Buy a Megaphone Magazine.

Living and working in Gastown, I've gotten to know, or at least recognize, a number of the homeless (or at risk of being homeless) folks who frequent our neighbourhood.  My living room features a large piece of art I bought on the street from Ken Foster.  I always donate to the "condom lady," who walks around giving out condoms, lube and information on sexually transmitted diseases.  I never hesitate to walk around my neighbourhood, at night or any other time of day and have never felt the need to avoid the colourful cast of characters who form such a large part of Gastown's culture. 

There's one guy in particular who always sits outside the Tim Hortons in the bottom of my office building.  He doesn't say much, nor does he carry a sign of any kind.  He just sits cross-legged, sometimes gently rocking back and forth, and waits.  I've occasionally bought him meals, and have seen other people do the same.  I've always had a soft spot for this guy - I'm not sure why.  It may be because he doesn't ask for help, or demand my attention.  But it may also be - and this sounds terribly judgmental of me - because he looks so much like a regular everyday joe. 

It's easy to demonize some of the scarier people who approach you on the Downtown Eastside, with huge haunted eyes, arms riddled with track marks, clothes in rags, who scream obscenities at you when you don't give them what they want.  That's not this guy.  He just seems like a "normal" person who has been dealt so much bad luck that he's buckled under the weight of it.  In truth, all of these people deserve our attention and compassion, all of them have been the victim of personal tragedies.  All of them are living their own version of "normal."  I'm not saying it's right to judge any of them, or to feel more compassion for one than the other.  What I am saying is that this guy who sits outside the Tim Hortons has not become such a shell of his former self that I can't recognize a bit of myself in him.  I think that's why I feel personally affected by him.  

I ran some errands at lunch today, and as I returned to the office, I saw him.  Standing on the corner - the first time in however many years that I've seen him standing up - was Tim Hortons Guy.  He was up, dressed, and selling copies of Megaphone magazine and also the Hope in Shadows calendar.  I did a double take as I walked by him  - was that really him?  It was!  I was almost in the office door before I turned around.  "How much is the calendar," I shouted back to him.  "Twenty," he yelled back.  "And the magazine?"  "Two bucks."  I dug in my purse for my wallet, walking back to him.

"I don't have a twenty," I said apologetically.  "But I'll take a magazine."  He looked at me quizzically.  "Didn't I already sell you a calendar?" he asked.  "No," I said, "but I'm glad you're selling them!"  He grinned.  I handed him my toonie, took my magazine, and went into the building.  I felt so proud of this guy, so happy to see him standing on his own two feet, in every sense of the word, wishing I could tweet/Facebook/text every single person to go and buy a magazine, a calendar, whatever this guy was selling, now that he'd decided he was worth the effort.  It completely made my day.  


For those who aren't familiar with Megaphone, it's a street paper, that operates much the same way that the Big Issue program does in the UK.  Sellers buy the magazines for 75 cents.  They sell them for $2, which means they make $1.25 for each magazine they sell.  If you see a vendor, pick one up.  There is a "Find a Vendor" function on the Megaphone website that can point you towards sellers.  


Megaphone also released a report this week on homelessness deaths, based on data they had compiled from the BC Coroner's Service.  The average life expectancy for a homeless person in BC is between 40 and 49 years of age, around half the life expectancy for a British Columbian, generally speaking.  There are approximately 16,000 homeless people in the province.  That's a lot of us who are at risk.  If it only costs you $2 to help a person make their life a little better, or a little longer, will you do it?

Neighourhood Food: Finch's Tea and Coffee House

I discovered Finch's, located at the corner of West Pender and Richards, in 2007 and it's been a favourite ever since.  I used to be able to spend a leisurely Saturday morning/afternoon reading my book, sipping on a steamed soy milk with maple syrup, and picking away at a delicious sandwich, but now it's so busy you can't get in the door a lot of the time - which is really my only complaint.

  NO, I do not mind that it takes a long time for my food to be made.  It is fresh, carefully crafted, and always delicious.  If you're in a rush, this isn't the place for you and the food isn't meant to be enjoyed quickly anyway!

I highly recommend the Pear Baguette (prosciutto, pears and blue brie, with walnuts and olive oil), but also really enjoy the Applewood Smoked Cheddar baguette (filled with fresh lettuces, cucumber and tomato and liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper).  The oatmeal chocolate chip cookie is my favourite (beware: it has raisins), but somehow the cookies are always magically warm and gooey.  

The decor here is also charming, cozy and non-pretentious.  Great for breakfast too.  While it may not look like much from the outside, Finch's is a great place to have a meal or spend time with friends.

The Smoked Applewood Cheddar Baguette.

The Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip cookies.  Somehow always magically warm.

* This review appears on my Yelp page, which you can visit at

for more reviews.  Thanks to Yelp for making me Yelp Elite '14!

Neighbourhood Food: Cadeaux Bakery

A beautiful little spot tucked away at the edges of "respectable" Gastown, at 172 Powell Street, 


is mostly a working kitchen and a counter featuring the daily spread, but there are a few places to sit down, and if you can manage to snag one it's a great place to sit and have a leisurely coffee or tea and chat with a friend.

The London Fog cake is hands down my favourite item here.  A vanilla layered cake, the hint of bergamot is truly evocative of a warm tea latte, and the whipped frosting is not too heavy - it's like the foam on top of that latte.  It's still a super-rich, decadent treat, but you won't feel heavy and weighed down after eating it - just totally, completely satisfied.

On our visit today my fella had the Bacon Swirl - a cinnamon twist featuring bacon.  Now THAT was rich - and S. remarked that he couldn't actually taste the bacon, as opposed to say, the Maple Bacon Fritter at 49th Parallel/Lucky's Donuts.  It was definitely there, but the buttery pastry and the cinnamon really overpowered any accent the bacon could have provided.

The only reason this place doesn't get a 5 stars from me is the lack of sit-down seating, the limited range of take-home treats, and the fact that the coffee is not as great as it could/should be to accompany such sweet treats.  But the baking itself is divine, and the staff is lovely.

The Bacon Swirl.  Yep.

Try one of the truffles if you're looking for a small sweet.  This is Salted Caramel Pecan.

Neighbourhood Food: Nicli Antica Pizzeria

Having spent a fair amount of time in Italy, I like to think I know pizza.  So I am gratified that local neighbourhood joint Nicli Antica Pizzeria, at 62 East Cordova (just before Columbia), also knows pizza.

S. and I went for brunch today and found the place nearly empty at 1 p.m.  S. ordered the Funghi - a pizza with a tomato base featuring basil, mozzarella and mushrooms - and I had the Basil Pesto BBT, which has bacon, basil and baby cherry tomatoes.

The pizza dough, this time, was perfect: chewy but crispy where it had been roasted on the outside edges, and the ingredients were fresh, as always.  My only complaints would be that sometimes the crust is hit or miss - I've had some pizzas delivered to the table on previous visits that were too charred or my liking - and that the BBT was swimming in oil from the pesto - I would have preferred at tomato base for this pizza at the end of the day.

Aside from the food, the atmosphere is great (minimalist white decor, white crisp linens, shining silver flatware and fresh flowers), the service is attentive without being annoying, and the price point is good for a date night or work lunch.  And $5 mimosas for Sunday brunch?  Yes please!

These oils added some colour and warmth to the otherwise white and minimalist table.  Unfortunately my BBT pizza was too oily to warrant giving these a try...

The Shop Around the Corner: La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop

It's probably old news that

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop

has the best tacos in Vancouver.   Its two locations, Cambie & Broadway, and Hastings Street (near Victory Square), are always packed, and I'm always happy to wait for their delicious little tacos.  "Pinche tacos" are Mexican street tacos - smaller than the giant tacos we normally see here in Canada, served on corn tortillas.  La Taqueria uses local, organic and sustainable products where possible, and I have yet to be disappointed by any experience there.

I have a few standbys when it comes to choosing a taco.  I love the De Picadillo - which is ground tofu in a "secret sauce," and the traditional Frijoles Charros con Queso - refried beans with cheese.  I also enjoy the Pollo con Mole, when I'm in a meat-y mood (which is not very often, but sometimes) - that's chicken in chocolate mole sauce.

My tacos: two Pollo con Mole, one De Picadillo, and one Frijoles Charro con Queso.

Unbelievably, Andrew had never been to La Taqueria, so we stopped by last night for a late dinner.  Ignacio, who co-owns the Cambie location, was working at Hastings last night and Andrew asked him to pick the four "best" tacos for him to try - he got a nice selection of various cow parts, which anyone who knows Andrew (this man constantly complains that there aren't enough "meat flavoured drinks" in the world) can tell you was a very good choice on Ignacio's part.

As for me, I got my "usual", as listed above, and Ignacio asked me if I wanted him to make them up "his way" - in terms of the various hot sauces and pickles that La Taqueria has on offer.  I said sure, and it was amazing how the different sauces Ignacio chose changed the flavours so much!  They were delicious - although Ignacio was worried that he had made them too spicy and kept asking me if they were OK and to let him know if they weren't OK and he'd make new ones for me.  He also very helpfully wrote down the name of a friend's hotel in Tulum when I mentioned that my friends and I are off on our now-annual Mexican adventure in August.  The staff is friendly, and so are the customers - whenever I've been at La Taqueria, I've always had a good conversation with someone, either waiting in line, or fighting for space at one of the counters.

Andrew is much happier with his tacos than he looks in this photo.

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop is open Monday to Saturday, 11:00 - 9:30, at both locations.  Stand in line, it's worth it.

Guest Post by Woodwardsmile: Wrasslemania - Woodwards Holiday Tweetup!

This is a special post for the Vancouver Twitter crowd. Reaia, Dani and I live at Woodward’s and we’ve decided to organize a tweetup at La Casita’s across the street. We want to connect with people in the neighbourhood! And what better way to make a memorable first impression than with some good old fashioned wrestling?


1.What is a Tweetup?

A Tweetup is an event where people on Twitter meet in person. It is open to everyone on Twitter and showing up without notice is acceptable.

2. Who is Reaia?

Reaia is a working professional with many interests.

3. Who is Dani?

Dani is a performer, tech lawyer and blogger. You can find more about her at Dan With A Twist

4. Who is Zoe?

Zoe is a blogger.

5. Is the Woodward’s Tweetup only for people who live there?

NO! The Woodward’s Holiday Tweetup is open to everyone who lives, works or playsin and around Woodward’s. “In and around” can be loosely thought of as a one mile radius around Woodward’s which includes Gastown, Chinatown, Crosstown, Railtown, the DTES, and parts of downtown, Yaletown and False Creek.

5. What’s with the wrestling theme?

I thought it was really funny.

6. Are you guys really going to “wrassle” people who come to the Tweetup?

Yes. But, having said that, I do want to emphasize that wrestling is optional. We don’t want people to be discouraged from attending because they are reluctant to fight.

7. What is the hashtag for this event?


I really want to encourage you to come to this tweetup, especially if you’ve never been to one before. You’ll find that Reaia, Dani and I are outgoing but gentle people, and we have different personalities, which means chances are good that you’ll like at least one of us.

If you are planning to come, please leave a comment on this post or message one of us Twitter!




See you at La Casita’s!