Archive for December, 2016

New District

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

new-district-wine-farrell-kearney-hampson-thorpe-dunbar-life-palla-mediaFrom Vineyard to Table

The south end of Dunbar has recently gained a bit of a Main Street feel with New District wine shop having moved into the neighbourhood.

New District opened in May 2016 and is a full service liquor store with a difference – 98% of the wines they sell are not available in government liquor stores. Their goal is to shine the spotlight on small and medium sized wineries that may otherwise not be carried in larger stores due to the volume they would need to produce.

If you have gone on an Okanagan wine tour and returned home hoping to find that gem you tasted and fell in love with, you may very well find it at New District, and if you don’t, they will try their best to special order it (by the case is best!). The shop also carries wines from around the world that you won’t commonly find elsewhere.

“Every wine has a story behind it, and we are great storytellers at New District.” Isaac Hampson-Thorpe

Here you will also find beer – both larger brand names and craft beer – and craft spirits. New District carries products from 20 different B.C. distilleries such as G&W Distilling, Long Table, Odd Society, Shelter Point and Victoria Spirits.

The interior of the store is beautiful and takes advantage of the shop’s high ceilings. Wine and spirits are displayed on tall custom shelves, industrial glass pendant lights hang from the ceiling, and rich coloured wood flooring conjures thoughts of wine barrels.

Tables are elegantly displayed with specials and themed selections to help make your search for the perfect bottle even easier, however you will never feel at a loss as New District is staffed with wine experts who are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about wine. All of the staff are certified wine educators, but also have other talents: one is a pastry chef, another is certified sommelier, two are bartenders, and a number are former wine store managers; they can help direct you to the perfect bottle.

new-district-wine-1-dunbar-life-palla-mediaStore manager Isaac Hampson-Thorpe got an early start in the business. Family ties in B.C.’s wine country (Naramata) allowed him to spend time in the region and once he started working in a winery he never turned back. He has worked on both the retail side and as an agent and is currently enrolled at Sonoma State University, perfecting his industry acumen in the Wine Business Management program.

Like all of New District’s staff, Hampson-Thorpe is passionate about wine. He says, “New District is big on educating people, and simplifying the enjoyment of wine.”

One of the company’s secret weapons is DJ Kearney, New District’s director of wine. Multi-talented, she is a certified sommelier, wine educator, wine writer, judge, presenter and classically trained chef.

Kearney comments, “We are a strong team at New District. Isaac and I collaborate on the wine buying and merchandising. Our sales team are vastly experienced and dedicated to providing supreme customer service and a great shopping experience.“

“We are much more than the physical store however, with an online e-commerce store so customers can opt to shop from home or work.” DJ Kearney

Their beautiful website offers curated wine selections, giving customers a mix of B.C.’s best, compiled by Kearney. New District does the legwork for you, to expertly hone in on the world of wine. A weekly email newsletter keeps customers informed of what’s new in store.

new-district-wine-2-dunbar-life-palla-mediaNot only can you order online, New District will also deliver to your home year round (including the holiday season – and that strikes one errand off your busy to-do list). Orders of $200 or more qualify for free delivery.

Having experienced a busy Thanksgiving, the New District staff is excited about the upcoming festive season. For the wine connoisseur on your gift-giving list, or to stock up for a busy month of entertaining and parties, New District’s advent calendar showcases 25 different wines and will be available in November.

The word is quickly spreading that New District is the new wine store in Dunbar. Hampson-Thorpe mentions, “Many locals are connecting with the store. Others are coming from across the city.”

The official grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, November 19 and promises to be a fun-filled event with wine tastings and an opportunity to meet the New District team. If you miss the opening you can always drop by for weekly beer tastings (Fridays) and wine tastings (Sundays), hosted by Assistant Manager Martin Farrell.

Hampson-Thorpe concludes, “Dunbar is a community that enjoys wine and spirits. It’s an exciting time for us. It’s a great neighbourhood and we are really happy to be here.”

New District
5650 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6N 1W7
604-229-3663
www.newdistrict.ca

Mexicali

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

mexicali-burrito-dunbar-life-palla-mediaA Taste of Mexico on Dunbar

If you are craving Mexican food, Mexicali is the place to visit for a casual meal. Lee Quang’s customers fondly refer to him as Señor Lee, and he is Dunbar’s purveyor of Californian style Mexican food.

Mexicali has been located in Dunbar for 12 years. Prior to that it was situated on Arbutus Street for 12 years before being destroyed by a fire. Quang was determined to find another West Side location to keep his loyal customers happy and knew he had hit the jackpot when he found Mexicali’s current home.

mexicali-lee-quang-dunbar-life-palla-mediaQuang arrived in Canada from Vietnam in 1988. He learned the art of cooking Mexican food when he worked in the kitchen at Las Margaritas restaurant on West 4th Avenue. This style of cooking is far from his native Vietnamese cuisine but he learned on the job. He has words of praise for the original owners of Las Margaritas who not only trained him but also were extremely supportive when he ventured out on his own. He says, “They became like family and taught me a lot.”

The small restaurant’s décor spotlights Mexicali’s logo (a cartoon chili pepper donning a sombrero) painted on the back wall. In addition, a large mural wraps around the restaurant to create the atmosphere of being on a tropical beach at sunset with palm trees swaying in the warm breeze. Background music, Tejano style, plays over the sound system and gets toes tapping as you dine.

Mexicali is known for its large portions and very reasonable prices.

What is Quang’s secret? Customers order their meal at the counter, pay, and the food is delivered to the table. There are three kitchen staff, including Quang who must have a carbon copy of himself, because he is also out on the floor serving; it is almost as if he is a one-man show and he says this assists in keeping his costs down. Remarkably, he makes it look easy. He smiles and agrees but humbly adds that it is thanks to many of his regular customers who know the menu inside out, which simplifies his job.

He mentions that the community is very loyal, from families with young children to teenagers and adults; people are drawn to the tasty and filling meals. Like clockwork, after he mentions the support of students, a troop of St. George’s students files in to place their lunchtime order before heading back to class.

What do they keep coming back for? Diners are drawn to his quality ingredients and recipes, which are made as low fat as possible. While Mexican food can be spicy, Mexicali’s dishes are made to be on the mild side, although if you request spicy they are happy to turn up the heat!

A number of dietary requirements can be accommodated, from vegetarian to gluten free, nut free, low sodium and low fat. MSG is not found in any of the kitchen’s products and the cooks avoid preservatives to their greatest ability.

Freshness is the name of the game at Mexicali. Quang likes to shop locally and purchases much of his produce at Dunbar Produce. He points out the local merchants are his friends.

The menu includes quesadillas and other snacks (tacos, Redondo rollups) and appetizers (nachos, guacamole, chips and salsa, soups and salads). Entrees feature burritos, chile relleno, enchiladas, tamales, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), chile con carne and vegetarian chili.

mexicali-4424-dunbar-life-palla-mediaMenu standouts are the lunchtime specials, which offer unbelievable value. Quang indicates the teenage crowd is drawn to these specials because they include Mexi fries and a beverage. A favourite is the beef Redondo rollup – a grilled tortilla filled with ground beef, spices, lettuce, cheese, salsa and sour cream. The other crowd-pleasing specials are the soft or crunchy (your choice) beef tacos and the enchilada with rice and a choice of refried or black beans.

Don’t forget to try the housemade salsa, Quang is extremely proud of it.

Mexicali is not a licensed restaurant therefore expect a virgin margarita made with pure fruits and juices. The “slighty slushy Mexican limonada” is another popular beverage.

This busy restaurant owner has a young family (two daughters), works seven days a week and rarely takes holidays, yet he keeps smiling. He loves what he does for a living and it shows.

mexicali-4424-dunbar-palla-mediaWhat is the most rewarding part of owning and operating his business? Quang is quick to point out it is his customers. He says, “They are very nice and supportive.” He mentions that his customers come from all over to dine at his establishment and while some have moved away from the area they return for a meal at Mexicali, which he appreciates.

Running a restaurant is not an easy job. The hours are long; the rising cost of food makes keeping menu prices affordable a challenge and competition can be fierce. Quang has obviously found the magic formula – he is still smiling and relaxed after 24 years of running his own business!

Bring in this Dunbar Life article between November 15 through January 15 (offer valid from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.) and receive a 20% discount on dine in orders.

Mexicali
4424 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2G5
Telephone 604-731-6517
www.mexicali.ca

Gift Giving

Monday, December 5th, 2016

dunbar-life-gift-givingGift giving is a particular kind of art. The gift of “the gift” is a combination of thoughtful-ness, artsiness, sleuth, timing and delivery. The price of a gift does not ensure its meaning, however, if one must receive a meaningless gift, then expensive is nice.

I know people with this talent who are total pros. Gift shopping is a state of being for them, constantly on duty in search of perfect gifts. The women among them could be in labour, en route to the hospital and still zip into a shop to pick up the perfect house-warming gift for their co-worker’s renovated kitchen.

Not possessing this gift, I have been known to approach Christmas shopping like immunization: as painful but necessary. When our kids were little I would book a babysitter for the entire day and be standing outside some immense mall at door opening, in runners and light athletic gear, hydrated, well fed and wearing a backpack. I did not know if the gifts people wanted were in that mall: I just knew that the gifts they were getting from me were in there. Back and forth I’d go to the car all day, like some retail triathlon participant, “getting the job done.” There was not a lot of art or beauty involved. I do miss the easy shopping days of visiting a giant toy store where a lot of primary coloured plastic was purchased, though none emitting terrible sounds or requiring batteries.

Getting someone ‘the perfect gift’ is such a joy. That jumpy, magic moment while you await someone dear unwrapping a gift you know he or she is going to LOVE truly does make it better to give than receive. I hit that home run once, with my whole family and parents all at the same time, having created by some miraculous aligning of the universe, a photo memory book for a special period of time we all shared. The tears streaming down my daughter’s face as she looked through the book was my gift.

Occasionally the setting of the gift delivery becomes the part of the gift itself. Think of the smitten lover who sends a flower bouquet up the elevator to greet his waiting beloved. Or the gift held out at the back porch door of an elderly couple by an unexpected visitor who travelled from afar.

A favourite gift setting for me was our messy kitchen at home early one morning last April. The day prior had been a particularly bad day and also our 25th wedding anniversary. That day was not a Hollywood romance movie but rather a grainy black and white documentary: a normal work day, followed by kids sports, building a crescendo with an evening computer meltdown and loss of a group EMBA project, two teenagers needing to pack for two separate school / team outings and peaking with an all-night emergency visit to Vancouver General Hospital. Discovering the next day, a gold gift bag containing a wooden box with a gorgeous long strand of pearls in our disheveled kitchen, unnoticed amid the chaos of the day before, struck me as the perfectly poetic, fitting way to receive a gift celebrating 25 years of marriage. Pearls among the mess.

Such are gifts in our ordinary lives.

The Dos and Dont’s of Writing the Best University Admissions Essays

Monday, December 5th, 2016

By Bryan Ide, Education Directory KEY Admissions Strategy & Learning Enrichment

Before you submit your US university applications, ask yourself if you are truly happy with your essays. Do they capture the reader’s attention? Do they articulate your compelling and interesting story? And most importantly, do they make you stand out? To help you answer these questions, here are some important dos and don’ts to writing outstanding university admissions essays.

Do be genuine and passionate
The number one rule to writing a great personal statement is to be yourself. Think of the essay as a fun exercise where you get to write about what you are passionate and to show your real self. When you focus on something that is genuinely you, you’re much more likely to write a unique personal essay.

Don’t be opportunistic
Be careful if you write about the sick relative in the hospital or all the hardships you have faced in life in order to gain the sympathy of the reader. That doesn’t work. Also, if you talk about saving the environment you but your application doesn’t show that you even are involved with your school’s environmental club, you will look opportunistic. In other words, don’t write what you think will appeal to the reader. Rather, stay true to yourself.

Do connect with your reader quickly
As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous articles, one exercise that I do with my students I call the two-sentence rule where I read the first two sentences of their essays. If my students haven’t caught my attention, they need to rewrite their essays. Remember that admissions officers are going through your application so quickly that you need to be able to catch their attention as soon as possible. Also, the more effective essays use humour, wit, and self-deprecation to connect with the reader.

Don’t be clichéd
I noted in a previous article that one of the common themes I saw as an interviewer for Cornell University went something like this: the applicant moved to Canada from China a few years ago not knowing any English and not having any friends. Through perseverance and determination he overcame the language barrier and fully integrated himself into Canadian society. If your essays sound very similar, then I can guarantee you that many other applicants will have written the exact same essay. So, it’s important not to be clichéd and write something that many others will also have written.

Do show how you think differently
One effective way to stand out among the crowd is to show how you think differently. Take for example my own essay that I wrote when I applied to Cornell University. My topic was McDonald’s, yes McDonald’s fast food restaurant! For one week I went to McDonald’s every day and sat there watching people. I noticed certain things and particular patterns. For example, the average time it took for someone to enter, eat, and leave was about seven minutes. Also, do you know why the seats at McDonald’s are so hard and uncomfortable? It’s so that McDonald’s can cycle more customers through at a faster rate thereby increasing profits. Writing about my observations at McDonald’s showed how I think differently about something which most people wouldn’t even think or notice.

Don’t write fiction
A couple of years ago, I reviewed the essays from a couple of students from one of Vancouver’s top private schools. To my shock, the students had written fictional stories! I guess they thought that writing fiction was their way of being creative. However, admissions officers aren’t interested in reading about things that never happened. Rather, they want to get to know the real you, so how are they supposed to do that by reading a fictional story?

As you strive to write the best essay you can, remember these helpful hints. And always stay true to yourself. You’ll find that it’ll make writing your essay so much easier and so much more pleasant.

Champion of Dunbar Village

Monday, December 5th, 2016

ann-pacey-katarina-halm-john-halldorsonDunbar Earthquake and Emergency Preparedness (DEEP)

Do you recall the modest earthquake that struck the West Coast on December 29, 2015 and jolted many of us awake from our sleep? How prepared were you for that event? Almost a year later, do you have emergency supplies and a solid action plan in place or have you swept the occurrence under the rug as a one off event?

Since 2011 an active team of Dunbar citizens have been talking about and preparing for ‘the big one,’ a full-scale earthquake. Dunbar Earthquake and Emergency Preparedness (DEEP) is a citizen’s grassroots effort to ensure Dunbar residents are able to take care of themselves after such a disaster.

Ann Pacey is one of DEEP’s energetic founding members. She is a member of various emergency related organizations and boards, including the Village Vancouver Transition Society (VV), which inspires individuals and organizations to take actions that build resilient and sustainable communities. DEEP emerged out of a presentation VV made to the Dunbar Residents’ Association (DRA) in 2011 to encourage neighbours working together.

“We’re all in it together. I was interested in the question of building community resilience when I started.” Ann Pacey

At this meeting enthusiasm ignited and key members from the DRA including Susan Chapman, Jane Ingman Baker and Walter Wells formed a steering committee and joined forces with Pacey to start DEEP. Another key player who Pacey describes as “a tireless volunteer” is Katarina Halm, who dedicated great effort into compiling the wealth of information found in DEEP’s brochure, building their website and coordinating outreach.
After a major disaster occurs people will be on their own for a significant length of time and will need to look within their local resource base, as city and emergency resources will be over extended. DEEP’s original vision was based on the Block Watch model, to build neighbour capacity block-by-block to collectively look out for each other and offer their skills in time of an emergency.

Block captains were invited to participate in the DEEP program adding new and interesting activities to their block parties. Pacey says DEEP’s Block Watch model has been slow to gain wider participation however, perhaps with added awareness this could become a reality.

Pacey points out that people don’t have to share political, religious or cultural views in a time of a crisis. It is a time to rally together; having DEEP in place helps neighbours kick into action and assist one another.

“Now is the time to prepare, not when a disaster happens. If we are prepared we will be able to take better care of ourselves.” Ann Pacey

DEEP looks at actual events in other cities such as Christchurch and San Francisco, to learn from and apply those lessons, when (and based on plate tectonic research it is indeed when, and not if) a similar earthquake occurs on the West Coast.

Pacey stepped down as DEEP’s head when she moved out of Dunbar, but she still plays an active role and John Halldorson has taken over as director. He is a Dunbar Community Centre Association board member and as a retired Chief Warrant Officer in the Canadian Army Reserve for 43 years, had ample experience dealing with emergency response.

Halldorson says, “It is a bit of a struggle getting people involved and then keeping them interested.”

“DEEP does monthly presentations of various preparedness subjects and a couple of table top scenario exercises to run through what happens in an actual event.” John Halldorson

He points to the good work DEEP has done increasing awareness and developing neighbourhood preparedness using the Map your Neighbourhood Program.

Map Your Neighbourhood creates a neighborhood map identifying locations of gas meters, propane tanks, and other hazards, as well as a list of all residents, particularly those likely to need help. It identifies those with key skills such as medical, ham radio, machinery operators or equipment, for example, chain saws, generators, and winches that might help in an emergency. Map Your Neighborhood teaches a team approach to neighbourhood response, including communications and staying safe while helping.

“DEEP has a vision of being a stepping stone and coordinating point in the community during a emergency or disaster,” Halldorson reports. He is pleased to share, “DEEP is one step closer to this as Dunbar Community Centre Association has funded a shipping container which will contain emergency equipment like radios, enhanced first aid, tarps and search and rescue kits. The Vancouver Park Board has authorized this container to be set up at Dunbar Community Centre. This dovetails perfectly with the City’s recently launched Disaster Support Hub (DSH) concept, will hopefully get city support and that may help us, as the only emergency preparedness community group in Vancouver.”

Imagining the prospect of having one’s home and life turned upside down is not pleasant, but thanks to the dedicated DEEP volunteers and their visionary preparedness plan, Dunbar is one step ahead of many communities. To learn more about DEEP visit their website (www.dunbar-deep.ca) and request a talk on a block level. After all, it’s always best to be prepared.