Are there times when you’re dining out that you fall head over heels for an intoxicating olive oil, a plump and perfect duck breast, or a certain sauce you’d like to get your hands on? Guess what—sometimes you can. Numerous restaurants in the city are making them and other oft-requested ingredients available to us. Shop their alter-ego commissaries—stores for equipment, provisions, and food supplies—and you’ll be eating well indeed.
Prep space in restaurants is often at a premium, and expanding with a commissary allows chefs to wave their elbows around while satisfying customer requests for take-away dishes and desired ingredients. If you’re cooking from scratch, you’ll find ace provisions such as chef-sourced dry goods and spices to underpin home-cooked dishes, as well as easy heat-and-eat meals.
At Rangoli, Vij’s casual next-door sib, regulars shop the fridges, which are stocked with tempting ready-made curries like chicken with kalonji spice, garam masala beef, and mother-in-law’s pork. Freshly roasted ground spices, daal, samosas, saag and paneer, and chutneys further round out the offering.
Walk into Woodland Smokehouse & Commissary hungry and you’re in trouble—a wide array of tantalizing foods await. Created by Peckinpah’s Tyson Reimer and Ryan Murfitt, Woodland makes pulled pork, beans, collard greens, and sauces for the restaurant, while chef Anatoli Belov turns out miles of charcuterie. Display cases are full of goodies from commissary-housed start-ups including Earnest Ice Cream and Cartems Donuterie. Meanwhile, the massive kitchen is a hive of activity for other fledglings like juice maker San Juan Family Farm, Rain City Soups, and Street Meet food truck.
If you love La Buca, you’ll adore what next-door Commissary has in store. Browse the selection of stocks, pastas, sauces, and ragu. Offerings change seasonally, but chefs are always on site ready to dish advice.
Anyone who’s savoured Nicli Antica Pizzeria’s pies will relish neighbouring Vicino Pastaria & Deli’s stock of pizza fixings like San Marzano tomatoes, cheeses, and porchetta. There’s more: fine olive oils, white balsamic vinegar, Caputo 00 flour, and prepared meals to go.
Crosstown’s Dirty Apron Cooking School abuts Dirty Apron Deli, co-owned by Chambar’s Nico and Karri Schuermans along with chef David Robertson. The Deli tempts with fragrant spices, harissa, and other top-drawer ingredients. Ditto heat-and-eat beef sparerib pot pies, salmon burgers, lemon gnocchi, sauces, soups, and dips.
At the Cure, upstairs from Main Street’s Campagnolo, chefs follow nose-to-tail cookery and use every smidgen of the two heritage breed pigs they get in weekly from Sloping Hill Farm. The meat is turned into hams and cured sausages, and is used variously at the group’s restaurants. Customers can purchase salumi and pâté from Campagnolo and Campagnolo Roma to go, and apply them in their own inventive culinary ways.
A worthy addition to Railtown is Two Chefs and a Table’s old-style Big Lou’s Butcher Shop. Find impeccable cuts of naturally raised meat, poultry, and game from local suppliers including Polderside and Pemberton Meadows farms plus house-made sausages, jars of duck fat, marinades, veal, meat loaf, and pork ribs, to name a few.
One of Vancouver’s first food carts, Re-Up BBQ, has opened a bricks-and-mortar location in New Westminster’s River Market. It’s here that you can buy their famous pulled pork, as well as house-smoked bacon by the pound.
From saucy ingredients, through fascinating side dishes, and on to actual entrees, there is a wealth of opportunity for home chefs to expand their repertoire and impress any and all guests. Whether it is an exotic olive oil from Umbria, or a dead ringer for pata negra from rural Spain, you are sure to find something to explore with at the local commissary. It’s a trend with legs, bringing inspired restaurant tastes into our homes.