Businesses and friends gather for a dinner to raise funds for Partage Vanier, which serves part of Ottawa-Vanier’s riding where residents call upon foodbanks more often than the rest of Ontario
Mirrored on last year’s very successful “Poets” run by Secret Dinner Ottawa, the Vanier BIA and Beechwood Cemetery are once again joining forces with Secret Dinner and Fraser Cafe to host a unique fundraising dinner on August 22, 2019.
In July, Feed Ontario published a “hunger map” that looked at food bank usage across the province. In Ottawa-Vanier, 15 per cent of residents in the riding visited a food bank during 2018. The number of visits totaled 80,332.
Nathalie Carrier, the executive director of the BIA, says that data is especially frightening because if you remove the residents of very affluent neighbourhoods in that catchment the numbers are staggeringly higher.
She adds “when we saw the news last week we immediately called on our friends at Beechwood, Secret Dinner and Fraser’s to see if we could pull off a dinner again but this time as a fundraiser. Everyone jumped on board without hesitation.”
Her lips are sealed on what will actually be served, but is happy to report this event centres on supporting the local food bank, Partage Vanier and the vitally important role they play in the community. “We know the Chef Fraser will work his magic and serve up a dinner to remember” she adds.
Helena Arruda, director of counselling and community services at Partage Vanier says “our food bank serves the province’s most vulnerable people and every little bit helps. It’s great that the business community is contributing to our efforts in this unique way.”
The idea to host the event was born out of the success of the actual Secret Dinner Ottawa event held at Beechwood Cemetery last year.
“We are part of this community and have been serving this community since 1873 (Beechwood) and it’s important to be able to give back in a meaningful way,” says Nicolas McCarthy, director of communications and marketing at Beechwood Cemetery. “We are proud to be able to use our facilities, our groups and our partnership to help out the community and continue to build it together.”
With the event fast approaching, Carrier said she is still hoping other business members will want to get involved, whether it be purchasing tickets or participating in the event in their own capacity.
Tickets are $150 per person and include a $50 charitable receipt. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact the Vanier BIA.
Lindsay Taub, the owner of Sundae School, reflects on what it’s genuinely like to be the official “Ice Cream lady” of Beechwood
“Watching the kids (and grownups) choose their ice cream is one of the best parts of owning an ice cream shop. People are generally excited to get ice cream. It evokes a nostalgic, happy feeling that reminds people of when they were children. I love seeing how thrilled the children are to see so many candy options. I love seeing parents delight in knowing they’re about to share a treat with their kids. I love it when the kids are told they can have more than what they were expecting. It is truly heartwarming to be part of this special experience for the community. I am very proud to have created an opportunity for people to come together on Beechwood. Beechwood lies at the crossroads of five vibrant and diverse communities, and everyone loves ice cream, so I truly feel that we have an incredible opportunity to serve so many people. When I created Sundae School, I envisioned contributing to my community. It’s been such a thrill to see people coming from all over the city (and even from other cities) to visit us.”
Beechwood Avenue, Montreal Road and McArthur Avenue each offer unique flavours
Where in Ottawa can chefs find a full-sized octopus, the perfect cut of locally sourced meat, authentic Mexican food and dozens of other dishes and ingredients from around the world?
The answer is simple – come to Vanier.
“I get a kick out of being able to have the products for everyone.” – Filipe Correia, Mario’s Food Centre
“Whether it’s Norwegian Cod, Portuguese sausage, pastries, olive oil – I try to have everything that someone might be looking for,” Filipe Correia says about his store, Mario’s Food Centre, located at 381 McArthur Ave.
Mario’s Food Centre opened its doors in 1964. While many things along McArthur may have changed over the years, Correia says one thing remains the same: The selection of food carried in his store.
The shop sells Portuguese, Brazilian and Spanish food and attracts customers from across Ottawa and as far away as Montreal, Correia says. Once, he even received a call from a woman overseas who was about to fly into Ottawa and wanted to stop by the shop for groceries.
“She wanted to make sure I had what she was looking for,” he says. “People come from all over and I get a kick out of being able to have the products for everyone.”
Mario’s Food Centre isn’t the only unique stop along McArthur – the street is peppered with businesses offering delicious options.
One is a personal favourite of Correia’s – YKO BBQ Chicken, located a few doors down from his own store. Correia admits he eats there more than a few times a week.
McArthur Avenue is a bit of an international food quarter of Vanier, he says.
From Indian cuisine, Greek food, pizza, ice cream, Middle Eastern products and the All Africa Market – a trip down McArthur Avenue gives visitors a chance to taste food and ingredients from around the world.
“We all complement each other,” Correia says.
MONTREAL ROAD AND BEECHWOOD AVENUE
However delectable the wares offered by McArthur Avenue’s merchants might be, Correia notes that there are many other mouthwatering temptations in other corners of Vanier.
Mainstay dishes on Montreal Road include pho, pizza, shawarma, smoked meat and authentic Mexican food.
But the experiences are not limited to simply tasting the neighbourhood’s delicious food. There is also an opportunity to learn how to make it yourself.
Macaroon shop Quelque Chose Pâtisserie hosts French macaroon classes at its flagship shop at 274 Montreal Rd., offering aspiring bakers the chance to learn from the pros.
Meanwhile, Andrew Muckleston – the proprietor of Beechwood Avenue butcher Muckleston and Brockwell – says he offers classes at his shop to help people learn more about what they are eating, where it comes from and hopefully gain a new respect for butchery.
The hands-on experience helps individuals learn about the cuts and how the meat can be used.
“It’s a great experience for all skill levels,” Muckleston says.
Muckleston’s shop sources its meat from small-scale, local producers. Understanding the origins of his products helps him easily answer his customers’ questions.
“People want to know more about what they’re eating and where it came from,” he says. “That the food you are eating is top quality, ethically sourced, local, hormone and antibiotic free – something that you really can’t put a price tag on.”
SconeWitch owner Heather Matthews, who never eats a scone that is more than 10 minutes removed from the oven, recalls the mission she set for herself early on in life.
“Why did I pick scones? That’s an easy one. Ever since the ’70s, when muffins became the thing,
everywhere you went you got a greasy muffin – and there is nothing wrong with a muffin – but
I thought, ‘Why doesn’t someone do scones?’
At the time I had other businesses, and sometimes we would make scones, and every time they
would be gone. They would sell out. So I said, ‘If I ever start a business, it will just be scones.
Because, really, everybody loves scones. It was then I decided it was my mission to bring scones
to this world. Now we make over 2,000 a day by hand … but I wasn’t sure if I had really made it,
if I was successful until one day a Scottish gentleman came in and wanted to speak with me. He
came up to me and said (in a Scottish accent) ‘My mom makes the best scones.’ (Heather
pauses for dramatic effect) ‘But yours are better!’ Well, I knew I had made it then.”
Manager Julia Norris and her staff share their favourite requests from customers and why they love working on Beechwood Avenue.
Meghan Laver, on her most unique order:
“Our clientele varies greatly, so there’s always something interesting happening here – someone once asked me for a “deconstructed latte” so they could build it at their table themselves.”
Anastasiya Gorodnicha, on four-legged customers:
“The community here is so welcoming and nice, but the dogs here are the best! They always have smiling faces and are eager to be out and about. I’m so happy to see them walking around happily with their owners.”
Joanie Rheaume-Bond, on Vanier’s unique feel:
“This neighbourhood is just like a small town. Everybody knows each other and there is truly a sense of community and it is nice to be part of that and to be part of people’s routine … The Beechwood clientele is nice and eclectic, which makes it fun!”
Julia Norris, on what makes working in Vanier special:
“I got into the coffee business through a friend of my sister’s. I worked at that shop for about two years and fell in love with the culture around coffee shops. The best part of working on Beechwood is the customers. There is such a diverse range of people who come into the shop and it’s always nice to get to know them.”
BeechFest – a new year, a new name for Beechwood’s annual fall festival
Beechwood Avenue’s annual fall festival is getting a bit of a revamp this year.
The street festival plans to switch out its old name, East Feast, for a new one – BeechFest.
The name tweak highlights a change in programming.
What was once a food-heavy festival – hence it’s feast-filled name – the festival will be adopting more of a family feel and offering more family-friendly activities and times.
The festival will take place along Beechwood Avenue on Sept. 7, 2019 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King said the change is largely based on the varied interests of the communities which call Beechwood Avenue their main street.
“The name change represents the continued renewal of the event and responsiveness of the community to the fact that the event programming goes way beyond the excellent culinary scene on Beechwood, to also represent arts and culture and sport,” King said.
The event is organized by the Quartier Vanier BIA, of which King is the newest member of the BIA’s board, having been recently elected in the Rideau-Rockcliffe byelection on this past spring.
An active community member before taking his seat on council, the new councillor said he has loved attending the festival over the years and is looking forward to it once again this year, but this time as a contributor.
“’I’ve attended BeechFest in the past and found it to be quite an exciting event. It is arguably one of the largest outdoor festivals in our area, with 3,000 people in attendance, that allows residents and visitors from outside the city check out local businesses, chefs, breweries, wineries, children’s organizations and community groups,” he said.
Councillor Mathieu Fleury adds: “As a supporter of the event since its inception, I really feel that it’s a family friendly event that is very must-see for our neighbourhood. The event celebrates the end of the summer with food, music, activities and performances. What a great way to come together and celebrate?”
Executive director of the BIA, Nathalie Carrier said the changes this year are all aimed at making the event bigger and better.
“What we realized is this is a family gathering and so we want to make sure the family focus is not lost,” she said.
And given that Vanier is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Carrier said it is important to make this year memorable.
So far, programming for the festival includes:
- More children’s programming
- More food and more varieties of it!
- Celebration of Vanier’s 50th anniversary
- More merchant participation
- More people and more fun!
The event, created in 2016, closes off Beechwood Avenue from Marier Avenue to St. Charles Street to vehicular traffic, turning the area into a pedestrian space. In the past, local restaurants and shops along Beechwood Avenue participated by selling food, promoting their business, performing on the main stage or offering activities.
King said he feels street festivals, like Beechfest, are important because they allow residents to express community pride and demonstrate what makes their neighbourhood’s special.
Carrier said it is this sentiment that the BIA hopes to gain interest from more community partners to participate or sponsor an activity at the event.
“One of the great benefits of the festival is the strong relationships it fosters in the community,” King said. “Beechfest forges bonds among service organizations, municipal government, and neighborhood groups and creates better connections with elected officials, volunteers and interested residents.”
BIA members, organizations or individuals who are looking to participate or support BeechFest can contact Carrier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIA offers merchants a chance to let Vanier’s culture shine and build creative spark
Many Vanier merchants and residents might think they know what is good about their ‘hood. Starting this month, the BIA wants business owners and artisans to prove it.
The Vanier BIA is launching its “What’s Good In the Hood” microgrant program in June to help the community harness and showcase its artistic and cultural talents.
With a total budget of $7,500, the new initiative offers applicants the opportunity to apply for a grant of between $100 and $750 for projects that bring more culture to the community.
“Vanier has a very high number of creative individuals and this is a great way to stimulate that (arts scene),” said Thomas Radford, Project Manager for the Vanier BIA, adding how the programming will be created by the community, for the community.
The program is aimed at artists, businesses, cultural programmers and residents, all of whom are encouraged to propose events that will attract people to Vanier businesses.
“It can be anything that a person wants to suggest – a pop-up gallery, a burlesque show, a paint night or an out-door concert,” Radford said, giving several examples.
Shawn Marchand, a chef at Bobby’s Table on Montreal Road, is among the local merchants getting behind the initiative.
In March, Bobby’s Table hosted a What’s Good in the Hood pop-up event to help gain interest in the grant program.
The event welcomed musician Dank Aspects and his talented eight-year-old daughter, Illiyah Rose, to entertain a crowd of all-day breakfast diners with what Marchand described as a unique sound of blues, folk, soul and hip hop.
“Everybody that was here had a wonderful time,” Marchand said, adding that there wasn’t a single person in the room – chef, server or patron – who wasn’t singing along or dancing.
The event, he added, also welcomed some new faces to the popular Vanier breakfast spot.
“There were definitely people I had never seen before,” Marchand said. “It really brought everyone together.”
The Ministry of Coffee on Beechwood Avenue also joined the action earlier this year with a disco party, while Capital Rap Battles held a What’s Good In the Hood event this past spring.
Mini Mozaik – based on an event the BIA hosted annually since 2017 – is the BIA’s next What’s Good In the Hood pop-up. The event is planned for June 8.
The past events success highlight how the arts are thriving in Vanier’s business district, Radford said, adding he feels residents and businesses are embracing the idea of neighbourhood micro-events events.
Radford said he expects the first wave of projects to start rolling as soon as early July.
The number of projects that will go ahead depends on how many applications are received and the individual costs per event. More information is available by emailing Radford at email@example.com or checking out the application process online at VanierBIA.com.