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Salt Tasting Room, Gastown, Vancouver

By now, Gastown’s Salt Tasting Room should be on everyone’s cured meat and cheese radar. The 50-seat restaurant showcases a fine selection of artisan cheese, local charcuterie, BC/international wines as well as beer, cider and spirits.

Open for a ‘whopping’ nine years (a great achievement given the amount of restaurants that come and go in Vancouver), Salt Tasting Room is located in the heart of Gastown behind bustling Water Street, tucked away in the middle of Blood Alley.

Salt Tasting Room interior 2

The interior is a mix of red brick walls, stone flooring, steel high chairs and a long table flanked by a row of suspended tube lights. Chalk boards both up front and in back list the current menu offerings.

Salt Tasting Room interior

We’re here for their newest seasonal tasting menu: The Italian Gas Station Experiment, a month-long collaboration with Port Moody-based Urbani Foods.

Salt Tasting Room Italian snacks
[L to R: Tomato ragu risotto balls with pesto mayo; Crostini, sous vide sausage, Medjool dates]

On the menu? Tramezzini (Venetian tea sandwiches), salami plates and Polpette de Riso (scrumptious risotto balls). There are three selections of each on offer. Sadly, the kale and quinoa risotto balls are sold out on the day of our visit, but we indulge in the tomato ragu and mozzarella-filled variants alongside flights of BC wine.

I choose one flight, we let the Salt team choose the other for my husband. Before long, we’re each brought three wines with a handwritten placemat underneath.

Salt Tasting Room wine flight

One flight contains Anarchist Mountain ‘Elevation’ Chardonnay (Osoyoos), Averill Creek Pinot Noir (Cowichan Valley) and Tightrope ‘Vertigo’ Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Barbera blend (Naramata).

The other trio includes Covert Farms’ ‘Amicitia’ white blend (Oliver), Seven Directions first-release Pinot Noir/Rosé (Okanagan Valley) and Ex Nihilo Merlot (also Okanagan Valley).

For each glass of beer or wine, you get one item off the Italian snacks ‘gas station’ menu. Order a flight and get two items, a bottle of wine, four items (bottles are priced from $50 to $100).

Wine flights cost $15 each and include three x two-ounce tastings, enough to gain an appreciation for a new wine or enjoy the mix-and-match experience of tasty small plates paired with BC and international wines.

Salt Tasting Room 33 Acres sampling

As for craft beer lovers? Four beers from 33 Acres — can’t go wrong with any of them. Appropriately, Russell Brewing’s Blood Alley Bitter is available. Internationally, there’s currently two: Portland’s gluten-free Omission Pale Ale and Estrella Damm ‘Inedit’ Witbier, all by the bottle.

33 Acres of Life is a lightly-hopped reddish amber with a lovely caramel flavour while the 33 Acres of Darkness is a refreshing and malty German style beer with hints of chocolate and coffee.

Our favourite pairings? We’d go back for Cowichan Valley’s Averill Creek Pinot Noir with some more of those lovely tomato ragu risotto balls as well as the Anarchist Mountain Chardonnay to go with the fig & toscano salami. The soft Quebec brie, tangy green apple, olive oil and smoked sea salt of this Italian tramezzino combines nicely with the oakiness of the chardonnay.

Billed as ‘Not your average gas station fare’, Urbani Foods makes happy hour a decidedly merry Italian affair. Get it while you can.

Salt Tasting Room, Gastown, Vancouver

The Italian Gas Station Experiment is offered Mondays through Sundays from 4 to 6 pm. Find Salt Tasting Room at 45 Blood Alley in Vancouver. They’re open daily from 4 pm to late.

About Urbani Foods

Third-generation, family-owned Urbani Foods started as a retail store in East Vancouver, introducing craft-dried salami, fresh sausages and risotto balls (arancini) favoured by both locals and the immigrant community. Those amazing risotto balls are prepared using a recipe that’s been passed down through the generations since 1867. Salt is offering a box to take home for your freezer at the bargain wholesale price of $5!

Unwatermarked photos courtesy of Salt Tasting Room.

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