Porchetta is a buzzword in Vancouver’s culinary world. This fatty and moist boneless pork roast is traditionally stuffed with garlic, rosemary and fennel, and then carefully rolled and slowly cooked. Gastown definitely has the highest concentration of the pork dish around. Warning: porchetta is highly addictive. Read this article at your own risk.
Porchetta is the perfect celebratory dish; it is an impressive piece of fragrant meat, typically crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. This is exactly what guests at the Irish Heather’s Long Table Series are treated to on Tuesdays (previously on Mondays). What a better way to celebrate the end of a long working day than sharing your meal family style with a large group of people while making new friends?
LTS regulars are used to hearty, pub-style food served at a 40-foot-long communal table paired with a local beer. Porchetta is one of the new additions to their menu and it is not your typical Tuesday night dinner. The meat was complemented this winter by a fresh and light salsa verde and seasonal vegetables (recently seen on the plate: kale and cranberries) on a bed of garlic polenta. The sides change with the seasons. Crispy pork skin topped the layers of flavours and textures to add a nice crunch to the dish. To be sure that guests do not go home wanting more, extra crispy pork bits and salsa verde were passed around in separate dishes – just like at mom’s. Come hungry!
In Italy, porchetta is also served in a panini and sold from distinctive white vans for people to take away. An excellent sandwich version is offered at Meat & Bread. It actually is the star on the menu and has a very central place in the restaurant. In fact, the first things you may very well see when entering are stacks of bread and porchetta being sliced on a cutting board underneath a warming lamp. The meat is then always moist and juicy. Prepared to order, this sandwich is served warm with salsa verde and crispy crackling on a ciabatta bun resting on a wooden slab. For a hint of heat, try the home made mustard served on the side. Communual tables are also the norm here. There is no elegant way to eat such a messy sandwich in public, so bite right into it and enjoy!
For a more vintage setting, Big Lou’s Butcher Shop offers its own version of the porchetta sandwich with chimichurri. This garlic and parsley sauce is a nice Argentinian touch to a very Italian dish. Everything served at this classic sandwich counter located at the back of the butcher shop is locally sourced and the meat is organic. The tiny corner place is filled with charm thanks to the old fashioned accessories and friendly butchers. If the porchetta sandwich is sold out when visiting (as it was the case for me), you can treat your taste buds to another very filling pork sandwich — the banh mi — or take some porchetta to cook at home from the butcher shop. Ask for advice on how to cook it properly to get the most out of it.
Porchetta is without a doubt one of the Italian cuisine gems that recently surfaced on numerous local menus as if it was competing with bacon for popularity. Its inviting smell, mouth-watering flavours and crackling texture make it an obsession. The only more decadent thing would be bacon-wrapped porchetta.
Irish Heather, Long Table Series
212 Carrall St, Vancouver
Sunday to Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Meat & Bread
370 Cambie St at Victoria Square, Vancouver
1033 Pender St, Vancouver
Twitter: @1meatandbread (Cambie location), @2meatandbread (Pender location)
Big Lou’s Butcher Shop
269 Powell St, Vancouver
Monday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
2276 E Hastings St, Vancouver
Porchetta sandwich only available on Saturdays
3473 Cambie St, Vancouver
Tuesday and Wednesday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday to Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m
Written by Véronique St-Antoine, contributor to Vancity Buzz. Connect with Véronique on Twitter at @vstantoine.
Meat & Bread photos by Véronique Crozier Moal