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HappyFrog.ca merges with 3rdWhale! November 22, 2008

Posted by Raul in environment, EPIC 08, link love, local business, social change, social media, sustainability.
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I recently learned about the recent merger of HappyFrog.ca with 3rdWhale from my good friend DaveO, but I hadn’t had a chance to write about it, as I’d been really overwhelmed with work. HappyFrog.ca was founded by Ron Williams as an all-encompassing directory-social networking resource for green businesses in British Columbia. The platform in and of itself is fun, and handy.

I have been a proud member of the FrogSquadders (I covered EPIC 2008 for them along with a great line up of local bloggers). I frequently guest-post in HappyFrog’s FrogBlog and they have given me great exposure in their newsletter as well. Funny how everything is connected in this world, I do know of the work of Boyd Cohen, the force behind 3rdWhale (although, surprisingly, I’ve never met him in person despite the fact that we both live within the Metro Vancouver area!)

I look forward to learning more about what 3rdWhale and HappyFrog.ca merged can do combined! One improvement that 3rdWhale’s page desperately needs is an “About Us” page. I am pretty sure that everyone wants to know more about how they came about and what they’re up to!

3rdWhale recently organized a PodMob (which I also promoted on Twitter), although truth be told, at some points I was overwhelmed with so much writing and talking about the podmob. The success of the podmob at Sushi Bento on Robson Street is in no small part due to the enthusiasm and positive energy of the people behind 3rdWhale, and I believe primarily it was Emily Jubenvill, who is “The Greenest Person in Canada”.

It’s great to learn about these new developments! Congratulations to HappyFrog.ca and 3rdWhale!

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Vancouver Bloggers Meetup for July 2008 – What a success! July 30, 2008

Posted by Raul in Blogathon 2008, blogosphere, friends, geekifying myself, local business, local events, Vancouver Blogger Meetup.
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It’s past midnight on Wednesday already. I just got home from having done some shopping at Safeway on Commercial, and catching up on Twitter (sorry if you were one of the people who were viciously bombarded with my tweets). I would *love* to write a really detailed recap, but I am sure that a lot of other bloggers will. And since I am now the Organizer of Vancouver Bloggers Meetup, I am hoping I will be cut some slack (as I spent the vast majority of the time trying to ensure everyone was having a good time, and doing introductions, etc.)

So, a few points. Yes, I know the venue was small, but even though it was so small, lots of people showed up and it was really heartwarming for me. I am very honored that Isabella decided to bestow her leadership role on to me, I really am. I even got my Blogger Sword! I promise I shall use its power for good 🙂

I did miss many good friends of mine who are also bloggers, too many to recount, but I do want to single out Rebecca because she did an amazing job of organizing and she entrusted me with passing on her message of how proud she was of the work we all who Blogathoned did, as well as news that there would be some commentary about Blogathon on Metro Vancouver (the newspaper).

Along the same way, Rebecca, it is important that you know that everyone in the room gave you an in absentia ovation for all your hard work in organizing Blogathon. I’m very proud of you and honored to call you a friend. I know these are trying times for you, but I sure hope you know you can always count on me, I really do.

After the Blackwater Cafe (whose staff should be fully commended, as we stayed there well past their closing time, almost 9 pm and Adrienne was SO incredibly helpful and sweet – really good times) a bunch of us headed down to the Lamplighter for a couple of beers. Overall, I had a fabulous time, and I am glad to have seen you all. And as I mentioned in my speech, I am very honored to be able to call so many of you my friends. You are truly awesome.

And on that note, I should go to sleep. I haven’t recovered from Blogathon and need my sleep. Catch you all later.

Fresh Start Recycling and Disposal Ltd. July 26, 2008

Posted by Raul in entrepreneurship, environment, Focus on Vancouver, local business, Main Street, Mount Pleasant, sustainability, Vancouver.
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A few weeks back, Rebecca directed Kara Alcorn (Customer Relations, Fresh Start Recycling and Disposal Ltd.) towards my site and suggested that I talk to her. I have to say that I am very positively impressed with Fresh Start (as we bloggers have begun to call this young company).

Obviously, you’re going to ask me – so what IS Fresh Start?While I am sure you’ll check their site, basically let me tell you that Fresh Start takes the business of recycling one step further, and brings the recycled stuff to charities. Moreover, one element that really impressed me was that they look for local charities within the communities where their clients are located.

Founded in 2004 by Vancouver native Thomas Goodall, Fresh Start Recycling & Disposal Ltd. is committed to reducing clutter in your life while minimizing our impact on the environment by reducing the amount of material that goes straight to the landfill.[Fresh Start Recycling website]

Let me give you an example. Currently, my friends Ianiv and Arieanna Schweber are in the North Shore area, and are currently renovating their house. Their floor has to be fully torn apart and they need to install new flooring. They’ll probably also need to remove and recycle stuff. The obvious choice of company to do this? Fresh Start, of course!

By demonstrating that recycling can be still a successful business model AND that you can incorporate elements of corporate social responsibility (CSR), therefore enhancing how and where the product is delivered and the ethical/social aspects of recycling within local communities, I think Fresh Start is indeed off to a very fresh start, and a successful one!

Even smarter, Fresh Start maintains a relationship with customers, vendors, potential clients. How? By using one of the most innovative forms of communication – Web 2.0! Yes, sir! Fresh Start has a BLOG. I can’t help but feel really excited about this, because I am always a firm believer that you can meld social media with sustainability, and as you can see, Fresh Start is doing it!

In addition, of course, I should highlight the fact that their office is in Mount Pleasant, very close to my house, as a matter of fact!

Kudos to Fresh Start as well, because they were the first corporate sponsors of my Blogathon 2008. While I am raving about them in this post (and very legitimately, as I do believe in their positive intentions), they did NOT sponsor this post, so this is in NO way paid advertisement. They DID, however, sponsor a forthcoming post that will describe in more detail the whole concept of Recycle, Reuse, Reduce (3Rs), and for their contribution to the BC Cancer Agency and my Blogathon, I am very, very grateful!

Cambie Street is open for business! July 22, 2008

Posted by Raul in Cambie, local business.
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Everyone who knows me at least a little bit knows that I’m all about supporting local businesses, and sticking up for struggling small firms. Since my PhD dissertation examined firm closure, it would be just obvious that this is a topic near and dear to my heart. But there are other reasons why I am always all about the small businesses on Cambie. One of them is that the construction of the Canada Line, negatively affected numerous establishments along Cambie Street, forcing them to close.

John Bollwitt had previously written about the woes of the Cambie Street struggling establishments, particularly as they related to the construction of the Canada Line. Just because I am the way I am, I decided to launch my little personal campaign to support businesses on Cambie. At the time, my blog didn’t have the readership to really have any impact. Today, I think that my blog readers could really help alleviate the struggles of the Cambie Street merchants by going there more often for dinner, for a coffee, to the theatre or simply, a bite to eat.

However, despite the then small readership of my blog, my own personal actions did provide some businesses on Cambie with at least some support. Trixi’s, the crepe place on 17th and Cambie, has become “our place” for AF and myself. We hang out here with regularity, since it’s pretty much located right equidistant from each one of our places. The crepes here are extraordinary and they make mine without cheese, which I appreciate a lot.

Trixi's

Recently, AF took me and her mom to Trixi’s for lunch and we then did a quick walk around the Cambie Village (which technically still is somewhat part of Mount Pleasant). It was great to just spend time with AF and her Mom, particularly because my own mother is unable to come to Vancouver this summer, and I always have connected very well with the parents of my friends. And since AF and I treat each other as though we were brother and sister, I guess we all become one big extended family!

I asked Ernest (owner of Trixi’s) to give me a little video interview (thank you Flip camera!) on whether the businesses have coped and it was encouraging to hear that yes, business seems to be picking up on Cambie. Since I am not self-hosted yet, I can’t embed the Flickr video, but you can watch the mini-interview here.

Mt Pleasant Cheese

I noticed the existence of “Mount Pleasant Cheese” right on the same block around Cambie and 19th, and we decided to engage in a little adventure and enter this store. MPC specializes in Canadian cheeses, and they have (oh sweet surprise!) wine jellies. Suffice it to say that you can now know what my next munchies contribution will be to any potluck – crackers and wine jelly.

We then went for a walk through 18th between Cambie and Main, and had a chance to see (again) my dream house on 18th and Columbia. *sigh* If only I had had enough money to buy this house, I would have retired and had my own little Mexican restaurant, coffee shop, dance studio or even my own consulting office. But alas, I didn’t have the cash to dish out for this house. But I can still walk around there and sigh any time I see it. It’s been recently renovated and the studio space is for rent.

My dream house

All in all, good times. The walk and lunch and then lemonade at Liberty Bakery were definite highlights of my day, as it was having tea today with Phaedra (who kindly made bath salts for me, as I told her that I had recently discovered the marvels of baths!). While there are many virtues I appreciate of Phaedra, one of the ones that really touches me is her ability to speak honestly and directly with me. We were very, very tired and we admitted it to ourselves. We still had a great time, but we were also able to recognize that when our energy levels were low, it was time to go home.

And now, back to the grind…

Bar review – Jimmy’s (Yaletown) July 18, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, dining out, friends, local business, personal life, random thoughts, Vancouver.
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So last week, Trevor O, Matthew Carriere, Rebecca, Duane, John, Karen Parker and her boyfriend D, another friend of Trevor’s and myself met at Jimmy’s, after a successful beer/nacho gathering at The Kingston.

The first thing is that we loved the idea of sitting on a patio, and the location was nice (Homer and Hamilton). However, I have to say that we were faced with horrible service, even if the beer was good.

The waitress was not really friendly and it took AGES to get our stuff to the table. I really wouldn’t recommend Jimmy’s to anyone who is looking for service. Karen and D did have something to eat, but I am not 100% sure of how it was. The yam fries were ok, but as far as I am concerned, I wouldn’t really have had dinner here, and next time, I won’t do Jimmy’s (even if my geeky friends and myself were all excited about the fact that Duane had a new 3G iPhone).

Quite frankly, I won’t be going back to Jimmy’s any time soon, even if it has wi-fi and a great patio, and even if we saw women rappelling from the top of the Vancouver Public Library.

Bar review – Stella’s (Commercial Drive) June 2, 2008

Posted by Raul in Commercial Drive, dining out, drinks, East Vancouver, friends, local business, Vancouver.
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Stella's

Lately, I’ve been a bit more of a hermit. I fainted recently and that was an alarm signal for me. My energy levels are usually through the roof and I’m never one to say “no” to any invitations. However, this past Sunday I had to miss an invitation to a Tweetup organized by Colleen Coplick to meet Tris Hussey. That was on Sunday evening, which was unfortunate as I had some personal matters to tend to. But on Saturday, I did manage to get myself out of the house and meet with my friend AF.

We tend to be more kind of “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” whenever we hang out, so we settled for a leisurely walk on Saturday afternoon around Trout Lake, followed by a couple of drinks at Stella’s on Commercial Drive. I had heard mixed reviews about Stella’s, but after having had a drink and some Belgian fries there, I am not going to complain.

Stella's

The beer was somewhat on the side of expensive, but since this seemed to be gourmet beer, and AF seemed to like it, I won’t complain. My drink, I think was a Choc O9 Late (Absolut Vodka, White Cacao, Belgian Chocolate) but with amaretto. The drink (a double per my request) was lovely and I got a great buzz. We shared a cone of Belgian fries. The patio is nice although not much of a view (I was looking at the back side of the Grandview Park).

As usual, the company was what made the drinks taste better. I really enjoy “impromptu” hanging out opportunities with friends (when I have the time and can attend!). The thing is, I’m slowly learning to just do the things I have the physical energy, the time, money and resources to attend.

Restaurant review: The Locus (Main Street) May 27, 2008

Posted by Raul in dining out, East Vancouver, local business, Main Street, Vancouver.
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Even though I live very close to The Locus, it is rare that I eat at this place. I had dinner there once and was utterly unimpressed. But this week, I had a celebratory lunch and thus had to find something around the neighbourhood. Surprisingly, no restaurant was open. Niether Zipang, nor Crave. So we settled for The Locus. I am glad we did. I had a venison burger with a side of chorizo gumbo (soup) and it was simply outstanding.

So, what is the Locus?

Located at Vancouver’s busy and thriving trendy Main Street neighborhood, the Locus Restaurant offers an eclectic fusion of modern and classic favourites. The staff sources the best local and seasonal ingredients to create innovative dishes and delicious daily specials.
[The Locus website]

The decor would turn off someone like me, who does not thrive in kind of gothy, dark, red light kind of decor. However, admittedly, the food is simply excellent, so I am not going to complain about that. What I really wanted was to consume good, well prepared food, which is the highlight of the Locus. I would come back during the day. At night I think I’d be a little bit creeped out. But the place is so popular, I can understand how some people might like their unique and eclectic decor.

I have heard that it’s also a great place for brunch though I’ve never tried it. They have a great patio, so maybe it’d be a good place for some beers and brunch. We’ll see.

Locus on Urbanspoon

Repeating or exploring: The intrinsic challenges May 18, 2008

Posted by Raul in dining out, food for thought, friends, local business, personal life, random thoughts, Vancouver.
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I’ve been having a bloody awesome time these past few days. Lots of good times with my great friends.
However, with the exception of a dessert place that will be appearing in my blog in the next little while, I’ve almost always done repeats of places where I know FOR SURE I’m going to enjoy food and drinks. I never have any problem having a great time with my friends. Along with my family, my friends are my life, they keep me sane and provide me with plenty of opportunities for shared laughter and joy. But lately I have discovered that I don’t really feel much like exploring new avenues. Dinner, brunch, lunch and coffee have almost been at venues that are already very trusted.

That’s kind of problematic for someone whose blog is relatively popular for (amongst other things) having LOTS of restaurant/coffee shop/dessert places reviews. I don’t really know how to solve this. For example, this weekend alone – it’s Sunday morning and I’ve already been to La Bodega for dinner with some of the bloggers, Arms Reach Bistro for brunch with JT, Incendio West for dinner with C/B/L, The Red Sea Cafe for dinner and drinks at The Whip with H/C/A/M, and I’m planning to do burgers on Monday at The Red Onion with another group of friends (K/L/R/W). Notice a trend? All of these are places that have received glowing reviews from me!

I do feel terribly conflicted. On the one hand, I don’t want to have many more experiences like I had with India Bistro or Las Margaritas, but on the other hand, I won’t know if I like a place until I try it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel a sense of attachment to the places where I know I’m going to have a good time. Heck, I even told Rebecca that next time we go for lunch in Yaletown, we are directly headed to Salsa and Agave! What to do? *sigh* Anyhow, sorry for wasting your time with this post, but honestly, it IS something I do consider. Suggestions, as always on my blog, very well accepted.

Trout Lake, the Farmers Market and bloggers on the loose May 17, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, Commercial Drive, East Vancouver, food for thought, friends, local business, local events, random thoughts, Vancouver.
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Trout Lake
A view of Trout Lake. Photo credit: Me 😉

When Nancy asked me whether I’d like to check out the Farmers Market at Trout Lake, I jumped at the possibility and immediately said YES. We hadn’t had a chance to hang out in a while and I always enjoy our conversations, so I headed out to meet Nancy at The End Cafe and then we walked to the Farmers Market at Trout Lake.

I took lots of photos thinking that I could use them to write a review of the park for Miss604’s Park Series, but as it turns out, Rebecca has already written a thorough and comprehensive post on Trout Lake. So I’m just going to ask you to mosey over there and then come back. Done? Ok, now I can continue with my recap. Yes, I’ve been doing a lot of fun activities lately, but I just didn’t want to let this particular post stay in my archives for too long, as it fulfills several purposes.

First, it answers Chris’ question – YES, I *did* blog about it. As I mentioned before…”bloggers are people, we do what we do… and then we blog about it“.

Second, it allows YOU my dear readers to check the beautiful scenery I enjoyed this early afternoon.

Third, it allows ME to feel a bit less guilty about not providing content over the long weekend.

Fourth, it is a nice link to my next post, which is a short summary of a conversation I had with Nancy (and that I have had with everybody who means something to me and with whom I’ve had a significant amount of time to talk about): my mantra of ALWAYS being amazed at something, EVERY single day.

Trout Lake
More Trout Lake. Photo credit: Me 🙂

The sheer beauty of some of Vancouver’s inner city locations still blows me away. The most embarrassing thing is that I had to admit to my lovely friend Monica Hamburg that in 12 years, I had NEVER been to Trout Lake. However, I am glad I was able to walk around there with Nancy and that we bumped into Chris and Monica.

Trout Lake
This little “jump, jump and take a poem” made my day 🙂

Is there anything better than spending a couple of hours sharing some good laughs and great interesting and intellectual conversations with people you care about? Or playing Rock Band? Or going out for dinner? Or just simply hanging out? I would say, very, very little.

I’m the #1 ranked UrbanSpoon Vancouver blogger! May 1, 2008

Posted by Raul in dining out, local business, personal life, random thoughts, Vancouver.
10 comments

There are many reasons to celebrate this particular achievement (mainly because I don’t review restaurants for a living or anything like that). The first one is that while not all of my posts are linked back to UrbanSpoon, the 44 reviews that are got 2,468 views in April 2008 alone.

Random thoughts of a student of the environment Vancouver restaurants

The second reason is the fact that I wasn’t looking for that “leadership” position. It’s all come from people who Google a certain restaurant and land on my blog or on my UrbanSpoon page.

And the third reason is that all of those times dining out have been with good friends, and that’s the primary reason why I am so happy. It is sharing a meal with good friends that makes it all worth it! Same as with last night’s WordCamp. I really enjoyed the presentations, but it was actually the chance to meet this folks in person, to make new friends and spend some time with my blogging folks that makes it all worth it.

While it hasn’t translated into “free meals” or any invitations to come by a certain restaurant, it’s always nice to be recognized, and most importantly, to not seek the recognition and achieve it. Finally, thanks to everyone who has read my restaurant reviews, shared a meal with me or taken me out for lunch or dinner, as that’s allowed me to increase the number of restaurant reviews!

Also, Flux Bar review coming soon 🙂 Stay tuned!

A quick recap of my blogiversary day April 23, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, environment, friends, local business.
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I was going to write a scathing review of the Metro Vancouver Regional Strategy for Liquid and Solid Waste Management Plan discussions held at the Vancouver Public Library, but quite honestly (a) chances are if I actually say what I think, I’ll hinder my chances of ever getting a job with them or doing a project or a contract or serving in one of their advisory technical committees and (b) I’d rather focus on positive energy, and this meeting didn’t have it.

Pictures from Camera 093
Photo credit: Raul on Flickr.

The day started good, I did some actual work on a paper I’m writing, managed to eat properly, and wrote a couple of posts, so not too too bad. Spent a substantial amount of time on Twitter and checking nice sweet comments celebrating my 2 year blogiversary. It was very heartwarming. I also broke my record for individual visits, yet again. So YAY for high traffic! I think that Twitter is actually helping me reach out more readers.

So I was settling down with a nice bowl of pasta and trying to finish off the paper I mentioned, even going as far as to turn off MSN, Twitter, GTalk and everything else and just focus on the paper when… my Google Calendar reminder pops up and says “you have a meeting downtown“. Crap. I didn’t even finish my dinner properly and ran off to the VPL. Worst use of two hours of my life. With the exception of a nice chat with one of Metro Vancouver’s liquid and solid waste management senior engineers. And a couple of small chats with other folks who, like me, thought that this meeting could have been done better. I could basically shred it to pieces but instead I’ll be a good boy and e-mail them my comments in a diplomatic and civil way.

Walked off to Milestone’s Yaletown to meet with the Tazzu crowd (Rastin, his girlfriend Teresa and Rastin’s business partner along with Ash), as well as a few other friends of mine like Monica Hamburg, Nadia, Dario, Jenn. I also got to meet Rastin’s parents, which was very heartwarming, and John Chow and I think his wife. Hat tips to Gary Jones who kindly reminded me of the meeting (I was Twittering desperately “SOMEONE SAVE ME FROM THIS BOREDOM!” and he came to the rescue with this great suggestion to reach out to the Tazzu folks).

Spent about an hour or so there (nice chat with Rastin, Monica Hamburg, Teresa on dancing and Nadia and Jenn re: Twittequette… I’ll have to think about that one). While on my way home, I bumped into my friend JH who was headed to a great concert. I feel SO bad for not having agreed to join her and her friends, but honestly, I am not into progressive/trance music and I wasn’t really feeling it. But I did see the fact that I bumped into her as a sign. A sign of how fortunate I am to have great friends all over Vancouver. What are the odds? What are the odds of bumping into one of my best friends at the intersection of Georgia and Hamilton? On a Thursday night? Thank you Powers-That-Be for sending these kinds of signals.

I’ve been Twittering for a bit with my Twittercrowd, but I really should just focus on this paper and get it done and over with. So that was my blogiversary. Felt great though, so many sweet comments from lots of blogo-friends. Looking forward to many more…

The temptations of dining out March 24, 2008

Posted by Raul in brunch, dining out, local business, Vancouver.
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So everybody knows that, while I lead a fairly Spartan life (e.g. I’m a budget-conscious man), I do indulge in eating out every once in a while. My 2006 and 2007 were filled with chances to eat out and thus I ended up becoming some sort of food critic, if might. However, I have resorted to my trusty restaurants and haven’t been very adventurous lately. I apologize to those of you who are expecting me to review new restaurants. I do have a couple in sight that I’m saving my money for… Boneta, The Charlatan and Me and Julio. Potentially Tequila Kitchen too.

That being said, I’ve recently had brunch and dinner at other places and I’ve just simply forgotten to post the review. So you’ll be seeing some new commentary on local Vancouver restaurants. One of the places that I do want to recommend for lunch is Liberty Bakery on Main and 21st. I will refrain from commenting more until I write the review, but just wanted to give you heads up about that one.

But I guess it’s natural to have your trusted restaurants – I mean, how can you go wrong with The Nice Cafe for brunch, or Kishu Mountain for sushi dinner? Or Crave for breakfast? Or Arms Reach Bistro for dinner? I mean, there is something to be said for reliable good food…

UPDATE – Since it wasn’t really worth writing yet another blog post, I have a question – should I give restaurants a second chance? I have long hated Chill Winston, The Cat’s Meow, Las Margaritas, Shabusen, The Red Room, I have fallen out of love with Slickitty Jim’s, and Toshi sushi. However, I wonder… should I try once more?

Coffee shop review – Our Town Cafe (Kingsway and Broadway) February 22, 2008

Posted by Raul in coffee, East Vancouver, local business, Main Street.
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Well, while we are on the topic of coffee shops, I have to say that one of the cutest (and most relaxing ones) I’ve ever been at is Our Town Café. Located at the corner of Kingsway and Broadway, Our Town Café is the epitome of relaxation. I wouldn’t recommend you to come to OTC if you really like to have an ebullient atmosphere.

OTC is the ideal coffee shop to come and read a book, relax, take the day easy. The food is nice (they’ve got some organic items there too) and the coffee is good too (although I wouldn’t actually say it’s Artigiano’s coffee). The most important element: the relaxing atmosphere you get here. Best place to have a nice coffee or tea and read a book. Even when it’s raining.

Coffee shop review – Cafe Artigiano February 22, 2008

Posted by Raul in coffee, Downtown, local business, Vancouver.
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There are few things I love more than coffee. Real coffee. The stuff that makes you smile when you wake up in the morning to the smell of a dark, freshly brewed concoction. Unfortunately, my tummy has begun to be slightly sensitive (please replace that with VERY sensitive) to irritants, and therefore coffee is now more or less off grounds.

The problem with this is that my daily routine does involve coffee. Even if I work from home for about one or two hours before heading to the office, that’s the first thing I do: I wake up, barely conscious, stagger until I reach my coffee maker and turn it on. However, I’ve recently had several episodes of stomach ache that are associated with dairy consumption (cheese, of all things!) and caffeine consumption.

Therefore, what I did today (as an innovation) was to make a pot of English breakfast tea, and start working. The kick wasn’t enough, I got to tell you. So, when KP said that she wanted to meet for coffee downtown, I jumped at the possibility. Particularly since we haven’t seen each other (and I totally missed her birthday!) and so she suggested Café Artigiano.

Now, to the uninitiated, this could be just any other coffee shop. But no, don’t be fooled. This is Café Artigiano. The one and only. This is gourmet coffee, even the Americano is amazing. The atmosphere is extremely warm. And the staff… not only are they beautiful (physically speaking), they are so incredibly sweet. *swoons*

I have been to Café Artigiano many a time, but had never actually had the time to sit down and write a coffee shop review, so now that I’m waiting for KP to show up, it’s the perfect occasion.

As I write this review, I’m looking at the baristas (both male and female) and they keep smiling. How do they do that, particularly after a really long day at work? I don’t know, but those smiles are beautiful and I feel so welcome at this place, it’s going to be kind of hard to leave. Of course, the incentive to get out of here is that I’m heading down to CBC Studios to see a live performance of Delhi2Dublin. I’ll tell you all about it afterwards.

Small inconvenients of Café Artigiano:

  • If you’re a blogger or need a wireless connection, you are pretty much SOL. This place doesn’t provide wifi. But on the plus side, if you actually want to work on a paper or read stuff, you can do it without the added distraction of having an internet connection.
  • The people coming here (and working here) are pretty damn hot. That may be a bit of a distraction if you’re trying to concentrate on a project. I have a very, very short attention span and can easily be swayed away from an assignment with a beautiful smile [ that being said, I’ve also been blamed for charming people away from their work by using my eye-lash batting powers and my mega-watt smile… ooops :o) ]
  • Not enough power outlets to connect your laptop. So, make sure you got a nice battery before heading down here to do work. I managed to sweet-talk my neighbours into letting me connect to the power outlet and run my cord undernearth their legs, but it’s slightly embarrassing.
  • The atmosphere is quite animated, so if you’re trying to concentrate on something that requires attention, you may be SOL. I am wearing my headphones and listening to Miguel Migs on my iPod and still can hear my neighbour’s conversations.

Overall, I still would come to CA (Hornby and almost Robson, near the Vancouver Art Gallery). Just accompanied with a nice book though 😉

Vancouver’s most romantic restaurants for Valentine’s Day 2008 February 11, 2008

Posted by Raul in dining out, local business, Vancouver.
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As many of you may, or may not know, I’m one of the contributors to UrbanSpoon – Vancouver that has the highest number of restaurants reviewed (I think my latest count was 42). I am not saying that this makes me a food critic, but I would like to believe that I know the restaurant scene pretty well.

I keep in touch with Ethan from UrbanSpoon quite often, we communicate via email and share some ideas and stuff. But even though we correspond, I did not know that they had a blog. And in their most recent post, they review the most romantic restaurants for Valentine’s Day 2008.

While I must admit that I am totally tempted to tell you which ones I think are the most romantic (thus increasing the probability that I will end up bumping into you on Valentine’s Day), I think I’ll just indicate my own suggestions for where to take your loved one for dinner on that special day (or your friends, as the case may be).

However, I thought I’d plan this post in a slightly different way. Instead of telling you the most romantic places to take your sweetheart or go out with your friends, I’m going to give you a few suggestions of places to go based on how expensive the deal may get.

So, say that you are a starving student yet you still want a nice meal out with a loved one (or a group of friends)… or you are getting paid the big bucks and want to surprise your sweetheart… here are my top recommendations for dinner for Valentine’s Day (bear in mind that I will definitely recommend local business over chains).

On the budget-savvy side of things…

The Red Sea Cafe – One of the best, if not the best Ethiopian food in town. Definitely romantic, has a nice atmosphere at night. Great service. Good food for your coin.

The Cascade (I think they’ve dropped the ‘Room’) – Excellent food and service, and not really expensive. However, I don’t expect them to have a lot of space for Val’s Day.

Cafe Luxy – Great Italian food, although with all the Davie Street crowd overflowing with love, I’d probably say that they’ll be fully booked.

The Dunbar – Yes, I know that it may look a bit like a pub now, and have pub food. But it can get romantic, for sure. And it’s not really expensive.

A bit more expensive, yet affordable…

Burgoo – I am afraid they may be fully booked for Val’s Day. Great stews, soups and burgoos.

Ouisi Bistro – Definitely great Creole food. Romantic, and not too too expensive.

Enigma – Oh yeah, romantic for sure. Although a sure destination for UBC students who will want to take their girlfriends/boyfriends out for dinner, I imagine.

Crave – It’s good for dinner – and not horribly expensive. Though I am also thinking it may get a little bit busy.

If you really want to go all out…

Aqua Riva – Many people hate it, but I love it, and it’s one of the nicest views in town. And yeah, it can get expensive.

The Observatory at Grouse Mountain – You’ll pay $ 35 dollars for the lift, but the view is SO worth it.

Horizons – I went there with a very close friend of mine, we probably should’ve waited for a much more meaningful occasion but it was great. And yeah, it’s a bit on the pricey side.

Seasons in the Park – Located at Queen Elizabeth Park, this is one of the best spots for a great view of the city. And yeah, it may burn a hole in your wallet.

Cloud 9 – Enough said. Revolving restaurant, great view. And costly! But definitely worth it.

If you want, of course, you can leave a comment and tell me what you think of my suggestions, or make different ones… or simply tell me where you plan to go out for Val’s Day. Whatever it is that you do on that day, I hope you enjoy it!

Coffe place review – Bean Around the World (Main and Broadway) January 23, 2008

Posted by Raul in coffee, East Vancouver, local business, Main Street.
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Theoretically, this location will eventually become Bean Around the World. Right now, it is a coffee shop right beside where Monsoon used to be and in the location formerly known as the home of SoMa. The coffee is good, not too harsh on my tummy, and the barista is pretty nice.

I actually couldn’t use the wireless, although they do have it, but my wireless card didn’t seem to be talking with their router. The place is well illuminated, and quite spacious. It looks as though a few people have taken it up as their centre of operations. I still see many more people at Waves, or at Lugz. But as somebody said, there’s always space for everyone.

If I had woken up at a decent hour, I probably would have come here to work and spent the whole day looking at the beautiful mountains (this location has a gorgeous view of the snowed mountains). The night lighting is quite good, and if you need to stay late, you could very well stay here until 10pm. But that’s the drawback. This coffee shop only opens until 10pm (and I think only until 8pm on weekends).

I would still come back to work here. There’s more than enough space to work, and enough hotties that walk by to provide good eye candy. It’s a good place to do people watching too.

Upcoming event – Christmas on Cambie November 29, 2007

Posted by Raul in Cambie, local business, upcoming events, Vancouver.
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For some reason, I always seem to be behind every other bloggers on the news front, so I am a bit afraid to bring something up to people’s attention just because I think it has been covered in more depth and better by other bloggers (see just for a few examples, Rebecca on the Vancouver mascots, Paul on the non-usability of iMove and John on the challenges faced by Cambie merchants).

However, I think this time I may have some very fresh news for you loyal Vancouver and non-Vancouver readers. From the owners of Trixi’s, one of the most fabulous crepe places this side of Paris, I got the following email:

Dear Trixi’s Customers,

It’s been a while that you have heard from us. We have some great news. As of Sunday, December the 2nd, the trench will be paved over and cross streets from 16th to 19th will be open again. In order to celebrate the progress of the Canadaline construction in the Village the Cambie Village Business Association together with Canadaline are inviting friends and neighbours to “Christmas on Cambie” on Sunday, December 9th from 12 pm to 5 pm.

For more info see http://www.cambievillage.com/.

We are very excited about this and hope you will come out to visit sometime soon.

We look forward to seeing many of our customers again and serving you one (or two) of our delicious crepes.

Ernst and Beatrix

I love going to Trixi’s and have been a loyal customer for almost two years now. And I am also a strong supporter of businesses on Cambie, both promoting events and being a customer of Cambie businesses (even if it means having to navigate and negotiate street intersections, etc.) So I would strongly encourage you all to go on December 9th. Furthermore, since I will not be in Canada by then, would readers please go back to this post and leave a comment with your experience at the event? Thank you.

[Note] The link for Trixi’s is actually a Canada Line link, but they are promoting Trixi’s, for which I didn’t find a website. But you can look at the Cambie Village Business Association website for more info.

Getting sweet SWAG from Ark Clothing (Main Street) November 28, 2007

Posted by Raul in East Vancouver, local business, Main Street, random thoughts.
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Also known as “the Stuff We All Get”, swag is sort of a made-up word that I hadn’t heard until I started reading blogs. The Urban Dictionary defines swag as:

Promotional merchandise for a band, record label, or other entity in the music business, usually distributed at concerts. May include t-shirts, stickers, promo CDs, posters, etc. Often free, but not necessarily.[Urban Dictionary]

I picked up some swag from The Ark Store, on Main Street and the corner of 10th Avenue. I love this store. They have some ridiculously amazing things. I saw a beautiful set of two necklaces that have pieces of a puzzle (two pieces that fit perfectly and have the words ME and YOU) engraved in brass. These necklaces almost made me melt.

My friend L purchased a set of awesome tights, and in general I’d say the store is awesome. You should check it out.

Now-closed restaurants in Vancouver? October 18, 2007

Posted by Raul in brunch, dining out, local business, Vancouver.
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A group of close friends and I used to go for brunch ALL the time. Now I go out for dinner and brunch very frequently and thus I have a pretty good idea of the food scene in Vancouver (see my dining out posts and restaurant reviews here and my brunch reviews here). But I’m increasingly alarmed that some of those former hangouts of mine are now closed. That’s sad!

So without any specific order, here are some of the now-closed restaurants I miss in Vancouver 😦

  • The Crime Lab: The best martinis in town and also the place where I got to ask the toughest questions. Apparently closed to give way to a new high-rise. And clearly, not everybody loved it. Coal Harbour area.
  • The Ordinary Cafe. Located in Kitsilano too, this place was anything but ordinary. Great brunch.
  • The Living Room. Near Milestone’s on 4th Avenue, in Kitsilano too, this place was very cozy. Great brunch but even better and more romantic dinner.

I am willing to compile a list of those places that used to be special and now are no more… but it’s sad! Hopefully my current favorite restaurants (Rhizome, Crave, Cascade Room, Joe’s Grill to name a few) don’t go out of business any time soon!

Restaurant review – Cravings Bistro (Marpole) October 18, 2007

Posted by Raul in dining out, local business, Marpole.
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The first time I came across the name of Cravings Bistro, I seriously thought that the address was wrong. A restaurant at 72nd Avenue and Osler? I couldn’t see how a restaurant could be located in a residential neighborhood, particularly since it is literally the only restaurant within half a mile (well, one of two if you count White Spot which is in the hotel right almost next door).

Anyhow, Cravings is an anomaly in that it is indeed located in a small sort of corner mall (I think they call them strip malls here). The restaurant is pretty and the owners definitely know how to kick up the PR. They have fliers, menus, business cards, the whole nine yards.

So J and I went there for dinner very recently, and we both had our hearts sets on burgers. We ordered a French onion soup (in my case, without cheese) and a burger. For a burger this size, I should have probably starved myself for a whole day and then have dinner. The portions are generous and the prices are not that bad ($7 for a burger and $ 2.50 for a soup).

I would definitely like to try Cravings Bistro for a more formal dinner. Their fixed price menus look good and I would say this would be a place where you can bring a date or a good friend.

I can see how people can come to Cravings before dropping off someone or after picking up someone at the Airport. Or on their way to (or back from) Richmond and/or Seattle. I’ll definitely be back at Cravings soon!

Cravings Cafe in Vancouver