Monday, January 31, 2011

Sandwich Smackdown – 2011 Pork Edition

It started with a simple plan for a lunch date at “Meat and Bread” to see if their porchetta sandwich lived up to all the “sandwich hype.” That got me thinking about a handful of sandwiches/sandwich places (featuring pork products) that I keep hearing good things about, but haven’t tried. From this humble concept, I began plotting a downtown pork sandwich tour. 4 friends who love to eat and have a bit of time on our hands + 4 pork sandwiches (cut lovingly into pieces of 4 for sharing) that have been getting rave reviews= one epic extended lunch hour.
Meat and Bread
370 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC

Meat & Bread on Urbanspoon
This Victory square sandwich shop is a new kid on the block (late fall 2010) that’s created a huge following and a whole lotta buzz within the Vancouver foodie scene with an emphasis on simplicity and quality. The menu is small: they offer 4 sandwiches- Porchetta, Spiced Meatball, Daily Feature (usually chicken or lamb), and a grilled cheese- and a daily soup and salad option. By all reports, the porchetta is the star of the show ….and that’s what we ordered.

Porchetta sandwich( $8)
MM: The sandwich is made to order- and the process is pretty simple. Try not to drool as the counter staff slice the rolled, slow-roasted pork stuffed with herbs and pile it high onto the ciabatta roll (from swiss bakery), add a light drizzle of salsa verde, chop up and sprinkle crispy crackling on top, and then plate the masterpiece on a wooden plank with a small dollop of their in-house sambal and horseradish mustard. The meat was soft, juicy, and tender and the bits of chopped crackling added a texture and flavour dynamic that I’ve never experienced.  The meat –to- bread ratio was fantastic- with every bite the meat was the star and the soft ciabatta (from swiss bakery) and salsa verde were there simply to serve the meat and elevate it. The bread was soft and chewy, not too thick, with a nice subtle crust- it held up against the juicy pork and not getting soggy.
Leggy Redhead:  Let's start with the meat!(seeing as that is the first word in the name of the estab)  Yummy!  The salsa verde(with just the perfect hint of mint) is rolled into the meat and cooked like a big roast.  The flavours were perfect.  Moist meat sliced fresh off the pork rolled roast so you get crackling as well in every sandwich!  Perfectly cooked and seasoned.  Bun was dense enough to handle the juices, but not too dense that it is dry and doughy. Again, perfect!  It is all about the meat...condiments are served on the side(Sambal and horseradish mustard) so you can flavour to your own taste.  All round, nothing left you wanting except maybe having another one!
The MFing Coop: oh my, juicy chunks of freshly carved porchetta, a light salsa verde with pieces of mint on a wonderful bun (best of the day) - two light dipping sauces mustard based and sambal - both nice accompaniments. I seem to recall an oily element which I couldn't tell was from the bread or added during sandwich prep - regardless, it added to the scrumptiousness. 2nd Best Sandwich of the Day.
Big A: Elegant in simplicity, excellent quality bread, great big slab of pork, good if limited accompanying condiments, stood above all contenders in over-all impression even though this was super-basic.

maple bacon ice cream sandwich( $4)
MM: I enjoyed this- I’ve tried a few bacon dessert attempts- the best being homemade bacon dipped in chocolate with skor crumble- and this is the best commercial attempt. Bacon chunks were substantial but not overpowering with the vanilla/maple soft-serve filling. I wish there was a bit more maple flavour
Leggy Redhead: I had only seen these(bacon and sweets mixed together) on TV so had to try.  Wow, bacon in ice cream...who knew!  Really tasty! Perfect balance of sweet and salty with a waffle crust.  A bit pricey for the size, but a must try!
The MFing Coop: Good lord, this is the second time bacon has surprised me in the past month. First, a strip in GLC's Caesar and now this - bacon for dessert. Frickin' genius! Loved the balanced sweetness of the maple along side the saltiness of the Bacon. The two thin waffers were crisp offered good texture but avoided detracting from the stars of the sandwich. And the bacon wasn't just slivers of think strips but decent sized 3D chunks. What an amazing surprise - worth the 4.25 all day long. Best sandwich of the day!!!
Big A: tasty, decadent and over-priced.
the establishment
MM: The décor is simple, cool, slightly gritty with long communal tables, a couple of animal heads on the wall, and antique boxing gear and lockers. The service was fantastic- we were greeted warmly the second we stepped in the door and had the specials explained to us. Staff was funny, helpful, and handled the meat with a lotta love. Did I mention they were all pretty good looking?
Leggy Redhead: besides all the lovely dark haired boys behind the counter that are serving you up some yummy meat, great simple, funky decor.  Big communal table is great.  They stick to basics and it works!  Love that they make your sandwich fresh in front of you.  Great service.  Can't wait to go back!
The MFing Coop: these people give meat it's deserved due - from the two person meat carving station, racks of knives, MEAT box light fixture all the way down to my favorite element - meat hook toilet paper holders in the washrooms. YAY meat! By far the best eating environment and somewhere I will return many times.
Big A: Excellent first impression, great decor (love the option to step over and "work the heavy bag" between bites), love the huge communal tables, service/staff super friendly and helpful, the sandwich was not quartered by the staff

Dirty Apron Delicatessen
540 Beatty Street
Vancouver, BC

The Dirty Apron on Urbanspoon
Dirty Apron Delicatessen is brought to Vancouver by the owners of 2 of the cities hottest restaurants, Chambar and Cafe Medina. The Dirty Apron is a cooking school (The Leggy Redhead and Big A did their “Meat Class” and loved it), that’s recently expanded their location to include a gourmet specialty foods market and a delicatessen. I had read some fantastic reviews about their sandwiches (in particular the pulled pork and grilled prosciutto varieties), so that hype and its geographical proximity to Meat and Bread, made it our next stop for their…
Grilled Prosciutto Sandwich ($8.99)- with fig, watercress, cambozola cheese, and balsamic onions
MM: There is no denying that this is a large, tasty sandwich made with quality ingredients. But after the simplicity of Meat and Bread, I found there was too much going on in the sandwich. I couldn’t actually really taste the prosciutto because the sandwich’s flavour was overwhelmed by the cheese….and I’m probably alone in this….but it was too much cheese. The bread was a fig, cranberry walnut variety and while it was yummy, I would’ve preferred more of a simple flavour to let the sandwich innards do the talking.
Leggy Redhead:  all round good sandwich, but meat was overwhelmed by the cambozola cheese.  So it is more about the cheese and the well matched condiments in the sandwich(fig jam, caramelized onions).  Great choice of bread (cranberry I believe).  I like my grilled sandwiches to have runny cheese, so for me it wasn't grilled long enough.
The MFing Coop: by far the most high brow sandwich of the smackdown. Fancy and complex bread, watercress, cambazola and procuitto, fig jam and caramalized onions. I found it a lot to take in - a lot of really yummy elements, but together it was a bit much for me. While the fig jam was outstanding, the Cambozola dominated the delicate procuitto. And since meat was the flavour of the day, points were lost. Tied for fourth. However, I would consider Dirty Apron to be the second best location we visited - just not a contender in the pork sandwich category.
Big A: The most elegant of the sandwiches, the whole sandwich (and especially the semi-pungent cheese) has been slowly climbing in my judgement since the initial reviews, the pancetta was not particularly special; however, the watercrest, date relish, sauteed onions and cheese were combined with the ham to very great effect.  Very good bread. This ended up as my #2 sandwich on the day.
the establishment
MM: Service was helpful and friendly- she recommended the pulled pork and grilled prosciutto as her favs. Seating also wasn’t available since there was an event in the cooking school but staff was super helpful to create a makeshift bistro seating area for us. I didn’t love that sandwiches were pre-assembled in deli counter- I prefer when they assemble it in front of you to make it more custom. The space had a cool euro feel and the market had all sorts of yummy looking goodies and some sample cheeses to help kill time while the sandwich was grilling. All of their sides and sandwiches were visually stunning and had me drooling.
Leggy Redhead:  love the clean and funky deli style.  Service was quick and friendly.  Lots of other goodies to pick up while you are there...the 'Dondy' asian inspired condiments are great(they let me taste test them when we asked).  Standout...the Dondy kecap...yummy kafir lime flavour!
Big A: Love the option of shopping in Foodie heaven while the Sandwich is being prepared, unfortunate that the regular table was not available for dining but their alternative was very quaint, the sandwich was quartered (thumbs up)
The Greedy Pig
307 W Cordova St
Vancouver, BC

Greedy Pig on Urbanspoon
Set on the edge of cobblestoned Blood Alley or “old Gastown”, sits The Greedy Pig. This pub/eatery is known for an amazing drink and cocktail menu (created by local booze hero Nick Devine) and their sandwiches that focus on local artisan ingredients- especially their truffled roast beef, shortrib hoagie and our sample pick…
pulled pork sandwich ($11): braised pork shoulder, tangy bbq sauce, fennel and apple slaw- served with housemade coleslaw and pickle
MM: The shredded pork itself was moist, tender and enveloped in sauce (almost sloppy joe style). The sauce’s flavour was dominated by vinegar and tomato and unfortunately was a bit too sweet for my tastebuds. Coleslaw- mixed in and on the side was nice and light, but not mind-blowing. The Brioche-style, double grilled bun was the sandwich stand-out for me: light and fluffy inside yet toasty and buttery on the outside. Special shout out for the  house made dill pickle- crunchy and crispy and refreshing, a wonderful palate cleansing intermission before moving onto the last stop of the day.
Leggy Redhead:lots-a-sauce! yummy! Slight vinegar flavour, lliked it.  Worked for the simple, drippy, pulled pork sammie. They grill both sides of the bun!  Perfect carrier for pulled pork! Came with a side of slaw and big pickle. Yummy meal. Good, but not sure that I would go out of my way to have it again.  If I was in the hood, I would gladly stop in.
The MFing Coop: The pulled pork was wonderful - flavourful and tender. The bbq sauce was generous but not overwhelming. It was lighter than most bbq sauces, both in colour and flavour - which was a big attraction and kept the sandwich from feeling to heavy. The most oustanding element was the bun, light and fluffy, a glazed top - reminded me of brioche - although it wasn't. The most lovely surprise was the bun was grilled - that made a huge difference. It kept the bun and meat separated and avoided the goopy fate many suffer. 3rd best sandwich of the day.
Big A: The sandwich that most lived up to expectations.  Good and simple (truth be told, I have never thought to highly of the BBQ pork sandwich as a culinary height, thus I had lower expectations).  It was moist and rich.  The Bread was good with appropriate toastage. The stand-out at The Greedy Pig was the coleslaw in (and outside) the sandwich.  Crisp, rich and tasty; it alone brought the rating of the plate up a point or two
the establishment
MM: Our server was great- she even had the sandwich cut and plated for 4 which meant we all got a small side of coleslaw and pickle. Nothing décor-wise really stood out, but I bet it would be a really cool place at night.
Leggy Redhead:   kinda grungy, pub feel.  Ripped seating could use some loving.  Great, friendly service.
Big A: Pretty unimpressive decor, very friendly helpful staff member, Tree Brewing's Pale Ale went down well, our chauffeur got the car, Not only was the sandwich quartered, it was separately plated with pickles and coleslaw, very impressive touch.

open from 11:15 to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, off the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza

This shiny metal trailer parked on the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza has emerged as the stand-out favourite of critics and hungry Vancouverites alike from last summer’s food cart movement.Re-up uses the Irish Heather kitchen (in the wee hours of night) to barbecue the 240 pounds of pork three nights a week. They sell Pulled Pork Sandwiches ($6 plus tax) and two summery beverages- homemade watermelon soda and sweet tea ($2 plus tax).

pulled pork sandwich ($6)
MM: The meat itself was yummy and plentiful. I liked that it had a spicy, smoky flavour without sweetness and too much sloppy sauce, although it was a bit too dry. I’d love a happy medium between the extreme slop at TGP and the slightly dry Re-Up pork. The coleslaw was chunky, fresh and crisp with an awesome dijon flavour. I thought the portugese bun was pretty lame- too bulky, too fluffy, without any great flavour.
Leggy Redhead:  great sandwich for the price point! Lots of meat and they include crispy slaw inside the sandwich...makes it!  I like my pulled pork a little saucier, so I would ask for extra sauce inside next time.  The bun they use isn't great, but it also isn't bad...maybe if they grilled it first!  For a street cart meal on the go, definite recommendation.
The MFing Coop: The most basic of all the sandwiches we tried, but with good reason. It's served from a fast food cart on the North west corner of the Vancouver Art Gallery block. The pulled pork is passable but ordinary. A healthy amount of slaw with a light delightful slaw dressing elevates this sandwich. Unfortunately the bready portugese bun drags it down a notch. But, at 6 dollars and with a 1 minute prep time - you've got an amazing value-for-money sandwich with minimal time commitment. Tied for 4th w Dirty Apron.
Big A:  smallish Portuguese bun with pork that fell apart easily and some more fresh coleslaw; there was nothing that dazzled about this sammie.  It was an "also-ran" in my book.
the establishment
MM: I hang my head in shame when I tell you that this was my first Vancouver food cart experience. They’ve been around since last summer but I haven’t hit any of the new food carts yet… the stainless steel box at a prime location for foot traffic. It was cold and rainy, so there were no lines and we ended up eating in my car “the meat mobile.” A cozy and quirky dining experience but would really love to sit in front of the VAG and chow down on a sunny summer day. Great price point.
Leggy Redhead:  I was in the car so didn't really get to see it up close.  Looked like a cute little street cart that would be great to grab from and sit on the Art Gallery steps on a nice day.
Big A: sidewalk service gets some auto-credit.  No idea why I think the idea eating out of a wee street-side shack is cool; maybe brings me back to my university days with late night curbside eating.  This would have been way better in the sun; less fun in the rain/drizzle.  Obviously, no "quarter" given here.

additional comments on the day’s events:
MM: These were all yummy sandwiches and worthy of foodie hype/buzz in their own right (for different reasons). I definitely learned that when it comes to sandwiches- it’s all about personal preference. For different people, different elements are what make or break a sandwich.
Leggy Redhead: Overall, Meat and Bread winner for me hands down!  Then Re-up, and Greedy Pig/Dirty Apron are tied for 3rd.


heather said...

i am eating a sandwich while i read this. sadly, said sandwich is sub-par compared to the sound of these. sandwich date!

Missy Mc said...

yes- absolutely.....i need to hit "louis gervais" in north van- I hear it's dee-lightful, that and I wanna try one shop on cambie too