Die Pie brings a strategic twist to vegan pizza
Can vegan pizza even exist? I think it’s a legitimate question as most pizza often incorporates the dairiest of cheeses and the dirtiest of meats to glorious effect. A new denizen of west Jasper Avenue makes a surprisingly good case for vegan pizza—and not just for vegans. That’s important for people who have no aspirations to veganism.
Die Pie (as in ‘pie to die for,’ though nothing had to die for this pizza to occur) looks like the paint isn’t even dry on the attractive mural up its west wall. And our server was an enthusiastic ambassador for the place, fairly boasting about the terrific wines and beers on offer and endorsing a few of the dishes as my co-diners and I scanned the bill of fare, which comprises pizza and pasta lavished with the housemade vegan cheese.
I confess to utter ignorance on the topic of vegan cheese, apart from knowing that cashews, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and soy play some role in the stuff Die Pie makes. They’re so proud of it, you can order a platter of it all by itself.
A chalkboard announced a number of specials that sounded too good to pass up—beet salad ($12) and a zucchini carpaccio pizza with feta and rosemary cream sauce ($18). The black garlic and truffle pie with hemp Havarti ($20) captured our co-diners’ interest, and it seemed appropriate to test the joint’s penchant for meat fakery with the pulled pork pizza ($18).
The complimentary bowl of soup that came with each entrée boded well—a deliciously creamy squash concoction with a swirl of sour cream (made from cashews) through it and a coconut aroma. Likewise, the beet salad was beautifully wrought from perfectly roasted beet chunks topped with basil leaves and candied walnuts on a pool of rich sour cream, with a splash of balsamic vinegar to bring out the sweetness of the beets.
The pizzas were the paradox I expected, completely unlike and yet exactly what I want from pizza—the crisp yet chewy and pliable thin Neopolitan-style crust, a nice base of, but not too much, creamy cheese and premium toppings that seem slightly decadent. Truffles are practically synonymous with decadence, and lots of places overdo it on potent truffle oil. Die Pie does it right however, subsuming the fungal flavour in a savoury black garlic paste that covered the crust under scattering of convincingly cheesy Havarti and a canopy of mixed greens. Nice.
Zucchini doesn’t sound like much of a carpaccio ingredient compared to thin-sliced beef or tuna, but the silken rosemary cream sauce was the perfect foil to the practically transparent veggies and the salty snap of soy feta.
I was most looking forward to the pulled pork pizza, and once again I was disarmed. There wasn’t a lot of the jackfruit “pork” on the pie, but there was a lip-smacking barbecue sauce, smoky chipotle aioli and a chance to experience the cashew mozzarella, which was uncannily creamy, with a slightly whipped texture that made it seem melty. I was entirely impressed, I loved the hint of jalapeno heat, and I love when they put pea shoots on things.
It should be noted that Die Pie has a superb beer menu. Our friendly server put me onto the Burnside Brewery Sakura gose, a sour beer flavoured with salt-cured cherry blossoms. It was delightfully tart and faintly floral but I would give the edge to the excellent tropical fruit gose from Modern Times Brewing in San Diego.
Die Pie is not going to float everyone’s boat, especially if they wander in expecting the vegan approximation of a generic Italian greasewheel. But the food is well thought-out and carefully wrought and something utterly unique in this here town (so far). Vegans should be thrilled, of course, but non-vegans should also check out a unique and satisfying dining experience—by any standard.
11215 Jasper Ave.