When you feel like packing your lunch box and going home – pack this!

Ultimate comfort food for a rainy summer day, and my favorite sandwich, is the Caprese sandwich. Easy to make, so fresh, and great for summer when the tomatoes are at their best. The first time I had a caprese sandwich was in 1998 at the Au Bon Pain in Cambridge, MA, and it is so good it is still on their menu today 10 years later. The part that I don’t love about their sandwich and always skip on mine is the romain lettuce – unnecessary complication if you ask me. I loved it so much I went back the next day, and quickly set about figuring out how to make it to add it to my kitchen repertoire. And it is one of my top ordered sandwiches. Because there are only a few ingredients to make this sandwich perfect it is important you get the best of everything. The tomatoes need to be fresh with loads of flavour – interestingly one café in Boston where I’ve had this sandwich during the winter they roast roma tomatoes for this sandwich to improve the taste. The bread is key and a nice crusty French loaf is what I find the best, but what ever you choose make sure the flavor of the bread is not overpowering to the simplicity of the sandwich. I prefer to use smaller fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini), but larger rounds of fresh mozzarella also work well. Of course if you need it in a rush you can buy premade basil pesto at the grocery store, but I prefer the homemade if you’ve got 5 minutes.  I’ve given a quick and easy recipe below for the pesto, but lots of other great recipes can be found online for basil pesto.

Ingredients:
Fresh mozzeralla sliced (Boconnini Cheese)
Ripe tomatoes sliced
French bread or other bread
Quick and easy small batch Basil Pesto
1 bunch of basil leaves (stems removed)
3 tablespoons pine nuts (preferably toasted)
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil (~4 tablespoons)
Dash of salt

To toast pine nuts warm a frying pan on low-medium heat. When the pan is warm toss in the pine nuts and stir them until they start to brown. Be careful not to have the pan too hot the nuts will burn quickly. Take them off the heat and remove from the pan immediately after they start to brown so they don’t burn. Cool the nuts before using. I toast them ahead of time and keep them on hand in a jar so I can toss them into salads or use them quickly for pesto. (Pine nuts are a key part of my modern pantry)

For the pesto, in a small kitchen blender throw in basil leaves, pine nuts, dash salt, parmesan cheese, and olive oil – blend to desired consistency, and add more olive oil if needed. You can also throw in a clove of roasted garlic or fresh if you’d like to garlic it up a bit.

Sandwich composition. Pesto on both sides of the bread a must. Salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste. Layer the sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzeralla till your hearts desire, press the bread down to make sure none of the cheese escapes.

 

Share your comments on the Caprese sandwich below!

On the other side of da bridge

Cafe Crema
1495 Bellevue Avenue, West Vancouver
604.922.2294

 

It has been a busy couple of weeks training for the half marathon, ramping up to start my new project, and man’ing up to send the divine Miss. Valerie back to Texas. But despite all that of course I’ve still been eating, I’ve just been neglecting the dishin on it part. As part of the half marathon training I was working on improving my Grouse Grind time, and got it down to a solid hour…stay tuned to see if I make future improvement. But after grinding it out a cup of java, and a treat are in order so I like to head over to Café Crema (West Vancouver). They have a solid selection of teas, they make delicious coffee, and have a good selection of Panini (not by any means my fav sandwich, the bar is high, but it is a good sandwich) and treats. The café is well lit, and especially bright when the sun shines in…but probably the best part is that the restaurant is just a quick walk from the beach and pier with a great view of the Vancouver. They have comfy chairs and big tables. So if you find yourself on the North side of the Lions Gate Bridge craving a coffee, or just finished the grind and want a reward, or wanna just contemplate life with a walk on the beach and a cup of yummy tea stop by Café Crema. If you’ve got any other suggestions for me post Grouse Grind let me know!

And if you’ve been the Café Crema share your rating using the stars below.

 

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never checked in…and never checked out – clean up on aisle 4

Meinhardt’s
3002 Granville Street, Vancouver - 604.732.4405
3151 Arbutus Street, Vancouver - 604.732.7900

 

Two locations in Vancouver to serve all of your foodie desires. I’m a regular at their Granville location which is both an easy stop on the way to the airport and the way back into town from the airport. I’ve found the rack of lamb here isn’t quite as good as Granville Island, but the prepared foods and variety of specialty food stuffs are excellent. You’ve got to watch the price of speciality items to avoid sticker shock, but they’ve got an assortment of fresh vegetables that you can buy individually which is perfect when just making dinner for one or two. I’m also a big fan of their pre-made and then panini pressed sandwiches…roasted vegetable, tomato bocconcini basil (caprese), salmon they are all yummy! (They have a pretty good orzo salad, but if you’d like to try to make one yourself that I really love click here) The store’s service is clearly inspired by the it’s creator and owner Linda Meinhardt who I think (didn’t realize at the time) was helping me locate goat cheese the other day when I was there! I’m giving Meinhardt’s a Very Good!

If you have shopped or eaten at Meinhardt’s share your rating using the stars below. Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Getting to know the drive…

La Grotta Del Formaggio
1791 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
604.255.3911

 

On a tip from Lisa I headed out to check out the Panini at La Grotta Del Formaggio. La Grotta Del Formaggio is an Italian deli and specialty shop, which while notable contributions, they are perhaps best known for the fresh Panini they make. They have a couple small tables outside, but other than that you’ve got to take your sandwiches to go, but they are perfect sandwiches for a picnic. The trouble you’ll have when you are standing there is in the deciding. This visit after choosing between focaccia or roll and half or full I made no other choices, instead I got the works. A never ending assortment of pickled and roasted vegetables from red pepper to artichoke hearts, two types of cheese (Bononcini and provolone), olive oil, balsamic, Dijon mustard, and pesto mayonnaise…why choose?! The reality is the next time I go I will make some choices because the Dijon was very robust, almost overpowering the sandwich, but it was all so good. They’ll put it in a Panini press or not, whichever you prefer. They’ll wrap it in paper and you will walk away with a splendid gift. It wasn’t my favorite sandwich ever, but I’m a tough critic in this department, however it is a fun sandwich experience. I also haven’t tried the meat versions, which I am sure are lovely as well. So I’m going to give La Grotta Del Formaggio a Very Good rating. While you are there take a look around and see if there is anything of interest to add to your modern pantry!

And as a bit of blog post bonus when you are there, you might as well stop right next door and grab a pastry at Fratelli Bakery for your picnic. My suggestion is the pecan shortbread, my all time favorite, granted I haven’t tried everything J, but there are a number of yummies there!

If you have been to La Grotta Del Formaggio share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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My birthday present from British Columbia – my BC drivers License!

Finches Tea House
353 Pender Street West Vancouver
604.899.4040

 

To kick off this weekend’s birthday extravaganza and get me through an afternoon of DMV fun, when I’d already spent the morning there as well I headed over to Finches Tea House to fuel up. A corner restaurant in a prominent building at Pender and Homer this inviting tea shop is a delight for the senses. The menu is chalked on to ornately gold framed chalk boards, and old books, records, and antiques are cluttered around the room and hanging from the walls.  Water is always available for patrons to pour themselves a glass and there is a selection between water with cucumber slices and one with lemons. The beverages are typically premium Italian juices and waters and they have a large loose leaf tea selection. The offering of sweet treats from oatmeal chocolate cookies to dark chocolate brownies, and their selection of baguettes and salads all thoughtfully prepared. Baguettes are served in brown paper if you’re eating in, and wrapped and tied in brown paper if your taking away. It doesn’t matter what you order it will be fresh and delicious, but my favorites are the free range egg salad and the Bononcini tomato basil sandwich. The great news is after I left here and headed back to the dreaded licensing bureau of BC I got my first birthday present of the weekend – My BC driver’s license! I live in the most beautiful place on earth and now I can drive and vote here. So all the me stuff aside I’m giving Finches a Very Good…in the sandwich department alone though it gets a Great!  I believe they serve breakfast as well, but I’ve not been yet for that.

 

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Cheers to running on pier rails again…

Fish Café
2053 West 41st Ave, Vancouver (Kerrisdale)
604.267.3474

This weekend included great wine, amazing food, a walk on the beach, an 11 mile run, and a motorcycle ride. It is certainly almost all blog worthy so we’ll walk our way through it starting at the beginning. I was meeting a friend in Kerrisdale Friday evening so before meeting them I decided to eat at one of my favourites that I haven’t been to in a while – Fish Café. The fish sandwiches here are excellent and I’ve convinced myself since they aren’t deep fried they might actually be good for me. Eating this sandwich made me dream of Big Daddy Fish Fry sandwiches from Tofino (not quite that good a sandwich…but can’t wait to eat one of those this summer!)  I had the blackened halibut sandwich on Friday…yum yum! The rice is only so so…I prefer the salad (which they don’t ask you if you want, but for a price they’ll add it for you). The short menu is displayed on a blackboard in the middle of the restaurant, but all the options are good and the fish is fresh. The food is served in baskets with waxed paper in them and the cutlery is rolled in a napkin on the table. The atmosphere is slightly nicer than a diner, but making reservations is a good idea, because although it isn’t five star dining there are a limited number of tables and because the food it good it is almost always packed. I’m so happy I reminded myself about this place and looking forward to returning again. I’ll give Fish Café a Very Good.

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These are a few of my favorite things…

Flour
1595 Washington St., Boston, USA
617.267.4300

 

On my most recent trip to Boston I was treated to many wonderful things. The Science Museum, the Aquarium , a backstage pass to a hockey game, and several yummy food experiences. But one of my foodie stops, Flour, was so good, I had to go twice. In a thrown down with Bobby Flay Pastry Chef and Owner of Flour, Joanne Chang beat out Bobby in the sticky bun category…and now I know why! I only ate the sticky buns once, and I only had a half, but that was the most delicious half of a sticky bun I’ve ever had. But what is more the reason I actually went back again was for the sandwiches. I love sandwiches! The breakfast egg sandwich has a dash of horseradish in it, the basil pesto tomato sandwich comes with roasted tomatoes, and the fresh bread (whole wheat or white) will make you think you are in carbohydrate heaven. I stole a bit of the smoked salmon sandwich which is amazing, but don’t get too attached to it, because it is on the special menu, so I don’t know how often they make it. I’m glad I don’t have to walk by this place on my way to work, because I wouldn’t be able to resist! Joanne has a career path I have to admire, from consultant to Pastry Chef, and in following her passion she has been successful. I’m giving Flour a Great!

 

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