Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Grocery Store for Downtown Saskatoon

Three cheers for Saskatoon Sous Chef – providing groceries to Saskatoon’s downtown core

One of the liveliest corners in downtown Edmonton is the Sobey’s supermarket on the corner of 104th Street. It’s a convenient place to pick up lunch on a work day or to buy a few groceries on the way home from work.

Unfortunately, Saskatoon no longer has a grocery store downtown and that’s a shame, particularly for the growing number of downtown residents.

Saskatoon Sous Chef, conveniently located below the King George Hotel lofts and just down the street from the lofts in the old Bay building, is trying to fill the gap.

In addition to their wide range of salads and appetizers, Sous Chef offers meals in a bag, soup and Indian curries. They also carry ice cream from Prairie Sun Orchard, fruit yogurts from Hounjet Family Orchard and bread from Earth Bound Bakery. Not to mention coffee, jam and various other goodies (including gooey goat cheese brownies).

Saskatoon’s first grocery stores
Saskatoon had at least one downtown grocery store, and often more, from 1922 to 2004. They were often attached to large department stores.

In 1916, Eaton’s opened a large mail order outlet in Saskatoon, and in 1922 it was expanded to include a groceteria and a showroom. Eaton’s started construction of its retail store at 3rd Avenue and 21st Street in 1928. This was the largest basement excavation of the time. Over 100 men, 40 teams, trucks and a Northwest shovel took a month to complete the excavation.

The new store housed Saskatoon’s first elevator, an art gallery, a fur salon and the elegant Algerian Room restaurant on the third floor. The basement was dedicated to the groceteria and luncheonette. The butcher shop had an 80-foot marble counter.

In 1941, the grocery store and luncheonette moved into the newly-constructed Foodateria on the north side of the building, where Extra Foods used to be located.

In more recent years, a Safeway was located beside the Bay until it closed in 1984. And there was a Dominion supermarket in Midtown Plaza until the chain was dismantled in the mid-1980s.

Saskatchewan’s own OK Economy
An OK Economy set up shop on the corner of 23rd Street and 2nd Avenue (the current location of Pharmasave) in 1938.

The OK Economy was a Saskatchewan chain of grocery stores started by the Schellenberg family. The Schellenbergs were European Mennonites who had moved to Osler, Saskatchewan, in 1912. They changed their name to Shelly to give themselves a more Canadian identity.

In 1925, they took a trip to research the Loblaws grocery stores in Eastern Canada, which ran on a cash, self-service basis. The OK Economy would follow similar principles as the Shellys opened 5 grocery stores in small towns north of Saskatoon. By 1929 there were 26 stores, including one in Saskatoon. The chain would later serve as a wholesaler for other Saskatchewan grocery stores.

Extra Foods, Saskatoon’s last downtown supermarket, closed on October 9, 2004. Saskatoon Sous Chef is working to fill the gap.

Photo Credit: A1500, Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

See Also:
     Urban Development in Edmonton
     Prairie Sun Orchard
     Earth Bound Bakery

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

cultivate hunches, make mistakes, write everything down, have multiple hobbies, visit coffee shops, share, recycle, re-invent

In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson says that collaboration rather than isolated competition is at the heart of innovation. Providing examples from different centuries and different sectors, the book outlines seven key elements of innovation and provides readers with plenty of practical suggestions that they can implement in their own lives.

The Adjacent Possible
Johnson says that innovation does not involve giant leaps into the unknown. Instead, we explore the adjacent possible, the circle of possibility that surrounds our current reality.

“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore those boundaries. . . . Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Those four rooms are the adjacent possible. But once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.”

Our personal challenge is to encourage experimentation and exploration by changing our physical environment, cultivating social networks or seeking out new information.

Liquid Networks
The “edge of chaos” is the fertile zone between conformity and anarchy. In this liquid area, new structures can emerge but there is enough stability that they do not immediately self-destruct.

There will be more good ideas in the marketplace, with its spillover between many different minds, than in the castle, with its top-down hierarchy. Similarly, more ideas emerge at a staff meeting than in isolated laboratories because the group environment provides new perspectives on a problem.

People don’t like open office buildings because there is no privacy, so you have to balance order and chaos in work environments. Microsoft carefully planned its office space to include modular offices with walls that can be easily reconfigured, write-on/wipe-off walls and mixer stations where people can visit and talk.

The Slow Hunch
Johnson says that “most great ideas come into the world half-baked, more hunch than revelation.” They need to be nurtured so that they don’t get forgotten amidst more pressing day-to-day issues.

Johnson says we need to carve out space to nourish our hunches and write them down so they don’t get lost.

Johnson explains that the “quickest path to innovation lies in making novel connections.” We need unstructured space and time (go for a walk, have a shower) when unrelated ideas can bump up against each other and create something new and unexpected.

We should actively seek out diverse and eclectic perspectives by surfing the web at random or brainstorming in order to build on each other’s ideas.

Benjamin Franklin said that “Truth is uniform and narrow. . . . But error is endlessly diversified.” Our failures challenge our assumptions and force us to adopt new strategies. One of the ground rules of web start-ups is “fail faster.” Don’t try and be perfect. Ship your product, evaluate the results, and learn from your mistakes.

When Gutenberg invented the printing press, he took advantage of the screw press that was used in winemaking. Computer punch cards were first invented to weave complex silk patterns on Jacquard looms. Innovation can involve a new use rather than a completely new product.

Johnson advises fostering multiple interests, working on more than one project at a time and actively seeking out cross-disciplinary environments (a coffee shop, a large city).

Just as ideas from one domain can be adapted for use in another, we can also build on other people’s ideas. One example is open government where individual and public groups take advantage of access to government databases in order to create computer apps.

Jane Jacobs said that innovation thrived in discarded spaces. Only large, well-established organizations like banks or chain stores could afford new construction. Smaller businesses took advantage of existing resources by moving into and restoring older buildings.

Collaboration not Competition
Johnson concludes his book by emphasizing that most of history’s greatest innovations have come about through collaboration rather than competition.

“You need only survey a coral reef (or a rain forest) for a few minutes to see that competition for resources abounds in this space. . . . But that is not the source of its marvellous biodiversity. . . .What makes the reef so inventive is not the struggle between the organisms but the way they have learned to collaborate – the coral and the zooxanthellae and the parrotfish borrowing and reinventing each other’s work.”

“The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, re-invent.”

See Also:
     The Opposable Mind, Roger Martin
     Glimmer, How Design Can Transform Your Life, Your Business, and Maybe Even the World, Warren Berger

Monday, January 24, 2011

Morning Bay Winery, Pender Island, British Columbia

“For total enjoyment, you need to know the story – the people, the land, the process.”

Starting over
It was 2000, the start of a new century, and Keith Watt had just turned 50. He had been a journalist, primarily for CBC Radio, for 25 years. “I realized that I had just enough time to try another career,” says Keith. “I have never regretted it for an instant.”

Keith and his wife, Barbara Reid, settled on the 25 acres of oceanfront property they owned on Pender Island, just off the coast of Vancouver Island. As Keith looked across the water one day, he saw the sun glinting off rows of newly-trellised grapes. And he realized that grapes were one of the few crops that would thrive on the steep, rocky slopes of his property.

The best of both worlds
Construction of the terraced vineyards on the south-facing slope of Mount Menzies on North Pender Island and the planting of 5000 grapevines began in 2001. Five years later, Morning Bay Winery harvested its first estate-grown wines. They celebrated their fifth anniversary in July 2010.

The cool, reasonably dry climate on Pender Island provides an 8-month growing season. But it lacks the heat of the Okanagan Valley. Keith has chosen to expand his wine-making options by shipping grapes grown in the Okanagan. Morning Bay Winery works closely with a small group of farmers to ensure that the grapes are harvested at the best possible moment. They are then shipped to the Pender Island winery to be turned into wine.

“Pender Island is an awesome place to make wine,” says Keith, “as it never gets very hot.” The winery is dug into the north side of the hill and the temperature is kept at a constant 12 degrees all year round.

Morning Bay has released over 40 wines in the past five years, and they are still honing their final list. Keith laughs and says he’s never met a wine that he didn’t want to make. “But each wine costs money,” he says. “You have to narrow your list and go with the winners.”

Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc. currently distributes five Morning Bay wines – Merlot, Merlot Reserve, Syrah, Chiaretto and Bianco. In future, Cava Secreta, Saskatoon, will also carry the Pinot Noir.

Old world wines
Keith prides himself on making old world wines that pair with good food and a healthy lifestyle. Old world wines are dry, higher acid and lower alcohol and residual sugar.

I’ve now tried three Morning Bay wines and my favourite is Bianco, a blend of white varietals grown on Pender Island. It reminds me of pink grapefruit – an initial pucker and then a hint of sweetness.

“We weren’t growing enough of any one variety, so we tried combining and blending the grapes,” Keith says. “We felt the blend had a lot going for it. It was multi-dimensional.”

Integrity and sweat
Buying wine from a small Canadian winery may not appear to be the obvious choice because of its higher price. Keith offers three compelling arguments in favour of buying his wine.

First of all, Chilean field workers receive $15 a day; Canadian field workers receive $15 an hour.

Secondly, “with Chilean wines, you’re getting a mass-produced product,” Keith explains. “It’s like trying to steer a super tanker. You’ve got to go the way the wine wants to go. We make it by the barrel.”

Finally, there is more to wine than just the taste. “For total enjoyment,” Keith says, “You need to know the story – the people, the land, the process.”

Morning Bay wines are seasoned with salty ocean breezes, bottled by the winemaker, and the labels display the work of Pender Island artists.

Guerilla marketing
With a limited budget, Keith relies on guerrilla marketing techniques, hosting home wine parties and events.

Winestock is a one-day indie rock festival held on the Labour Day weekend. Up to 300 people camp in the vineyard. “It’s where backyard party meets rock festival,” Keith says. “The musicians play till 10:30 and then move on to the back porch.”

“We’re building our winery one customer at a time,” says Keith. “I spend more time pouring wine than making it.”

Keith is pleased to be represented by Doug Reichel, a small-scale agent who shares his interests in wine education. “Good agencies are hard to find,” Keith says. “We’re so small; the large companies don’t spend any time with us.”

Proudly Canadian
Keith Watt and Doug Reichel had just returned from a wine education event in Prince Albert and were still glowing. “We paired BC wine with Saskatchewan food,” exclaims Doug. “It was awesome. Chef Kevin Dahlsjo is amazing. You could count on one hand the ingredients that weren’t local.”

At 26, Chef Kevin represented northern Saskatchewan in the 2010 Saskatchewan Gold Medal Plates. His restaurant, TWO by Dahlsjo, serves meals at lunchtime, and he caters private functions. He is cooking with the inmates at the Prince Albert penitentiary, and they baked the bread and banana loaf that were served at the Morning Bay event.

Note: The artwork on the Morning Bay labels is by Pender Island artists: Diane Kremmer and Susan Taylor.

See Also:
     Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc.
     Altos de Luzon: Wines from Jumilla, Spain
     Bodega Melipal: Malbec Wines from Argentina
     Doug Reichel Wine Seminars

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Facebook Marketing Book

Straightforward instructions and explanations for business

Facebook started out as a social networking utility for university students, but it’s proving to be a convenient business marketing tool. It’s cheap and you can expand your audience quickly. But there’s an art to using Facebook effectively.

Facebook is social; it’s about engaging in conversation and drawing people to you with interesting content. And you’re competing with an ever-growing, ever-changing newsfeed.
Facebook is fast, fun and interactive.

Five Stars
The Facebook Marketing Book by Dan and Alison Zarrella has just been released by O’Reilly Books (hard copies available from Amazon, electronic downloads from O’Reilly). It’s incredibly well written in simple language that still manages to convey a great deal of information. And it’s useful for small businesses with a limited budget as well as larger organizations that can afford to customize the software.

Here are some of the basic pointers that I found helpful.

Your Page
The Zarrellas explain the difference between a Page and a Group, the two options available to businesses. The Page, which sends updates to followers’ newsfeeds, is your primary channel, but Groups can work well for a specific marketing campaign or event.

Businesses can include additional information on their page by using tabs and apps. Some are ready-made while others will need some software programming skill to develop. If you can afford to design your own app or tab, great. But keep in mind what followers expect on Facebook – to share things with friends, to tag people in photographs and to send messages.

The Zarrellas suggest investing in an all-purpose Promo tab that you can use to profile new content or special offers and that can be changed easily. They also recommend giving your Page a new look four times a year to keep it fresh.

Who are you?
The most important material on your Page is your icon (identifies all your updates) and your information (side box and tab). Use this material to establish your personality (funny, serious, etc.) and your purpose. Fill it in as completely as possible and try to use key words as these will be used in internet searches. For example, a chef will want to mention that he offers cooking classes and catered meals so that he comes up in searches for those items.

Fast, Fun and Interactive
Your primary content is your updates that are posted on your followers’ walls. It’s important to remember that Facebook is a social network so it needs to be interactive (don’t just push information at people – you want to start a conversation and get feedback), fun (so people will want to share it with their friends) and fast (newsfeeds are constantly being updated).

It’s important to consider who you are, what impression you want people to have of your company (reliable, trendy, a little crazy) and what you hope to achieve (increased membership in your cooking classes, more large-scale catering opportunities, etc.).

Plan ahead by preparing a content calendar that lists what you will post and when and how it ties in with other marketing campaigns or activities. Choosing a daily theme will help you remember that you post recipe ideas on Mondays, answer questions on Tuesdays, and video links on Fridays.

Successful content is focused on your followers’ interests and needs (BBC Good Food – “not up for a big shop? – feed the family with just 5 ingredients”) or related to current events (healthy, low-cal recipes to coincide with New Year’s resolutions and post-holiday recovery).

Invite feedback. BBC Good Food posts a recipe on their website and asks followers to rate it, and followers post questions or photos of dishes they’ve made. And be sure to respond.

Contests and Promos
A great way to build your following is by sponsoring a contest or offering a prize – a photo caption contest, a poll, a 10% price reduction for Facebook followers.

Photos and Videos
Photographs have been a runaway success ever since they were introduced on Facebook. So post as many as possible – to illustrate your update or as an album to commemorate an event. If you post photos of your cooking class, ask participants to comment on them or tag them.

Videos work well because people can view them from within Facebook.

The Zarrellas recommend posting at least once a day and to consider posting more frequently a couple of days a week. “The trick is to keep users entertained without clogging their newsfeeds and annoying them.”

Setting up a Facebook ad should be a piece of cake if you follow the Zarrellas’ step-by-step instructions. I appreciated the reminder to choose warm colours that will contrast well with Facebook’s blue and white and their recommendation to use a photograph of a person as Facebook is all about people.

I highly recommend buying this book if you plan to use Facebook to promote your business. It will be money well spent.

Todd Maffin provides some great tips on how to grow a fan page from zero to 48,000 here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Beer: History, Trivia and War

Brew North by Ian Coutts is a fascinating look at the history of beer in Canada. I particularly enjoyed the archival photos and beer labels. Here are some tidbits from Canada’s brewing history:
     In 2007, Canadians drank 71.67 litres per capita with the Yukon leading the way at 139.75 litres per person, followed by Alberta at 98.54

     The first criminal trial and hanging in Upper Canada was held at Finkle’s Tavern, which opened near Bath, Ontario, in 1793.

     Two skeletons at the bar were props for Charles McKiernan’s tall tales (told in rhyme) at Joe Beef’s Canteen in Montreal. Customers shared the bar with a variety of animals, including a succession of beer-drinking bears.

     Empty beer bottles were originally stored in crates filled with straw, a favourite spot for mice to nest. And the bottles were dark green, so it was hard to tell if the bottle was already occupied when it was filled with beer.

     During Prohibition, many breweries switched to making soft drinks. The Saskatoon Brewing Company made a non-alcoholic drink called Malta.

     Advertising companies are endlessly creative. When beer advertising was prohibited, Quebec farmers were offered black Percheron horses for stud free of charge or for sale at a very good price as a means of advertising Black Horse beer.

In 1939, Labatt’s introduced a bright red, teardrop-shaped semi-truck, an unmistakable sight on Ontario’s highways (graphic: Three Dimensional Computer Models).

American beer wars
The Beer Wars (available on Netflix) documents the challenges faced by small microbreweries as they try to compete with the large multinational beer companies in the United States. The film profiles several individuals as they try to establish a new variety of beer or expand their microbrewery.

One of the biggest challenges is competing for shelf space in the liquor outlets and ensuring that the microbrews are included in the transportation distribution system. By offering a wide variety of products in a wide variety of formats, the big breweries can dominate more shelf space. They also introduce copycat versions of the popular microbrewery options.

As always, I am so impressed by the passion and determination of the microbrewery owners who gamble everything they possess to try and make a go of it.

The bruising business of brewing in Alberta
A December article in Alberta Venture magazine (via Only Here for the Food) goes into detail about the challenges facing microbreweries in Alberta.

The problems range from customers who believe that imported beer is of higher quality than a local beer, to government regulations that place a minimum annual production quota on any new brewery of 250,000 litres (about 733,000 bottles), to large breweries offering all sorts of financial inducements to ensure that their beer is on tap in local bars.

Winter beers
And if all this talk about beer is making you thirsty, Beppi Crossariol of The Globe and Mail recommends chocolate stout, coffee porter, and beers laced with honey, berries and spices for winter beer drinking.

Ontario drinkers can try the Muskoka Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout. The Howe Sound Brewing Co. in Squamish, BC (which also has a very nice restaurant), has a Rail Ale Nut Brown and a Diamond Head Oatmeal Stout, while Granville Island Brewing has a Chocolate Stout. Alley Kat Brewing Co. in Edmonton offers Coffee Porter, while Phillip’s Brewery in Victoria, BC, has a Chocolate Porter.

And last, but certainly not least, Saskatoon’s Paddock Wood Brewery has a Winter Ale Grande Reserve (only 300 bottles) that has undergone a second fermentation in the bottle as well as a London Porter and a Bête Noire.


See also:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte

“The public is composed of numerous groups whose cry to us writers is:
‘Comfort me. ‘Amuse me.’ ‘Touch my sympathies.’ ‘Make me sad.’
‘Make me dream.’ ‘Make me laugh.’ ‘Make me shiver.’
Make me weep.’ ‘Make me think.’”
(Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant)

Nancy Duarte owns an award-winning presentation design firm. Her first book, slide:ology, examined visual presentation techniques. Her second book, Resonate, demonstrates how we can apply storytelling techniques to our writing and presentations to help us share information more effectively.

Why stories are important
“The structure and significance of stories transforms information from static and flat to dynamic and alive. Stories reshape information into meaning.”

People love stories – from a James Bond movie full of action and adventure to the latest gossip. Unfortunately, we often fail to apply storytelling techniques to our business writing – and that’s a shame.

Resonate is aimed primarily at applying storytelling techniques to oral presentations. And yet I found much that would apply to business writing of all kinds. Here are some of the key themes.

One big idea
“Don’t parade in front of the audience spewing every factoid
you know on your topic. Only share the right information
for that exact moment with that specific audience.”

We so often fail to write effectively because we haven’t clearly defined our purpose and our audience: Who is my audience? What information do I want to share? What do I want the readers to do as a result of receiving this information?

Duarte says that there are three components to your key message. It must articulate your unique point of view rather than generalizations. It must convey what is at stake. And you should be able to articulate it as a complete sentence. To state that your presentation is about the company’s profits in the third quarter lacks action and meaning. ‘Innovative sales initiatives dramatically increased our third-quarter profits.’ has characters with a story to tell.

And, as Duarte explains, “People love stories because life is full of adventure and we’re hardwired to learn lessons from observing change in others. Life is messy, so we empathize with characters who have real-life challenges similar to the ones we face.”

Call to action
Duarte recommends making the audience the hero of your story.

“Screenwriter Chad Hodge points out in Harvard Business Review that we should ‘[help] people to see themselves as the hero of the story, whether the plot involves beating the bad guys or achieving some great business objective. Everyone wants to be a star, or at least to feel that the story is talking to or about him personally.’”

Your purpose as the writer or presenter is to safely guide your audience as they step away from the safety of their old ideas and make changes in their actions or ways of thinking. Duarte reminds us to recognize that there are risks that will be met with resistance and can be overcome by offering rewards.

“Be cognizant of the sacrifice the audience will make when you ask them to do something, because you’re asking them to give up a small – but still irretrievable – slice of their lives. If you consider the potential risks that the audience will face when you ask them to buy into your big idea, you will be prepared to manage their apprehension and respond effectively to overcome it.”

“Structure allows your audience to follow your thought process.
If you don’t have clear structure then you end up jumping around
making random connections to ideas that are unclear to the audience.
Solid structure causes ideas to flow logically and helps the audience
see how the points connect to each other.”

Resonate identifies three key tools:

Destination – The audience needs to have a clear picture of the current situation and the proposed destination. By creating a “dramatic dichotomy between what is and what could be,” you provide the incentive for moving forward, despite the risks and resistance.

Ebb and flow – Stories have a rhythm that moves the audience forward and keeps them listening, wanting to know what will happen next. The plot consists of challenges that are resolved before moving on to the next. Duarte says that “Your job as a communicator is to create and resolve tension through contrast” and lists three types of contrast – content (moving back and forth between what is and what could be), emotion (from analytical to emotional) and delivery (traditional and non-traditional delivery methods).

Sound Bites – Duarte recommends developing and repeating key phrases that people can easily remember and then repeat.

Head and Heart
“You can have piles of facts and still fail to resonate.
It’s not the information itself that’s important
but the emotional impact of that information.
This doesn’t mean that you should abandon facts entirely.
Use plenty of facts, but accompany them with emotional appeal.”

We so often steer clear of emotion, particularly at work. But conveying nothing but the facts often fails to demonstrate why those facts matter. You can list all the features of your new product, but the customer will only buy it if you successfully show them that this new product will make their life easier, save them time, be fun to play with, etc.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Caffe Sola, Saskatoon

“a sense of love in all the food”

Past the bus terminal and behind a plain exterior, Caffe Sola is one of Saskatoon’s best-kept secrets.

The smell of fresh-baked cakes and rich soups greets you as you open the door. Take your time reading the daily specials on the blackboard and investigating the savoury tarts, cakes and cookies in the display case. It will be a tough decision, but you can always take some home with you. And the staff will happily recommend their favourites.

Dinner for friends
“The café is small enough that I can cook as if friends were coming to the house for dinner,” says Sarah Robbins. Sarah shops every other day, and the daily menu changes based on what is seasonal and what catches her attention.

Eighty percent of the dishes are vegetarian, and Sarah is trying to include more vegan dishes. There are some gluten-free dishes. Sarah uses as many local, organic ingredients as possible, and everything is made from scratch.

Start your day with a muffin or pastry fresh from the oven. Or stop in at lunch time for a bowl of soup and a savoury tart. Caffe Sola was offering three soups the day I talked to Sarah – chanterelle mushroom and organic barley; Greek red lentil, lemon and fresh rosemary; and roasted apple and butternut squash. And I know from experience that the torta rustica is rich and flavourful with layers of tortilla, roast vegetables and artisan cheese.

Or just treat yourself to dessert. My absolute favourite is the oat square with its thick layer of peanut butter icing. Other people rave about the double chocolate espresso brownies, the vanilla bean cheesecake and the oat spice cake.

Sarah says that her biggest challenge is maintaining the quality – every day and every dish. “I want to ensure there’s a sense of love in all the food, that it doesn’t turn into a chore,” she says. So she works with small amounts, avoids mass production, and tries to be present when she is cooking.

Organic tea and coffee
Caffe Sola uses Bean North’s organic, fair trade coffee. “It’s a northern Italian espresso – smaller volumes and a little lighter roast,” Sarah explains. “We tried a few different coffees. We really liked Bean North’s philosophy.”

There is a wide assortment of organic teas from Silk Road Teas in Victoria. Earl Green is one of my favourites.

Choose a seat
Caffe Sola expanded last year, so you now have a choice of a quiet seat on the west side or a chance to sit by the fire and greet friends arriving on the east side.

The west side can be booked for parties or meetings. I had a birthday party there last spring, and it was great. Everyone helped themselves to a latte or a piece of cake and then settled down to visit uninterrupted. There is no charge for daytime bookings, and you can either order individually or set a menu with Sarah in advance. There is a room rental fee for evening bookings.

Circle of friends
Caffe Sola has a comfortable, homey atmosphere. And that’s not surprising when you learn that Rob Assie, one of Sarah’s business partners, made the fireplace and hard furniture (more comfortable than it appears), the pottery is local and many of the vegetables come from a friend’s organic greenhouse in Clavet.

When Sarah isn’t working, you will find her outdoors – riding her bike, skiing, or doing yoga. Caffe Sola strongly supports bicycle commuting and an active lifestyle, and they sponsor a wide variety of community groups.

Music and poetry
Two or three times a week, Caffe Sola hosts a small concert on the second floor of the building. There is an All Ages Night every Thursday with a poetry slam once a month. Caffe Sola provides food, coffee and wine. Rich Taylor of Vive Music organizes the concerts. There is a $5-10 cover charge for the concerts, but you’re welcome to come in to the café for no charge.

If you just can’t get enough of the great food at Caffe Sola, ask Sarah to cater. She offers everything from dessert trays or appetizers for 50 to a dinner for 7 in their own home.

Location and Hours
Caffe Sola is located at the corner of 23rd Street East and Pacific Avenue. They are open Monday to Thursday from 7 am to 6 pm, Friday from 7 to 5, Saturday from 10 to 4, and Sundays from 10 to 3. For more information about catering or booking a room, call 244-5344.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Year in Review: Outstanding Books of 2010

Reading is an abiding pleasure in my life. I particularly enjoyed the following books in 2010.

Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village is an account of Sarah Erdman’s two years in the Ivory Coast with the Peace Corps. It’s not easy to be immersed in a foreign culture, and her clear-sighted descriptions of village life and her efforts in establishing a well baby clinic are exceptional.

I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do) by Mark Greenside is an account of buying a house in Brittany and learning to talk French.

Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa by Matthew Fort is a discovery and celebration of the foods and dishes that are unique to each Sicilian community he visits.

In Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, Elizabeth Bard recounts how she fell in love with French food as well as a Frenchman.

The Spice Necklace: A Food-Lover’s Caribbean Adventure is a sequel to Canadian Ann Vanderhoof’s earlier book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes. Vanderhoof and her husband travel by sailboat between the islands of the Caribbean, tasting and cooking local food. Each chapter includes several recipes.

Food and Drink
Continuing on the food theme, two Canadian books do an excellent job of exploring local food and local food production. They are Locavore: From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens – How Canadians are Changing the Way We Eat by Sarah Elton and Apples to Oysters by Margaret Webb.

The Town that Food Saved: How one Community found Vitality in Local Food by Ben Hewitt raises important issues about food supply and security as I discussed in an earlier blog.

Although the writing was occasionally weak, I was interested to learn the history of Ontario’s wine industry in Niagara’s Wine Visionaries: Profiles of the Pioneering Winemakers by Linda Bramble.

I continue to explore the ways in which design impacts on the reading experience. Here are three books I’d highly recommend:
     Presentation Zen Design, Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations,Garr Reynolds (Writing with Harmony and Balance)

     Before and After: How to Design Cool Stuff, John McWade

     resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, Nancy Duarte.

Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life, Your Business, and Maybe Even the World by Canadian Warren Berger is a good overview of design thinking and how it can be applied to solving business and social problems (Designing Solutions to Problems).

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is a fascinating and useful book (Switch: Part 1, Switch: Part 2, Switch: Part 3).

I’ve just finished reading Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky. It’s a thoughtful look at how technology provides us with the opportunity to combine our time and abilities in life-shaping ways.

Two delightful books about birds:
     Birdology: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and Murderously Big Living Dinosaur, Sy Montgomery

     Kingfisher – Tales from the Halcyon River, Charlie Hamilton James

And one about felines:
     Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat, Gwen Cooper

Eco Barons by Edward Humes (blog post) and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity & Hope by William Kamkwamba are books of optimism and hope that challenge readers to use their talents and serve the world.

Two history books:
     Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler, Anne Nelson

     At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson

And, finally, I do read fiction. The Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry is an absorbing account of a woman who disguises herself as a eunuch to practise medicine in Byzantine Istanbul.

Amphibian by Carla Gunn is a delightful story of a 9-year-old boy, his anxieties about the environment, his family and friends.

Finally, three mysteries that particularly appealed to me because of their settings:

     Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement (Florida Keys)

     The Case of the Missing Servant: A Vish Puri Mystery, Tarquin Hall (India)

     The Leopard’s Prey, Suzanne Arruda (colonial East Africa following World War   One)

See Also: The Year in Review: What I Shipped in 2010