Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2021


If you have followed this blog long enough, you do know that I have a soft spot for food in the burbs.  Well, it helps I live in the burbs because it directly involves me...  So when a tasting at Natalino's Pizza out in South Surrey/White Rock came calling, I didn't need much convincing.  Seriously, why are so many people so skittish about leaving Vancity to try food out in the burbs anyways?  Maggi joined my on this food adventure where we sampled authentic Roman-style pizza with quality imported ingredients.  The owner/chef is from Italy and really prides himself on creating the best Roman-style pizza in town.  

Before we got to the pizzas, we were served individual ingredients, so that we could appreciate the quality.  That we did with the made from scratch San Marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte, meats and the crust by itself.  When combined into the Queen Margherita, the flavours really melded into something balanced and delicious.  The thin sourdough crust was crispy on the outside while soft and chewy on the inside.  Due to the flavourful sauce, the pizza was plenty tasty and it didn't hurt that there was an even amount of cheese on each slice as well as fresh basil.

Up next, we tried the King Pepperoni with tomato sauce, mozzarella, Spanish chorizo salami, fresh mozzarella, lemon zest and parsley.  Naturally, with so much salami on top, there was much more body and saltiness.  However, this was completely balanced off by the lemon zest.  Something unexpected, but it worked.  As you can see, there was lots of cheese and fresh parsley on top as well.

Continuing on with the local classics, we had the Hawaiian with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, bacon, fresh pineapple, coconut flakes, green onions, and cilantro.  Here was yet another twist with the addition of coconut flakes.  This created a de facto "pina colada" effect where it was indeed very tropical.  Lots of tang as well as sweetness in this one.  Once again, with so much topping, it was quite filling.

Their most popular pizza happens to be the Montanara with white truffle sauce, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, sausage, cherry tomatoes, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and basil.  This was very good with just enough truffle essence for effect without being overwhelming.  The ample amount of tender sausage made this hearty while the bursts of tang from the tomatoes and the brightness of the fresh basil lightened up the heaviness of the sauce.

One of their newer offerings is the Santorini with feta, kalamata black olives, artichoke, red onions, bell peppers, oregano, orange zest and a drizzle of one of the best extra virgin olive oils imported from Italy Chiaro Scuro by De Robertis. This was probably the most loaded pizza, yet the crust held up.  Lots of classic Greek flavours here from the gaminess of the feta to the salty tang from the olives.  Orange zest was the wildcard and it was mostly in the background.  Could really taste the olive oil as it was high quality.

Going a bit spicy, we had the Manila with Spicy sauce, mozzarella, pork belly, banana peppers and cilantro.  This wasn't spicy as in "mouth on fire", rather it was heat that was manageable.  Hence, we could still taste the other ingredients including the buttery pork belly and the tang from the banana peppers.   This was nice spicy finish to an eye-opening experience at Natalino's.  This has to be the best Roman-style pizza I've had in the Lower Mainland.  Not only is the crust excellent (not being too thick, yet still a good contrast of crunchiness and soft chewiness), the toppings are top-notch and plentiful.   Yes, this is not remotely close to where I live, but I'll gladly do a return visit.

The Good:
- Not too thick Roman-style crust
- Excellent toppings
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Mostly takeout, save a few tables. Best eaten fresh

Chef's Plate

Seeing how I usually gather up ingredients from the supermarket to make home-cooked meals, I never really considered ready-to-cook meal kits as an option.  Maybe call it stubbornness or pride, but to me, it always seemed like cheating to go that route.  However, I was ready to see for myself as Chef's Plate came calling and asked if I wanted to give it a go.  Sure, why not, I'm always up for new things and honestly, I've been so busy with life in general, trying to go shopping and then meal plan for the week has been tough.

So I was able to pick 3 different dishes for Sunday delivery to my doorstep for the week.  The thing about these meal kits is that although all of the ingredients are included, the veggies generally still need to be cut up.  That is actually a good thing as it ensures freshness and it keeps longer.  There are some items that you will need to have on hand, but they are common - like salt, pepper, oil, butter and milk.  Otherwise, the meats and seasonings are neatly portioned for the recipe (for 2 or 4 people).  Generally, each recipe took around 30 minutes to prepare.

The first dish we tried was the Harissa Salmon with Moroccan couscous.  This was possibly one of our favourite dishes where the salmon was fresh and when cooked to the recipe's specifications, came out moist and delicious with harissa really coming through.  We felt there was probably too much couscous (but I guess more is better?).  It was fluffy and was accompanied by roasted cauliflower (with curry spice), onions, tomatoes, toasted almonds, feta and lemon juice.

Although simple in appearance, the kids loved the Bavarian Pork Chops with roasted potatoes, broccoli and remoulade.  Once again, following the instructions, I coated the pork chops with mayo and then a breading blend.  Cooked it for the time suggested and it came out moist and tender with a crispy coating.  The remoulade consisting of mayo, dijon and garlic was tangy and flavourful.  Potatoes were tender and the roasted broccoli still had a bite.

The last dish we prepared was the Pork Pomodoro Pasta with pesto pull-apart bread (we omitted the pesto since the kids didn't want it). Due to the absence of pesto, the bread was a bit plain in appearance.  It was fluffy inside though.  As for the pasta, it was fully-loaded with pork and zucchini.  Really could taste the sweetness of the onion while the Italian herb spice blend was nicely balanced.  Again, the instructions were on point with al dente pasta.  One doesn't need to be super-skilled to make this dish.

So we were quite impressed with the meal kits and I had a new appreciation for the convience of it all.  Therefore, I put in a personal order for the following week consisting of 4 different dishes.  I prepared the Creamy Beef Penne with mushrooms first.  Again, the pasta was al dente and there was more than enough beef to make it hearty. With the use of cream cheese, this was indeed rich and creamy. Interestingly, the combination of beef stock reduction and soy sauce provided just enough salty meatiness for the dish.

Something a bit familiar but with a few differences, the Breaded Pork Chops with roasted broccoli and cheesy orzo was still its own dish.  Like last time, the pork chop came out perfectly juicy and tender.  The mayo mustard dill sauce was tangy with brightness.  With an ample amount of orzo underneath, this was a filling meal.  Only thing that could've been better would be more cheese for the orzo.  Despite that, it was still plenty flavourful.

Possibly one of the plainest-looking dishes was the Chicken & Creamy Mustard Pan Sauce with garlic mashed potatoes.  However, it happened to be one of the tastiest.  The deboned chicken leg was prepared in a way that it sported appealing browning while still remaining juicy.  That pan sauce took all of the reserved chicken juices and combined it with shallots, butter, dijon, chicken stock, cream and sour cream.  Rich and full of umaminess.  Only thing is that this was the least filling of all the dishes (most are more than enough food).  Maybe use 2 chicken thighs rather than the leg?

We left the Oven-Fried Fish Tacos with avocado salsa and lime slaw til the very end.  Turned out this was another favourite with flaky fish and a crunchy (and healthy) coating.  The crunchy slaw was so refreshing and tangy.  Coupled with the ripe avocado and lime mayo, this had lots of brightness.  Really enjoyed these tacos.  In fact, there wasn't a dish we disliked amongst the 7 we had.  Chef's Plate is definitely a go-to solution if we are short on time and still want a home-cooked meal.  Usually I do the cooking, but sometimes, I'm not at home due to events I have to attend.  With everything ready-to-go, Viv ended up making dinner with these kits.  We ultimately ordered another week (I didn't take pics of those) and enjoyed those dishes too.  Will definitely order more in the future when my schedule gets hectic.

*The first 3 dishes were complimentary*

The Good:
- Fresh ingredients, portioned out for you to cook at home
- Overall, good recipes
- Delivered right to your door

The Bad:
- Most recipes are more than enough food, even for big appetites, but there are some that are not as filling, just need to choose carefully depending on your family 



If you haven't noticed, Chinatown has been going through quite the transformation in the last 10-15 years.  Once bustling with crowds looking for the freshest veggies and seafood 7 days-a-week, we now find stores closing and being replaced with hipster joints.  The gentrification of the place has drawn a variety of reactions across the board.  For myself, I do reminisce about my childhood and the memories of accompanying my parents on weekend shopping trips and dim sum.  However, I also realize that change is inevitable and sometimes you just have to see things through.  Much like I value family, the owner of the newly opened Fiorino does the same with his Florence-inspired street food, with pictures of family and memories from Florence itself adorning the walls.  Located in the former Brixton, Fiorino adds to the growing mosaic of business that call Chinatown its home.

I brought the family to the media launch so that we could not only share the plates of food, but to properly experience the concept.  We were started off with the Crostini consisting of tomatoes with garlic on artichoke puree, porcini puree with mushrooms and chicken liver mousse.  The crostini itself was crunchy holding up to the wet toppings.  I found the chicken liver to be rustic and chunky while flavourful.  Mushrooms were earthy as expected while the tomatoes were tangy and spiked with plenty of garlic.

Sliced paper thin, the Beef Carpaccio was visually-appealing and topped with capers, shallots and truffle oil.  This also ate very well too with buttery melt-in-our-mouths beef that was well-seasoned yet not overdone.  There was enough truffle oil for effect without being too pungent while the saltiness was just right as the natural meat flavour still came through.

Next up was probably our favourite dish being the house-made Gnocchi with wild boar ragu and parmigiano reggiano.  Although it was on the greasier side, the flavours benefited from the fat as the ragu was rich, meaty and full of body.  At the same time, it wasn't heavy due to the chunks of onions that weren't completely cooked down.  The large gnocchi were tender and somewhere between fluffy and firm. 

We then moved onto the Gnudi Cacio e Pepe.  For those unfamiliar, gnudi are essentially "naked" dumplings where it is all filling and no pasta.  These consisted of spinach and ricotto in a cheese and pepper sauce (hence cacio e pepe).  These were soft and well seared.  The sauce itself was a bit thin but not lacking in flavour.  It was indeed cheesy and a bit buttery.  Fried sage on top completed the dish.

For me, I always happy to see a lamb dish and yes, I was pleased to see the Polpette D'Agnello hit the table.  These were huge meatballs where the lamb was just barely cooked through.  Hence, they were moist and juicy with the unmistakable flavour of lamb.  It sat atop Tuscan salsa verde which was bright, tangy and aromatic.  I ended up eating most of it since I am the only lamb-eater of the family.  No complaints from me!

One dish that maybe needed a bit of refining was the Verdure Fritte featuring semolina-battered vegetables.  We found the batter too thick and dense which also meant it wasn't particularly crispy either.  On the other hand, the veggies were perfect though as they were still crisp while cooked through.  It did state that there was a side of mushroom spread, but I didn't really taste mushroom.  Whatever it was, it was tasty.

Now the other fried dish was appreciably better in the Fritto Misto with semolina-battered local seafood (shrimp and calamari) and roasted garlic aioli.  Although the pieces of seafood were on the smaller side, they were not overdone in any way.  The shrimp was bouncy while the calamari was tender with a slight chew.  The batter was crispy and not greasy.  Side of aioli was creamy and garlicky.

The kids love Arancini, I guessed they saved the best for last (well, everything came pretty quickly, so they didn't have to wait long!).  This was one giant-ass arancini that was crispy on the outside with semi-soft aborio rice and cheese in the middle.  This sat atop a pomarola sauce that was tangy and slightly sweet.  Normally, with such a big arancini, getting the outside crispy (while not burning it) and ensuring the middle is melted, would be somewhat difficult (trust me, I've tried).  However, this was executed well.

For desert, we were served the classic Tiramisu with mascarpone crema, ladyfingers, cocoa powder and sour cherries.  The crema was rich and sweet while the ladyfingers (there wasn't many in ours) were properly soaked and moist.  For some reason, we didn't see or taste any sour cherries.  I'm sure that would've helped cut the sweetness.  In the end, the food we did try was mostly good and great for sharing.  Prices are reasonable and the place has a nice vibe in a Seattle-Portland type of way.  I'm curious about their sandwiches they serve for lunch and some of the new items they have added for dinner.  I just might try that too!

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Generally good sharable plates
- Modern rustic vibe
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:

- Need to refine those fried veggies 


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