Vancouver's foodie power couple, Nico and Karri Schuermans, has done it again. The owners of Chambar and Café Medina recently opened the Dirty Apron Delicatessen a few doors down from the restaurants in the same building as their Dirty Apron cooking academy.
In addition to its hot carvery and sandwich bar, the Dirty Apron is a mini-gourmet grocery store, where you can buy everything from organic produce and toilet paper to truffle oil and hand-cranked pasta makers.
I could have spent hours combing through the frozen goods selection, which includes packages of chestnut puree and tubs of house-made vanilla bean bourbon ice cream (grab a squeeze bottle of lavender-chocolate waffle topping and you've got divine dessert in a minute).
And I'll definitely go back after tasting the beef short-rib potpie ($7.50), which I heated up for lunch the next day. The meat was beautifully braised - tender but still al dente - with fresh vegetables, loads of red wine and aromatically spiced with the house juniper-clove blend (also available for purchase).
The packaged tomato-saffron soup ($4.99) wasn't my favourite (the garbanzo beans were undercooked and difficult to digest). But the hot chorizo-chestnut soup (also $4.99) that I ordered with my dinner was bold and meaty and sublime.
As at La Ghianda, the daily meals-to-go (available from 5 p.m.) range from $12 to $16 and could include anything from prime rib to venison stew.
I lucked out with veal osso buco ($16) cooked in a decadently rich braise with marrow-packed bones. I was offered one large piece or two small. I took the latter. It was served with orzo and sautéed rapini. When I added the soup and a small yam and goat cheese salad ($3.42), it was more than enough for two. Now that's what I call a great deal.