It’s finally happened — Vancouver now has a dedicated craft cider bar. Orchard & The Sea opened on July 14 (a week ago as I write this), and operates out of The Birds & The Beets space in Gastown on Thursday and Friday nights from 6pm-11pm, and Saturday night from 5pm-11pm (sort of like a pop-up restaurant). I’m fairly new to the whole cider thing, but already know that I don’t like the syrupy sweet mass-market ciders out there. Maybe I’ll find something more to my taste here?
The Birds & The Beets usually closes at night, but when Orchard & The Sea are operating, they switch over to serving cider and also offer small plates (tapas) prepared by Chef Jefferson Alvarez. This was my first time having Chef Alvarez’s food, so I was a little excited.
The team behind Orchard & The Sea also run Txotx Basque Imports (pronounced “choh-ch”), a cider-importing agency. They were able to bring in a huge variety of BC ciders, some of which have never been available in Vancouver before.
The menu changes weekly. Mostly small plates/tapas, with one big protein — the 1LB Txuleton ribeye for $35. A bit too spendy for me, so I stuck with some small plates.
Side one of the cider menu. Glad to see a couple draft options, in both 8oz and 12oz sizes! I do like Sunday Cider a lot, and drink it sometimes at Bestie in Chinatown. I’ve had the Shacksbury once before and was a big fan because of the eye-opening complexity and funkiness that I’d previously associated more with farmhouse ales.
Side two of the cider menu. They even have a cider from Basque Country and France. I do appreciate the range of prices, from accessible to “special occasion”.
The chalkboard with the draft cider choices.
Condensed food menu. NOTE: everything is counter service here. They will remove empty plates and cups, but you order at the bar and grab extra cutlery and napkins from the bar as well.
Their bottle selections on display.
Never seen these before!
Scenic Road Cider is a new cidery out of Kelowna that just opened on June 4! Already doing great work.
I ordered my food and got this CUTE apple thingy. Cue the obligatory apple-themed movie quote:
How do you like them apples???!
We started off with the two draft ciders:
Shacksbury – The Basque (6.2%) in front, Sunday Cider – First Press (6%) in back. I really like both of these. The fact that they’re semi-easily attainable makes me really happy. The Sunday Cider is off-dry and has this great fresh quality to it too. Quite light and approachable but with a bit of complexity to keep things interesting. Not sure if what I’ve had before was this same “First Press”, but every time I’ve had it it’s been enjoyable. The Shacksbury is more funky and complex. You can really smell and taste the difference between the apples used in either cider. Visually, they couldn’t be more different. So fun to explore this new world of aromas and flavours!
Manchego Cheese with Quince Paste and Honey Mustard ($8). Good. Standard stuff. Nothing more than it needs to be.
I don’t know where they got the bread from, but it was pretty amazing stuff. Thin, crispy crust and moist, stretchy crumb that had no faults.
Duck Liver Pâté with Fig & Mustard Jam ($8). Pretty close to foie, as far as I’m concerned 🙂 Served with what appears to be toasted brioche. Meg had never tried foie before, but she seemed to enjoy this. Cider is a great match and palate cleanser for this.
Seafood & Chorizo in Basques Sauce with Onion, Saffron, Peppers, and Cider Reduction ($8). Well-cooked small plate of squid, octopus, and mussels with slices of chorizo. Purity of the ingredients shine through.
Baked Gluten-Free Chicken Drums with Smoked Paprika Sauce ($8). One dud of the night. Impressive crunchy gluten-free (whatevs) coating, but the meat was dry:
They don’t have a full kitchen here, so that’s why it’s baked and not fried. Fried will always be better than baked, but they still got an impressive crunchy coating. Shame about the dry meat.
Time for another cider!
BX Press Crackwhip (7.3%). This one’s a hopped cider! It’s the beer and cider worlds colliding. Really enjoyed this one. To me, the hops gave a floral, herby quality to the dry-ish cider. Must-try for beer geeks.
I guess “hops” in French is “houblon”, so Houblon Chouffe finally makes sense.
Label porn, if you’re interested.
BX Press Cidery is just a couple years old.
This one was comped by the kind people at Orchard & The Sea: Scenic Road Cider – Dry (7%). Really full-flavoured and a touch sweet but not overly so for a “dry”.
More label porn.
I wonder if freshness matters for cider as it does for hoppy IPAs…
A comped bottle shared amongst many people: Merridale Scrumpy (11%!!). Impressively bone-dry in comparison to everything else I had earlier. You could get SO shitfaced from this because it tastes deliciously innocuous. You’ve been warned.
Side note: I was at the Merridale Cider tap takeover at St. Augustine’s earlier in the week, and I found most of what I tried to be too sweet for me — even the “dry” styles. This Scrumpy was comparatively bone-dry and delicious.
Table neighbours gave us a taste of this Isastegi Sidra (6%). By this point of the night, I was pretty wobbly but happy. This one smelt and tasted very different from what I had before, so therefore well worth your time and money. I swear cider has its own “terroir”, and it’s great to be able to experience a big slice of it here.