In March of 2014, Vancouver institution Solly?s Bagelry celebrated its 20th year of serving its signature Brooklyn-style bagels. In honor of the anniversary, we spoke with the founder and current owner Leah Markovitch about how she kept true to her grandmother's traditional recipes over the course of two decades.
Solly?s Bagelry exudes a homespun charm. Markovitch describes the delis as places where people could feel comfortable kicking off their shoes and relaxing. The antique furniture, mismatched sets of chairs, and soundtracks of old jazz and Jewish songs exemplify Solly?s Bagelry's laid-back and nostalgic spirit.
What's Not To Like?
Markovitch grew up baking and cooking alongside her grandmother, who taught her to create traditional Old-Country meals with simple but flavorful ingredients. When faced with an unfamiliar dish, Markovitch would ask her grandmother, "Will I like this?", and she invariably received the same response: "What's not to like?"
Solly?s Bagelry continues to use many of Markovitch's grandmother's generations-old recipes today, making everything from challah to knishes from scratch. None of the dishes can be considered haute cuisine or upscale street foods, but they emphatically aren't meant to. Instead, Markovitch says that her grandmother's family recipes showcase the sort of flavors that can only come from rustic, traditional home cooking.
"What's not to like?" now serves as a slogan at Solly?s Bagelry.
Taking inspiration from the Jewish delis of Brooklyn, Solly?s Bagelry boils and hand-rolls more than a dozen styles of bagels, which move straight from the deck ovens to the display cases. This style of bagel is famous for its texture, which is noticeably chewier than many deli or caf? bagels. Although they might seem different at first, Markovitch recommends trying one of these signature creations "if you want to taste tradition."
Markovitch recognizes how fortunate she is to have access to butter, chocolate, and other ingredients that would have been considered luxurious delicacies for past generations of Eastern Europeans. She uses these ingredients to add richer and heartier flavors to certain creations, and she even takes a bit of artistic license by creating inventive items, such as samosa knishes and chocolate matzah. However, she is quick to point out that, even when experimenting, Solly?s Bagelry never strays too far from the original recipes, and tradition is still the baseline. Some of the items' flavors may have changed a bit, but Markovitch says, "there's not too much that my grandmother would be surprised at."
As Justin Lussier traveled through Naples in 2005, he decided to stop for the city's famous pizza at a small street-side eatery bearing the sign Pizzeria Sorbillo. He loved his traditional thin-crust pie so much that he rushed to a pay phone and called his friends Christian Bullock and Jason Allard to tell them that he wanted to make that same pizza. When Justin returned to Canada, the trio travelled to confer with the culinary experts at Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) in order to uncover what truly makes a pizza Neapolitan. Two years later, the friends set out to open Famoso.
Famoso's chefs all follow strict guidelines set by the AVPN?they only use OO Caputo flour imported from Naples, and they hand mill tomatoes imported from the foot of Mount Vesuvius, where each crop is grown in soil enriched by volcanic ash and sung to daily by volcanologists. Chefs top the crust with local fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and pecorino romano cheese. They then spread dough into wafer-thin disks, which they blast-fire at 900 degrees for 90 seconds inside imported Italian bell-shaped ovens. Pizzas are also topped with ingredients such as soppressata, oven-roasted Italian sausage, kalamata olives, and truffle oil.
Famoso Baristas can pair many of these pies, some of which are reinvented twice each year, with a mix of local and international wines?including vintages from Italy and Canada?and hand-crafted gelato. At each restaurant, they ferry dishes and drinks through rustic and inviting interiors, each of which reflects the unique style of its neighbourhood, though all are united by accents of exposed brick and wood, wine-bottle art, and sculptural pizza-box displays.
Weaving a tapestry of authentic subcontinental dishes, the chefs at Maurya Indian Cuisine incorporated ingredients from across India’s varied regions. The country’s street food vendors are represented by the toasted potato and pea-cake appetizers; Goa is represented by spicy chicken, lamb, or beef vindaloo; and the tastes of South India make an appearance in the coconut- and poppy seed–flavoured chettinad paste. The restaurant’s base sauce—a mix of five sauces— flavours hearty, shareable portions of lamb, chicken, fish, and goat. The bistro also keeps vegetarians sated with eats that include black lentils slow-cooked overnight and several styles of naan, including one that is equipped with WiFi.
Food arrives with a choice of ambiance. One is the well-lit dining room decked out with long drapes suspended from a high ceiling. The other is served on the eatery’s patio, complete with its own chef who tends to the outdoor tandoor oven. Whether indoors or out, the staff maintains a high standard of professionalism, earning an array of positive press mentions, including Dine Out Vancouver's Best Bite award for service in 2010.
At The Libra Room, if the bartender asks, "What's your sign?", it usually results in a cocktail, not a detailed presentation of your moon signs, relationship compatibility, and chances of dying in a coffee-grinding accident. The astrologically inspired restaurant creates martinis and cocktails designed specifically for each astrological sign—such as cognac and Grand Marnier for the sensitive and open Pisces and espresso vodka and white-chocolate martinis for discriminating Virgos. But The Libra Room is more than just a bar with cosmic libations. With live music seven nights a week, the music lounge and restaurant supports the local music scene, booking both budding musicians and Vancouver jazz greats such as John Korsrud, Wes Mackey, and Bruno Hubert. It also hosts major musical events, including the Vancouver Jazz Festival and New Music West festival.
Along with specialty cocktails and select wines, The Libra Room serves a menu packed with burgers, pizza, and other great bites for sharing, such as mussels and cheese platters. The colourful space combines the rustic charm of exposed-brick walls and wooden tables with the eclectic charm of large lava lamps and prismatic lights that illuminate the bar.
On his CTV News feature, La Belle Patate founder Mathieu Lott revealed he disdains the word "chef" and rather prefers his chosen title: Grease King. The name belies his and founder, as well as native Montrealer, Pascal Cormier's devotion to down-home cooking, a style that embraces the humble simmer of the deep-fryer over the fuss of candlelight, linens, and diamond-encrusted toothpicks. His poutine dishes inject three diner locations with classic Quebec flavour, layering hand-cut, double-cooked french fries with cheese curds and a ladle of vegetarian brown sauce.
At his original venue in Victoria, Mathieu and his staff put on a sensory show for guests at all stages of their poutine prep. Once the potatoes have tumbled in an antique peeler, they are sliced in view of the tables, then cooked twice in bubbling oil. Each of the three locations attests that its never-frozen cheese curds squeak when chewed, a noise that indicates their quality and desire to be heard. The poutine menu covers creative takes on the traditional curds-and-sauce staple, including an egg-laden breakfast poutine and a Meat Lover poutine with beef, bacon, and pepperoni. The kitchen also crafts handmade burgers, Montreal smoked-meat sandwiches, and steamed hot dogs to accompany the potato mainstay.
Subeez’s team of chefs—champions of contemporary fare infused with eclectic twists—whip up familiar-yet-unique noshes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Amid an open kitchen looking on to the warmly lit dining room, culinary gurus chop and stir for an audience of eaters as they architect dishes featuring mouthwatering ingredients such as watermelon-jalapeno coulis, house-cured duck leg, and foccacia bread fresh from the oven. Alongside hearty steak frites and lamb shanks, a host of meatless fare dapples the menu and exemplifies the kitchen’s dedication to pleasing the palates of vegans, vegetarians, and visiting apatosauruses. Dexterous bar tenders concoct artful libations before launching them down the sleek wooden bar, and baristas specializing in the art of bean brewing send mugs of perfectly percolated coffee out to tables.
Intent on fostering a welcoming atmosphere, attentive servers continually wend and soft-shoe through the dining room’s intimate booths and tables to ensure that each patron remains sated and free from stomach growls. To further enhance the restaurant’s sense of youthful, eclectic energy, a lineup of DJs holds court in-house on Thursday through Sunday evenings spinning sonic webs of R&B, funk, and dubstep.