Posts in Citizens of Capitol Hill
Citizens of Capitol Hill: Pistachio Bake Shop
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By Aarthie Fernando and Maria Castillo-Stone

Aarthie and myself were eager to welcome new kids on the block: Pistachio Bake Shop , so we were invited to have a chat with Ismah Souraya - the brain child behind Capitol Hill’s treat spot, and sample some of the goodies for ourselves.

What made you you decide to choose Capitol Hill to situate your business?

When we were looking for a location, this was a perfect place - next to the school, next to the church and the old folks home, and near SAIT which seemed like a great location. The people here are super friendly, family-orientated. You see a lot of demographics here - families, students and seniors.

What inspired your line of business?

I started baking pastries at SAIT (graduated in 2016). From there, I’ve worked as a cake decorator at Co-Op, and at Bridgeland Market as a baker.

I’ve always had a passion for baking, and I’ve always wanted to open up my own coffee shop and bakery. My dad has owned a few businesses  - we jumped at the opportunity for this place.

For a new customer, what do you recommend they try first?

Definitely something Middle Eastern because that’s what we’re about here at Pistachio. I would recommend the Raspberry cake slice or the Basbousa. (Author’s note: Basbousa is a traditional Middle Eastern sweet cake. It is made from a semolina batter and sweetened with orange flower water or rose water simple syrup.)

What was your favourite treat growing up?

My favourite dessert - it’s Lebanese, called Knafeh. It’s made with semolina flour, and cheese - it’s melted. It’s best served warm.

What are your three essentials for the kitchen?

Passion - a love for baking. Patience and butter!

Who inspired you growing up?

Definitely my mum -  she’s a part-time baker

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business in Capitol Hill?

If somebody found a place to start a business in Capitol Hill, I would say “Go for it!” Because the community is amazing and the people here are lovely.

Pistachio Bake Shop is located at 1104 20 Ave NW, Calgary, AB T2M 1E8. At time of print, their opening hours are 9am-6pm (except Mondays - they are closed) but I recommend calling ahead at: 403-475-1104 to confirm their opening hours.

Do you have an interesting story to tell? Do you have a hobby, talent or a sustainable way of living? Are you a business (big or small) owner in Capitol Hill and you want people to know about what you do - please get in touch at: communication@capitolhillcommunity.ca and you could be featured here!

Citizens of Capitol Hill: Rachel Taylor-Fergusson
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By Maria Castillo-Stone

Having spent most of my education hanging around art studios, art shops and visiting galleries, it was a real treat to be invited to the home of local artist, Rachel Taylor-Fergusson (who also fed me some yummy liquorice tea!).

There’s nothing like being in an eclectic studio space, surrounded by mood boards, materials, artwork and inspiration.

How would you describe the community of Capitol Hill to an outsider?

It’s a small town that’s like it’s own little island, in the big city! I love it here. I grew up here, went to the local schools. I love that when you walk down the street, you can meet or get to know your neighbours. I have friends that live in communities and they don’t have the same experience.


I believe Pub Nights have had a lot to do with that - or being at the park. You chat with a parent and say: “Come along to Pub Night!”


So you’re an artist, what is your background?

I did a lot of art in school, and took part in an art program at Queen Elizabeth High School, as it had one of the better art curriculums in the city. I was thinking about going into art school but I was still undecided in where I was heading. I did Art 10-20-30 and Portfolio Art but felt unprepared at the time. So I decided to step away from art for bit, and went to university to study other subjects instead.


After the passing of dad two and a half years ago, I fell back into art - he was an artist. Processing the loss, I did a lot of family portraits. I discovered that I really enjoyed art and that I was actually good at it.

What has been a seminal experience for you artistically?

I love that question. So I was struggling with the medium of watercolours (when I started art again),  - the lack of control. I couldn’t get skin tones down, I was having a hard time with colour theory, and in the end, I realised that I was going to have to redirect my whole style.

When my son Fin was little, I got him doing some painting. It lead to an epiphany: I had to start over, I have to start playing with the materials again and being more exploratory. I looked at his art, copied his use of colour, and it lead to free-flow, dripping effects. I then superimposed portraits over top of the painting, using pen and ink.

I let go of the need to have the finished picture visualised in my head, as it would be represented on the page. Instead I let it become what it would become. Seeing what my son was making, completely changed my approach to art - it made me 100,000 times better!

How do you work best?

Probably in directed periods of time. I’ll spend a lot of time in the thinking process, such as the Canadian Wilds for example. About the animals, and what they mean to me, what do they represent? I do a lot of art that represents a specific time - I’m very present in this moment, what is going on for me, emotionally, what things are representing me right now, what am I trying to express? Also, if I have time away from my son, I like to spend plenty of time immersed in a project! So I’ll end up getting a whole piece done in one day.

I also love it when I’m motivated from an experience, such as one piece I did as a gift for an instructor, for the end of class. This piece was a perfect example of being present in this moment.

Who are your influences?

Just Fin. I don’t observe a lot of art. Fin has been really inspirational for me, especially his use of colour. And also my dad - his use of lines and portraits.

What are your essential tools for working?

The tool I could not live without is this easel [points] I went into the art store and asked them to show me what easels they have. The easel that caught my attention ended up being the most expensive one! Yet my justification for getting was: I want an easel that will meet my needs, a good investment piece.

I also have a favourite brush - I’m very particular about materials, it’s very funny you asked me that! It’s a No.12 and there are smaller ones for detail work. Also the Pilot Fineliners - they’re the cheapest pens. I bought $50 worth of pens to do testing and honestly the Pilot is my favourite one - I love how it bleeds and I love to use a monochromatic black, so I use Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna to make my black. I also love using water soluble crayons [shows me an array of crayons!]  - I bought them on a whim for Fin. Yellow is my favourite to work with, I love Yellow!

What is an artistic look on life?

I would say it’s a couple of things: truly being present - in the moment, because you have to be, when you’re drawing or painting, You have to use your eyes, not your mind. You have to look, not think. You can’t be evaluating and judging, and not thinking: “Where’s the future going to take me?”

And looking for deeper meaning and metaphor in life. For example, wolves from my Canadian Wilds pieces, they’re big on metaphor - to represent the things that eat at you. Anxiety is a “big wolf” in my life because it’s that fear of something that can get at you. Being able to represent those concepts in metaphor is an artistic life.

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Lastly, What is your favourite spot in Capitol Hill?

I really like this tree area at the St. Pius school - we call it the Peace Garden. It’s just trees surrounding large tree trunks you can sit on. It’s very grounding.

Citizens of Capitol Hill: The Friendly Edit
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By Maria Castillo-Stone

Last Friday, I was lucky to spend a lovely afternoon at the home of Jess Voykin, one half of the blog: The Friendly Edit. Little did I know we were neighbours on the same block! (U.K me would say street but I wanted you to get my drift!)

As well as getting a peek at her lovely home, and getting my belly filled with delicious treats (mentioned below), I got to make a new friend. And that’s what I love about this little Citizens of Capitol Hill project - I get to meet all sorts of people in our community and make connections.


What makes Capitol Hill a great place to live?

It’s awesome! There’s such a good mix of people of all ages and stages of life. I believe that’s what makes an asset to our community.


How would you describe the community of Capitol Hill and it’s people to an outsider?

It’s something you have to experience! Before we came to live here, we were invited to the Pub Night by some of our friends that live in the area. It was great seeing kids running around, how safe it was, everyone knowing each other - that has been really special. Our life has been made better by living here. We are always trying to convince our friends to move here by telling them about our experiences here.

We are so lucky, we are so close to everything and it feels like a community.


What inspired your journey to becoming a blogger and starting The Friendly Edit?

My best friend is a registered dietician and I suggested that she should start a blog. After a few glasses of wine at a Wine Festival,  she said: “I’ll only do it, if you’ll do it with me” and that’s what started it all.

Since then, I’ve found it to be a passion of mine - food has always been something that we shared within our friendship, and cooking - cooking together. We don’t live in the same place, so this was another way to keep us connected, especially at different points in our life: getting married and kids, it was nice to tie our lives together.

I don’t think I would have done this on my own but because we were doing the blog together, it pushed us forward - you’d do anything for your best friend, despite our own fears.

When driving the blog, what’s your inspiration and influence, when you’re creating a post or cooking a recipe?

I try to think of it as a family recipe. A couple of years ago, my mum and dad brought us a recipe book with all our family recipes for Christmas. It’s those things that are so good - you have to share them with your family or your friends. It’s great when you’ve made something excellent and to be able to share it. It’s not about the fanciest food, it’s about things that everyone has in their house, that’s quick and tasty!. My passion lies in making food accessible to people.


Do you have a favourite family recipe?

It’s less about the recipe and more about the time when we have it. Before Christmas morning, my family does these Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, where you put everything in the Bundt pan the night before  - it’s a wife-saver cinnamon roll. It’s super tasty and it’s become a part of the holiday for me. It’s not a fancy recipe but because I have all those Christmas morning memories tied to it, and now I have my family, that’s why that’s my favourite family recipe.

What’s a favourite memory - travel or food related?

I grew up in Medicine Hat, and at the time I grew up, there weren’t a lot of diverse restaurants for example, there wasn’t a sushi restaurant until I was in Middle school. Also, my mum didn’t love cooking - she’ll admit that she needed to cook to serve us something healthy and good. It’s funny because I’m one of three sisters and we love to cook! Food in our household wasn’t a huge emphasis  - it was more about bringing people together.

When I went travelling in Middle school, I remember not liking the food, yet when I went back as an adult (just this last year), I went to London and to Austria, I was so passionate about the food!


So the part about bringing people together is part of the force behind your blog…

Yes for sure! The way I show love and care for people is making food and feeding them, which my husband really likes - it’s one of his love languages! But yes, it’s about bringing people together.

I’ve seen a lot of healthy eating recipes on your blog, what’s one healthy eating tip you would dispense?

Full disclosure, I’m not a healthy eating expert - my blog partner is the registered dietician, so she is really good! I’m more of a “cook with butter” girl, but we try to eat less meat - that’s an easy way to cut down on less fat and calories. We did try one month without meat and what I liked about doing that was that it challenged me to try out different recipes. Before I was in a rut: meat, veggie, side. So going meat-free for a month, made me think about food differently, and it therefore expands your palette.


What’s one recommended tool everyone should have in their kitchen?

A good chef’s knife - is really key. We got given one three moves ago by our realtor. When we got it I thought: “This is such a weird gift! Why would he give us a knife?” Yet here it is, the thing that I use every day. You can do things faster and easier - I remember once thinking “This is hard on my wrists, why can’t I chop this yam?” and it was down to a bad knife! I really love Le Creuset’s spatulas and they last forever. I especially like the Spatula Spoon  - it has this cut out that makes it handy for cooking.

Tell me 3-5 things you can’t live without?

My iPhone, my Dyson, my car, Borage Seed Oil by The Ordinary - it’s made my skin so much better! And sunglasses. I’m an Optician by trade so that’s something I really value.


Name your Desert Island books and/or music?

The Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify, it has become the soundtrack of our house. We’ve played it so much, I know every song! I sew - it promotes a busy-hands-clear-mind thing, and so I quilt specifically, so the quilt you’re sitting on, and the pillow - I made those! I also like listening to podcasts: The Stuff You Missed In History Class - that’s up my alley.


Lastly, What, as a community member, would you like to see in the future?

I think the community is heading in totally the right direction. It’s very inclusive and family-focused. The community centre is so awesome! For example on Tuesdays I was going there three times in one day: preschool, Tae kwon do and the dance classes. There are so many things happening at the centre, we’re very lucky, so adding more to the agenda would be great. I’m also excited to check out the Fibre Arts Club. Things like these are good to connect people and get you out of the house.


Now you may be curious (and hungry) about the treats Jess made prior to her interview. Thankfully, I also have the recipes courtesy of Jess and am sure you will find them amazingly tasty (the Blondies lasted two days in our household!).

Again, many thanks to Jess for inviting me in her home! If you would like to be featured in Citizen’s of Capitol Hill, contact me at: communication@capitolhillcommunity.ca




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Smoothie Bowl and Dijon and Parmesan Crusted Chicken (Stay tuned for the chicken recipe post - will be published on Friday!)






Citizens of Capitol Hill: Banzai Sushi & Teriyaki House
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by Maria Castillo Stone

For our very first “Citizens of Capitol Hill” interview, we’re featuring Banzai Sushi and Teriyaki House. If you’ve been in Calgary longer than I have (I’m still five years or so young in this sunny city), you’re probably familiar with Banzai Sushi when it was situated downtown on 4th Ave, until it’s move to Elbow Drive.

I had moved to Calgary in 2013, fresh from two years spent living and working in Tokyo. My husband and I were out and about, and craving Japanese food. He took me to Banzai and I had a hot bowl of Udon tempura that I had been missing.

Since then, Banzai Sushi has been going on strong and blessing the community of Capitol Hill with their second location since last October.

During their busy schedule, I had the privilege to meet the team, get a glimpse behind the scenes, and interview the manager Soo Cheol Jung.

Why did you choose Capitol Hill for your business?

I already have a Banzai restaurant in the SW - I used to have one downtown, so I wanted to have another one somewhere in the NW community. Capitol Hill has a great location, it’s safe, and I like the busy traffic on 10th Street and 20th Ave, which is great for me!

In the 3 months that you’ve been open, what do you like about running a business here?

Firstly, the neighbours, there are good neighbours here. Since I’ve been open, they’ve been very interested in my business, have said positive things, and given great feedback. Secondly, the commute from here is easy to travel in all directions.

For someone who’s never been to Banzai Sushi, what would you recommend for their first visit?

For their first visit, if they like sushi, I would recommend the Poke bowl. (Author’s note: Poke bowl: pronounced PO-KAY, originates from Hawaii where native Hawaiians feasted on freshly caught fish massaged with sea salt, seaweed and crushed inamona or kukui nuts. Later on, immigrants from China and Japan introduced soy sauce and sesame oil.). The great thing about our Poke bowl, is that you can customise it your own way - the base, protein, sauce, toppings, the overall taste. (Author’s note: You can also customise the bowl if you have dietary requirements)

If people don’t like the sound of raw fish, the beef or chicken-don (Japanese rice bowl topped with beef or chicken) is also good too!

How about you, what’s your favourite dish here?

My favourite dish here is the beef rice bowl.

What’s your biggest influence in running Banzai Sushi?

My inspiration are the customers - cooking for them. I’m cook for them, give them the food and to see them enjoy it, that makes me happy. It’s all about the customers.


What inspired you to get started in the food industry?

I studied Food and Science in South Korea - it’s not just about the cooking, it’s also about the ingredients, the chemical reactions, and the nutrients. Afterwards I came to Canada in 2006, and started my career as a chef in Japanese Village (10 Ave SW). After 10 years, I became the head chef, and then we had a couple of sister restaurants - Banzai Sushi and I became the General Manager and the owner.

What are your favourite ingredients to work with?

Beef. Steak! Especially good steak - makes everyone happy! Marbling and the content of fat makes good steak. More fat=more flavour.

What’s the one essential tool everyone should have in their kitchen

A good knife. The thing to remember is: a well sharpened knife - you cannot cut your finger, yet a dull knife - you will cut your finger. A sharpened knife will cut smooth and won’t take a lot of effort to cut through ingredients, unlike with a dull knife where you’ll use more force and be more likely to injure yourself.

What was your favourite dish as a child?

Everyone always says their mum’s cooking is the best! So for me, it’s fried rice made with garlic, egg, soy sauce, ham, vegetables and green onions. I still like it!

What’s your favourite place to eat in Calgary?

I like Han Corea. I enjoy eating there as they make a pretty good stir-fry pork with spices.

Do you have a favourite movie or book that you recommend to people?

It’s a Japanese book: 400 En No Mug Cup De 4000 Man En No Mono Wo Uru Hoho (400円のマグカップで4000万円のモノを売る方法 - 高井洋子/著) by Yoko Takai (which translates as: Making 400 Million Yen From a 4000 yen cup)

What’s your favourite part of Calgary?

I like to spend time with my kids, walking in the park behind my house in Rocky Ridge.

Many thanks to Soo Cheol Jung, Yeong Gwang Kim and Yeong Ran Kim for allowing me to visit their lovely restaurant!

Banzai Sushi and Teriyaki House are open Monday - Saturday 11-9pm and Sunday 12-8pm.