Sunday 11 June 2017

Local Love | Sammy Piccolo introducing Brunch to Prado Cafe

Prado Breakfast | organic bread with a pea and avocado spread, piled high with fresh arugula and finally finished with a medium poached egg and a mustard balsamic vinaigrette

The Man Sammy Piccolo

Vancouver’s beloved Prado Cafe is getting a food make-over, brunch to be exact! Prado Cafe has gone from one to four locations within the past 6 years. I was beyond elated when I bumped into the man himself, owner Sammy Piccolo during my morning visit to Prado Gastown. I went ahead and boldly asked Sammy if I may interview him. 

In a mere 15 minutes, Sammy changed my outlook on several Vancouver favourites - brace yourselves as you are just about to realize how influential Sammy and his family have been to Vancouver. Prado Cafe is not this man’s only venture, in fact, he and his brother were one of the founders of another Vancouver coffee house, Cafe Artigiano. As the company grew, Sammy found himself wanting something different, something of his own. 

Sammy and his brother, Vince Piccolo, went on to open 49th Parallel Roasters and one of their first clients happened to be Prado Cafe. Sammy instantly fell in love with the space - the high ceilings, white walls and stunning old floors. In 2010, Sammy acquired the original Prado Cafe which still remains open at Commercial and fourth. 
"Prado Cafe is about community and bringing people together. We love to bring families together like we have been in East Vancouver for 12 plus years. The burbs deserve the best coffee in the city just like East Vancouver does. The people outside of Vancouver have great taste just like Vancouverites. We all put our shoes on the same way and all love good coffee and good food!"
I love how humble and down to earth Sammy is. The first time I met him, I actually did not even know who I had just met because he was behind the counter expertly pouring lattes. Though I did not remember our encounter from over a year ago, Sammy remembered my face. 

These cookies are to die for! The "No Name' is the one with the marshmallows, the top corner is the Breakfast cookie and the bottom right is the Vegan Apricot.
Brunch Please

I get so excited about food and I am not even in the slightest ashamed to admit it. I would say Sammy was just as thrilled as he filled the majority of our table with their new brunch menu, baked goodies and drinks. I could practically see the excitement radiating from him as he nudged plates of food towards me, beckoning me to try everything! It was evident how much love and work he has put into building the new Brunch menu because he was so eager to see and hear what I thought about the food and drinks. 

Sammy wanted to focus not only on flavour, but to also create a menu that was affordable and healthy. The Prado Breakfast is a slice of organic bread with a pea and avocado spread, piled high with fresh arugula and finally finished with a medium poached egg and a mustard balsamic vinaigrette. Simple, fresh, healthy and most importantly, the Prado Breakfast was delicious! Always trying to support other local companies, Sammy gets all of their bread from Bread Affair, a bakery which makes organic bread. Also new to the menu is the Sunrise Salad - arugula, marinated artichokes, olives, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, sweety drop peppers, house-made balsamic vinaigrette and poached egg on top. 

After finishing the savoury end of the menu, we moved onto the sweet - my favourite! I generally am more of a cake girl than a cookie girl, but when Sammy offers you fresh house made cookies, you say yes. The "Breakfast Cookie" was a combination of healthy nuts and grains, reminiscent of an energy ball, but tastier. Next was the Vegan Apricot Cookie which has dried apricot and though Sammy said it may be a bit dry, I personally thought it was perfect and could not believe it was vegan. Lastly, Sammy's favourite creation, the "No Name," an ooey-gooey treat made with oats, peanut butter, chocolate chips and even some toasted marshmallows. I hate to admit it, but I think I may just prefer the No Name over a S'mores. 

Brunch was not over because I still had the Raspberry Bar and Turmeric Elixir to try. Raspberries are one of my favourite berries, so I do feel a bit biased towards Prado's Raspberry bar; however, it is genuinely delicious and it is still the original recipe from 10 years ago. Now the Turmeric Elixir may seem daunting at first, but by the third sip, I was not even missing my matcha lattes. Sammy wanted to create something new and different which used local fresh ingredients. Turmeric has numerous health benefits and with the addition of black pepper, the benefits such as blood flow and circulation are enhanced ten fold. I highly suggest visiting any one of the Prado locations to try the Turmeric Elixir as you will not find anything similar elsewhere. 

My favourite - the Raspberry Bar!
Prado - Open Spaces in Latin

A self-professed Pinterest addict, Sammy was personally involved in all the design decisions for each of his four locations. Prado, latin for open spaces, was something Sammy wanted to represent metaphorically. He hung old window panes on the walls as windows open a room visually beyond the wall. 

The cafes each have their own quirks when it comes to design as well as menu. Certain menu items are specific to a location such as matcha lattes are only served at Commercial. The baked goods also vary such as cake by the slice. However, you can also now order full size cakes to take home in delicious flavours like coconut cream or peanut butter and jelly!

I am crossing all of my fingers and even toes that Sammy brings Prado Cafe to my home city, Richmond, so I can not only have the perfect place to get work done, but also eat all of their delicious baked goods. I love the direction Prado is going in and introducing the brunch menu fits perfectly with what they currently offer. 

I am excited to see what Sammy does next, but whatever he does, I can guarantee this 4 time National Barista Champion will be doing something with coffee as it literally flows through his veins. 


Friday 9 June 2017

Geek Latte | Kurtis Stewart: Photographer and Mentor

The Tall German on a Bike

Kurtis' photography journey began just over a decade ago when he purchased his first ever camera, the Canon Rebel XT. If it were not for his sweet Oma (Grandmother in German) helping him purchase the camera, we can only speculate what Kurtis would be doing right now!

In 2007, Kurtis enrolled in the Full Time Professional Photo Imaging Program at Langara College where he had the opportunity to work with several well known local photographers. The mentor-student relationship was integral to him growing as a photographer and it is something Kurtis cherishes from his early years. Of course, Kurtis is no longer a student, but instead is a full time photographer undertaking portraits, weddings, and events with a Canon 5D Mark I in one hand and a Canon 1D Mark IV in the other.

“I like to bike, bus, [and] train around Vancouver so that has me traveling pretty light to my shoots. It’s almost easier to work with some gear restraints, as you really get to know your tools at hand.”

Kurtis has an impressive portfolio of work, but I was curious to know which assignment is his favourite and why. Without a moment of hesitation, Kurtis replied - Edgars Creative Bike Shoot . He went on to explain how photographers can often find their creativity being suppressed by clients or producers. Kurtis was given complete control of the project, from the very beginning to the end; therefore, allowing him to execute the concept he had in mind. It was a big confidence booster for him as the images turned out beautiful and he was able to create almost 90% of what he had envisioned. 

Backlit Images

Backlighting and Kurtis have become synonymous as he often shoots his pictures in this style. Kurtis summed it up simply - it always makes my client's faces look fantastic! 
By shooting his pictures backlit, Kurtis is able to capture a picture where his subject is the focus and the background is obscured. 

For beginners, Kurtis suggests backlighting as it does not require any extraneous equipment and for the most part, this style works for most locations. Backlighting is a versatile technique as it works on a sunny or cloudy day. 

So how does backlighting work? Kurtis explained how you want the light to be placed behind the subject because it removes the unappealing racoon-eye shadows from their faces. As well, by overexposing the background, you draw more attention to the subject. 

" Sometimes you’re stuck in a location you don’t love… with light that’s not the best, backlighting solves a majority of these issues. "

Though camera technology continues to improve at a rapid rate, Kurtis was quick to point out that our cameras are still unable to handle backlighting very well. As there is a large contrast from dark to bright; therefore, the camera has a tough time finding a clear point to focus on. It will take some practice to know where you want your subject to be in relation to the light and what the correct exposure is, but you will figure it out! 

Embracing the Mentor Role

When Kurtis is not behind the lens, he is in front of a classroom passing on his knowledge and experience to students at Langara. Somehow, he always knew he would become an instructor at Langara, in the very school he was once a student in. The best teachers are the ones who genuinely care about their students and Kurtis embodies everything a student could ask for. Kurtis recognizes that we all learn differently, so he has made it his priority to explain a concept several different way until it finally "clicks" for his student. 

Kurtis has really drawn on his own experience from his time as a student at Langara to help him not just be good, but a GREAT instructor. For instance, Kurtis tries to give his feedback on assignments within a week as photography is very much so cumulative. It is only through critique are you able to learn what you can change to produce better pictures. Since Kurtis himself is a working professional photographer, he loves sharing his experience and stories from shoots with his classes. In fact, he is always itching to share his work and talk anything photography, so he gets very excited when someones asks him questions related to being a working photographer! 

Also, full disclosure, I took Basic Digital Design in the fall of 2016 and Kurtis was my instructor. I intentionally enrolled in his section because the information session I attended for this course was given by Kurtis. He was so knowledgeable and really brought his own fresh outlook on beginners photography. I may sound biased, but I swear I honestly do not think I would have fallen in love with photography if it were not for this amazing individual. 

Kurtis will be teaching the12 week course: Basic Digital Photography (pick from either Tues or Wed nights) 6:30-9:30pm at Langara College this coming Fall 2017. 

If you want to see more of Kurtis’ work visit: