G-W Portraits: Terrence Feng

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It’s hard to tease apart the DNA of a good neighbourhood, but I’m certain that one can’t survive without local businesses that are as engaged as its residents. That’s true of Grandview-Woodland’s business community, especially the grocers, retailers, and restaurateurs along Commercial Drive and Hastings.

It’s certainly been true of the owners and staff of Kin Kao Thai Kitchen. Since they opened in February of this year, they’ve done a roaring business with patrons from across the city. But they’ve also become great neighbours, who always remember your name and your favourites from the menu and are happy to say hello when they run into you around the Drive.

Their food has become a regular habit at our house and they’ve been especially careful and thoughtful around Kevin’s gluten-free and vegan requirements.

Now that they’ve been denizens of the Drive for the better part of a year, I thought I’d ask Terrence Feng, one of Kin Kao’s owners, to share his thoughts about Grandview-Woodland.

You can find out more about Kin Kao on their website and in the review I published when they first opened. We love them for dinner and takeout, but don’t forget to try their lunch and brunch menus.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

G-W Portraits: Trevor & Rowan Whitridge

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I’ve often said that there is art being made all around this neighbourhood, but much of it isn’t apparent. This has been a popular neighbourhood for artists, performers, writers, and makers over the years, but you don’t necessarily know which of your neighbours is a mid-list novelist and which is an accountant for an eco-trust.

Music is different. It wafts down alleyways and across parks, catches your ear as you pass by a coach house practice space, and greets you on sidewalks and plazas. We know who the musicians in our neighbourhood are. When I lived a few blocks away from where I do now, there was a jazz singer across the alley who’d have regular jams in her apartment. Sometimes, I see people I know congregating in the Napier Greenway as part of one band or another. And I always enjoyed hearing my neighbours’ sons practicing as I walked home.

As it turns out, Rowan and Trevor Whitridge have been accomplished professional musicians for a number of years now. They were kind enough to talk to me about their music and what they love about this neighbourhood a few days ago.

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You can find out what Trevor and Rowan are up to, along with their upcoming gigs, on their website: The Whitridge Brothers

Here are a few of the places where they play:

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Jazz Vespers at St. Andrew’s Wesley

VSO School of Music: The Big Band

Capilano University

And you can find out more about the community book exchanges Rowan mentioned in this article.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

G-W Portraits: Graham Anderson

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I don’t do weekly grocery shops, as I might if I lived in the suburbs. Living near Commercial Drive, I have the luxury of shopping daily (or nearly so), making decisions about what I have for dinner based on what looks best at the markets.

Our primary grocery store is East End Food Co-op. We can get most of the staples and ingredients we need there, while supporting a co-operative business that has great labour standards and keeps its profits in the community. They focus on fair trade, local, and organic products as much as possible, while providing as wide a variety of quality products as they can.

We don’t buy everything there, but it’s fair to say we do the bulk of our shopping there. I especially love that they’ve introduced us to so much great produce from BC farmers, including heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables I haven’t seen elsewhere.

On Saturday, the City of Vancouver declared East End Food Co-op Day and there was a celebration in front of the store, including cake and Ethical Bean coffee. It was an extra-special celebration, because it’s the Co-op’s 40th anniversary this year. If that weren’t enough, it was also Co-op Week.

I put one of the Co-op’s Board Members on the spot, asking for an impromptu G-W Portraits interview, and Graham Anderson was gracious enough to agree. Here’s what he had to say about Grandview-Woodland, East End Food Co-op, and Saturday’s celebration:

Tea-Tasting at Tea Sparrow

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Rainy afternoons and tea-drinking go hand-in-hand, or at least they do in my world. Well, in my world, tea is a suitable accompaniment for any time of day or type of weather, so let’s just say that rain, afternoon, and tea make a classic combination.

This drizzly afternoon, I was drinking tea at Tea Sparrow headquarters, taking part in one of their famous tea-tastings. I’ve told you before how lucky Vancouverites are to have a say in which teas go into Tea Sparrow’s monthly boxes. This time, I was one of the lucky few who got to sip and rate Tea Sparrow’s newest discoveries.

In anticipation of their Second Annual Tea-Off next week, Tea Sparrow invited a few bloggers, podcasters, and recipe developers over to experience one of their tea-tastings.

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We rated six teas and two of them were favourites for me, personally – a dreamy Jasmine and a pure Ceylon cinnamon tea. Two others came close – a light, refreshing herbal mix by the Austrian company, Sonnentor, and a masala chai that was fragrant and flavourful.

And as a bonus, we were treated to Michael Menashy’s enthusiasm and expertise while we sampled our tea. When I share some photos of next week’s Tea-Off with you, I’ll also share some of the things I learned today.

Tea Sparrow’s Second Annual Tea-Off is next Sunday, October 25th, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Heritage Hall on Main Street. Tickets are 2 for $10 in advance and $10 per person at the door.

However, I’ve got two tickets to give away, so one of you can go for free and take a friend. If you’re going to be in Vancouver on Sunday, leave a comment on this post (with a contact email) and tell me about your favourite tea. The first person to do so is the winner!

It’s your chance to get in on the tasting and adjudication that helps to make Tea Sparrow’s monthly boxes so special.

G-W Portraits: Andrea Smith

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Vancouver has a reputation as a bike-friendly city, but cycling culture itself has a long way to go before it becomes equally accessible to everyone.

That’s why Andrea Smith and Lucas Gallagher’s shop, Sidesaddle, is such a promising addition to the city. A “women-focused, everyone welcome” bike shop, Sidesaddle caters to one of the fastest growing sectors of the bike-riding market, while striving to make cycling more approachable for everyone. Spaces like these are the next step in expanding cycling culture.

Yesterday, I spoke to Andrea about the shop, its mission, what she loves about Grandview-Woodland, and Bike to Work week.

You can hear more from Andrea in her PechaKucha Vancouver presentation.

Or, stop in at the shop. Andrea’s pal Rudy might just be the city’s cutest greeter.
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Bike to Work Week’s fall edition takes place from October 26th through November 1st this year. Sign up, log your kilometers, and visit celebration stations around the city. There are mounds of prizes and a number of intangible rewards, too.

Register here: Bike to Work Week

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

G-W Portraits: Josie Boyce

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Yesterday, local writer and artist Josie Boyce was my guest for the G-W Portraits series. She’s a long-time resident of the Commercial Drive area and a veteran of Vancouver’s writing, performing, visual arts, and film circles.

Josie spoke about her work, what she loves about this neighbourhood, and how she builds community here.

Here’s a link to Josie’s favourite hangout on the Drive: The Storm Crow Tavern, home of Patton Oswalt’s Sadness Bowl and some excellent beer.

And here’s a link to the Femme City Choir. If you’re planning on seeing them perform this year, buy your tickets early – their shows sell out.

Josie will be reading from her in-progress memoir and other works next week:

All My Empty Dresses: Memories of a Strawgirl
Spartacus Books
3378 Findlay Street, Vancouver
Tuesday, October 13th
7:00 p.m.

You can find Josie on The Josie Pages or on Facebook.

Downtown Gourmet: Meinhardt Fine Foods

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When I lived in Kitsilano, I had a few favourite haunts: Videomatica, Zulu Records, Arbutus Coffee, Tealeaves‘ tea room. I also spent time exploring the many shopping streets in the neighbourhood – West 4th, Arbutus, and South Granville among them.

South Granville’s main attraction for me was Meinhardt Fine Foods, which could keep me occupied for hours. Their groceries ranged from affordable to luxury, but they were all a cut above what you could find at a supermarket. There were also gourmet ingredients you couldn’t find elsewhere. It was a great way to supplement the food education I’d been receiving from the cookbooks I borrowed from the library. And it was a great place to treat myself, whether it was an ingredient I was coveting, good quality chocolate, or a meal from their deli and pastry counters.

Eventually, I moved back to Grandview-Woodland, the neighbourhood I’ve always felt was home. My visits to Kitsilano are infrequent and I rarely make it as far as Meinhardt. Food culture has also changed, so that gourmet ingredients are more widely available across the city. But still, I’d like to visit Meinhardt more often.

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Now, I can. Recently, I was invited to the opening celebration for Meinhardt’s new downtown location at the corner of Granville and Dunsmuir, in Pacific Centre.

They’re not following the same blueprint for their new store, though. Recognizing that they’re opening in the heart of the business district, the store will focus on “grab and go” fare for those who work in the downtown core, those who live there, and Eastsiders (like me) who don’t want to travel across town for Meinhardt’s gourmet goods.

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Their hot bar, soup, and salad bar offerings are all developed by Executive Chef Elke Brandstatter. If the bahn mi sandwiches I sampled at the party are any indication, running to the store for lunch will be a pleasure.

There is also an impressive pastry case assortment, including sophisticated French sweets like macarons and fresh takes on North American favourites like cheesecake, too.

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What most impressed me, though, were two things:

First, their commitment to high-quality local suppliers, like Mellifera Bees and Chef Enrick. From the dairy case to the bread rack, there are British Columbia businesses represented, supplemented by national and international gourmet goods.

And second, I was pleased with the quality and variety of their M-private label Collection – from olive oil good enough for a bread and balsamic pairing to truffles that wouldn’t be out of place at a dinner party.

General Manager Michael Meinhardt was kind enough to talk to me about their M-Collection goods. He told me they were aiming for quality and affordability. It’s something that’s been missing from the Canadian market, at least in BC, where most private label lines are comprised of budget treats or exclusive luxuries. These snack foods and staples are going to become ubiquitous in pantries across the city.

I was a guest at Meinhardt Pacific Centre’s opening celebration and received a box of truffles to take home. No other consideration was received and all opinions, as always, are my own.

G-W Portraits: Kristina Zalite

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When I first met Kristina Zalite, nearly twenty years (!) ago, she was doing environmentalist work and making art. Today, she works at a landscaping architecture firm and she’s still making art.

These days, Kristina’s best known around Grandview-Woodland as a member of Orkestar Šlivovica, a lively Balkan brass band that can be seen at local events like the Parade of Lost Souls, festivals like the Ederlezi Balkan Brass Festival (which they organize), or their Šlivovica Social Club nights.

In our G-W Portraits chat last week, I was happy Kristina chose to focus on the landscape architecture work that she does, while also sharing her perspective on the ways this neighbourhood uses public space to build community.

One of the things I’m really enjoying about this project is how rich and diverse the responses to the question, “What do you love about Grandview-Woodland?” are proving to be. Thanks to Kristina for a great interview!

You can find Orkestar Šlivovica on their website or on Facebook.

G-W Portraits: Trudy Ann Tellis

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I was lucky enough to share a cup (okay, more than one cup) of tea with Trudy Ann Tellis of Trudy Ann’s Chai last weekend. She’s one of my neighbours and she’s also one of the people who work hard to help create and maintain the kind of community Grandview-Woodland is famous for.

We talked about tea and spices, music, potlucks, and all the things she loves about this neighbourhood.

Here’s a list of the organizations, people, and places Trudy Ann mentions in the video:

Pets and Friends

Whitridge Brothers

Drive Street Band

55+ Centre

Vancouver Farmers’ Markets

East End Food Co-op

Andy’s Bakery

Britannia Craft Fair

Britannia Community Centre

Napier Greenway

These are just a few of the ways Grandview-Woodland builds community. I’m looking forward to discovering more with you as this series continues.

Thanks to Trudy Ann (and Coco) for a great interview!

Spoiled For Choice

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The neighbourhood I live in is in transition. There’s a threat of tall buildings and generic chain stores on the horizon. So, today I thought I’d focus on some of the businesses that make my neighbourhood great.

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Food

This is a good place to start, because I just found out that Bosa Foods is taking over the space at Commercial and Parker that Dream Designs left behind. Bosa has been tucked away at the corner of Victoria and Turner since 1957, but the family is redeveloping the block and will be reopening with a bigger space. In the meantime, it’s good to keep them close to their original location and great to learn that an empty storefront will be filled by a business with roots in this community. It looks like the restaurant space beside it is ready to take on a new incarnation, too. If it becomes a sit down Italian deli, the neighbourhood will be in heaven.

Our first stop for groceries is always East End Food Co-op. They concentrate on organic and fair trade products as much as they can, while also trying to support local farmers in the produce aisle.

Donald’s is another of our stops, though less frequently, as both of their locations are on the outer edges of our neighbourhood. They’ve become famous for their produce and prices, while stocking a wide variety of organic and special diet products.

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There are also too many fresh markets along Commercial and East Hastings to list here. I can find just about any produce, spice, or condiment I can think of – which came in really handy for tracking down French Fridays ingredients.

And there are more and more great delis, butchers, and fishmongers in the neighbourhood. Some are longtime favourites, like Bosa, while others are welcome newcomers.

La Grotta del Formaggio has cheese, deli meats, and incredible sandwiches.

If I’m looking for meat, I can go to Pasture to Plate for organic beef, chicken, pork or turkey. If I’m searching for something farther afield, I check Rio Friendly Meats or Windsor Meat Co.

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And then, there’s Gourmet Warehouse. It’s a dangerous place to be if you like to cook. South China Seas is smaller, but just as dangerous.

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Things

Let’s start with Tiny Finery. They stock beautifully crafted local goods – jewellery, letterpress cards, ceramics, bath products. I especially love that they promote the artists and makers they buy from, both in store and on their website.

Doctor Vigari has furnished our home with many pieces of art over the years. They have a collection of art and jewellery that’s carefully curated and eclectic. It’s good that they moved a little farther down the Drive from us, so that we can better avoid impulse purchases.

LaLa’s does retro and kitch, but it’s mixed liberally with chic.

The Found and the Freed casts a wider net than most antique stores. There’s nothing stodgy about the goods they collect.

There are two yarn stores in the neighbourhood, which makes me happy: Baaad Anna’s and Wool Is Not Enough. I’m on a yarn diet, but I know if I want to break that fast I can find what I need at one or the other of these stores. You’ll want to visit both, because they stock quite different (but equally fine) yarns.

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Books, Records, Video

Yup, you read that right. My neighbourhood still has book, record, and video stores.

Audiopile and Highlife Records are both going strong on the Drive, while newcomer Horses Records and Books is carving out its own niche on East Hastings.

I don’t like to brag, but we have so many bookstores in the neighbourhood that I’m only going to tell you about my favourites. People’s Co-op Bookstore is as much a community space as it is a bookstore. Pulp Fiction has a carefully chosen mix of new and used books – whether you’re into pulp and sci fi or the most literate of new books, you’ll be happy here. Canterbury Tales has a solid selection of used books, with a few new ones, too.

And we can’t forget Black Dog Video. The video rental business is a hard one these days, but it’s so nice to have a video store in the neighbourhood that has a broad catalogue. I’m not ready to give up my viewing choices to streaming services exclusively. There’s too much to see that would get left out.

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It’s becoming clear to me that I need to do a neighbourhood series. We’ve had coffee and, now, retail. How about bakeries next? Restaurants are a huge category around here – that would be more than one post. Definitely one on the breweries and distilleries in the neighbourhood. What else? Let me know in the comments.