Never met a vegetable – or a loaf of bread – I didn’t like.

Spring. One of the best times to visit Granville Island. It’s produce heaven!

Organic Heirloom Tomatos:

Hmmm, asparagus. I love asparagus.

asparagus

 

And a sourdough epi from Terra Breads. What, you mean this isn’t a vegetable?! No way! Oh well. It took me a couple of hours, but I ate the whole thing in one sitting anyway. Seriously, no bread is safe with me. MWAHAHA!

Sourdough Epi

Battle of the Sourdough: Terra Breads vs Cobs Bread

Readers of this blog might probably have figured out by now that I have a fascination with bread. Bread to me is magical. Bread can be simple: Simple breads come from as few ingredients as yeast, flour, and salt. Which can yield a beautiful French baguette. Bread can be fancy: You can throw just about anything in it – from olives to Asiago, from pumpkin to saffron. Elaborate, and delicious.

A loaf of plain sourdough bread comes from few modest ingredients, and yet it is tremendously complex. It is easy to find very bad, mass-produced, supermarket so-called “sourdough” – way too sour, or not sour enough, or made with commercial yeast. Sourdough bread to me is one of those simple pleasures in life, yet a good tasting loaf, made authentically with a natural starter, is hard to make and find.

Everybody’s tastebuds are different… maybe my palatte has strange preferences for some people. But whatever. The following is a pretty damn close battle of sourdough breads from two Vancouver bakeries: Terra Breads and Cobs Bread. Both consider themselves “artisan” bakeries, both bake very fresh bread. Terra Breads use organic ingredients, hearth-baking, wild yeast, and no preservatives. Cobs also don’t use preservatives, and deliver a wide range of breads. Cobs is a chain under the Baker’s Delight franchise, and can be considered “the Starbucks of Bread.” Terra Breads is a local “chain” with 3 locations in Vancouver, but they also deliver to “organic” stores like Choice’s Markets.

Terra Bread’s “Organic Sourdough Baguette”:
Terra Breads Sourdough Baguette

It has a good, hard crust – crispy and chewy, but not too too thick. The crumb was also chewy, but not too dense. The sourness was evident, but not too strong. All in all a pretty good balance. I liked this better than La Baguette and L’Echalotte’s sourdough baguette. Terra Bread’s was so good that I wolfed down one demi baguette in one sitting, then went back and bought a whole one.
Sourdough Baguette

Cobs “San Francisco Sourdough”:
 cobs

Cobs don’t make baguettes; their sourdough are either round boules or large batard-shaped. I was a bit intrigued that it is a “San Francisco Sourdough” – I wondered whether they used real wild Lacto bacillus San Francisco in the starter. (Unfortunately I never tried sourdough from San Francisco the last time I was there, so I cannot tell what the authetic San Franciscan taste is.) This crust is crispier than Terra Bread’s, and quite thin. The crumb is soft and a bit less chewy. (Attributes likely affected by the fact that it is not baguette-shaped?) Cobs sourdough is tangy, much more so than Terra Bread’s, but it doesn’t have an artificial or nose-hurting taste to it. This is a great sourdough, which, coming from a large chain bakery, was very surprising to me. Compared to another boule-shaped sourdough, it is better than the one at Pane e Formaggio on West 10th. I ate two-thirds of in one sitting.
Cobs San Francisco Sourdough

Close call! Both bakeries make great sourdough, and I like them both for quite different characteristics. I prefer the slightly more sour taste of Cobs’ – but that is a personal preference. Terra Bread’s sourdough baguette is so well made, and to me it is definitely one of the best out there. Tie!


Terra Breads – Kits, False Creek, and Granville Island
Cob’s Breads – wherever. (over 30 locations in Greater Vancouver)

Related posts:
La Baguette and L’Echalotte’s sourdough baguette.
Pane e Formaggio’s sourdough boule

Agro Cafe and Siegel’s Bagels @ Granville Island

A nutritionist might start commenting on how I have not been having the most varied diet. Indeed, I seem to be constantly blogging about cafes, latte’s, and bagels of late. Ah but we can be biased foodies, at least for a while right?

Granville Island… It’s a bit of a trip for me and I’ve been there so often that I don’t really end up buying anything interesting at the Public Market. But I still love just soaking in the place. Nothing like coming down here and grabbing a Siegel’s bagel for lunch. Or any other place in the Public Market for that matter. Still, I can’t resist a good bagel.

Siegel’s Bagels

I’m not sure whether their lox and cream cheese is the best, but it’s not bad. There’s just a bit too much cream cheese though:

Lox and cream cheese

On this visit I also stopped by the Agro Cafe, a popular coffee shop/bistro on Railspur Alley serving organic coffee and food. It’s pretty large and spacious, with seating upstairs and outside. Service is friendly. Usually the outside is filled with people, but it wasn’t busy when I came. I just had coffee, because unfortunately I already ate lunch. They do serve up some nice sandwiches, soups, and snacks though.

Agro Cafe

Hmm, Agro’s latte. What can I say… It is good, not too bitter, the art is nice, but doesn’t have quite that great body and aroma of Cafe Artigiano’s, which is heavenly and still my favorite. The Americano here is pretty good. And I do so love their orange mugs. 🙂

Agro’s Latte

 –

Related post: Siegel’s Bagels

Agro Cafe
1363 Railspur Alley (Granville Island)
1207 Hamilton St (Yaletown)

Siegel’s Bagels

Siegel’s Bagels

 

I am starting to develop a liking for bagels. Armed with my amateur bagel-palate, I am now determined to find some good bagels in this city. As such, I am on a mission to find some “real” ones from bagels shops like Solly’s, and also some fakes from places like Tim Horton’s. (Though I think the “lowest” I will go are freshly baked ones from Safeway or some supermarket. I don’t know if I can bring myself to buy those pre-packaged ones from Dempsters or Pepperidge Farm… although, if you don’t try something crappy, how would you know what’s great about the good?)

Anyway, at Granville Island on Saturday, I stopped by Siegel’s Bagels, who claim to have “possibly the best bagels in the world“. When you make a claim like that, you are definitely inviting trouble.

Siegel’s Bagels

They boast a lot of pretty nice looking bagels, with all your typical flavors but also some interesting ones like rosemary and rock salt, orange poppy, muesli, and a “power” bagel.

Bagels

This is how I am trying to judge the bagels I eat: I try the plain bagel, which I think is the best and fairest judge of bagelry. I try it as soon as I buy it, without cream cheese or toppings, when it is (hopefully) fresh and still warm. If there is some left (ha!), I try it the day after, at that potentially rock hard stage. OK. So I got a plain one at Siegel’s. It was warm when I ate it. A tough outer skin, but very soft inside. It’s chewy enough, but not being that dense it doesn’t last extremely long in your mouth, nor is it much of a jaw-workout. The flavor was well balanced with a slight sweetness, but I didn’t find it that sweet. The softness was actually very nice and surprising, without being fluffy, but unfortunately it also reminded me a little of bread. It actually didn’t turn as hard as most other bagels do the next day.

Uh, as you can see I have little bagel-eating-etiquette. I actually don’t slice it in half first; I like to tear right into it and keep ripping bits off until it’s gone. 😀

Plain

Overall, Siegel’s make good quality bagels. I liked them, but I don’t think they make “possibly the best bagels in the world.” I definitely think Solly’s bagels are better: chewier and more flavorful, a bit sweeter, and less bready.

Siegel’s Bagels

1698 Johnston’s Street (inside the Public Market), Granville Island, Vancouver

Another location in Kits, 1883 Cornwall Street, Vancouver.

La Baguette et L’Echalotte Bakery, Granville Island

Saturday was one of those rare, beautiful Vancouver fall days that I so love: sunny, blue skies, crisp but not windy or cold. Yellow and orange foliage. Quite the calm before the storm, which came hard last night and knocked down trees and power every where. Anyway, such wonderful weather called for a little trip down to Granville Island, where pretty much everybody else headed to enjoy the view too:

cimg3573.jpg

 And buy fruits and vegetables and meat and fish and everything else at the Public Market:

Public Market

I was already on a mission to buy something – anything – from La Baguette et L’Echalotte. I think it is one of the best artisan bakeries in town:

La Baguette

People and baguettes everywhere! And all that beautiful looking, artisanal bread! Of course, being the pig that I am, the first thing I did was to dig into every single one of their sample baskets. At least twice. The breads they had for sampling that day were cranberry and pecan, whole grain Spelt, a dark German rye, and this really sweet brioche… My favorite was the cheese sourdough. Hmmmmmm.

Breads!

Bought a sourdough baguette and tore into it immediately after leaving the store:

Baguette

Their baguette has a very tough, thick and chewy crust. The crumb is slightly moist and not too dense. The sourness is subtle, both taste and aroma-wise. Personally, I prefer softer crumb and crust that is less tough and a bit more crunchy. Otherwise it’s pretty good sourdough, and has a nice chewiness to it, if you prefer chewy.

cimg3605.jpg

La Baguette et L’Echalotte Bakery

1680 Johnston Street, Granville Island, Vancouver

The art of salad rolls.

I love anything that comes rolled up in some kind of wrap. Salad rolls are one of my favorites. So refreshing and tasty with peanut sauce dip. I always have some rice paper lying around at home; salad rolls and variations thereof are pretty simple to make. Still, I cannot resist ordering these things whenever I come across them, but I get a little annoyed if the rolls look like something I whipped up at home in a hurry. Here is a small sampling of the rolls around town.  At somewhat similar prices, Green Lemongrass serves up a pretty yummy roll.

A salad roll at Thai House, downtown Vancouver:
Thai House Salad Roll
Presentation: 0.5/5 (I’ll give it half a mark for that ‘attempt’ with the orange slice. But that might even be too much.)
Taste: 0.5/5 (I mean, just what kind of sauce is that. It was just hoisin straight out of the bottle without anything added. What kind of salad roll does not come with a sauce containing peanuts?!)
 

A salad roll at Green Lemongrass, Richmond:
Lemongrass Salad Roll
Presentation: 4.5/5
Taste: 4.5/5
 

A salad roll at Fraser Valley Salad Bar, Granville Island, Vancouver:Salad Roll
Presentation: 2.5/5 (the utensils are forgivable since it’s food court food and not a restaurant, but the rolling technique, the quintessential rolling technique!)
Taste: 3.5/5

I am surprised that Thai House made it into one of the best restaurants in Vancouver in a recent issue of http://www.vanmag.com/. I found the food there to be completely lack-lustre, especially at the downtown location. In Richmond, competition in the restaurant business has always been pretty fierce. That’s why Richmonders have such picky palates. That’s why you don’t serve ugly looking salad rolls in Richmond and hope to get customers back.