Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Western Swing

The vacation I mentioned a few weeks back has come and gone. Here’s a few of the food-related highlights from our trip to Edmonton and Vancouver.

Porchetta sandwiches are all the rage these days and I doubt you'll find many better examples of the fabulous pork dish than the version above from the painfully charming Pronto Caffe in my old 'hood of Cambie Village. Moist pork, crisp crackling and a perfect bun. You can't touch this.

Sandwich trio, Meat & Bread, Vancouver

Speaking of sandwiches, we had to check in at much-hyped hipster sandwich shop Meat and Bread in the heart of Gastown. Front to back we have porchetta, a meatball sandwich and a braised veal breast. The verdict? Okay, I guess. For all the fuss this place is generating, I expected more.

On the other hand, my first taste of the buttermilk fried chicken at Refuel almost made me weep. I dream of it still.

It wasn't all restaurants, though. We had some decent weather and prevailed upon some our hosts to use their grills. I was pretty proud of the grilled pork ribs here (despite leaving them on the grill a touch too long-total rookie mistake-and the lack of a decent homemade sauce), but the real showstopper was the simple salad D. made from watermelon, orange, feta and garden-fresh chives. That recipe and that of the rib dry rub are below.

We may have had a few beers here and there. The Alibi Room has a fantastic selection of B.C. craft brews, including my all time favourite: Crannóg's Back Hand of God stout. Rich with burnt coffee and bitter dark chocolate flavours, it's nonetheless an easy drinking brew, equally suitable for rainy days and patio basks alike.

On the other hand, Granville Island Brewing's new Raspberry Wheat Ale tasted like goddamn cough syrup.

La Brassarie mobile

Long ago (okay, last year) I kvetched in this space about Vancouver's attempts to kickstart their street food culture. Well, I'm pleased to report that they seem to have sorted it out. These things are all over the place downtown. I didn't actually get a chance to try any of them, mind you, but it's still great to see. This one, an offshoot of tasty Franco-German bistro La Brasserie, serves only beer-brined rotissere chicken sandwiches. As if the weather and scenery weren't enough, this is just one more reason for us to find our way back west. Someday, someday...
Other highlights:
  • Joining the Swedish Chef et frère for dinner at Edmonton's Corso 32. The bresaola, fried short-rib and asparagus salad and bucatini with house cured pork jowl, tomato and peperoncin were fantastic.
  • Having a beer with Rhianna from Cream and Sugar. We talked a bit about food and a lot about our respective experiences living and eating in Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto. Rhianna, when next you find yourself in Toronto, drop me a line and I'll cook you dinner. You can make dessert.
  • Noodles from the Noodle Box in Kitsilano. I'm not sure we have anything like this here in Toronto, but could we? Please?
Finally, the aforementioned recipes to tide you over until I can get a proper post together. Hopefully that'll be soon now that this damn heatwave seems to have subsided (touch wood).

Spicy-sweet dry rub
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix ingredients in a bowl and rub all over ribs. See here for further instructions.

Watermelon, orange and feta salad
1/4 of a small (6 pound) seedless watermelon
1 large orange, peeled with pith removed
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 ounces feta cheese, thinly sliced
Several sprigs of chives
4 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Cut watermelon into half-inch thick pieces (rind removed) and arrange on a serving platter. Arrange orange, red onion, feta and chives on the platter. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

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