Monday, April 28, 2008

Fashion Goes Green

Who: VN Managing Editor Aurelia d'Andrea
What: A fabulous fashion show/auction/charity benefit
When: Saturday, April 26
Where: Acadamy of Art University, San Francisco
Why: To support a local non-profit (and see some pretty clothes, too)

The Scoop: It was one of those rare, gorgeous, hot spring days in San Francisco, and after a steamy afternoon gallery hopping downtown, what better way to cool off than to sip cocktails and munch (hopefully) vegan hors d'oeuvres at a fashion-focused South of Market soirée? As the afternoon winds picked up, I climbed aboard my trusty bicycle and followed the breeze toward the Academy of Art University to see what the Discarded to Divine event was all about.

Pulling a pair of high heels out of my bag, I did a ninja footwear change before heading toward the big tent with the mile-long line of dressed-to-the-nines urbanites snaking out of it. Standing in line, I met Bay Area designer Cari Borja, an amazingly talented artist who's "Cotton Candy Kelp" dress was one of many gorgeous creations up for auction. (That's her, above, with her daughter, Royal.)

Inside, it was a non-stop fashion extravaganza: One-of-a-kind dresses in every shape and hue filled the main room, while stylistas cruised the floor looking for that perfect oufit to bid on. Everything on display was created by local designers and design students from throw-away clothing donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, whose mission is to help the poor and homeless through a variety of programs. The event was a dazzling allegory for how lives, like clothing, can be utterly and completely transformed with the right resources and a bit of creativity.

My stomach really started rumbling just as the announcement was made that the fashion show was about to begin, so I, and several hundred others, shuffled over to the big tent to see the spectacle. It was straight out of a "Project Runway" episode, and I loved every second of it—even if I was a little preoccupied by the idea of eating. Thank goodness for Indian restaurants that stay open late. Chana masala never tasted so good!

A model struts her stuff wearing the "Shadow Box" dress by student designer Nancy DeLos Reyes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stuffed Silly in Seattle

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly, VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, and VN West Coast Sales Rep Laurie Bradley
What: Seattle Green Festival + vegan food tour
Where: Washington State Convention & Trade Center
When: April 11–14, 2008
Why: To share VegNews with 25k Green Festival attendees, as well as hit some great veg restaurants

The Scoop: In town for Seattle’s first-ever Green Festival, the VN team was eager to share the mag with the Seattle community. A long-time sponsor of the Green Festival, we travel each year to cool cities like Chicago, Austin, Washington DC, San Francisco, and now Seattle to promote the magazine at this wildly successful event—each attracts an average of 25,000 attendees, and the food is always vegetarian (and mostly vegan). It’s nice to be a part of a green event that gets its on the food level. After all, going veg is the single most important thing we can do to stop global warming, but, then, you already knew that.

Of course, VN business trips always include excursions to the city’s finest vegetarian eateries. It’s our duty, after all, to share the very best of all things veg with VN readers, so we’re just doing our job. Let’s just say that Seattle makes a great veggie getaway, whether for a weekend or a week. The options seem limitless, and we barely scratched the surface. So let’s get started:

Friday lunch: Cyber-Dogs
Located next to the convention center in the heart of downtown (see photo above), how could we pass up an opportunity to hit a café featuring exclusively vegetarian hot dogs and coffee drinks (this is Seattle, after all, birthplace of Starbucks). We savored the El Bandito (veggie dog topped with chili, vegan cheese, avocado, salsa, and onions) and Dog from Ipanema (smothered in rice, black beans, tomatoes, hearts of palm, and cilantro simmered in coconut milk).

Friday dinner: Teapot Vegetarian House
When asked about their favorite veg spot, many locals immediately respond “Teapot.” If you like faux meats, you’ll love this place. Three of us shared two of their house specialties: Rose Drummettes (tofu and seitan drummettes with a rose-tea dipping sauce) and Sweet and Sour Nuggets (made from mushrooms in a tangy sauce). We couldn’t resist the traditional Malay dessert called Gulu Malacca: tapioca pearls with sorbet, coconut syrup, soy whipped cream, and crushed peanuts.

Sunday breakfast #1: Flying Apron Bakery
We could have relaxed at this cozy vegan bakery for hours. Antique tables and chairs filled the eating area, where we nibbled on a warm gluten-free cinnamon roll and raspberry oat bar, and sipped peppermint tea and a soy chai latte. Free wi-fi and good people-watching made it extra special.

Sunday breakfast #2: Mighty-O Donuts
How could we pass up an opportunity to indulge in organic vegan donuts at the world-famous Mighty-O? An institution in Seattle, this friendly spot was packed, and we split a Chocolate Cake Don King (chocolate donut drizzled with vanilla icing and sprinkled with sweet coconut). If we lived in Seattle, we would house-hunt as close as possible to this joint to ensure a daily dose of the best damn vegan donuts we’ve ever had (see below photo for visual proof).

Sunday breakfast #3: Sidecar for Pigs Peace
Okay, we didn’t eat a third time, but we did make a stop at the vegan boutique, Sidecar for Pigs Peace, a must-visit on our trip. Located in the University district, this well-stocked shop donates all proceeds to Pigs Peace Sanctuary. What a great concept—and they sell everything from handbags and handmade soaps to vegan ice cream and dog food. We did buy some drinks to keep ourselves hydrated after the morning sugar overload.

Sunday dinner: Café Flora
This was the perfect place to enjoy a meal with friends on a cold, drizzly Seattle night. One of the city’s most celebrated vegetarian restaurants, we kept warm inside over yam fries with cayenne aioli, French dip sandwiches, flat-bread pizzas, organic green salads, and pan-fried yucca cakes. This is the place to impress non-veg friends or celebrate a special occasion.

Monday lunch: Chaco Canyon Café
In need of a healthy meal, this bright, airy organic café came highly recommended. Completely vegan, we sipped freshly squeezed juices (the 7003—apple, orange, carrot, kiwi, and ginger—and the Tummy Tickle (grapefruit, apple, ginger, and lemon) before sinking into a Hippy Bowl (quinoa topped with baked tofu, carrots, sprouts, and a garlic-tahini sauce) and a Thai Peanut Bowl (brown rice with baby bok choi, spinach, black sesame seeds, and a spicy peanut sauce).

Monday snack: Mighty-O Donuts
How awful would it be to return to the VNHQ without souvenirs from Seattle? And VN staffers deserve nothing but the best. So we picked up two dozen freshly-made, still-warm donuts from Mighty-O and got a full tour to boot, where owner Ryan Kellner shared the inner workings of a vegan donut shop (we found it fascinating). The VN staff will thank us in the morning.

And that completes our veggie food tour of Seattle. Hope you’re satisfied!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Seaside Rendezvous

Who: VN Senior Editor Elizabeth Castoria and VN Editorial Assistant Lisa Mickleborough
What: A weekend by the sea
Where: M. Coffee's, Half Moon Bay, Calif.
When: April 5, 2008
Why: Because everyone needs a leisurely coffee-filled Saturday morning

The Scoop: Growing up in Half Moon Bay, I took for granted that every coffee shop carried soymilk and served something delicious and vegan for breakfast. M. Coffee's, a local institution, makes sure that all your vegan needs are met with their bevy of soy-based beverages, bagels, and buns. Yes, even the extremely fluffy and wonderful rosemary buns—procured daily from the bakery next door—are vegan. Lisa and I, having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves the previous night at fellow editor Jen Picken's art show and website-launch party, decided to head down the coast and see if we couldn't find ourselves something for breakfast in my hometown.

There's nothing like having an "in" when it comes to the coffee shop. My gorgeous sister Sheila (see her cuteness for yourself, above) is the weekend manager at the shop, and she made sure that Lisa and I got the most delicious breakfast sandwiches the kitchen could provide. We both got variations on the "Mac special," a menu item that's always vegan and involves the aforementioned rosemary buns, tomatoes, kalamata olives, fresh basil, avocado, and seasoned salt. Lisa's also included a Boca burger, and mine was topped with grilled artichoke hearts and bell peppers.
Yum! If there's a better way to start the weekend than washing down delicious sandwiches with soy Mexican mochas, I don't even want to know about it. As Freddie Mercury would say, what a damn jolly good idea!

V is for ... Victory!

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly, Managing Editor Aurelia d'Andrea, Senior Editor Jennifer Pickens, and a whole herd of hard-working friends of farm animals
What: A food and drink-fueled victory party
Why: to celebrate signature-gathering success and getting animal-friendly legislation on the November ballot
When: Saturday, April 5
Where: The San Francisco SPCA

The Scoop: After nearly five months spent signature-gathering throughout the state of California as part of the Humane California ballot initiative project and reaching the lofty goal of collecting 500,000 signatures, Bay Area farmed animal advocates definitely earned their right to party. And that they did.

On an early spring night in the Mission-slash-Potrero district of San Francisco, a couple hundred signature-gathering heros met and mingled over fresh crudités, mini cupcakes, and glasses of Frey Vineyards wine, and listened as the amazing Nora Kramer—a good friend of VegNews and a dedicated animal activist who worked non-stop to make this project a success—gave props to the people who made the ballot initiative a success. At her side this evening and throughout the campaign was Karin Olsson, another amazing young animal advocate who we hear just landed herself a coveted job at HSUS. (Congratulations, Karin!)

After speeches were made and kudos doled out, guests bought raffle tickets for a chance to attend the May 3 Farm Sanctuary Country Hoe Down*, then proceeded to eat, drink, be merry—and eat some more.

Nora brought the evening to a close by reminding everyone to get involved in Phase Two of this project: getting everyone in the state to vote yes on the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act this November. It's a no-brainer that farmed animals should have the right to stand up, lie down, and flap their wings, right? Mark your calendars for November 4!

*Certain guests, who happen to work for VegNews Magazine, were not among the prizewinners :O(

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Picture's Worth A Pretty Penny

Who: VN Editors Jennifer Pickens, Aurelia d’Andrea, Elizabeth Castoria, and Lisa Mickleborough + Oakland’s artsy-fartsy glitterati
What: Blackbird Photograpy Gallery Show & Website Launch Party
Where: Pretty Penny, Oakland, Calif.
When: April 4, 2008
Why: To support local vegan artists

The Scoop: We here at VegNews like ourselves some art, especially local vegan art. But, truth be told, our favorite art of all is the kind made by local, vegan artists who happen to be VN Senior Editors, like Ms. Jennifer Pickens. Jen, along with her partner Tiffany Black, established Blackbird Photography in 2001 when they met while studying photography in college. While initially compelled to photograph companion animals, they’ve since expanded their portfolio to include portraits, weddings, photojournalism, and print editorial.

Having traveled to all seven continents, Jen has brought a seasoned and sensitive eye to a body of work described as “timeless,” “emotional,” and “quiet.” Sound like a lot of shameless plugging? Maybe. But we went to check her work out for ourselves. Arriving at Pretty Penny vintage clothing store’s charming Oakland location, we squeezed past hipsters clutching bright old-lady purses and sporting ill-fitting cowboy shirts and stood, agape, as we took in Jen and Tiffany’s (digital of course, not gelatin-procured!) collection. Displayed in an assortment of unique frames hung their best pieces, including candid shots at awkward family gatherings and haunting, Hitchcock-like bird stills. We truly were surprised by their beautiful work. We could have stood around all night being impressed—but we were also there to schmooze! As VN editors, it was our solemn duty to chat with other attendees, fanny about amidst fantastic, one-of-a-kind frocks, sip some wine, and toast Jen and her continued success. You can find her work on Pretty Penny’s walls for at least a couple more weeks, but you better act fast because, by the time we’d departed, a number of pieces had been slapped with a big ol’ “SOLD!”

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sun-drenched Venice Beach Brunch

Who: The VN gang, superstar chef/writer Moira Nordholt, and SoCal friends of VegNews
What: Our annual post-Genesis Awards brunch
Where: Moira and Ron's Venice Beach bungalow
When: March 30, 2008
Why: To socialize and make merry over a lovingly prepared vegan feast

The Scoop: There's nothing quite as fabulous as a gathering of friends on a lazy Sunday, taking in the sunshine on a verdant backyard patio while chatting away over coffee and mimosas, fresh-baked scones, warm spanakopita, and cool salads. What could be better? Throw in some homemade chocolate truffles and a gentle sea breeze, and you've got a pretty good idea of the cozy camaraderie we all experienced at the annual Sunday brunch at Ron and Moira's seaside abode.

Between bites of pancakes topped with warm cherry compote and forkfulls of spicy tofu stirfry, the VN staff learned about raw food chef/entrepreneur Ani Phyo's recent trip to Baja, listened in awe as Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's pioneering leader Paul Watson shared his tale of bullet dodging on the high seas, talked farmed animal rescue with Animal Acres founder Lorri Bauston, and swapped travel tales with the beautiful-inside-and-out Ashley Lou Smith and her funnier-than-heck hubby Dan Piraro (who we were all amazed to see up and walking after his death-defying dance-floor moves the night before). And then we helped ourselves to thirds and fourths.

It's a tough job being a VN editor, but somebody's got to do it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The After-Party

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly, VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, VN Managing Editor Aurelia d’Andrea, and VN Senior Editor Elizabeth Castoria
What: The Genesis Awards After-Party
Where: The Beverly Hills Ballroom at The Beverly Hilton Hotel
When: March 29–30, 2008
Why: To party, dance, and schmooze with a glam group of animal lovers

The Scoop: Just when we thought the evening couldn’t be topped, the doors swing open to an after-party that went until the wee hours of the morning. With leatherette lounge seating, soft candlelight, and long tables displaying rows of vegan French pastries, this may have been veggie heaven. And let’s not forget the rockin’ disco and '80s tunes that kept us dancing all night long—let’s just hope no blackmail footage of a certain trio of VN staffers surfaces anytime soon. Busting the moves alongside us on the dance floor were Rory Freedman, Paul Watson, Karen Dawn, Gene Baur, Samantha Ragsdale, Lorri Bauston, Rey Ortega, Ari Solomon (love his line of soy candles), Denise Borchert, Susan Weingartner, and a bevy of other fabulous veggies. To loosen things up even more, the Champagne, wine, and cocktails were flowing.

But let’s get back to those French pastries. They were stunning—in fact, we poked and prodded around just to make sure the confections were indeed vegan. Our hosts and the hotel staff assured us they were, so indulge we did. Envision mini tartlets topped with a whipped soy meringue, chocolate mousse towers draped in chocolate shavings, pots of warm chocolate fondue with fresh strawberries, European-style cookies, petites gateaux—oh yes, these were as close to the real deal as they come. The pastry chef on staff deserves some kind of medal.

While some party goers danced, others nibbled, sipped, and chatted with fellow vegetarians. There’s nothing like being surrounded by great people doing great work—it’s incredibly inspiring and gives us hope for a more compassionate future. We also need to remember to have fun and kick up our heels every once in a while. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fancy-Pants Awards Show

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly, VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, VN Managing Editor Aurelia d'Andrea, and VN Senior Editor Elizabeth Castoria
What: The 22nd Annual Genesis Awards
Where: The Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, Calif.
When: March 29, 2008
Why: Because we're fancy. Also, because VN is a longtime sponsor of the Genesis Awards.

The Scoop: The Genesis Awards are kind of a big deal. By that we mean they're basically the Oscars of the animal-rights movement. Presented by The Humane Society of the United States, they honor major media's efforts to raise awareness of animal issues—a category into which fall news teams who report on slaughterhouse horrors, comedy writers who joke about burgers not looking anything like cows, and documentarians who bring the reality of our environment to life. So, the room ends up packed with people who, in some way, are working to make life better for animals—and who just happen to be dressed to the nines.

The VN table was in no short supply of lovely people, as we were joined by good friends Rey Ortega, Jill Hahn, Denise Herrick Borchert, Walter Borchert, Billy Hulting, and Andrea Gullo (all captured glamorously above). The all-vegan dinner featured a light salad with grilled tofu, a main course of faux chicken, pasta, beets, carrots, and broccolini, and an indulgent dessert of chocolate mousse cake decorated with a flourish of raspberry and peach coulis.

After dinner, the awards ceremony began. After introductions from Bill Maher, HSUS President Wayne Pacelle, and Senior Director of the Hollywood office of the HSUS, Beverly Kaskey, awards were handed out by the likes of Kyle MacLachlan, Persia White, and Linda Cardellini. Winners included Rob Stewart's Sharkwater, 60 Minutes, CSI:Crime Scene Investigation, and Hayden Panetierre took home this year's Wyler Award—named for the Genesis Awards' founder, the late Gretchen Wyler. Since many of the nominations were for news series dealing with issues such as dog fighting, puppy mills, and slaughterhouses, it was certainly a plus to have so many stars to ogle and distract us while graphic footage was broadcast on giant movie screens. Speaking of cute stars, can anyone get enough of Rory Freedman? Judging by the looks of the guys below, we're guessing that'd be a "no."
Be sure to check out our full report from the after-party, coming soon on Press Pass!