As the leaves turn golden and the temperature dips, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as sipping on a smooth stout or genteel glass of red in complement to a good meal. But inside Vancouver restaurant Crowbar, owner William Johnson will have guests reaching for something else: craft cider.
“Ciders are really versatile,” says the certified sommelier and cider expert, who solidified his commitment by completing the United States Association of Cider Makers’ Certified Cider Professional program. “There are some really off-white, dry, refreshing, simple ciders, and then it runs the whole gamut to barrel-aged, wild ferment, high alcohol ciders that you can do really complex meals with.”
Cider apples are not the kind sold in grocery stores (those are the dessert variety). Cider fruits contain higher tannins, more acid, and less sugar then the common gala or fuji. Unpleasant to have by themselves (like crab apples), the offerings under this category each have their own distinct flavour profiles (sweet, sharp, bittersweet, and bitter-sharp), which when blended bring out delectable results.
Thanks to Johnson’s expertise, Crowbar (located in the Fraserhood, though the team is on the lookout for a new location because its current building faces demolition in 2019) is showcasing one of the largest local craft cider programs in the city. Alongside the restaurant’s rotating menu of inventive dishes created by Justin Ell, there are many exciting combinations to be had.
Naramata Dry Apple Cider with Rabbit Grenobloise
With almost no residual sugar, the Okanagan Valley’s Naramata Dry Apple Cider finishes bright and crisp like a brisk, sunny day in autumn. Made from 100 per cent local fruit, the drink’s impressive acidity and carbonation provide a refreshing contrast for white meat dishes such as a juicy rotisserie chicken or baked fish in cream sauce. But Crowbar’s French Rabbit Grenobloise, prepared with carrots, capers, walnuts, and lemon browned butter sauce, is another excellent partner; the dryness of the cider easily cuts through the richness of the butter and earthiness of the meat. The outcome? An exhilarating combination—one that stimulates the taste buds in anticipation for the next bite.
Scenic Road Razz Cider with Slow-roasted Pork Belly
Following the trend of blended ciders including the perry (pear cider), the Scenic Road Razz smells of fresh raspberry juice mixed in with the last vestiges of summer. Traditional apple varieties from the Okanagan Valley are pressed and fermented with raspberries to achieve this award-winning blend from Kelowna. Paired here with a slow-roasted, seared, and oven-finished pork belly (commonly seen in Korean barbecue and British cuisine), this cider still finishes crisp despite the sweetness of the berry. Enhanced by turnip greens, ginger, scallion, and jalapeno (which works well with the bright flavours of the Razz), this reimagined pairing of classic pork and apple is a sure-fire match.
Left Field Co. Big Dry with Dealer’s Choice Pasta
Higher alcohol content and acidity make Left Field’s classic English-inspired cider an excellent companion to creamy, cheesy pastas and other rich Italian fare. Joined here with a robust Cheese Tajarin and delicate egg yolk pasta, the Big Dry’s tartness and hints of cooked apples and stone fruit offer another dimension to the meal. During rainy weekends, imagine enjoying a home-cooked spaghettini carbonara or fettuccini alfredo next to this artisanal small-batch cider from Mamette Lake in the Interior. Uplifting and finishing on a subtle dessert apple note, this is one to sip and savour (and repeat).
Twisted Hills Calville Blanc Semi-Sweet with Caramelized Rice Panna Cotta
Reminiscent of riesling (because apples are often used in its bottling in B.C.), the predominant fruit tasted with this Twisted Hills offering is revealed in its name: Calville Blanc, a French culinary apple. Of the semi-sweet variety, the cider’s finish evokes a fruity saccharinity that is less acidic yet quite pleasant to drink. Enjoyed with an equally elegant panna cotta dessert made with lavender, cashew, and roasted melon, the overall palate is not overpowering. Rather, the combination of difference in textures and aromas makes for a subtle, well-balanced treat—none too different than having wine with a slice of mille-feuille cake or crème brûlée. Whether had from the bottle or from stemware, the sophistication remains.
No longer an afterthought, local cider is here and it’s ready to bring a whole new dimension to Vancouver’s diverse food experience. “There are some amazing cideries making some really delicious ciders,” Johnson concludes. “There’s a wide variation of taste, and if you like something dry or something sweet or something funky and complex, there is something to try.”
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