Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NY Veg Expo + Liz Lovely Factory Tour

Colleen Holland and Joseph Connelly at the VegNews booth

Who: VN Publisher/Editor in Chief Joseph Connelly + Associate Publisher Colleen Holland
What: Business, but all pleasure
Where: Saratoga Springs, NY, and Waitsfield, Vt.
When: September 13–14, 2008
Why: To promote VegNews and continue our obsession with vegan cookies

The Scoop: Each year, VegNews sponsors or exhibits at nearly 25 vegetarian-related shows. We send staff to Chicago, Seattle, Austin, Toronto, Sedona, Portland, Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Boston, Raleigh, Washington DC, and, for the second year in a row, Saratoga Springs, NY. Not only do we love meeting VN readers and signing people up for magazine subscriptions, it’s important to connect with local vegetarian communities and support their efforts to promote the veg message.

And the folks in Saratoga Springs are doing a great job. Led by husband-wife-daughter team Dave, Jan, and Kristin LaJeunesse, they have built local awareness and organized the ultra-successful NY’s Capital Region Vegetarian Expo. This year, the one-day show attracted 3,000 attendees and 100 vendors, and was buzzing from start to close. Held in downtown Saratoga Springs, a quaint, picturesque town approximately 30 minutes north of Albany, the expo featured veggie food companies (with lots of samples!), animal sanctuaries, non-profits, vegan bakeries, and more. On our way out of town, we peeked inside Saratoga Spring’s beloved Four Seasons Natural Foods and only wished we had the appetite for its famous smoothies and hot and cold entrée/salad bar. In San Francisco, where Whole Foods and Rainbow dominate, it’s always fun to visit these old-school health-food stores.

At the show, we hook up with longtime colleagues Dan and Liz Holtz, who invite us to visit their Vermont cookie company, Liz Lovely. Forget the Ben and Jerry’s factory tour (which happens to be just up the road from Liz Lovely)—it doesn’t get better than this. If you haven’t sampled the company’s soft, gooey cookies with such clever names as Mochadamia Mountains, Chocolate Moose Dragons, and Ginger Snapdragons (Liz Lovely’s best-selling cookie), we suggest you do so immediately. These babies won our 2005 Veggie Award for “Product of the Year,” so you know they're good.

On Sunday, we make the leisurely (and stunning) drive to Vermont, stopping for lunch at a roadside organic smoothie shop operated out of a farmhouse kitchen. We then head to Waitsfield, a progressive rural pocket known for its laid-back ways. When we reach Liz Lovely, we’re greeted by Dan, Liz, and Bruiser (their very sweet canine companion), hear all about the company’s early days, their move from Philadelphia to Vermont, and company perks (which includes a daily staff lunch). We then get the full bakery tour and learn about the cookie-making process, from the proprietary spice blends to the secret behind their luscious chocolate coating (we know, but we won’t tell!). After our delightful afternoon together, we couldn’t be more thrilled for their success and look forward to watching what’s next for this vegan cookie company.

Liz Lovely's Liz Holtz and VegNews' Colleen Holland flank the just-made cookie shelf

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