photo by marie pham
As a teenager, Jeanne Kojis lived in Joliet, Illinois. “The town I grew up in,” she said, “was labeled ‘low income stagnant.’” It was there that she began on a path of community activism. She served on her first board of directors when she was 16, for a Chicago organization that encompassed a drug hotline and free store, and that participated in the very first Earth Day.
She moved west with her husband in 1984, and has raised three children in Vancouver. She became active in her children’s schools and attended the Portland State University Institute for Nonprofit Management program in the ‘90s.
Kojis has been the executive director of the Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington since it separated from the Divine Consign furniture store in 2008. Despite her title, Kojis takes a very behind-the-scenes approach, reflecting, “I feel like I support the people who do the tough stuff, who are on the frontlines to make change.”
NPN provides general education, training and social opportunities to leaders and staff of nonprofits in Southwest Washington. She said, “We connect nonprofits to information and resources.”
NPN also connects regular people to nonprofits in order to generate support for them and their individual causes. One way NPN does this is through the “Giving Circle,” which is a group of people each year who give $250 or more to attend a monthly series of presentations by local nonprofits. At the end of each year, the group offers grants to the nonprofits of their choice. Each member gets one vote, and the group gives out about $10,000 each year.
NPN also sponsors bus tours of various nonprofits each year. This year, there will be a tour on the theme of early childhood and one on the environment, and likely one on vulnerable youth.
Community Cares Tours
From the Nonprofit Network: Come on a compelling half-day tour to learn more about local issues, and how you might help. We will begin with a 30,000 foot perspective from a local expert, then visit three or four distinctly different programs — all addressing a critical community topic. These are not fundraising events, but tours to deepen your understanding of an issue facing our neighbors, and how community organizations are responding. The first tour in 2013 will be focused on early childhood and will feature Support for Early Learning and Families, Innovative Services NW and Educational Opportunities for Children & Families. The cost of the tour is $25 per person. Registration is limited, and dates are to be determined.
“I feel like I support the people who do the tough stuff, who are on the front lines to make change.”
– Jeanne Kojis
Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington
Low Bar Burger & Jo-Jo’s
photos by mary preiser potts
Eye-catching, skilled, yet unpretentious illustrations appear on both the website and the menu at Low Bar in downtown Vancouver. It’s not surprising to discover that bar owner Claire Ghormley is also the artist. Creativity and a focus on conscious ingredients, she says, elevates Low Bar to “dive bar with classy comfort food.”
So here’s the lowdown on the Low Bar Burger. It wears the signature dish crown because almost everything on it is made from scratch. Beginning with a sweet potato brioche bun that soaks up the tangy juices from house-made pickles and pickled onions to the creamy garlic aioli that holds everything together. Melted local cheese (cheddar, gruyere, bleu or chevre) tops a natural beef patty made from whole chuck roast that is cubed, spiced and ground fresh daily in-house. At $6 a la carte for lunch and $8 paired with jo-jo’s for dinner, the cost-benefit of this burger is clear.
The side of jo-jo’s may play second fiddle, but they deserve their own mention. Whole potatoes are wedged, dredged and fried in a pressure fryer that is, apparently, a secret weapon in Low Bar’s kitchen. The result is a perfectly cooked potato wedge with crispy fried chicken satisfaction. You may even decide to skip the ketchup.
Low Bar Lounge
809 Washington St., Vancouver
photo by Todd Gunderson
Vietnam has become a foodie destination! My favorite part of Vietnamese cuisine is the French influence. The French occupied Vietnam from 1858 to 1954. They brought the baguette, crepes, paté and pastry. Being an owner of a French café myself, I adore all those things!
Tan Tan Deli and Café is a family run restaurant that has a diverse and interesting menu, covering all my French cravings and serving up the traditional Vietnamese fare.
I started with traditional salad rolls. They are wrapped in rice paper and filled with pork, shrimp, rice noodles and fresh herbs and vegetables; served with a rich peanut sauce for dipping.
Next up is the bahn mi. This is a sandwich served on a crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, baguette with many options of protein. I chose the moist, flavorful lemongrass chicken. The condiments for the bahn mi are homemade mayonnaise, paté, house pickled vegetables, cilantro and jalapeños. This fresh sandwich is an amazing deal at $3.50!
At my café and at the (Vancouver) farmers market we have served thousands of crepes this year. I consider myself a bit of a crepe expert. The Tan Tan crepe (ban xeo) is a whole different experience. The crepe is filled with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts. Served alongside it, are large leaves of lettuce, fresh herbs and pickled vegetables. Lisa, the lovely girl at the front of the house, informed us the proper method of eating. Tear off a piece of lettuce, fill with crepe and veggies and dip in the sweet sauce provided. Absolutely delicious!
The traditional rice vermicelli noodle salad is called bun. Bun is served with a choice of meat, seafood or tofu and nam chao dressing. There are many options for protein. At Tan Tan I love the house made sausage patty. You can take these patties to go from the deli as well.
For drinks, I enjoyed a Vietnamese coffee. It is strong, smoky and sweetened with condensed milk. They also have many smoothie options – the avocado is my favorite.
Tan Tan also has the national dish of Vietnam, phô. This meaty brothy noodle soup is perfect for these cold winter days.
Keri Gallagher is the owner of C’est La Vie, at 1015 Main St. in Vancouver. You can find C’est La Vie on Facebook or call 360-553-5836.
Tan Tan Deli and Café
316 S.E. 123rd Ave., Vancouver
photos by mary preiser potts
A pioneer family feud may have separated these two towns back in the day, but in modern times Bingen and White Salmon go together like . . . gorge and bluff. Bingen is home to big employers such as SDS Lumber and Insitu, but recreation is an important economic focus for both towns. Located just 60 miles west of Vancouver, Bingen and White Salmon reside in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. A variety of winter mountain sports are nearby and the Columbia River abounds with opportunities for summer recreation as well.
White Salmon sits on the bluff above Bingen and the view in every direction is simply picturesque. The community is primarily a mix of multi-generational residents and professional newcomers seeking a different pace to life. It has the feel of a community growing towards self-sustainability in partnership with surrounding towns.
120 W. Steuben St., Bingen
Mugs Coffee opened in April 2012 and rivals many an urban coffee shop in terms of atmosphere, quality and service. The cafe is freshly painted in contemporary colors with hardwood flooring and wood furnishings, resulting in a clean, wide open feel with plenty of seating and natural light. Pastries, muffins and hand pies are made fresh daily by local bakers, but I couldn’t resist the tug of a slice of house made brie, prosciutto and fig quiche to go along with a decadent cinnamon swirl latte. Both were excellent. For lunch, panini sandwiches, soup and salad round out the menu. The service was friendly and the environment warm and inviting. The contemporary outdoor “Mugs” signage was created by local metal artist, Nick Miles (outrageousiron.com).
Alma Terra Tasting Room and Wine Bar
208 W. Steuben St., Bingen
All the reasons to visit the Gorge are found in Bingen and White Salmon, including local wine. The Alma Terra Tasting Room and Wine Bar opened less than two years ago and showcases the talents of geologist/viticulturist Alan Busacca and winemaker Robert Smasne. Alma Terra endeavors to create superb single-vineyard Syrah and Voignier wines from vineyards in three regional AVA’s. The result is wine that is deeply characteristic of the geography and climate where the grapes are grown, wine with a sense of place, or terroir. Alma Terra is open Thursday through Sunday with live music on Friday evenings.
177 W. Jewett Blvd., White Salmon
Located directly across from the Inn of the White Salmon, Yoga Samadhi is clearly a hub for yogic and meditation practices. I spotted a number of folks coming and going, yoga mats tucked under their arms. The street entrance is a stark and unassuming office building, but the studio is spacious with windows offering a spiritual view of the Gorge and Mt. Hood in the distance. Yoga Samadhi offers a variety of classes as well as a weekly meditation with Buddhist monks residing at the nearby Pacific Hermitage (pacifichermitage.org) and a monthly gathering called One River Dances of Universal Peace. Owner Kathy Kacena has been teaching yoga since 1999.
Feast Market & Delicatessen
320 E. Jewett Blvd., White Salmon
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Feast opened its doors on June 21, 2012, focusing on local, organic, sustainable foods and household goods. The deli case is full of artisan cheeses, charcuterie and house made whole foods. The coolers are stocked with fresh eggs and produce from nearby farms. Local beer and wine is available, as well as an assortment of dry goods, including a new bulk section. Earth friendly cleaners, detergents, baby diapers and handmade soaps round out the selection. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and in the summers, utilize a spacious outdoor patio with (at the risk of sounding repetitive) a fabulous view of the Gorge and Mt. Hood.
Solstice Wood Fire Cafe
415 W. Steuben St., Bingen
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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: No excursion to the heart of the Gorge would be complete without stopping in at Solstice. Best known for scrumptious pizzas baked in their Italian wood fire oven, Solstice also offers wood-fired chicken, Moroccan beef stew and hearty pasta dishes. They serve local wines, as well as a rotating selection of beer and kombucha on tap. Truly an artisan, family friendly space, Solstice now has a roving pizza oven for even more community gathering.
Inn of the White Salmon
172 W. Jewett Blvd., White Salmon
This regional landmark was built in 1937. When Dennice and David Dierck took over ownership in 2007, they brought it into the new millennium. Antique furnishings made way for contemporary décor utilizing reclaimed and sustainable hardwoods and eco-friendly carpeting. Each of the 15 private rooms and a hostel room feature inspiring quotes painted on the walls and the hallways are adorned with local art. Last spring they updated the landscaping around the imposing brick edifice, installing rain barrels and adding native plants. They offer vouchers to local restaurants, all within walking distance. Owner Dennice Dierck says that the comment she hears most often from her Vancouver guests is that they can’t believe how different it is here – the climate, the landscape, the pace of things, and yet it’s so close to home.
County’s oldest CSA still strong and sustainable
photos by jessica swanson
Hunters’ Greens appears to be the oldest CSA in Clark County. A community supported agriculture farm is one that allows membership in the form of a lump payment in order to sustain the whole growing season. Hunters’ Greens has continuously evolved since its inception as a CSA in 2001.
Jim and Diane Hunter live a simple life in Brush Prairie, where Jim does nearly all of the farming, until Diane is called in to manage the weeds when they get wicked in high season. They do not have any staff or interns. For $500 per season, which runs from June to October, customers get a variety of more than 20 vegetables and several tree fruits. Shareholders can pick up their produce at the farm, or opt for a drop off spot near Uptown Village in Vancouver.
Years ago, Jim encountered his first CSA on the East Coast, when he visited his brother who belonged to one. A few years later, Diane purchased a plot of land and Jim started his first farm on it, after having worked on farms during college, as well as the Pomeroy Living History Farm, where he and Diane met. Selling to the public started with a crop of carrots that went to HP workers who were looking to pool their money for fresh local produce. The farm, which was officially started in 1996, took about five years to get up and running and at its peak has had about 40 shareholders.
Diane’s passions are rescuing historic buildings and abandoned pets, so the couple’s acreage is dotted with both. Jim considers himself an activist, and uses farming as “a way to change the world.” His methods are truly sustainable, using as little nonorganic material as possible – the couple won’t put up a big plastic hoop house, for example, instead choosing to grow all their produce in the fresh air. The farm does not use any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.
No longer the only game in town, today Hunters’ Greens is competing (and cooperating) with many other entities, such as the dozen or so CSAs now well established in Clark County, several chain and independent retailers, and numerous farmers markets. But their produce can be found in Neighbor’s Market and Dulin’s Cafe on Main Street, and in the hands of some two dozen loyal customers. Hunters’ Greens has added a winter share for $125, an all-you-can-carry/preserve one-time pick-up of winter veggies.
A green life
This CSA farm accepts donations to subsidize shares for those who can’t afford one.