SEEN IN VANCOUVER #502 | Remembering The Construction Of ‘Cuchillo’ On Powell St.

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First years are tough for restaurants in Vancouver, where the market is over-saturated and the costs involved are prohibitively high. We mention this (the utterly obvious) because we were cleaning up our photo galleries earlier today and saw that it was the first birthday of Cuchillo, the Latin-flavoured DTES eatery on Powell St. from John Cooper and chef Stu Irving (pictured above). Like nearby Pidgin, they didn’t have the smoothest of starts on account of anti-gentrification activists picketing their front door, but they kept their heads down and concentrated on the things they could control, namely the service of quality food and drink (the protests backfired, handing both restaurants legions of new diners who thought abusing small businesses was an ill-considered response to a complex issue). The photos below reveal how much work went into the build. And so, with that and a sudden craving for battered rockfish tacos, we wish them a very happy birthday!

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #501 | Dino Archie En Route To A “Summer Comedy Extravaganza”

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by Grady Mitchell | ”In my house, everybody was loyal to the funny,” says comedian Dino Archie. Growing up in Fresno, California, his family held a house philosophy of good-natured ribbing, so he learned to dish it out and, maybe even more importantly, to take it, too. On Friday, June 27, he’ll showcase a lifetime’s worth of talent when he performs at The River Rock Casino with Ivan Decker, Brent Morin, and David Merheje.

Not all his family were amateur jokers and performers. His uncle, for example, was a professional comedian, and his grandfather was a preacher. “He could sing like one of the Four Tops,” Dino says. “He would preach freestyle; he would never write.” He saw the same crowds every week, and he had to keep them entertained. Although the message is different, the lessons Dino learned from his grandpa’s delivery are invaluable. That influence, along with early black comics like Richard Pryor, movies like I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and Hollywood Shuffle, and shows like In Living Color, served as the foundation for his comedy. Although he writes much of his material, he often launches impromptu riffs in his shows, much like his grandpa. Usually those moments involve audience members, and the better ones sometimes get added to his regular rotation.

Originally, Dino wanted to be behind the scenes, not onstage. He dreamed of being a screenwriter and attended film school to learn how to make movies, not star in them. Then a friend signed him up for an open mike in North Hollywood. After five minutes onstage, he was hooked. Since then he’s been performing three or four shows every week.

A few years ago he came to visit a friend living in BC. Gripped by the city’s thriving comedy scene, a month-long visit turned into something much longer. Vancouver offered a vibrant community of talented comics, and the perfectly-sized market for Dino to hone his skills. For the past 3 years he has bounced between LA and Vancouver, telling jokes almost nightly. Whether an intimate club or a massive theatre like the River Rock, Dino’s goal is always the same: “Play to the guy at the back of the room. If you can grab the guy in the last row, you’ll snatch everyone ahead of him, too.”

To buy tickets to the Vancity Summer Comedy Extravaganza, click here.

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #500 | Scenes From The Summer’s First ‘Food Cart Fest’ Sunday

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by Ken Tsui | The first Sunday of the 3rd annual Food Cart Fest went down this past weekend. Located at 215 West 1st Ave (on the seawall just west of Olympic Village), the new summer tradition is anchored by a laager of 20 food carts dishing out their best. Diners will be happy to learn that the organisers added more seating and new activities this year. Lisa Giroday was on hand from Victory Gardens with her trowel, for example, hosting workshops, while Michael Unger – formerly of the Biltmore Ping Pong Club – was hosting several outdoor on multiple games. As always, there was music, plenty of people-watching, and – naturally – a deep selection of delicious foods. Take a look!

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #499 | A Masterpiece Goes For A Late Night Ride At The Aquarium

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There are few pieces of art that are so evocatively emblematic of Vancouver as Bill Reid’s bronze orca whale masterpiece, Chief of the Undersea World. The 18ft high, 1.587 ton beauty has guarded the entrance of the Vancouver Aquarium since 1984, so it’s been seen and appreciated by millions upon millions of people over three decades (goodness knows how many wishes I’ve made at its water fountain base). It was removed a couple of years ago and put in storage for safe-keeping while the Aquarium’s new plaza and entrance went under construction. On a late night last week, it was carefully returned to its foundation with the help of a crane, a flatbed truck, and probably some math. The Aquarium had the foresight to film both the removal and the return, and they are sharing the fascinating footage – presented in time-lapse format – with us today. Take a look…

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #498 | “Kingsgate Mall Happenings” Underway In Mt. Pleasant

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by Grady Mitchell | Kingsgate Mall will always be a shopping centrepiece in Mount Pleasant, but for the month of June it’s pulling double duty as a creative hub, too. For her residency with the Western Front artist’s centre, Casey Wei has launched Kingsgate Mall Happenings, a month-long schedule of events in the mall including concerts, public forums, curated conversations, comedy, poetry readings, dance, karaoke, and even tarot readings.

Rather than disappear into dusty archives during her residency and conduct research, Casey chose to make a more public-facing and dynamic project. Although a mall seems an unlikely place to stage art, the response from Kingsgate management was enthusiastic from the get-go.

Casey and her crew have set up a small lounge in the centre of the mall comprised of some broken-in leather couches, a column of three TV monitors, and a rack of zines and schedules. This is a sort of command centre from which she’ll orchestrate and host the month’s events. Casey is still open to adding acts. You can get in touch with her via Kingsgatemallhappenings@gmail.com.

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To check out the event schedule and learn more about Happenings, check out the website.

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #497 | “247 Main” Cafe And Bookstore Opens Up On The DTES

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A new cafe has taken over the space that used to house Solder & Sons bookstore, right next to Super Champion Specialty Cycle Shop on the Downtown Eastside. It’s named (rather lazily) after the address, 247 Main [Street], so don’t start thinking it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

While they serve up Bows X Arrows Coffee in different ways and tea from Granville Island Tea Co., the main attractions are the juices, which are excellent. There are three combinations on offer. On our last visit, owner Joda Clément was serving up carrot, apple and ginger; orange, ginger and pineapple; and beet, apple, carrot, and mint. Expect these combinations to rotate in and out with others. The fruits/veg are fresh and juiced to order, and the prices are darn attractive (small 2.75, large 4.25).

As far as food is concerned, there is none. Clément says he might add small bites in the future, but since there’s no kitchen we don’t see it ever being a significant facet of the operation.

The bookstore side of things sees a mix of used books and small run, artist-produced books, the latter curated by Denise Ryner of Committee Artist Books. Expect book-related events – eg. launches, author talks, readings, etc. – to start rolling in the near future. Take a look the next time you’re in neighbourhood.

247 Main Cafe | 10am-6pm Tue-Fri | 11am-5pm Sat+Sun | Website

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #497 | The “Barate Kid” Cocktail Competition At The Keefer Bar

by Shaun Layton | I was one of 16 bartenders invited to participate in the third annual Barate Kid Bartending competition at The Keefer Bar this past Monday, May 19th. It is what the majority of Vancouver bartenders consider to be the best competition of its kind, and I was glad to be in the mix again. If you recall, Josh Pape won the inaugural in 2012 (representing The Diamond) and Ben Champlain won it last year (representing Boneta).

The idea for it started when co-creators Keenan Hood (Bar Manager at The Keefer bar) and David Greig (my former sidekick/Jude Law lookalike at L’Abattoir) were getting tired of the same old competitions. Cocktail comps tend to drag on for hours, get way too serious, and the amount of homemade bitters, cedar-aged Chartreuse, barrel-aged moustache wax, and bow-tied bartenders can be a bit much. They’re not always the way every barkeep wants to spend their night off. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these competitions are great and I have personally competed in many (and traveled the world doing so), but sometimes they just end up being like ego-stroking meetings of the Mutual Admiration Society, with the same old judges and the same top three finishers. So David and Keenan thought, I wonder how all these people would fair if they just had to make the drinks we all make on a day to day basis in a packed bar, a la minute, while being judged on timing, taste, and Barate skills (a mix of showmanship, style, technique, cleanliness, etc)?

The response, of course, has been incredible. This year saw a $50 buy in, winner take all, bracket-style competition. It was a one-on-one format where the judges would call out 4-7 classics. From the get-go, it was on!

It was so rad seeing guys like Nick Devine (Cascade Group), Steve da Cruz (The Parker), and Jacob Sweetapple (Absolut Vodka) come back behind the bar and throw down! A good mix of the new brigade also showed well (Grant Sceney of the Fairmont, you better watch your back). As far as I know, there was even a waiting list of people who wanted to compete, just in case there were any no-shows. Other competitors were JS Dupuis (Homer st Cafe), Evelyn Chick (Blue Water Cafe), Robyn Gray (Hotel Georgia), Cooper Tardivel (Hawksworth), H (Notturno), Josh Pape (Wildebeest), Gezza McAlpine (The Keefer), Dani Tatarin (The Keefer), Yours Truly (L’Abattoir), Jay Browne (Calabash), Ben De Champlain (Former Boneta), and Thor Paulson (Wildebeest).

This was by far the most fun bar-related event ever thrown in Vancouver (and probably the rest of Canada, too). The place was packed out the door and into the empty street from 5-11 on a long weekend Monday. Keeping spirits high were little side comps (free pour contests!), a mini back bar to help hydrate all the off-duty barkeeps not competing who showed up to watch, and a ridiculous DJ playing 80’s tracks from The Karate Kid soundtrack. Even the judging panel was great: Vancouver bar guru David Wolywidnyk; former Vancouverite and now owner of Canon in Seattle Jamie Boudreau (he’s so hot in Germany right now, even bigger than Hasselhoff), and Corby rep (ex-bartender) Casey Mackay, who generously donated a lot of booze for the event.

Highlights from the opening rounds included H dawning his high heeled boots (don’t ask), the Aussi vs Aussi matchup of mentor and student (Sweetapple vs Sceney), #BarateGate2014 Layton vs Tarvidel (wherein the scoring was originally counted incorrectly), and James Iranzad (natch) running a Vegas-style racket.

In the end it was down to Josh “cooler than the other side of the pillow” Pape versus The Keefer’s own Gezza “is this guy on P.E.Ds?” McAlpine. Gezza ended up taking the title in a performance that was fast, efficient, and with spot-on drinks. All in all, it was a totally legit comp. There was a clear winner, no tears, and most important of all, everyone had a great time on their day off. Cheers to Keenan and the Keefer Bar crew for this awesome competition. You should take it national!

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #496 | Noah Becker’s Show At East Hastings’ Back Gallery Project

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by Grady Mitchell | Painter Noah Becker wants us to take a long look at ourselves. Or, more specifically, take a long look at our habit of photographing ourselves. His upcoming show, For Men Who Appreciate History, opens with a reception tonight (Thursday, May 8) at the Back Gallery Project (602 E Hastings) from 6-8pm. The life-like, formal portraits that make up the show cheekily illustrate our ambivalent cultural fascination with the often ridiculed, sometimes shameful, and at times glorious “selfie”.

Many of Becker’s subjects are drawn from amateur hair models of the 60s. That novice quality is key, he says, to the success of the images. The ways in which their faces communicate nervous tension – averted eyes, blank expressions, etc. – vitalizes the images, elevates them to flesh and blood rather than two dimensional renderings. In turn, that realism makes them vivid, despite a generally neutral colour palette. Some of Becker’s other portraits pluck figures from bygone eras and drop them into a modern context, such as a dignified portrait of Philip IV bulked up in Tim Tebow’s football pads.

Never before, says Noah, has a society so discarded privacy. This is well evidenced everywhere one looks, from Ellen taking superstar selfies at the Oscars to some unknown kid getting kicked in the head by a train conductor mid-selfie (which is better than getting smeared to oblivion by the train itself, as he so very nearly did). When a viewer studies one of his paintings, Becker says, they become voyeurs, accessories to awkward, private moments.

Born in Cleveland and raised on Thetis Island and in Victoria proper, Becker first grew enamoured with art through comics. They lead to art school, which introduced him to contemporary styles and the revered masters. From there he developed his unique style of oil painting. He’s also an accomplished jazz saxophonist and the founder and editor of the online art magazine Whitehot. Early on in his career he used the internet, he says, “as a two-way mirror into the art world.” (Around 300 published writers and 3 million words later, Whitehot is still running strong.)

Along with the opening at Back Gallery Project tonight (if you’re able, take a selfie with him at the show), Becker is being added, together with a number of other coastal artists, to the Victoria Art Gallery’s permanent collection on May 16th.

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #495 | “The Found & The Freed” Launch Victoria Drive Storefront

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After several years of pop-up events and temporary locations, The Found & The Freed has finally found a fixed address: 706 Victoria Drive. That’s the old Scott’s corner store on the corner of Victoria and East Georgia, so it has great character. We recently stopped by on their first day of operations and found the place predictably full of interesting bits and bobs, including an ancient alligator’s head, a collection old and beautiful Vancouver-centric pennants, a stuffed California Quail, and all manner of other vintage fascinations besides. It was great to see owners/curators Ainsley McIntyre and Lindsay Burke in such a terrific location. It really does suit them. Take a closer look below. Hours: 12pm-7pm Thursday & Friday, 11am-6pm Saturday, and 11am-5pm Sunday.

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #494 | Scott & Scott Architecture Gets To Work Off Main Street

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(via Dezeen) It’s been over a year since David and Susan Scott launched their own firm, Scott & Scott Architects, but they’ve only recently completed their studio headquarters on the ground floor of their 1911 home off on 19th Ave off Main Street. They’ve clad the floor and walls with Douglas Fir planks which they’ve treated themselves with a mixture of Canadian whisky and beeswax (watch the video below). A rear workshop is divided from the main space by a functional storage hide/wall. David and Susan also designed the tables themselves using galvanised steel frames and hand-stitched leathers. Floor to ceiling window frontage invites the neighbours to look inside, but it also allows the architects to work with plenty of light (there are glass pendant lights hanging from the ceiling to add more in the evenings).

PS. If Scott & Scott sounds familiar, it could be because they helped with the design of Bestie and drew up this gorgeous off-grid cabin on Vancouver Island.

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #493 | A Look Inside The East Van Studio Of Artist Noah Bowman

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by Grady Mitchell | The East Van studio of painter Noah Bowman is stacked high with canvases of all sizes – some as small as a paperback book, a couple as large as a queen mattress. He’s arranged them into a sort of art fort, and it’s in here, surrounded by his previous work, that he creates new pieces.

Although his initial interest in art was sparked by the pencil portraits he sketched as a child, he’s since solidified his style as an abstract and conceptual artist with a vivid palette. His work floats in the space between the familiar and abstract, blending segments of reality with conceptual elements to find deeper meaning in the everyday.

Noah’s recent series Reverso explores corner spaces. While artwork is generally presented in the center of a room’s most prominent wall, Noah is creating paintings specifically for neglected corner spaces, angular two-panel pieces that either envelop protruding corners or slip into recessive ones. He strives to link or balance each half with the other, presenting a traditional pattern on one juxtaposed with an abstract image on the other.

Along with Reverso and the other series’ that Noah is working on, he also promotes the accessibility of abstract art through integrating it into everyday items such as clocks, purses and pillows. You can see more of Noah’s work on his website and on display at the Stewart Stephenson Gallery at 1300 Robson Street.

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #492 | Making Sense Of The Abandoned Alley Chairs Of East Van

This gallery of Alley Chairs can be found in our new HOODS section. It was curated by Nicole Arnett, an invaluable friend to Scout. It documents (invents) the dramas that explain the abandoned alleyway chairs and sofas of East Van.

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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #491 | 10 Essential Addresses That Typify Today’s Chinatown

by Ken Tsui | Vancouver’s Chinatown is a neighbourhood with over a century of cultural history crammed within a handful of blocks. There are countless Chinese stories embedded in the architecture and within the street front businesses. Though it’s on the cusp of being a certified UNESCO historical site, change is still very much afoot in Chinatown, making right now a very interesting time to explore it. The neighbourhood – it’s very plain to see – is flourishing with new businesses. Young entrepreneurs from across the city are opening up alongside traditional herbalists, restaurants, butchers, green grocers and kitchen equipment suppliers that have operated in Chinatown for several decades, making it a diverse mix of the treasured old guard and the welcomed new.  This is a (by no means complete) guide to some of these most treasured places. Take your empty belly and a couple of hours out of your day to explore…

Chinatown Supermarket | 239 Keefer Street | 604-685-5423
Navigating the myriad of neighbourhood grocers in Chinatown can be an intimidating experience, but this place is a friendly one­-stopper. With fresh produce, meats, and classic Chinese ingredients, it has practically everything you need to put together a delicious and authentic Cantonese meal.

New Town Bakery | 158 E Pender Street | 604-681­-1828
New Town is a regular haunt for Chinatown elders and a stopover for out-­of-­towners who flock to Pender Street for their steamed bun fix. It’s the definitive Chinese bakery, offering a wide range of sweet and savoury classics such as BBQ pork buns (some of the best in town), pineapple buns, and egg tarts. New Town has columns of steamers stacked full of pillowy steamed buns ranging from Sichuan pork and “Chicken Deluxe” to a vegetarian alternative.

Dollar Meat Store | 266 E Pender Street | 604-681­-1052
Don’t let the name fool you! The award-winning Dollar Meats is an old guard butcher shop that serves up some of Chinatown’s most delicious Chinese BBQ and cured meats. BBQ ducks and a crispy whole hog usually hang in the window while sausages and Chinese bacon cure to deliciousness in the shop. In operation for over 30 years, Dollar Meats takes pride in their artisan products and remains a Vancouver institution for traditional Chinese barbecue

Matchstick Coffee Roasters | 213 East Georgia St. | 604-336-­0213
Expanding from their original Fraserhood location to Georgia Street this year, Matchstick Coffee boasts the best coffee in Chinatown (it’s also one of the few places in the neighbourhood where you can get a cup of coffee before 8am). Along with the standard baked goods (excellent croissants), Matchstick Coffee offers a toast bar and dinner options like Mac and Cheese, plus a selection of local beer on tap.

Phnom Penh Restaurant | 244 East Georgia St. | 604-682­-5777
Butter beef, deep fried lemon pepper chicken wings, and hot and sour soup are the regular barn burners that keep people coming back to this Vietnamese/Cambodian treasure. When former New York chef-turned-celebrity food writer Anthony Bourdain was asked where he liked to eat in Vancouver, he simply replied “Phnom Penh.” He’s not alone, as evidenced by the fact that its large dining room is eternally bustling, even at unlikely hours.

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie | 163 Keefer St. | 604-688­-0876
The award-­winning Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie strikes a fine balance in preserving culture through food. Chef Joel Watanabe’s menus are inspired by traditional Chinese flavours and ingredients but are prepared with modern culinary techniques. Bao Bei is a reflection of the modern Chinese experience, a delicious meeting place between the new and old.

Tinland Cookware | 260 East Pender St. | 604-608-­0787
Chinatown would not be complete without an unpretentious kitchen supply store. You won’t find brand name cookware here but they’re equipped with just about every single size of pot, pan, clear plastic storage container, ceramic bowl, and cooking utensil. Tinland has practically every tool you’ll ever need to outfit your kitchen at an affordable price.

Bestie | 105 East Pender | 604-620-­1175
Clinton McDougall and Dane Brown’s sausage and beer parlour specializing in currywurst is one of Chinatown’s most exciting new developments. It’s a perfect example of the new style of up and coming businesses that are taking a chance on the area. It just so happens that they’re also some of the friendliest, most charming folks on the block. Bestie may not be a typical Chinatown destination, but it gives Vancouverites of every stripe good reason to visit Pender Street.

Continental Herbal | 278 East Pender St. | 604-677-­3334
Continental Herbal is filled floor-­to-­ceiling with every herbal remedy and traditional Chinese dried good imaginable, including dried starfish. Even if you’re not entirely sure how to use any of it (including said dried starfish), Continental Herbal has you covered. They keep an in-­house herbalist in the back of the store who is always ready to fill a prescription. Beyond herbal remedies, Continental also has an impressive tea collection and a staff that gladly walks anyone who is interested through it.

Bamboo Village Trading Company | 135 E Pender Street | 604-662-­3300
Bamboo Village, located on Pender Street, is chock-a-block with cheap and cheerful antiques and homewares. The shop is a vibrant encapsulation of all things decorative, walking a very fine line between practicality and Chinatown kitsch. From an impressive array of paper lanterns and ornately painted ceramic bowls to Mao propaganda posters, exploring the visually striking, wall­-to-­wall collection at Bamboo Village is an adventure in discovering the things you never thought you were looking for.

SEEN IN VANCOUVER #490 | Behind The Closing Scenes @ Vancouver Fashion Week

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by Luis Valdizon | On Tuesday, March 24th, Vancouver Fashion Week‘s Fall / Winter 2014 season came to a close. I had the pleasure of attending its two final evenings at the Chinese Cultural Centre where everything from VFW’s opening gala to shows took place. Both nights offered an atmosphere that was lively, friendly, and largely free by the elitism that can sometimes sour these type of affairs.

Generously, my invitation to document VFW went beyond the runway. It was a privilege to capture all the models, designers, make-up and hair artists right in the thick of their elements, right when everything is just coming together. It’s the side of fashion that excites me the most, and I feel fortunate to be able to share it with you.

One note of criticism: it’s too bad that more local menswear labels such as Reigning Champ and wings + horns weren’t on VFW’s radar. It would have been nice to see the two internationally coveted brands by West 5th’s own CYC Design Corporation on the runway. There’s definitely an appetite for more menswear at VFW, and it’s unfortunate that it’s not capitalized upon. Presentations by the aforementioned labels, together with the stunning Arc’teryx Veilance 2014 F/W collection and the latest season from the budding Raised by Wolves, would have all been welcome additions!

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