Cafe Review · Coffee Shop Wifi · Mobile Writer · Sunshine Coast Cafes · Wifi

Get Your Charge at the Ferry Cafe

Overall : (I reduced this by 50% because of the frustrating long lineups lately to get on the ferry)

Rating: 2 out of 5.


Rating: 4 out of 5.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

By Elizabeth Rains

I live on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia and sometimes travel to Vancouver for editing work. The only way to get there with a car is by ferry. The more prohibitively expensive options are taking a water taxi, or float plane to the city, but then you have no car on the other side.

The Queen of Surrey leaves from Langdale, crosses Howe Sound, and docks at the Horseshoe Bay terminal in 40 minutes. That’s just enough time for me to work on my novel or write for my blog. A great place to write on the boat is at the Coast Cafe Express.

The cafe’s many plug-ins are a bonus for writers. Photo credit E. Rains.

Since mid-March the coffee shop was closed because of COVID-19, but that made it an even better writing spot than it was pre-virus. It was quieter than ever.

Lynn Perez was the lone occupant of the cafe’s ocean-facing counter. Perez lives in Hopkins Landing, which is walking distance from the Langdale ferry dock. She was drinking coffee and tapping into her phone. “I’m not a writer,” she said. “The only writing I do is email.”

So that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again.

Virginia Woolf

During the height of the pandemic Perez is the lone passenger at the Coast Express Cafe. Photo Credit E. Rains.

In a major refit of the ferry last year, the cafe changed its seating scheme. Short round stools and small, round tables, which I found uncomfortable for writing, were replaced by tall stools and writer-friendly counters with ample electrical outlets. The plug-ins are the biggest plus for me as a writer because my aging laptop often runs out of juice.

Writer’s Prompt:

Write about swimming in the ocean.

Speaking of juice, the drinking kind is available, along with coffee, tea, and munchies in the ferry’s main food outlet. The wifi is strongest at each end of the journey and weakest at the midpoint around Gambier where there is neither cell phone coverage or wifi for about 10 to 15 minutes, so you can’t even use your phone as a hotspot. During that time you can work offline or stroll to the ferry’s main food outlet.

Getting coffee at the main cafeteria. The self-serve cappuccino machine is not in service, nor is the soft-serve ice-cream.

The Coastal Cafe cafeteria remains open during the pandemic with extra distancing and sanitizing. There you can purchase a coffee, tea, and munchies and take them to the Express area, your car, or the seating area on the upper car deck to enjoy the ocean view through the port holes.

Al Hyland took his coffee to the upper car deck. It’s a pleasant alternative to the cafe, if you don’t mind the engine noise and wind.

Elizabeth Rains has been a reporter for the Vancouver Sun and an editor for several consumer and trade magazines. She is the author of two nonfiction books, including Demon in My Blood (Greystone Books, 2017). She was editorial director and publisher of Pacific Rim Magazine for 14 years. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of The Capilano Review. She has twice been president of the Magazine Association of B.C. She is active in Editors Canada and speaks frequently at industry events. She also freelances as an editor and publishing consultant through her company, Cove Media. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Carleton University, as well as certificates in graphic design and web publishing. 

Elizabeth Rains
Elizabeth Rains

Website address:




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Bakery Review · Cafe Review · Coffee Roastery · Coffee Shop Wifi · Coronavirus · Coronavirus Precautions · COVID19 · micro coffee roaster · Mobile Writer · Sunshine Coast Cafes · Wifi · Wired Writer

Black Bean Cafe: Cheerful Sunshine Coast Roastery

Overall ☕️☕️☕️☕️ out of 5 Coffee ☕️☕️☕️☕️ Place ☕️☕️☕️☕️

467 Marine Drive, Gibsons BC.
604-886-1716 *
Email –

By Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith © July 2020

It would be hard to name a more popular coffee shop in Gibsons, if not the entire Sunshine Coast, than the spacious and cheerful Black Bean. Established 12 years ago in the lower village, the iconic cafe was taken over by the Brisbeaus three years ago. Charles, a retired Property Manager, and his wife, Monica, a retired Math teacher, took over the cafe three years ago. Becca, their daughter, who lives in Gibsons says that her father always dreamed of owning a cafe, so they snapped up the shop when it came up for sale, including the roastery.

Their own organic fair trade roasted coffee beans are branded as Sunshine Coast Coffee.
Becca, second generation Black Bean family member, holds down the fort during the pandemic along with her brother.

They roast their own Columbia and Brazilian coffee beans in their micro-roastery near the coffee shop. They sell their beans in the shop only.

For the first five weeks of the pandemic, they limited service to take-out. They then only offered patio seating. However, the dog-friendly patio seats 25, has umbrellas over two of the tables, bar seating, and a pleasant view. They now have two of their indoor tables open again.

A sunny nook with a view to write in

When they were fully open with seating for 30, they had trestle tables making it perfect for my writers’ group and every other group in the village.

As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?

Cassandra Clare

In fact, that’s one of my few complaints about “The Bean” is its success. It is often too crowded at peak times to find seating, because of its popularity.

Writer’s Challenge

Write a piece containing the following:
1. A twisted old tree.
2. A sandcastle.
3. Camping with friends.

Coasters are so fond of Black Bean that they have a new policy for laptop users to limit their Internet usage to 45 minutes. This eliminated them from being a venue for my writers’ group, as we stay two hours and there can be up to six of us sitting together with our laptops humming away. Plus, they don’t have electrical outlets for the aging laptops with weak batteries amongst the group.

The laptop rules and an outlet if your cord be long enough.

On this July morning, we have a mission. We’re meeting up with a social club for coffee at Black Bean. We score parking closer to the coffee shop than ever on Marine Drive. Hubby ate his cinnamon bun in record time before I could get a picture of it. He reports it was really good.

Carrot cake temptingly at eye level.

He likes that when you order a sandwich or wrap, they make it to order. You won’t see pre-made anything lingering in their glass cabinet.

Home-baked tasting goodies and sandwiches and wraps made to order.

Hubby comments that his cappuccino, that he sips as eagerly as the hummingbirds on our patio empty the sugar water from the feeder, is excellent and on par with any high quality coffee he’s ever tasted. I linger over my iced Americano, enjoying their house blend of Columbian and Brazilian beans–extremely refreshing on a hot morning.

Stephen Smith (Hubby), enjoying the flower-filled patio under the shade of the patio umbrella.

The friendly staff is working extra hard keeping the tables clean between customers with their spray bottles and wipes. They have a plexiglass shield up and one-way red tape arrows to guide customers in and out of the shop.

The Black Bean is well-run, clean, it has warm welcoming staff, and excellent coffee and eats. While it has that dated wood and chalkboard farmhouse decor found in 99% of the cafes on the Coast, it’s a great location for browsing the lower village shops and galleries after your coffee or tea.



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Cafe Review · Coffee Shop Wifi · Sunshine Coast Cafes

Golden Gourmet Girls

Overall ☕️☕️☕️☕️ out of 5 Coffee ☕️☕️☕️☕️ Place ☕️☕️☕️☕️

#6 – 4720 Sunshine Coast Hwy, Sechelt, BC. V0N3A0 
Phone: (604)-885-9721 * Email:

By Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith

From the Langdale ferry terminal, the Gourmet Girls in Davis Bay, owned by Nicole and Paolo for the past three years, is about a 25 minute drive on Highway 101 flanked by forest. Suddenly, the trees fall away and you see the open ocean and Davis Bay Pier on the left jutting out into the sea for fishing and swimming.

Gourmet Girl Davis Bay Sunshine Coast BC
Paolo and Nicole, owners of Gourmet Girls. Photo sourced from their website.

So directed are your eyes to the stunning view on your left, you will likely miss Pier 17 on your right. That would be a shame, because you’d miss the opportunity for ice-cream, coffee, delicious meals and baked goods, as well as card and gifts from local makers at Gourmet Girls.

Davis Bay Pier

It’s an ideal spot to sit on one of their patios and enjoy the superlative beach views with your family or small group, including your pooch.

Incomparable view just on the other side of the beach.

The patio by the shop is undercover and heated for those chilly July days we’ve been having. They have wifi but no outlets on the patio. There’s no indoor seating at this time and only two customers are allowed in at a time, as per COVID-19 restrictions. They have curbside service, online ordering and delivery, also their catering business is still operating.

To find the shop watch for their large banner on the right and you’ll be rewarded with coffee made expertly from Salt Spring Island Coffee from their serious espresso machine. There’s a beautifully rendered map of the Coast to admire and get your bearings from.

Gourmet Girls serve Blume tea and Saltspring Island Coffee
Beautiful map of the Coast to ponder.
Pilot enjoying being out with his humans.

Hubby loves their breakfasts, especially the Hang Over Cure that is two poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce over hash-browns with chopped peppers with melted cheese curds, poutine-style. He also recommends the Fisherman’s Breakfast from their All-Day breakfast men, with three Eggs (any style), hash-browns, three slices of bacon, two gluten free breakfast sausages, and toast. For those with a smaller appetite, they have regular Benny’s, wraps and smoothies. For lunch they have burgers, including a veggie burger and my personal go-to meal out–fish and chips.

Hang-over Cure can be eaten sober.

I order my usual breakfast, an Americano–over ice today because it’s actually hot already. It doesn’t disappoint. The coffee is consistently good as gold here. They also have an intriguing selection of Blume teas with flavours like Matcha Coconut, Chili Turmeric and Beetroot.

It’s only 9 am but already warm enough for a cold Americano.

After coffee and a meal, you can grab something to-go for dinner from the Gourmet Girl’s glass case and browse the shop. I’ve purchased some wooden wick candles there that were a big hit. Before the pandemic I enjoyed meet ups there. The gift shop has grown to take up more of the seating area. I miss the cozy chairs with electrical outlets in the corner perfect for writing, that disappeared to display more merchandise.

Lots of high quality local gift items.

I recommend you take a walk to the pier to see what the fishers have caught, or watch the kids jump into the water. Just beyond the enormous fruit stand is the Mosaic Emporium. Mosaic is stocked with gift items and art supplies to keep you busy throughout these social distancing days.



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Bakery Review · Cafe Review · Coffee Shop Wifi · Coronavirus · Coronavirus Precautions · COVID19

The Grammar Room: Serving Experience On a Platter

Coffee : 3/5  |  Writer Friendliness : 5/5  |  Overall Experience : 4.5/5

One Style Mile, Kalka Das Marg, Opp Alai Minar, Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi 110030. Instagram – @thegrammarroom
Hours – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m
Contact No. – 081302 88558

By Guest Blogger, Ria Gupta

The aroma of cinnamon and sugar is still fresh in my mind, as is the visual of that radiant morning.

An enchanting place to write on the edge of the forest in New Delhi.

11 a.m. I walk into the jam-packed cafe alive with a bustle–not the kind that makes it hard to hear your thoughts, but the one that makes you grateful for being alive in the moment.

I perch on the little stool not meant for me to hoard. Here, lines blur between work and leisure in this timeless room where chefs and guests make work fun. The first fresh baked goods of the day flew to the granite bar from the hands of the chef.

Hot from the oven the cinnamon rolls look supple underneath their sheen of sugar glaze. That’s the best part about an open kitchen—the sight of snowy icing sugar being sprinkled on your favourite pastry makes the whole wait an experience in itself. I take the first bite and already my day is fulfilled. In every bite my childhood fantasy of freshly baked cinnamon rolls manifests as a multi-sensory experience. I am braced for the day, satiated until the next 4 p.m. freshly baked surprise.

As the curators of this cafe put it, “The Grammar Room is an all day cafe born out of a mutual love for grammar, food and coffee.” Populated with board games, print cushions, and soothing music filling the air, this space is hard not to love. As a writer, I constantly create and feed my hunger for reading, and nowhere else in my city have I felt more indulged with loveable paperbacks, colouring books, and warm conversations than here. Also, I interned under the hostess of this cafe, who also dips her sticks in the content creation world.

Weekly visits to this co-working space became a necessity to get my creative juices flowing. The Victorian indoor setting is supplemented with an alfresco seating area overlooking a wild forest. This comes as a fresh respite from the busy metropolitan streets of the capital.

Be it the comfortable seating, the outdoor wooden deck, or the yellow lights glowing softly in the brashness of day, every inch of the cafe has an element of muse for me. Being a friendly co-working space, The Grammar Room is equipped with free wifi and ample charging ports near tables for two, so when you get down to work on a sunny afternoon with your favourite coffee, there is nothing in the world that can stop you.

Writer’s Prompt :

You stumble upon a moving book in a cafe. Upon finishing the read, you decided to go in search of the author. What was the book about and what did the author turn out to be like? It could be a made up book/author you’ve always wished to experience.

The chefs bake something special of their choice, for the simple pleasure of filling the room with baking aromas to be enjoyed by their customers throughout the day. Off the a la carte menu, my usual is a mocha latte. On more busy days I go for a safe cappuccino to keep me driven yet not distracted with nuanced gustatory musings.

Their coffee is made from fresh beans procured from the coffee estates of India. The food finds itself right in the middle of the dining spectrum, taking from the genteel selection of its brother, The Olive Bar and Kitchen, and twisting it into a slightly more casual experience to suit the slippers and track-pants vibe for its customers.

“When a freedom is taken away from you, I suppose, you recognize it as a privilege, not a right.”

― Jodi Picoult, The Storyteller

Keeping physical health in mind, the situation of outdoor dining looks bleak in my country during this pandemic. But some timeless places such as this are a survival need for the emotional well-being of at least a few. Currently, they are offering #TGRathome — food delivery to the comfort of our homes until people feel better about stepping out. But how do you deliver an ambiance, or the spontaneity of a new friendship in foreign spaces, and the creative refuge so many took for granted at one time?

I am an artist and writer from New Delhi, India. I am currently exploring various avenues of writing, including web content  and creative writing.

Check out my blog –

Instagram –

LinkedIn –

Email –



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Cafe Review · North Vancouver

C41 Coffee at the Quay

A brief video review of C41 coffee at Lonsdale Quay.

Overall ☕️☕️☕️ out of 5 Coffee ☕️☕️☕️ Place ☕️☕️☕️☕️

Unit 114, Lonsdale Quay Market, North Vancouver, BC 
604 781 1677 * *

By Cathalynn Labonte-Smith

It’s challenging to find a coffee shop open during COVID-19 days, let alone one that’s open on Sundays; however, Lonsdale Quay was open. Got a premiere cru for Jeff for editing my book, Make Up or Breakup: Modern Relationships in Retirement, Isolation & Crisis, at Everything Wine.

A petite diversion from coffee to wine; if you haven’t been to Everything Wine here’s what you’re missing. Their tasting bar is closed right now due to the current health restrictions, but I trust their tasters and buyers completely. I have no hesitation when I pick up a case of wine for $6.99/bottle for a white or rose or $7.99/bottle for red, plus you get a 15% for 12 bottles or more. The bargain wines are usually European and delicious for sipping or table wines. At those price, it’s comparable to making wine at a u-brew, but you don’t have to wait weeks for the final product, plus it’s better testing. You can order the wine online, or go in person to one of their six locations. They also carry BC VQA wines, as well as premium wines all at discount prices. A case of Italian red in my trunk, that would late turn out to be light and fruity as well as Jeff’s thank you bottle, I headed down to the waterfront to the Lonsdale Quay for coffee. 

Writer’s Prompt

Go to a waterfront and write a story based upon what you observe, be it a family picnicking, the waterfowl or animals there, a floatplane landing or taking off, rowers, paddlers or boaters going by, the reflections in the water, homeless people gathered at the edges, heaps of trash, or whatever else you find there to incorporate in your piece.

Jeff got me a frothy flat white from C-41, while I held our table by the red steel and glass elevator in the food court near the lotto kiosk. There were many patrons enjoying their meals and drinks while hard at work on their scratchers. There were plenty of vendors open, so you can get your produce, a meal of luscious crispy fish and chips, and other goodies.

A flat white is like a latte but the foam is denser. In fact, the espresso is topped with a micro-foam. The steamed milk has smaller finer bubbles than in a cappuccino or latte foam. This gives the foam a gloss finish. The flat white came from Australia before it migrated to North America.

The name of C-41 intrigues me. There’s a colour development process for photographs by Kodak called C-41, but that doesn’t seem relevant to coffee. The formula for caffeine is C8H10N4O2, so that’s not it either, but C-8 would be clever for another shop. Their address is Unit 114, so again no clue as to why they’re called C-41. Their website has a background of a woman swimming lengths, perhaps to represent summer? No hints there. I contacted them but they were too busy to answer my questions. I will update you when I hear back.

Moderately drunk, coffee removes vapours from the brain, occasioned by fumes of wine, or other strong liquors; eases pains in the head, prevents sour belchings, and provokes appetite.

England’s Happiness Improved (1699)

Jeff was pleased with his coffee, but mine was slightly burnt tasting. That charred taste doesn’t necessarily mean a barista made a mistake, as it could mean that the machine needs cleaning or calibration, and/or the water needs to be checked that it’s clean and clear. (The following blog post gives tips to professionals how to improve the flavour of their coffee: by simply cleaning their machine, using clear clean water, and properly calibrating their machines, among other tips.)

C-41 uses Agro, Pallet and Timbertrain beans. They have vegan milk options, like oat milk and macadamia milk, as well as tea and hot chocolate. They also offer curb-side delivery and home delivery of coffee beans, if you want to avoid going into the Quay.

Subscribe to enter our July draw for a bag of coffee beans, or leave a comment if you’re already a subscriber. Open to Canadians only.

Cafe Review · Coffee Roastery · COVID19 · Sunshine Coast Cafes

Wheatberries’ Roastery Secrets Revealed

Overall ☕️☕️☕️☕️ out of 5 Coffee ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️ Place ☕️☕️☕️☕️

818 Gibsons Way * 604-886-9155 *

By Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith © June 2020

I first reviewed Wheatberries in February prior to adding the word COVID-19 to my everyday vocabulary. This is where our Gibsons Writers’ Group has met weekly for many years. This is also where the spacious covered patio has remained open throughout the pandemic. We usually meet on the patio, but this Juneary day is quite chilly. Luckily, Wheatberries had a table for our small group available inside. It’s not the lively crowded space it used to be, but customers are slowly leaving lockdown and coming back at least for take out.

Elizabeth Rains happy to be meeting in person again at Wheatberries with our the Gibsons Writers’ group.

Meeting virtually all these past months was better than not meeting at all. However, when a Marley tune played over the speakers and we spontaneously moved to the music giving ourselves a seated dance break it was a moment you can’t get online no matter how many Zoom meetings you attend.

Owner Gino says, “We donated thousands of dollars of baked goods to the Food Bank in the first two weeks of the pandemic. I looked out my door and it was a ghost town. There was no traffic and all you could hear was the birds twittering. We had to lay off nine employee. It’s hard to hire them back because of the CERB.”

Gino loves his work.

The bread shelves are bare when they’re usually chock full of enticing loaves. They’re still baking but demand is down, so they’re baking less. The pastry cases are as full as ever with tempting muffins, breakfast sandwiches, cookies and other goodies. However, you can’t order just a slice of a pie or cake, you must order the whole wonderful thing because of COVID-19 precautions. Gino delivers his scrumptious delights after hours including coffee, if you are self-isolating.

Gino, a former professional musician, is a one-man band these days, serving up food, running the espresso machine, sanitizing the tables between guests, roasting the coffee for the shop, fulfilling online orders, and delivering orders after hours. He also has a significant roastery going on in the back.

Beans are roasted on site.

Gino roasts nine different beans and his coffee has won awards. His roaster, the Coffee Crafters Artisan 9, roasts up to a 2–gallon pail of beans at a time, or 48 pounds of beans per hour. He no longer owns the Bowen Island Coffee Company, but said that the roaster produces a ton of roasted beans a day. The roaster on Bowen is comparable to the gymnasium-sized roaster at Moja Coffee in North Vancouver.

Gino’s favourite beans from Guatemala.

This morning my Americano was made with his award-winning Espresso Royale blend with beans from Indonesia, South and Central America. I really needed that triple hit of coffee flavour this morning. I was up at 5:30 am to catch the first ferry back from Horseshoe Bay to beat the rush and make it back in time to attend the writers’ meeting. Gino brews different roasts daily in the coffee shop. The beans are available for purchase in store, online and delivery is available right now, as well as all the equipment you need to made the perfect pour over, French Press, or Aeropress coffee at home.

Valhalla Espresso Royale blend.

Gino’s vision for Wheatberries post-pandemic, includes making the coffee shop a hybrid shop with deli items, and featuring products from local vendors available, as well as an extensive variety of leaf teas.

“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.”

― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

One to try.

Writer’s Prompt

Write about a reunion, whether it’s a reunion of loved ones after the separation of the pandemic, adopted child with birth family, lovers parted and brought back together again by accident, or other emotional reuniting.

Here’s hoping that you’re soon reunited with all those you love and all that you love about your life.

Bakery Review · Cafe Review · Coronavirus · Coronavirus Precautions · COVID19

Lift Your Mood

Overall – ☕️☕️☕️☕️ out of 5 Coffee – ☕️☕️☕️ ☕️ ☕️ Place – ☕️☕️☕️

Lift Breakfast Bakery Ltd., 101 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver, (778) 388-5438

By Cathalynn Labonte-Smith © June 2020

The best sausage roll EVER! Fantastic Columbia coffee.

Today our province enters Phase III of the pandemic plan, although it’s still unclear exactly what that means to our day-to-day lives. Today our coffee destination was West of Java, but their outdoor seating was full and due to COVID-19 restrictions there’s no indoor seating. I didn’t want to make a mess in Hiroshi’s SUV, because for sure I want a cinnamon bun, so we ended up kitty corner at Lift. They have a long wooden bench for patrons to perch on with an awning in case of sunshine or showers; we had the latter.

I would’ve loved to order a cinnamon bun but they had nuts in them and nuts are a no-go for me, so I order the biggest sausage roll I’ve ever seen. My coffee companion, Hiroshi Takahashi, has a scone stuffed with currants. She also orders a take-and-bake mac & cheese tray from their selection of take home meals. They’re also offering their eggs bennies for take out.

Brick and wood where there was once a pharmacy counter from 1922.
So very tempting.

Susan prepares my Americano from medium roasted Columbia organic beans (one of my favs) roasted locally by Pacific Coffee Roasters. Hiroshi orders a vanilla latte. As she made our drinks, Susan points to the black and white photo hanging up on the tiled white wall. The photo shows the original building built at the beginning of the 20th Century that was McDowell’s Drug Store since in the early 1920s, run by Marcus McDowell. His son continued to run the family business when McDowell retired in 1948.

McDowell’s Drug Store was purchased by Marcus McDowell in 1922. The block became known as the McDowell Block.

We settled into the bench outside. The coffee–OMG–perfect, smooth, pure, delicious. The sausage roll, crispy thin pastry and delicious filling. The roll was too much for one meal so I put half in my purse, which made me popular with all the passing pooches. Hiro enjoyed her sconie and latte as well.

The corner buildings were constructed first with the rest of the blocks building up around them. I can see why because this corner is a prime spot for people and cute dog watching. Definitely a lift to the spirits. Lift has a lovely patio, but for some reason it’s closed. Perhaps, they are short staffed and not able to keep it cleaned?

Writer’s Prompt

Look up the story of a historical building in your city or home town and write a story set in it. You can set the story in the time period when the home or commercial building was new or in present day.

Looking forward to when this patio screened by flowers opens again.

The shop allows you to bring in your re-useable mugs. This is the only coffee shop I’ve seen so far to allow this. Some of the coffee shops I’ve visited have recyclable disposable cups. If you’re interested this blog I’m reposting debates if it’s safe to use ceramic mugs:

North Vancouver History

1918 – WWI ends. The outbreak of an influenza epidemic closes schools & public places.
1922 – Motorists in BC switch to driving on the right-hand side of the road.
1925 – Original Second Narrows Bridge opens to traffic.
1930 – Shipping accident closes the Second Narrows Bridge for four years.
1938 – Lion’s Gate Bridge opens.

As we drive back to my place, I notice how many shops have reopened and how life looks like it’s returning to something near normal.

Cafe Review · Coffee Roastery · Coronavirus · COVID19 · North Vancouver

Walk on the Wild Trails Side

Overall – ☕️☕️☕️☕️ out of 5 Coffee – ☕️☕️☕️ ☕️ Place – ☕️☕️☕️☕️

By Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith © June 2020

134 East 14th Street, North Vancouver

Current Hours: Mon – Fri 9-4pm * Saturday 9-4pm * Sunday 12pm-4pm

Check out the in shop review here.

By Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith © June 23, 2020

My pre visit checklist to a vegan coffee shop went like this:

  • Organic cotton tee naturally dyed with indigo from my friends at To Dye For Collections – Check.
  • Haven’t eaten meat for 24 hours – Check.
  • Non leather sandals – Check.
  • Legs unshaved – Check.
  • No makeup – Check.
  • Hair – au natural frizzy waves – Check.
  • Inner arm tattoo on display – Check.
  • Environmentally conscious transport – Check.

Well, the above is me 90% of the time, but just wanted to be sure I blended in with the vegans as I didn’t want to offend anyone.

I was delighted by the inviting interior of the Wild Trails coffee shop by the Lion’s Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. It draws you in with its bright primary colours, the fireplace in the corner flanked by a pine tree, the two chairs to curl up in and the coffee bar to people watch from.

Wild Trails front is so inviting.

 Kindness is incompatible with steak.

Leo Tolstoy

The owner, Kat, was ready at her $50,000 digital espresso machine; the kind that the big chains use. She had a big smile and welcoming words. Because of COVID-19 the shop has no baked goods, as their suppliers are out of business, but I rarely have more than a coffee until the afternoon so this was no concern to me.

Owners Kat Jr. on the left and Kat Sr. on the right.
This is what a 50 grand coffee machine looks like.

They use single estate coffee beans from the Northern Chian Mai region of Thailand, called Paradise Mountain Organic Coffee. The company was started by a group of Vancouverites. The beans are then locally roasted. Their espresso machine that cost almost as much as the family Jeep grinds the beans to order, just before pumping out your drink.

Paradise Mountain does nice things for the kids in the community, like buying them much needed shoes.

The first few sips of black coffee are reminiscent of Thai drip coffee: dark, syrupy sweet, rich and almost floral. Kat Jr. offers me a taster of oat milk before I pour it into my Americano. It tastes like creamy oatmeal, so now I know what all the fuss is about. Pouring oat milk into coffee is like breakfast in a cup.

Writer’s Prompt

Juxtaposition can create humour. tragedy or other effects, for example, while sitting writing in this all vegan coffee shop I noticed the awning in the photo below. Look around you and find a source of juxtaposition and use it in a piece of writing.

The awning from the shop next door beside the all vegan coffee shop reads “Quality Meats”, complete with butcher knives on their logo. Two completely opposing views of the spectrum

If you don’t like non-dairy milk, like soy, coconut, oat, or what have you, and you can’t drink your coffee black, this isn’t the place for you. Go anywhere else, because they don’t have a stash of Creamo under the counter. Seriously, don’t go in there and verbally abuse the sweet Kats, because there’s no moo juice for you. It says on the sidewalk sign, “PLANT BASED MILK OPTIONS”. But if you want to have an adventure and to expand your taste horizons, hike over to Wild Trails.

No Dairy. Got it?

The two Kats have ambitious plans for the future to find a bigger space for customers to “hang out”. They were more than happy to have me lean on their Internet, drink in the soothing tunes from Spotify, do my video in the corner, write, enjoy good vibes and yummy coffee before I went to explore the shops on my way back to my hybrid car.

Love their cheerful orchids.
Cafe Review · Coffee Shop Wifi · Coronavirus · Coronavirus Precautions · COVID19 · North Vancouver · Wifi

Vomero’s Oh Oh

Overall – ☕️☕️☕️ Coffee – ☕️☕️☕️ Place – ☕️☕️☕️

#610 – 879 Marine Dr., North Vancouver

By Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith © May 30, 2020

Vomero Coffee House is named after the city near Naples, Italy where the owner Johnny and his staff come from. I’m delighted as both myself and Jeff Hortobagyi, my cowriter, have been to Naples. Johnny described how Vomero is on a hill above Naples. Vomero’s is near the Capilano Mall in an enclave in North Vancouver. Prior to opening this shop about two and a half years ago, Johnny had a food distribution shop in West Vancouver.

The cavernous shop allows for indoor seating with plenty of space between tables with a few cushy but worn seats and thankfully the a/c was going on the muggy day that me and Jeff met up.

Johnny and his staff are super friendly. Unlike the chain coffee shops, they forego the masks making life seem more normal.

Before Jeff arrived, I couldn’t help but chat with this friendly young man with an interesting guitar.

Vomero’s clientele includes people from all age groups. This young man is laid off from his restaurant job temporarily. No, he doesn’t play live music at the coffee shop.
Guitar as canvas.

Writer’s Prompt:

Write a story about one character waiting for the arrival of another.

Jeff insisted on treating me to a coffee as always, such a gentleman. I’m glad I brought him a bag of Nicaraguan coffee beans that I’d roasted at home to reciprocate. My order was an iced coffee and he ordered an Americano.

Jeff at work.

Vomero’s worked with an Italian roaster, Cafferia, to create their own signature blend for the shop. Johnny imports his award-winning beans regularly from Italy. My coffee was pleasant and chocolatey with no bitterness.

Coffee menu. Coffee beans are available for sale in the shop.

“What the hell makes you smart?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t go for coffee with you.”

“Listen – I wouldn’t ask you.”

“That,” she replied, “is what makes you stupid.”

Erich Segal, Love Story

There are lots of tables for two set up outside the shop and the ones along the east side had shade. The ones on the south side facing the parking had partial shade since it was afternoon. Inside the blown glass light fixtures and the black silk lampshades are classy and lovely. Jeff felt that the place lacked warmth and the furniture was generic. He thought that a couple of trestle tables down the middle would make it more contemporary and inviting. I agree that some live edge long tables with stools and electrical outlets would look stunning and be appreciated, of course, after the COVID-19 distancing restrictions are lifted. More of these comfy chairs would be great for those who like to write, read and chat would also be more welcoming use of the space.

The coffee shop doesn’t have a web site or a social media presence which is frustrating for a blogger, but it was busy. Johnny says they stayed busy throughout the pandemic with the help of his staff, who are all Italian speaking. I appreciated that they didn’t wear masks like the workers at the chain coffee shops do. (When everyone is separated by plexiglass I think that offers plenty of protection, but I’m not a health expert.) I find masks off-putting in a coffee shop, bakery, or restaurant, whereas a human face makes you feel relaxed. You can forget for a little while the stresses of the pandemic.

Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.

― Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings

Johnny pointed at the impressive wood surround on his refrigerated cases, also imported from Italy, and said that the gelato arrives next week. I can’t say Vomero’s is somewhere Jeff and I would meet up for coffee again, but I might nip in for gelato when I’m in that area at the drugstore, grocery store, medical lab, or party store running errands. Gelato goes really nicely with a cup of coffee, doesn’t it? I didn’t ask Johnny if their gelato is imported from Italy, but I suspect it is like everything else in this authentically Italian cafe.

Bakery Review · Cafe Review · Coronavirus · Coronavirus Precautions · COVID19 · North Vancouver

Bad Dog, Great Bread and Coffee

Overall – ☕️☕️☕️☕️ Coffee – ☕️☕️☕️☕️ Food – ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️ Place – ☕️

1600 Mackay Ave., North Vancouver

By Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith © May 28, 2020

The name Bad Dog Bread conjures up a boutique bakery for pampered pooches offering fancy dog biscuits. However, Jeff told me that Bad Dog Bread has excellent raisin brioche and that it was near my place. I remember driving by it many times in an area that serves your automobile needs, but today I stop in to this colourful pocket bakery as I’m scouting out coffee shops.

Looks like a converted garage door.

Coffee is a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your older self.

― Terry Pratchett, Thud!

Only one person is allowed in the triangular-shaped shop at a time due to COVID-19 precautions, but I only had to wait for one person ahead of me. I was met with a glass case resplendent with rustic brioche, croissants, cookies, cinnamon buns and bread.

Cinnamon rolls have perfect sugar to cinnamon ratio. I just wish they were bigger!

I had to pass on Jeff’s recommendation of the brioche, because they were sprinkled with nuts (I’m sensitive to nuts). I honed in on the cinnamon buns and I took a multigrain loaf home as well in adorable paper bags stamped with doggie paws. There’s a shaggy dog story here but I didn’t want to hold up the line.

Brioche buns.
Vadim, the owner and boss baker behind protective plexiglass.

I judge a restaurant by the bread and by the coffee.

—Burt Lancaster

There were three bakers in the glassed in baking area. Vadim, the owner, came out to speak with me. He said the bakery’s been there about three years. He’s originally from Russia and trained to bake in Germany and other places in Europe.

Outside in a C-can painted with a brilliant rooster is his flour mill. They grind all their wheat on site.

This rooster hides a secret.

The mill inside the rooster grinds all the flour for the bakery. The secret to the fresh taste of their baked goods.

Writer’s Prompt

Write about an animal that causes an enormous problem, and/or an animal that offers an enormous solution.

I saw a pallet of organic unbleached wheat from Saskatchewan next to the mill in the parking-lot, but they also use BC wheat. I use my KitchenAid mill attachment at home to grind wheat, rye and other grains for flour.

KitchenAid grain milling attachment has 12 settings from coarse to fine.

Milling and using that fresh flour gives your bread that extra flavour and chewiness. I order the wheat berries and rye berries online in 50-pound bags. You can sometimes get a 25-pound bag of wheat from health stores, or smaller quantities from their bulk bins. I like hard red wheat for bread. You can use soft white wheat for cakes and pastries. The mill also grinds corn, rice, oats, barley, buckwheat and toasted millet. I mix the milled flour with general purpose white flour or I would get a flat loaf. The attachment is really easy to rinse and comes with a brush to dust it clean. I like to cook the unground wheat berries for salads as a nutritious and yummy substitute for couscous, pasta or bulgur wheat.

Home milled flour kept on the kitchen window sill ready to use. From left to right: Rye berries. Rye flour. Wheat berries. Wheat flour. The large quantities of grain are kept in pails in the pantry, where they can be stored indefinitely. A shipment of 100 pounds of grain will last the two of us more than five years.

Bad Dog Bakery’s operation looks like it’s a creatively repurposed mechanic’s shop and probably is given the location among body shops, car rental agencies and mechanics. There’s no seating available at the bakery; strictly take-out all the time.

I took my Americano, cinnamon roll and whole grain loaf back to my place and made a video review: (Errata: I said in the video that they have a firewood oven, but that was a miscommunication between myself and Vadim. They don’t, in fact, have a firewood oven.)

Their coffee is from one of my favourite roasters, Moja coffee, also from North Vancouver. The coffee was delicious, although I can’t say it was quite as fantastic as having it straight from the Moja’s where they specialize in making a great cup of coffee. The cinnamon bun has just the right proportion of sugar to cinnamon. The sugar was still in crystals, the pastry wasn’t a sticky gooey mess and the bun was pleasingly soft. You could eat it with your fingers without going through a stack of paper napkins. I did find it on the small size in relation to the size of their brioches. Not to sound greedy, but I would’ve like it to be double the size. Perhaps, that’s because I’m used to the oversized cinnamon buns from Grounds for Coffee. I’m sure my waistline is the better for it and for the absence of cream cheese frosting too. Nothing wrong with pure food.

Would it be disrespectful to suggest a crispy outer crust? That’s how my mom makes them: crispy with caramelization on the outside and sink your teeth into comfortable cinnamon softness on the inside and lots of butter between the layers. I would love to try the brioche, so maybe they could make a nut-free version? That’s asking a lot, isn’t it? French brioche as I know it, doesn’t usually come with nuts and looks quite different from BDB’s brioche, but theirs looks amazing.

Vadim says they have a loyal customer following and had no trouble staying open during the pandemic. They take pre-orders as well as take-out orders. I hope in the future they can expand to add a patio in the parking-lot and/or add some indoor seating inside. I reckon this less than five square feet front-end operation is likely a way to keep a small business profitable through the worst of times, and they don’t get much worse than a pandemic.

I returned to the Sunshine Coast late that afternoon. Luckily I had a loaf of Bad Dog Bread in my trunk. With no food service onboard the ferry and limited options in the village, that loaf of bread was all I had to eat for a four hour span and that cinnamon bun had long ago worn off. Even with no butter or cheese, the equivalent of a couple of slices were satisfying and filling just plain. Crispy and seedy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside with soft pieces of fresh ground wheat. What a treat.