italian cafe has a causal charm to it. Checkered floors, wooden tables and chairs, green booths and furniture, and colourful posters set a modern tone. The menu takes inspiration from their wood oven, which is the heart of their kitchen. All dishes were designed to be shared family-style, with a selection of antipasti, risotto, pasta, and pizza.

The following is what we had on that day that now feels so long, long ago.

They have a bar/pastry counter right up front, when you enter. It tempts and teases for those who find themselves waiting on one of the benches in the foyer, across from it. From behind a glass showcase you can pick and chose your sweet treat. All great on their own, but better paired with any of their speciality coffees.

We sampled from a platter that included a chocolate and nut brownie, a blueberry cake, a flaky croissant, and a jam tart. The chocolate brownie was dense, not too sweet, with a surprise crunch from the bits of nuts that you find hidden within. The blueberry was your typical coffee cake. A mild flavour with a dryer texture, ideal for nibbling on with a side of coffee that you can use to moisten the slice. I liked the butteriness of the tart, along with its maple accented filling and shortbread crust. It was extra cute with the pastry stars on top of thin jam layer. But out of the four, the croissant was my favourite. Its shell was crispy layers that flaked off to reveal a soft cakey centre. A centre that was spongy with a sweet orange and almond flavour, punctuated by the sweetness of cinnamon and sugar. I would come back just to take this out.

I am not a coffee drinker, but I appreciate the way they present theirs. Fluffy foam tops, dainty espressos with perfect milk drawn hearts, and even a dessert option that offers a shot of espresso with custard cream.

The latter was just as much a dessert as it was a pick me up. One that I recommend, even as a non-avid coffee drinker. This one isn’t on regular menu, you only get it with a special secret menu request. You fold whipped custard into thick coffee, and gobble it all up with a spoon. It has a similar sensation to tiramisu.

For something a lot more boozier, order one of their mimosas made with fresh squeezed orange juice, or the classic citrus diced aperol spritz. Both a served in glasses with an additional bottle on the side, for an at the table refill.

Even during brunch their wood fire pizza is fully utilized. One of their thin crust pizza becomes more breakfast friendly with the addition of a sunny side up egg at its centre. This is aptly named the “breakfast pizza” with white sauce, pancetta and a soft egg. The crust had a great stone baked crunch to it. It was delightful as is, and given more panache with the a sprinkle of either their own chilli or oregano infused olive oil.

For the vegetarians you can get it without the pork, and instead plenty of mushrooms for an earthy mouthful. Both are equally delicious and worth trying.

One of my favourite dishes was their “Italian Benny” featuring house made focaccia. It is topped with a pomodoro sauce, two perfectly poached eggs, and parmigiano reggiano. And served with a evenly dressed side salad of arugula and crispy polenta. The tang of the saucy tomato was best exemplified by the herbaceous, spongy bread. This was a great take on a classic that I found myself preferring to the English muffin Benny; it is all in the bread. And its side of polenta was no slough either, it was light and almost eggy with a delicious mix of Italian seasonings. For a bit of freshness look to bites of peppery greens in between. The gluten free polenta is a great substitution that didn’t have me missing the typical breakfast accompaniment of hash browns.

And what is Italian food without pasta? At “Farina” there are 2 options available for breakfast, both are worth exploring. Featuring perfectly done noodles that is not only fun to chew through, but overall highly satisfying as well. The “pesto genovese” was a vegan option that doesn’t leave you missing meat. Basil pesto, roasted garlic, pine nuts, and parmigiano reggiano. Fragrant and herbaceous with a most enjoyable, springy chew. Writing about it now makes me wish I had a bowl before me.

This was only second to the “carbonara” pasta with guanciale, egg yolk, pecorino Romano, and black pepper. A sumptuous serving of el dente noodles that are made decadently luscious with thick cream and runny yolk. Silken, creamy, and peppery; beautifully done. So good you keep wanting to wrap your mouth around it. Fun to slurp and toss between your tongue and teeth.

Another vegan and gluten free option is the “mushroom frittata” topped with pesto and parmigiano reggiano. Served with crispy polenta and fresh arugula. It is basically a mushroom omelette. It had a light egginess to it, with the great texture of squishy mushrooms to gnaw through. Good, but bland by comparison to everything else before and after.

For a little more of anything, there are sides you can add to perk up any serving. We sampled the thick cut, salty guanciale bacon and their red wine fennel sausage. Both salty as is, but added a nice heartiness to our meal over all.

Moving on to sweet breakfast offerings, everyone was enamoured by the “Nutella toast”. It featured their own house made chocolate and hazelnut chocolate spread, topped with roasted banana jam, vanilla whipped ricotta, fresh berries, and toasted hazelnut. This was a gourmet, grown up version of Nutella that wasn’t too sweet, it allowed all the other toppings to have their moment on the spongy, cake-like bread. The bread was also slightly salty, well highlighting the tart fruit, and airy creams. I am not a fan of sweet things, but did appreciate this.

It was recommend that we end with the pannettone as the sweetest of all the plates. Not enough as a solo serving, but great as a dessert you don’t want to share. “Zabaglione”, an airy and sweet pannettone with sweet custard to dip into and fresh fruit to enjoy with.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I was floored by the consistency and quality of everything we had at brunch. There was nothing major that I didn’t like or anything that I would want to change. When they reopen, I highly suggest making them one of our first brunch destinations, as you will not regret it. I can still remember the flavours of everything we had clearly, which made me want to try each menu during all their seatings, and now their take out. Don’t deny your cravings.

Ragazzi Pizza Co., #LasagnaChallengeYVR

My duties as one of Vancouver Fooster’s Best Lasagna judges has brought me down to “Ragazzi” in East Vancouver. I am actually familiar with the corner pizza shop, having my parent’s house located in the area. But it has been forever since I have laid eyes on “Ragazzi”, so it was so great to catch up and watch how they have flourish over the years, during this visit.

They serve a community with the likes of a public library, community centre, fire hall, and retirement centre; all surrounding it. Many of the visitors today were kids coming in after school or after their extra curriculars. Parents, groups of teen, and single folk looking for an easy dinner solution, with leftovers to serve as another meal.

It was a smaller space with order by the slice options by the window, to take to-go or quickly dine in. As well as a full menu with pizza and pasta that is baked to order. We grabbed a booth seat at the back and casually conversed as we waited for our meal. The flat screen televisions provided something to look at.

Seeing it, I was immediately impressed by the size of the serving of the vegetarian lasagna. I found my mouth watering up, looking at the even layers of tender noodle, gooey cheese, and melty spinach. It smelled and tasted exactly like what I envisioned when I anticipated lasagna for dinner. A classically done casserole that hits all the comfort bites with its salty and tangy notes, without the need for any ground meat. This is one you would crave again.

I was here to judge their lasagna, but couldn’t walk away not trying their pizza. This is their classic margarita with a thick, yet airy crust, and a sweet tomato sauce. It is seasoned a little on the mild side between the mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. However, you can easily reach for any of their table top condiments. A squeeze bottle of hot sauce or ranch dressing and/or a shaker of chilli flakes or Parmesan cheese to customize each slice to your preference.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The whole neighbourhood can’t be wrong. A great spot to pick up a slice to snack on, but worth checking out for local hole in the wall charm. When you crave pizza and lasagna this is what hits that spot. Don’t deny your cravings.

RAGAZZI
2996 E 22nd Ave E, Vancouver, BC V5M 2Y4
(604) 433-2235
ragazzipizza.com

Sprezzatura Restaurant, #LasagnaChallengeYVR

Vancouver Foodster is back this month with another one of his food challenges. These challenges pit participating restaurants against one another, for best dish in a chosen category. This month it was lasagna, and as a lover of pasta and carbs in general, my skills and palette were called upon to be one of the three judges. The goal, visit all participating restaurants, try their entries, and declare a winner based on an accumulation of points between presentation, originality, and taste.

And for those not judging, you can get into the competition by visiting all participating restaurants yourself, trying each, and voting for your favourite online. The winner will be crowned the “people’s choice best lasagna”.

So today I was doing my duties, here at “Sprezzatura”, glad that I got a chance to visit for the first time. I don’t think I would have ever thought to come down otherwise, and would definitely be missing out as a result. Despite the size of the space, it is off the beaten path. Therefore you don’t often drive past it, opting to take the larger streets at either ends, instead.

It is a beautiful space in its industrial simplicity. There is plenty of breathing room between the vaulted ceilings and seating arrangement. Exposed ceilings overhead, concrete floors with checkered patterns underfoot, and glossy black and white tiles around. There was a collection of seating across the space. Like the more lounge-y area that also doubled as a cafe bar with high tops and a pantry-esque vibe.

In front of the open kitchen you can grab a seat with a view. Sit down on one of their marble table tops, paired with a metal and wooden chair that you would find at an outdoor cafe. Here, you can see their whole kitchen operation. Everything is made from scratch, in house, and cooked up within either of their two ovens. The first an individual cooker, the second a wood stone pizza oven. Therefore nothing on the menu is deep fried, grilled, or sautéed. And this lack of cooking options available doesn’t hinder them, but instead it gives them a very unique angle; furthering their brand of a local, unpretentious bistro.

We ended up grabbing a seat by the window with fun decals of pizza, cocktails, wine and cutlery. A nice nod to the food and whimsy that the space holds. It was in the corner, by yet another unique seating area. A nook with wooden benches and matching tables, soften with throw pillows. On the wall hung a collection of sketches and photos depicting historic sporting moments and wins. Here, I was able to chat with the general manager Gino, who described the setting as a “London gastro pub with an Italian summer menu”. He then walked us through the menu highlighting popular items and must tries from their 7 month old bistro. Which was helpful considering the menu doesn’t include photos or a way to underline the highlights.

Our visit coincided with their daily happy hour between 3-6pm, so we were sure to take advantage by ordering a couple of their specials. Like the meatballs at 50% off. They were also stressed as a must try by Gino. They were steamed with tomatoes, parmigiano, and basil. Bobbing in a cast iron pan with classic marinara sauce, the flavours were all familiar. A tasty bite, but I couldn’t help but long for the crispy edges that a cast iron would normally give.

During happy hour all pizzas are $5 off so we had to try one of those. They prepare traditional Neapolitan-style pizza that is commonly soft in middle with a nice chew all around. We were originally eyeing the roasted pork belly or sausage pizza. However Gino warned that it does get heavy with the meat, literally and figuratively, and what you actually want from a Neapolitan pizza is something that is light, not soft and soggy. So we ended up going for the mushroom pizza with Fior di latte, cremini, porcini, parmigiano, and truffle oil.

I watched the pizza come fresh out of the oven and get topped with cheese, and cut into slices with ease. It is served to you on a rack for space saving measures, or if you order multiple pies. The dough was beautifully blistered, light and chewy as promised with plenty of fragrant mushroom, but we didn’t get much truffle flavour come though. Either way deliciously done and just as tasty the day after as leftovers. Although during my return visit I would gravitate towards a more meatier pizza for more kick.

We thought about getting our pork belly fix as a roast, but we urged to get the roast chicken instead. That this boneless half chicken with only its wings attached, it is a favourite amongst the regulars and staff alike. It is cryovac-ed and marinated for 25 hours, before it is baked skin side down on a pan. The result, a unique display of balance of juicy chicken with extra crispy skin. It was good with the roasted herbed wedge potatoes on the side, as they added additional salt and zest to the dish. Tasty, but not as memorable as it was hyped up to be. Instead, it left me curious over how much more flavourful the pork belly or even their beer braised wagyu would be.

Walking in and smelling it in the air, I had to get an order of their vegetable side special of the day: the garlic and Parmesan Brussels sprouts. A side serving was the freshness we needed to balance everything out. But it wasn’t as crispy as I wanted them from the baking, and it only got wilted once it cooled down. So eat this first and fast. Ideal with the roasted chicken above. However, if you are looking for crispier vegetables, apparently the dressed twice arugula salad, with honey as the second coating is the one to get.

And now for their lasagna, and the reason why I was here in the first place. Given their cooking method, this Italian bistro is only able to offer two types of pasta dishes. A Mac and cheese casserole, or this, their “Porcini lasagna” with Fior di latte, cream, and rapini mushrooms. This isn’t your typical lasagna, it isn’t the type you think of when you consider layers of noodles in a pan with meat and cheese. I could deem this more of a gourmet rendition, built up for an adult palette. Not your typical tomato base, so you don’t get that tang. Instead it is a rich and earthy bite with decadent salty cheese. A lot on its own, you definitely want a side with it, to be able to change the taste in between bites. Very different. Not one you would crave, but one you would want to try.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great spot to host larger parties, I will definitely be suggesting this one to my family the next time they want to get together. Everything was familiar, yet different with slight twists and variations, to make the dining more interesting. I left full, but feeling healthier because everything was baked. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SPREZZATURA
265 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5T 3J5
(604) 876-6333
sprezzatura.ca

Marcello’s Pizza Roulette

Today we were here as a group, visiting the Commercial Drive staple, “Marcellos Ristorante”, better known for their pizza oven that resembles a stone face. A cozy space with dim lighting, a lively atmosphere, and a light fixture made from reused liquor bottles.

We were here for their newest pizza feature, “Pizza Roulette. For the entire month of November diners have the ability to order a pizza that eats more like a game. It is served on a spinning platter, and one by one your dinner party spins the wheel and which ever slice it lands on, you have to eat it. The goal is to avoid the super spicy slice that has a ghost pepper hidden on it. A pepper so spicy that your order comes with liabilities waivers and a glass of milk for the after math.

The roulette pizza is typically the “capriccio” pizza, but one of our table mates couldn’t have pork meat. So we decided to make our challenge vegetarian, thus allowing everyone to participate. We each got our slice and to everyone’s dismay, no one got any ghost pepper. A few of us felt a tingle of heat from some chilli oil, but other than that there were no tears, and no pain.

We were disappointed by the outcome, although the “vegetariana pizza” was delicious, so it wasn’t a total waste. There was plenty of flavour and textures with their thick tomato sauce, gooey globs of uneven melted mozzarella, chunks of artichokes, strips of green pepper, and plenty of mushrooms, and onion to go around.

Since we were here, we then decided to enjoy a full meal with our “Roulette Pizza”. We ordered the “Meal share pizza” to support those in need. For every medium “Marcellos” pizza ordered the restaurant will donate a simple and healthy meal to a youth in need. And since you are here anyways, why not order a pizza that passes it on, and does good for someone else?

It starts with the same light pizza base with airy and chewy crust that all their pizzas do. And to it they add their herbed tomato sauce, a healthy amount of mozzarella cheese, topped with anchovies, black olives, capers, and onion. Each bite was different thanks to the inconsistent chunks of whole olives mashed, and the haphazard scattering of the salty fish and punchy capers. Interesting, but my favourite flavour profile.

I much rather their gnocchi. Their handmade traditional potato and egg dumplings are available in 4 different sauces, our table got 3 of them. The “Al basilico e pancetta” has their hand made gnocchi sautéed in a basil sauce, and topped with crispy bacon. The first bite was the best, but the one toned flavour did grow tiresome. It is best to share this one, instead of dedicating yourself to the whole bowl. The bacon did help to change the taste, but it also added saltiness and greasiness to the dish. The latter was visible in the puddle of yellow oil that pooled at the bottom of the plate. I would have liked gently blistered cherry tomatoes here, something fresh and bright to lighten up the serving.

Out of all their gnocchi we tried, I preferred the “Pasticciati Gnocchi”. Here, their in house made gnocchi is sautéed in a cream and meat sauce. The result, a classic pasta flavour that comforts with familiar flavours. The only thing I would have liked was some crispy garlic bread to rejuvenate the plate in between bites; which also serves as a base to sop up and smear on all that delicious tangy and slightly sweet pasta sauce.

The “Ai quattro formaggi” gnocchi was the most visually appealing. Double cooked, these hand made gnocchi, was coated thick in a 4 cheese blend, then broiled to perfection for a crispy crust and a stringy cheese sensation. I expected something similar to Mac and cheese in taste, but with a gooier chew that melts under the pressure of your tongue. What we got was a very distinct cheese blend, that was blue cheese forward.

Everything was heavy so far, so the “Caesar salad” with its fresh romaine lettuce was a nice side. And at this size, it was more than enough to share between our table, family style. Although truth be told, with the generous amount of Caesar dressing that coated each leaf, this was far from refreshing.

But the best in helping to clean our palate was the tzatziki sauce that came as a dip to our calamari. “Calamari alla griglia”, grilled squid with peppers and kalamata black olive. What we thought was an appetizer sized side was once again large enough to share amongst the table. Perfectly crispy rings with a great chew.

I also liked the “Tagliatelle frutti di mare” which was homemade noodle and a mix of seafood in a light creamy tomato sauce. Clams, mussels, shrimp, and squid; all covered in a tangy sauce with a pronounced fishy flavour.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Despite the disappointment of the Pizza Roulette, “Marcello’s” is still a great to go to for pizza and pasta. They are a staple in the area for a reason. Don’t deny your cravings.

MARCELLOS
1404 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X9
(604) 215-7760
marcellopizzeria.com

Cinnabon x Pizza Hut

For the month of September, your friendly neighbourhood pizza chain, “Pizza Hut” is collaborating with the purveyors of cinnamon and sugar, “Cinnabon” for a better dessert option.

When I think pizza delivered, my mind always goes to “Pizza Hut”. First, 310-1010 is an easy number to remember. Second, their unique roof is hard to forget. And third thick crust pizza is a childhood staple for me. So now they are giving myself and all diners a reason to order to take out, by teaming up with another fast food favourite.

“Pizza Hut Canada” and “Cinnabon” are coming together to bring you the perfect pizza party meal, with their “Cinnabon mini rolls bundle”. $24.99 gets you a regular medium pizza, chicken wings, and 10 mini rolls in a box. To it we easily added another large pizza, in order to feed more.

Chewy, thick crust pizza, best dipped into tangy ranch dressing. Even better when the pizza is Hawaiian, so you get that salty and sweet combination. As a French Canadian, my partner enjoys his crust and pizza with butter spread all over.

The wings were thick, coated in a sticky syrup that you licked off your fingers

And the cinnamon rolls were everything you expected, soften dough drenched in cinnamon and heightened with their cream cheese frosting. And at this size, each one is the centre so you needn’t work your way to the middle to get to the “best part”.

Order your next meal today, before this limited time offer and their “Cinnabon” mini cinnamon rolls get discontinued.

PIZZA HUT
pizzahut.ca

Nightingale revisted

It has been a while since I visited “Nightingale”, I was reminded of it thanks to the success of “Netflix’s” romantic comedy, “Always be my Maybe”. It centres around the restaurant industry and therefore uses several Vancouver restaurants as its backdrop. “Nightingale” makes an appearance as “Saintly Fare”, a new restaurant opened in San Francisco by our main character, Chef Sasha Tran. In the movie it is clear that the two storey restaurant with its bird cages and origami bird accents is actually “Nightingale” on Hastings at Burrard.

My original visit was right when it opened in 2016, and back then I didn’t have a very memorable meal, so was looking forward to reassessing it now, with all its new found success and film notoriety.

We arrived in time for happy hour cut off, Sunday to Wednesday from 3-5:30pm. So ordered their popular “buttermilk fried chicken” for $3 less. It was dressed in a spiced maple syrup with sumac and pickles. Not your classic fried chicken flavour, but just as crunchy and tasty in its sweet sauce and tangy pickles. Although I would have preferred this over waffles given its sweetness and natural alignment for brunch.

I was excited to see “Chicharron” on the menu, but was disappointed by its execution. I have had pork rinds before and given the nature of the restaurant, I figured it would be an elevated rendition. Instead, these were fairly dense crisps, heavier than I thought they would be, with a harder crunch. Not only was it tough to eat, but it lacked flavour with its simple charred lemon salt seasoning.

For our entrees we shared a pizza and a pasta dish. The “Summer squash” pizza was thin crust dough topped with Fresno chilli, mozzarella, san marzano, and fior di latte. It reminded me of a sweet Margherita pizza at its core. But with the unique starch and woodsy-ness of the sweet squash, balanced by the salty cheese and fragrant crispy basil leaves.

The “Chitarra pasta” was similar in its lightness. Rich in flavour and not in sauce, it was a little dry with the duck ragu, crispy sage, and pecorino romano. Overall it was tasty enough, but I prefer a saucy pasta and something less salty. With this, we finished a litre of water between us.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It certainly is a nice spot, but the food just doesn’t satisfy as other pastas and pizzas at other restaurants have/do. Don’t deny your cravings.

NIGHTINGALE
1017 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 0C4
604-695-9500
hawknightingale.com

Backcountry Brewing, #pizzachallengeyvr

Today the weather was beautiful, the skies were blue and the sun was shining. Ideal conditions for a nice cruise up the Sea to Sky highway. And since we would be driving to it, this was also as good of a time as any to stop at Squamish for lunch. Squamish, home of the town’s only brewery, “Backcountry” and their tasting room with full bar and pizza kitchen. It was also the next stop on my Vancouver Foodster #pizzachallengeyvr tour, with me playing the role of one of the three judges.

And this Easter long weekend the neighbourhood too decided to come out to “Backcountry Brewing” for a pint and a pie. Luckily, we were able to grab the tail end of a share style table, without any wait. You order your drinks and your meal at the bar, the former you take with you back to your seat, the latter gets brought out to you.

But many more visitors came in to purchase beers in bulk. Their full assortment was available for grab and go in refrigerator units, you also had the option to buy a grower and fill it from their taps. And to complete the experience, you can drink your “Backcountry” beer out of one of their branded glasses, while wearing their outdoor lifestyle merch. All also available for purchase.

Naturally, we had to start our meal with said beers. Especially considering this is a brewery, and that you can see the tanks from any seat in their open dining area.

My guest had the “Ridge runner Pilsner” for a nice crisp drink.

I will always opt for a flight, to be able to taste more in one go. I choose the following based on their names. Each more and more fun as I moved along. The “I’ll have what she is having” is a peach, boysenberry, and mango sour that actually isn’t all that sour. The “Dead of night galaxy IPA” uses galaxy hops exclusively, for a lighter and fruiter brew. “Everything is coming up Milhouse” is the West coast version of their popular “Widow Maker” beer, but crisper and lighter. And the “Really really ridiculous looking” is new on tap, a lighter and fruitier lager that ended up being my favourite of the afternoon. Each brew I tasted was just as good as the next, each unique, each delicious. They weren’t overwhelming, but easy to drink.

When it came to food, first came the pizza I was sent here to try. “I pity the falafool”, a vegetarian pizza that catered to Squamish’s plant-based eating. Tahini, feta, falafel, halloumi, yogurt, and mint. This was the only vegetarian entry for this year’s competition. I have never had a pizza like this before, and it lived up to its name and the expectations you had reading it. You absolutely got the promised flavour a falafel. It ate like a whole other meal, making it a great vegetarian offering that didn’t have it feeling like you were missing anything. It was also just as complex as any other meat-happy pies on the menu. It had an all encompassing Mediterranean feel, that I would be happy with the next time I am craving the distinct flavour of a falafel.

We also tried their Margherita pizza, wanting a base pizza flavour that we are familiar, and could use to gauge the quality of the pizzas coming out of their kitchen. The crust was beautifully baked with plenty of air bubbles and crispy blackened bits. It checked off all the boxes. Where it lacked was in the depth of the sauce. It was a little two sweet for my taste, whereas I would have liked more seasoning and a lot more fior di latte cheese. Therefore I suggest getting one of their specialty pizzas that they do so well, instead.

Like the “Wake-N-Bacon 3.0”. Maple garlic cream, roasted potato, guanciale, mozzarella, oven cured tomato, and a sunny side up egg. A delicious assembly altogether, but it was really the maple syrup that made all the difference. This was also the chef’s favourite pizza, and a popular brunch option. Salty, sweet, and savoury all rolled into one. My only critique is I wanted more runny egg to go around, only one slice and one person gets to have egg.

We also tried their new “Galaxy Pastrami Sandwich”. The pastrami is brined in their Galaxy IPA, hence the name. It is stacked between two thick slices of herbed focaccia, along with gruyere cheese and a mustard vinaigrette slaw. Served with a side of regular chips, and their in-house made beer pickles. It was a thick and delicious looking sandwich, but a little too dry for my tastes. I was left craving a creamy sauce, more mayonnaise, or even a gravy dip to dunk the sandwich into for moisture. The sides offered a change of taste and texture and helped in getting this down. I liked the pickles the most, but would have liked them sweeter for a better contrast. I did like the meat as is, they were quality you can taste. Similarly the crispy toasted bread would have been great as is with a slather of salted butter.

For some spice in any of the above, each seating had a bottle of their beer infused “Backcountry Brewing” hot sauce. It is prepared locally using their “Ridge Runner Pilsner”. Like their beers it gives you want you expect, without being overpowering.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great spot to stop at when in Squamish great pizzas and beers coming together for a delicious lunch or brunch. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BACKCOUNTRY
405-1201 Commercial Way, Squamish BC, V8B 0R5
604-567-2739
backcountrybrewing.com

 

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite.

Pizza Challenge

Firecrust: BBQ Fest, #pizzachallengeyvr

Today I found myself at “Firecrust” on Davie, just in time for dinner and the crowds that came in for an easy meal solution.

Right when you enter you are greeted by their build your own pizza bar. It runs down the length of the restaurant and ends at their specialty pizza oven. Here, you can customize any pie or salad for $11.95. Craft your own pizza by choosing your sauce, cheese, protein, and veggies. Or salad from the greens to the cheese, protein, veggies, and dressing. A choice made between 30 premium ingredient.

The possibilities were endless, but I was swayed by their “BBQ Fest” advert. I love a good themed menu, and even more so if it is only available during a limited time. This checked off all the boxes, so I found myself trying 3 out of the 4 pizza offerings on this menu.

And one of them happened to be the entry for this year’s Vancouver Foodster’s #pizzachallengeyvr. This is the “Bacon Mac & Cheese” pizza and it is exactly as it sounds. Macaroni and cheese with crispy bacon, topped with more shredded cheddar before it is baked. Served with a side of coleslaw. It was doubly comforting, two fan favourites served together as an easy handheld. But be warned the toppings are heavy, so easily fall off. Best eaten with knife and fork. I would have liked the the noodles a tad more firm and the cheese more stringy like pizza cheese. However, the bacon was perfection. Its crispy texture was great with the gooey and starchy mass of noodles. Overall a anytime snack, but best when craving carbs or the munchies.

The coleslaw had a nice flavour to it, something tangy and crunchy to change the flavour with. Though I liked it better with the pulled pork pizza, a combination we discovered when enjoying the pizza with the mound of slaw that topped it.

Though slaw on pizza does have it getting warm and melty quick. But it gave an otherwise one note: sweet and tangy BBQ-full pizza some freshness. This pie featured “Firecrust’s” own hickory BBQ sauce as its sauce base, then more of it found its way over plenty of pulled pork, caramelized onions, and shredded cheddar. It is all baked together and served with a side of mac and cheese, so you don’t miss out. I liked the sweet sauce on the pulled pork, but felt like I needed more to complete it. I ended up picking out all the onion, out of preference; there was a lot, almost 1:1 between it and the pork meat.

The mac and cheese was exactly like the one used on the pizza above. A little too mushy.

The apple pie pizza was a creative spin and very much so the way you want to end a BBQ dinner. Baked apples, cinnamon, and crushed graham crackers over a regular pizza crust. Its description read it being topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but we got whipped cream and caramel drizzle instead. Not that it really matters I guess, either would have melted quick under the warmth of the fresh to bake pizza. But the ice cream would have completed the apple pie feel more, and especially if they topped it with yellow cheddar chunks. That would really take this pie on a pizza idea full circle. Whereas like this, I found it lacking. I liked the idea, but wanted more of it. More graham cracker than just the chunks moulded with butter. Graham as the crust, or at least a sweet dough base to build this pie up on.

And to lighten up our decadent meal we also ordered a salad to share. Some freshness to balance out all the grease. The “South west salad” with kale, roasted chicken, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, corn, black beans, corn chips, shredded mozzarella, and a chipotle lime dressing. This was mostly a large serving of greens, you tossed up, but just couldn’t seem to mix everything evenly. The heavier ingredients fell to the bottom and there was far too much leafy greens to sift though to find them. I would have liked less and maybe a different green. A lighter lettuce or spring mix, the former would have also flowed better with the taco flavour too.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
An easy stop for some delicious, fast, and possibly healthy food, (so should you choose). Build your own pizza or take their menu’s advice. And for something fun, enjoy their “BBQ Fest” options, available now until April 28th, 2019. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FIRECRUST
808 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2S2
778-379-9646
firecrustpizzeria.com

 

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite.

Pizza Challenge

Mordimi Bite of Italy, #pizzachallengeyvr

I was once again trying out a new pizzeria, thanks to Vancouver Foodster, and me being one of the three judges for this year’s #pizzachallengeyvr. This one was only two months old. But as I would soon learn, owned and operated by a highly experienced and passionate husband and wife team. They are not new the pizza game, having ran a pizzeria for over two years before, and a coffee shop prior to that.

They currently call Hastings street their home. A little shop with a handful of seats and the operations out in the open, behind them. A counter with baked good for point and purchase, their stainless steel work space, and a chalkboard scrawling declaring that the “guy making your pizza is a pizzaiolo”.

The restaurant boasted an ever changing menu. Every Sunday they offer up a different brunch items like paninis, sandwiches, and frittatas. Pastas are available for lunch and included the likes of angle hair with ox tail and a carbonara with egg and pork cheek. Every Thursday the pasta of choice is gnocchi, every Friday it is a stuffed ravioli. All the chosen filling and ingredients are based on what our chef found fresh at the market that week, or what he himself felt like eating on the day. Similarly, the desserts get changed up daily, each, also hand made in house.

We made sure to reserve the ones we wanted first, lest they be purchased by the time we finished our meal. We were eyeing the doughnuts, or rather “bigné”, as the Italian way they were called. A tidbit we learned from our chef/host who informed us that “donuts” are the North American copy of the original Italian version (or debatably French version). Here, these doughy rounds are made from puff pastry.

The “bigné with yuzu cream” offered up a good change of taste with its fresh citrus flavour. It was filled full with cream and had a similarly flavoured topping crowning with blueberry and meringue bits.

The “Caramel cream bigné with almonds and peanuts” was my favourite. It was soft under your bite with the toasted nuts giving you crunch. It wasn’t too sweet, but the saltines of the peanut gave you that perfect balance of salty and sweet with the whipped caramel cream filling.

The “Pistachio cream and raspberry bigné” was a different experience. This was definitely a one biter, a little squeeze and all the cream came oozing out the sides. And at the middle of it, a nice sharp tang of fresh raspberry jelly. Given how great each of the above was, I can confidently recommend “Mordimi” as a spot worth travelling to, just for these desserts.

They also offer their take on a mille feuille with custard, a tiramisu cup, and a lemon meringue parfait.

As for savoury we first tried the “best pizza challenge” contender: “Boscaiola”, or “A walk in the Italian forest”. It was prepared in the traditional Italian fashion with organic flour. Yeast is not used to raise the dough, instead, it is allowed to rise naturally across 4 days. All the ingredients used are fresh and never frozen. All these practices make this pizza the healthiest in the competition, and as it is known in Italy: a healthy meal solution. Italian black truffle, potatoes, mushrooms, asiago cheese, and fior di latte. It was very light, you were able to make out the flavours of each ingredient, with the rosemary being most prominent. The potatoes weren’t heavy, but offered a good starch. Although out of preference, I did find it a little bland, having me look out for an oil drizzle or some chilli to give it a little life.

We also tried their “Mordimi Calzone”. It used the same pizza dough as above, just folded over and baked chewier. Here, the pizza dough was more like bread. A pocket of dough sealing chicken pesto, parmigiano, sun dried tomatoes, yellow tomato sauce, and fior di latte inside. I appreciated the large chunks of chicken breast meat. It was fully marinated in the tasty pesto sauce. The tomatoes offered bursts of freshness, and the light cheese an agent to bind them all.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If you are looking for authentic Italian pizza from a discerning chef. A chef who cares about the quality of ingredients, and the tradition of pizza being one of the most healthiest foods available: come here and be sure to save room for dessert. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MORDIMI
2638 E Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 1Z6
604-253-0765
mordimi.ca
To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite. http://vancouverfoodster.com/pizza-challenge/

Sopra Sotto, #pizzachallengeyvr

Today I was at the original location of “Sopra Sotto”, to visit yet another Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge contestant. With this one you have your choice of location between their two. You are invited to both, to try their entry and vote of your favourite in the “People’s Choice” category.

“Sopra’s” original location is on Commercial Drive, it features their fully stocked bar. Their second and newest location is in Burnaby, and this past week it celebrated its first year anniversary. This is a smaller restaurant, but other than square feet, it offers pretty much the same experience; even down to their eye catching wallpaper littered with colourful birds. Except the Burnaby location has a deep fryer and they take advantage of it, with a handful of variations to their menu. Deep fried street food like a battered calamari. I liked that this gave you reason to visit both locales.

But today I choose Commercial Drive location as our destination, as my guest has yet to visit either of the two; and I wanted her to have the original, flagship location experience.

Our dinner started with their appetizer special of the day. A burrata board with the fresh and creamy cheese dressed in olive oil and smoked balsamic. Served with lusciously thin prosciutto, and in house made herbed focaccia. This was a build your own ham and cheese sandwich, all grown up and delicious. This was an assembly of great ingredients that foreshadowed the quality of the food to follow.

The “Tagliatelle e Tartufo” came highly recommended. This is long and flat pasta made fresh in-house, served in a truffle sauce, featuring a variety of mushrooms and parmigiano. Oyster, protobello and shiitake; I appreciated the textures and distinct flavours of each mushroom in the mix. You also got the flavour of the promised truffle intermingled in the saucy cream. All together this made for a very elevated dish, one that paired well with the specialty pizza below.

And this was the main reason why I was here. Here, to try the “Contadina”. A fresh pizza with plenty of toppings to sift through. Taleggio cheese, smoked pancetta, cherry tomatoes, mixed mushrooms and green onions. Fire baked with a even blackening around the crust. You smelled the bake and all the charing of the toppings as it approached you. Salty with the pancetta, juicy with the tomatoes, and fresh with the spring onions. The latter was a first for me: the first time having green onion on a pizza. But it was the dough that I enjoyed the most, it made all the difference. I especially liked being able to cut the pizza down to size at our table. Each snip of these kitchen sheers heightened the already hands on experience.

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite.

Pizza Challenge

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A beautiful setting with fresh plates and attentive staff that matches it modern feel. However, my next visit to “Sopra” will be at their Burnaby location for some deep fried goodness. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SOPRA SOTTO
1510 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 2Y7
604-251-7586
soprasottovancouver.co

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