Archive for May, 2016

The Cheshire Cheese Inn

Friday, May 20th, 2016

CheshireCheeseInn_Alan_Cassidy_DunbarLife_PallaMediaPurveyor of British Pub Fare

The Cheshire Cheese Inn, fondly known as “The Cheese,” has been a Dunbar fixture for 37 years. The name pays homage to London’s Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which was built in 1666 and has been operating as a pub for 350 years.

Derek Cassidy founded the Dunbar business in 1979. Aware that a large number of fellow British expatriates lived in the district, his dream was to create a cozy pub with a historical feel, complete with low-beamed ceilings, dark wood paneling, a large bar and a combination of booths and tables to gather with friends to raise a glass and enjoy a pub meal.

His son, Alan Cassidy, has been the sole proprietor for 14 years. In addition to his father and himself, four generations of the Cassidy family have been actively involved with the business including Alan Cassidy’s two sons, his brother and his grandfather who worked as a bookkeeper.

CheshireCheeseInn_beer_DunbarLife_PallaMediaAlan Cassidy hails from Liverpool and he is as charming as his Liverpudlian accent. The secret recipe for this restaurant’s longevity is the menu and the cozy atmosphere. Another key ingredient is the warm hospitality offered by the charismatic owner and his staff who he fondly refers to as “a friendly and cheeky bunch.”

“We have wonderful staff.” Cassidy explains, “We put a lot of time into their training and have high expectations of them.”

It appears Cupid is a Cheshire Cheese Inn patron. Cassidy reports that he met his wife and a few of the Cheese staff also met their future spouses while working at the restaurant. In addition to love connections a very loyal customer base has formed. He says, “Some people we serve are the grandchildren of customers my father served 30 years ago.”

CheshireCheeseInn_bar_DunbarLife_PallaMediaCassidy says, “We try to keep to the roots of the old school restaurants.” He explains, “Some of the recipes from the first days are still used today. I think that is why we have stayed around so long.”

“We are proud of the food we put out.” Alan Cassidy

Meals are created from scratch using many local ingredients including line caught seafood and farm fresh veggies. Cassidy says,” If you order chicken pie you know you are getting quality chicken.”

Gluten free options are available and a monthly feature sheet introduces some new selections to tempt the taste buds.

CheshireCheeseInn_pie_DunbarLife_PallaMediaClassic British pub fare includes toad in the hole (pork bangers baked in a Yorkshire pudding served with mashed potatoes and Guinness gravy), fish and chips, Cornish pasties, lamb stew and savoury pies.

Other selections include handcrafted burgers, hand cut fries, sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes. A wide selection of appetizers (chicken wings, calamari, nachos, bruschetta, fish tacos) is offered to whet the appetite or to enjoy with a pint of beer.

Cassidy mentions that micro and import beers are offered on tap and of course Guinness is a staple.

If you are looking for a local brunch spot try The Cheese. Cassidy says, “Brunch is done on a grand scale in Britain.”

CheshireCheeseInn_breakfast_DunbarLife_PallaMediaCassidy recommends coming with a hearty appetite. ‘The Full Monty’ features three eggs, streaky bacon, two pork bangers, ham, baked beans, griddled tomato, mushrooms, crispy hash browns and toast. Pancakes, Cheshire benedicts, French toast and omelettes round out the menu.

It is always exciting for kids to visit a restaurant that exudes a pub-like feel without the rowdy atmosphere. The Cheese offers a kids’ menu and all ages can be found happily dining together. This is a place to gather and celebrate. Sports teams of all ages enjoy getting together for a meal and watching live sport broadcasts.

A rousing game of trivia takes place each Tuesday night. General knowledge questions posed to diners can range from Disney to politics, history and geography. Correct answers are rewarded with a piece of cheese to drop inside a draw bucket for a chance to win gift certificates and prizes. The maximum size team is four players. Cassidy explains,”Trivia Tuesday is lots of fun. This is very popular in Britain. It makes us feel smart when we get one right.”

CheshireCheeseInn_exterior_DunbarLife_PallaMediaMany memories have been created at the restaurant. Cassidy points out, “The Cheese sees happy and sad times from wedding receptions to wakes.”

Some clients say The Cheese hasn’t changed over the years and Cassidy takes this as a compliment. He and his staff take pride in listening to what their customers say and offering up consistently good comfort food in a familiar setting.

Like the historical London pub The Cheshire Cheese Inn is modelled on, this long-term business is proof you don’t need to fix something that isn’t broken.

The Cheshire Cheese Inn
4585 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2G7
Telephone 604-224-2521

Dunbar Family Dental

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Dunbar Family Dental Dr David Hou Palla MediaDentist Returns to His Roots

From an early age Dr. David Hou knew he wanted to be a dentist. His experience with orthodontic work began in grade 6 when he made monthly visits over the course of three years to have his braces adjusted. His dentist always made the experience comfortable and fun.

“My career choice had a lot to do with how I was treated at the dentist’s office.”

Born in Vancouver, Dr. Hou grew up in Dunbar. During his teenage years he did some job shadowing and mentoring to get a feel for the profession. He was hooked. After graduating he followed his dream and set off for sunny California where he attended the University of California and completed his dental training at Loma Linda University Medical Centre. In 2006 Dr. Hou returned to Vancouver to continue practicing dentistry.

Dr. Hou has been a dentist in the Lower Mainland for the past 10 years. Two years ago he began practicing at Dunbar Family Dental.

His busy private practice includes himself, his certified assistant, his team of two hygienists and two receptionists. Three operatory rooms contain televisions on the ceiling for patients to relax and enjoy a show and headphones to listen to music.

Some of the newest technology includes a digital panoramic X-ray machine that provides a broad view of jaws and teeth. Digital X-rays provide a clearer image compared to film and expose patients to 90 per cent less radiation than a traditional X-ray. The results are instant and can be viewed on a computer monitor, making it an educational experience for patients.

Dunbar Family Dental David Hou Palla MediaHe also utilizes a VELscope machine to screen for oral cancer and abnormal tissue conditions.

Services includes everything from conventional braces for children to Invisalign for adults, check ups, fillings, crowns, root canals, implants and wisdom teeth removal. Oral sedation is available for those who need it or for certain procedures such as implants and wisdom teeth.

Dr. Hou says the overall oral health care has improved so much in the past 20 years that far fewer people are requiring dentures. Many patients are opting for more permanent and practical solutions such as dental implants.

Dr. Hou is committed to providing the best and most up to date care. He regularly attends continuing education courses and is a member of multiple dental study clubs in the Lower Mainland. This allows him to stay up to the date with the newest advances and techniques in the field.

He points out, “Variety in a day makes it fun for me too.”

It is apparent Dr. Hou is passionate about his profession and thoroughly enjoys work. He is extremely person-able and likes meeting new people. He says his entire staff tries their best to make a visit to the office a positive experience.

He encourages parents to bring their children in before two years of age. Feeling comfortable and making the experience fun is key. He says, “A large part of the visit is introducing them to the office and getting them used to coming.” Selecting a prize afterwards from the treasure chest is always a special treat.

Dr. Hou takes pride in offering family dentistry in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere and forming good relationships with his patients.

Dunbar residents are largely his patient base as they appreciate the convenience of having a dentist close to home. Dunbar Family Dentist’s youngest patient is age two and the oldest is 101. New patients are happily accepted. Dr. Hou speaks both English and Mandarin.

In addition to busy days at his practice, Dr. Hou holds a part-time academic position at UBC. He teaches clinical dentistry (which includes general procedures, fillings, crowns and dentures) to third and fourth year students one day a week and enjoys the experience.

Dunbar Family Dental Dunbar Life Palla MediaDr. Hou believes Dunbar hasn’t changed much since he was young. He finds it a charming place to live and own a business. He is very supportive of the good work accomplished by the Dunbar Residents’ Association and the Dunbar Village Business Association.

Reflecting back on Dunbar from his youth, he notes what remains unchanged is the strong sense of community and it is a safe place to grow up. Some of his fond memories include playing floor hockey and tennis at the Dunbar Community Centre and sipping milkshakes at the former Sodas Diner. Today he and his wife enjoy the walkable neighbourhood. They like to shop at Stong’s Market, dine out and take in a film at the Dunbar Theatre.

He says, “Dunbar is a close knit community. It is very fortunate that I am back and I am blessed to be here.”

Dunbar Family Dental
4210 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 1N9
Telephone 604-733-1616


Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Want to Go for Coffee?

Young woman drinking coffee in urban cafeThis invitation, welcomed worldwide, appears to be especially welcome in this coffee-loving city of Vancouver. I share this addiction, finding those sips of hot coffee first thing in the morning, while the house is still quiet and the day is just a plan, some of the loveliest moments of each day.

Coffee is often social though, with people gathered at kitchens, coffee shops, cafes, outdoor benches and lunchrooms for coffee and some conversation.

My husband remembers with a laugh his university roommates, appearing suddenly by his side in silent parts of remote libraries, red pressure-welts appearing on their foreheads where they recently lay asleep on a desk, quietly bleating out that invitation in a fatigue-sickened state. This is a feeling we all know, of being so incredibly tired but hopeful that a strong coffee and some commiseration will refresh and help set us out anew.

The strength and style of the coffee itself is a personal, cultural thing. While in Switzerland our host mentioned dryly that if North Americans would drink “proper coffee” then perhaps they would not need to drive around with a litre of it attached to their dashboards. To him proper coffee was of course thick, strong espresso sipped from tiny ceramic cups while sitting civilly. And there’s the thing: so much of what makes “going for coffee” valued is the company, the time, the socialization. Ponder the cafes worldwide where crowds sit visiting, reading, sipping, people watching, even just thinking.

Most of us now just sit looking at our phones. Heck, we look at our phones even to get our coffee! Consider the new coffee ritual that has us ordering that latte via a mobile phone so we can race to the shop in our cars and not have to wait the few minutes required to pick it up. Why are we always hurrying?

A friend of mine is traveling in Africa and one afternoon during a hike in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia they came through a small village. They were invited to take coffee by a woman who brought them to her thatched roof hut where she lives with her husband and four young children.

“Going for coffee” at this woman’s home involved her doing the following: chop wood to make fire to boil water. Wash coffee beans through several waters (brought by mules in casks) then roast coffee over the open fire. Pour roasted beans into wooden pestle and grind finely. Add beans to water in a kettle to boil. Wash all the cups and set them on a tray. Light incense. Shoo chickens out. Invite two neighbours as well. Ceremoniously pour the coffee. Serve each guest.

Maybe we can have our coffee experience fall somewhere between “order online-sprint into shop-drive off in car” and the labour intensive Ethiopian village experience. Go ahead and order the coffee via an app but meet a friend to drink it.

Top Trends in Natural Yard Care

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

The Miniaturization of Plants
Our appetite for local food is helping the patio-sized plant trend. A space as small as a balcony can serve as an urban garden that’s home to vegetables, fruit and wildlife. Top performers include Patio Peonies, container blueberries and dwarf cherries. Try ‘Top Hat’ blueberry, a low, dwarf bush blueberry plant suitable for pots. ‘Cupid’ and ‘Juliet’ dwarf cherry were hybridized at the University of Saskatchewan for homeowners who don’t have space for a large tree.

Landscape Layers
An interesting trend in garden design is the concept of a Layered Landscape. Homeowners are planting in vertical layers, with shrubs and perennials planted under a canopy to create a diverse environment full of hardy plants adapted to our climate. Search for ‘Waterwise Gardening’ on Metro Vancouver’s website for a list of drought tolerant plants that will be home to birds, pollinating insects and wildlife.

New Watering Restrictions
Take note this year’s watering restrictions will begin earlier (May 15) and end later (Oct 15) than years past, regardless of weather conditions in the City of Vancouver.

Natural Fertilizer
Natural yard care continues to prove its effectiveness with home gardeners. Ditch the fertilizers and chemicals and opt for bark mulch or compost. For nutrient starved lawns, topdress with a blend of sand and compost and consider leaving mulched grass clippings on the lawn after mowing. If your soil is light brown or yellowish in colour, this is a tell-tale sign that you need to use bark mulch as a top-dressing to add vital nutrients to your garden.

Jessica Salvador is a Certified Landscape Horticulturist. She is Co-Owner of Higher Ground Gardens with Christian Kessner, a Certified Landscape Technician

Tamara Speiran

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Champion of Dunbar Village

Tamara Speiran Dunbar Life Palla MediaIn December 2011 Dunbar Apartments opened its doors. Operated by Coast Mental Health, this supported housing program provides affordable housing for 51 residents to engage in recovery while gaining life skills and independence, which assists them towards self-sufficient living when they feel ready to take the next step.

Coast Mental Health advocates, supports and promotes recovery of persons with mental illness to nearly 1,200 residents and operates more than 30 housing developments throughout the Lower Mainland in partnership with the federal and provincial governments and other funding partners. Coast Mental Health workers (with exemplary level standing by Accreditation Canada) provide support to residents.

The client dynamics derive from varying referral sources which include Mental Health Housing (VCH), BC Housing, Jewish Family Service Agency and St. Georges Place Society which include services specifically tailored to clients with mental health, co-occurring issues, physical health and mobility issues or at risk of or currently homeless.

Tamara is the manager of Dunbar Apartments and has held this position since March 2014. She is employed by Coast Mental Health and has been with the organization for 15 years.

She reports, “It is extremely rewarding to play a role in helping people engage in recovery, be empowered and gain confidence to make informed decisions and take control of their lives as they see fit.”

Speiran and a team of seven mental health workers, a cook and building operator are employed round the clock. While staff support them, residents are expected to be self-sufficient.

Dunbar Apartments offers a cooperative and stigma-free environment with a strong sense of community and mutual support. Residents receive supper daily. Breakfast is provided three times per week through private donations. They live in private self-contained suites and are offered subsidized rent in a secure building.

Clayton Ablett, branch manager of Dunbar’s Vancity branch has glowing feed-back about the housing complex.

“Our partnership with Dunbar Apartments and in particular with Tamara Speiran, who has welcomed us with open arms, has been an extremely rewarding experience for all of us. Her dedication to her work is undeniable and a driving force for us to work more closely with her and the residents. She has been instrumental in helping her community overcome barriers and stigmas with mental health while staying agile and adaptable in her daily work.”

Vancity has been extremely supportive of the housing program. Speiran points out the credit union has made donations to Dunbar Apartments. They have also run financial literacy programs providing information about taxes, credits and money management. Following this program residents receive a certificate of completion. In addition, Vancity offers space at the credit union seasonally for residents to sell beautiful artwork and crafts including birdhouses and fresh wreaths.

Ablett explains, “A core aspect of who we are at Vancity is our ability to meet people where they are and to engage in meaningful conversations with them. Our aligned goals and values with Dunbar Apartments have played a crucial role in our successful collaboration. By joining forces, we aim to bring people together and build healthy communities.”

The average length of residence is 1.8 years, which Speiran reports is a remarkable success rate.

Some leave for health complexity reasons, a few for behavioural issues and the majority elect to leave feeling empowered and ready to take the next step toward independent living. Coast Mental Health helps them prepare and connects them with subsidized housing through organizations such as BC Housing and other non-profits.

Part of the success of this type of housing is resident involvement. The residents at Dunbar Apartments support and understand one another, resulting in community spirit. They value their home and have input via a suggestion box and tenant meetings facilitated by Speiran. The lack of pressure to move until residents feel prepared is also of great benefit.

The residents of Dunbar Apartments feel extremely grateful to have their home located in such a beautiful and central location. Many residents have become friends with local merchants. They enjoy the local shops, easy access to bus routes and the proximity to nature including Camosun bog and trails in Pacific Spirit Regional Park and nearby beaches.

Speiran says the most satisfying part of her job is to see the evidence of success with people engaged in their recovery and gain greater independence. She says with pride, “If they want to be an astronaut we support those dreams.”

Coast Dunbar Apartments
3595 W 17th Avenue
Vancouver BC V6S 0B2
Telephone 604-731-7725