August 13, 2017

Cornerstone Café in Victoria's Fernwood Neighbourhood

Not so long ago we had reason to visit Victoria and we stayed in a neighbourhood called Fernwood. It's a wonderful part of the city that is outside the normal tourist hustle and bustle.

In advance, Sherry discovered the Cornerstone Café, across from the Belfry Theatre, and we all went one bright, sunny morning.

This is not a regular coffee shop, though one might not know without asking. Sure it's about coffee and reading and socializing... it looks like a coffee shop. It's story is something else.

Cornerstone Café is a social enterprise, which means its profits go to the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group, a non-profit society committed to creating a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable neighbourhood.

Prior to 2005 the building itself was a neglected eyesore, boarded up and unused. Local activists decided to revitalize the building and the area, and to provide space for a café, artists and locally owned and operated businesses. Within a year the Fernwood NRG had purchased the Cornerstone Building and in another year the heritage building was renovated, including affordable family apartments on the second floor. The renovation addressed environmental sustainability by installing, among other things, a geothermal heat pump and that energy, from the ground below the building, provides 70 percent of the building's heat and hot water.

The Cornerstone Café is working towards creating zero waste in all that it does, and maintains proper recycling and composting. Customers are encouraged to bring their own mugs, or those dining-in are given proper mugs and cutlery.  If someone wants a to-go cup, it will be one that is readily compostable.

Cornerstone Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

And finally: the coffee is pretty good too, though the cappuccino was too milky for our traditional tastes.

This wonderful café is a place where you can relax, meet friends and neighbours, take in music and special events, and discover community.

We should do this kind of thing more often and in more places.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

Butchart Gardens in the springtime

We were in Victoria during the tulip season and while that floral burst is long gone, BT Mendlebaum suggested this post, mainly because she didn't get to join the rest of the gang at Butchart Gardens. 

Technically Butchart Gardens are in Brentwood Bay but over a million visitors each year seem to be able to find the place.

The gardens grew out of a quarry on Tod Inlet where the Butchart family had established a mining operation at the end of the 19th century. The limestone was exhausted in 1909 and the business of the gardens began. Slowly.

To this day, ownership of Butchart Gardens remains with the family. Tulips were the focus during our visit, but the Gardens are a delight anytime of the year.

Photos by Jeem. 
Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

August 10, 2017

Koko Monk Chocolates in Vancouver

If one believes the promotion pieces, Koko Monk could be one of the best chocolate places on the planet. It's an amazing yet small operation with creative and artfully designed chocolate confections and drinks, and the best Turkish coffee in the city.

Koko Monk opened in 2013 and since then has created a tremendous following and some major press.

We've been here a couple of times. It can get crowded and though it's nice enough inside, it can be a problematic finding a seat. That shouldn't deter anyone from visiting.

Koko Monk Chocolates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Koko Monk uses raw chocolate, which is a whole, organic food with live enzymes. Natural sweeteners are used in all products, rather than the processed sweeteners found in most chocolates.

Share a flight of hot chocolates!

The benefits of raw, dark, organic chocolate are legend, including being a natural anti-depressant with a mood balancing chemical called Anandamine. Apparently it also unclogs arteries, detoxifies, aids in weight loss, increases UV resistance, slows the aging process and enhances your sex drive. BT Mendlebaum was impressed.

Vancouver's best Turkish coffee.

A signature hot chocolate.

Koko Monk has a large assortment of hot chocolates, made to order. Well worth the visit, and while there, talk to the owner Paul Dincer. He's passionate about chocolate and highly entertaining, informative and engaging.

Photos by Jeem. 
Copyright 2017 
by Jim Murray.