ALMOST two years ago, I found the sandwich of my dreams.
They say perfection doesn't exist, but this Coq au Vin sandwich had every quality on my checklist: it was hot; it was loaded with deep, complex flavours; it was on crusty, fresh-baked bread; and it was so juicy I needed multiple napkins to keep my hands clean.
Sadly, a lasting relationship proved elusive. The chef who created the sandwich moved on from the restaurant where I discovered it, and my own version has never been as good.
This week, I fell hard once again.
Tour de Feast opened under new ownership five months ago in its out-of-the-way spot on the lower dogleg of Mountain Highway. There isn't much walk-by traffic here, yet judging by the relative crowd on a Monday lunch hour, it's been discovered. I had actually been trying to visit for weekend brunch, but in two attempts I was foiled by irregular Sunday closings. The restaurant is family-run, and things happen, but inconsistent hours are frustrating for would-be customers. Lucky for me, I didn't give up.
The room is spare, with dusky walls and Eames-style molded plastic chairs. A chalkboard across one wall details the day's specials.
I was surprised by the menu's classic French focus and, considering the quality and quantity, its reasonable prices. From soup du jour ($6) and a roasted beet salad ($7) to cassoulet ($13), and seven-hour braised beef, these are hearty homemade dishes that won't break the bank.
I found my shortrib sandwich on the "Bread n' Meat" menu: beef shortribs that must have been cooked for a full day - they're as succulent as a peach - mingled with caramelized onions, truffle mayo and tangy mustard, all layered in a dense multigrain hoagie. It was utterly delicious, and worth every penny of the $11 I paid for it. Just like that, I'm hooked.
My lunch mate, The Dancer, tried one of the day's features ($10): a pulled pork soup-and-sandwich combo. Clear broth came loaded with white beans and ham, peas and green beans, cherry tomatoes and wilted spinach. Rather than typical barbecue pulled pork, the sandwich came layered with confit pork, flavoured with sage and thyme; red onion jam and Dijon, all on a chewy ciabatta.
With both sandwiches we opted for a crisp salad of mixed greens, rather than the alternative of chips (not fries), which seem an odd choice to pair with such well-executed food.
Desserts and pastries are also made in-house. We could have indulged in a poached pear tart with vanilla ice cream or a tea cake, but we couldn't manage another bite.
The bill for lunch, which also included a tea, added up to $25.42 including HST.
While I do plan to go back and try brunch, it's going to be tough to order anything except my sandwich. Tour de Feast café and catering is at 319 Mountain Hwy., North Vancouver. Call 604-980-1811 or visit tourdefeast.com.
. . .
Seeking the perfect gift for the gourmand in your life? West Vancouver-based Ambrosia Adventures offers a terrific line-up of mouth-watering cooking classes in the New Year that any foodie will love.
A "Men's Only" Cooking Class takes place in the kitchens of the Four Season's Hotel with Yew Restaurant chef Sean Murray on Thursday Feb. 7, from 5: 30 to 9 p.m. The $149 ticket price includes the cooking class, wine and sit-down dinner. And it teaches participants to make a delicious meal just one week before Valentine's Day.
See how that works?
On Feb. 22, Karen Barnaby teaches Everything Bacon ($74.50) from 6: 45 to 9: 30 p.m., a class that includes instruction on seared scallops with creamy bacon balsamic vinaigrette, kale salad, salmon crusted with bacon and more.
And on Feb. 25 from 6: 45 to 9 p.m., Top Chef Canada finalist Trevor Bird, who owns Fable Restaurant on Vancouver's Fourth Avenue, will share his recipes and stories from the show ($74.50).
For a current class list, and to book, visit ambrosiaadventures.com or call 604-218-2084.
Watch for more gift ideas next week.
Deana Lancaster has been writing about food and wine since 2000, and worked in restaurants for more than a decade before that. Follow her on twitter @deanal, or send her email to firstname.lastname@example.org.