Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday Night’s Alright For Eating

Who: VN Publisher/Editor in Chief Joseph Connelly + a pair of pedometists
What: A raw Friday-night dinner
Where: Café Gratitude, San Francisco
When: November 21, 2008
Why: To chew the fat with fat-free athletes

The Scoop: It was a dark and stormy workweek. After the Green Festival, which coincided with what must have been record-breaking temps here in Fog City, we enjoyed a few more days of Indian summer on Monday/Tuesday before someone turned off the heat and the chill-that-can-be-San Francisco returned in full fall fashion. Yes, dear readers in New England, Ontario, Chicago, or Minnesota, the mercury dipped below 60°F here, low enough to send nearly the entire city running for mittens, scarves, and space heaters. We're tough.

Braving the frigid conditions, Canadian triathlete Brendan Brazier, formulator of Vega, everyone’s favorite whole-food meal replacement, and his traveling companion Julie Morris, she of LA (though recently relocated from Portland), were in the Bay Area demo-ing said nutritional supplement at a few Whole Foods Markets. With their duties complete, the pair swung by the VegNews offices for a quick visit with the working-late-on-a-Friday staff, and to pick up complimentary “You Are What You Read’ VegNews t-shirts, which, of course, they promised to wear whenever they are out and about.

Next, it was off to dinner. We spun the big wheel and the needle landed on Café Gratitude, the perfect choice, since all three of us all delve in rawish foods whenever possible. We picked the 9th Avenue (SF) location, though any of the other four CG’s, which you read about in our September+October Food Issue, would have been just fine. This is a chain where the food is consistently good no matter the location.

We started with an order of I Am Generous, which equates to chips, guac, and salsa ($9). The “chips’ being, of course, dehydrated flax crackers. Brendan and Julie shared a bowl of I Am Thankful, or coconut curry soup with avo, tomato, cukes, and shiitakes. I ordered the I Am Giving kale salad ($9.75 for a half portion), thanks to VN Senior Editor Elizabeth Castoria, who at our staff lunch earlier in the day talked about how she could go for a kale salad. This vegan yum yum mixes sea veggies, cukes, shiitakes, cilantro, scallions, sesame seeds, and tasty teriyaki almonds into the marinated kale. It’s as good as it sounds.

Brendan and Julie each ordered the I Am Fulfilled large café salad, which is what I normally get so I was happy to have been corrupted by Ms. Castoria, lest all three of us order the same thing, and how ridiculous is that? For $13 you get a hugemungaloid bowl of mixed greens, avo, carrots, beets, cukes, tomato, more flax crackers, “parmesan,” and those yummy teriyaki almonds, which I vote for adding to the menu as a side. You hear me?

I Am Thankful + I Am Fulfilled, courtesy Café Gratitude

I also ordered the I Am Cool milk-free milkshake—no reason needed. This tempting concoction blends raw hazelnut milk, vanilla, cacao nibs, and mint into a refreshing, light treat that had Julie formulating the recipe in her head for trial at home, using her Vita-Mix, of course. I asked for the large, 16-oz ($9.75), and took half of it back to Colleen because, well, in her not-so-subtle way, she asked me to.

During dinner I learned that Julie had just run her first marathon, in Portland. Regular Press Passers know that I just ran one, as well, making the world famous triathlete and two-time Canadian 50k champion the slacker at our table. At least for the month of October, 2008.

Julie Morris & Brendan Brazier, San Francisco, November 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Green (Festival) Day

Who: VN Editorial Director Aurelia d'Andrea + a couple o' colleagues
What: A day at the San Francisco Green Festival + and a post-fest evening on the town
When: Saturday, November 15
Where: South of Market district, San Francisco
Why: For work + for play

The Scoop: I like the Green Festival. It's a fun opportunity to taste a ton of new "green" food and drink (the elderflower kombucha by Kombucha Botanica is my new favorite), to get to meet and greet fellow green-media folk, to become acquainted with green conservation leaders, and to learn more about such things as socially responsible investing, renewable energy, and green technology. Never mind that there was maybe a little too much patchouli oil floating around, that I probably ate way more than my fair share of Clif bar samples, and that I spent more time working when I really wanted to be eating even more samples. It was still loads of fun, and not just because I also got to see a lot of friends and acquaintances who popped by our booth to say hi.

Lyndsay Orwig and Aurelia d'Andrea workin' it at the VN booth

This year, I was paired up with Lyndsay Orwig, VegNews' editorial-intern-turned-office-manager, to work the Saturday afternoon shift at our swanky double-wide booth. Together, we busted our behinds selling subscriptions, fielding queries, and distributing free copies of our current issue. After several hours-worth of shilling for a good cause—and for enduring an hour or more of tantric dance maneuvers provided by some random attendees who thought the space in front of our booth would make an ideal "stage"—we figured we earned the right to relax and have fun.

After retrieving my bike from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's valet parking station, Lyndsay and I headed toward 7th and Folsom Streets to Brainwash, a cafe-slash-laundromat, where Cult of Sue Todd—one of the many bands featured in our July+August Music issue—was scheduled to perform. When we got there, we didn't yet see anyone we knew, so we decided to pop in next door to Terroir, which totally resembled this place in my old Paris neighborhood that I adored, and which, therefore, led me to assume it would be a cozy wine bar. It was, but it wasn't until we'd committed to a glass that we noticed the not-very-vegan-friendly menu. I won't tell you what was on it, except to say that it included animal parts that many in the animal-rights movement are fighting to ban the production of. Oh well. Now I know.

As soon as we'd polished off our Malbec, we headed back over to Brainwash where VN Editor-at-Large Jennifer Pickens awaited us, as did The Traveling Vegetarian Yvonne Smith, VN Volunteer Extraordinaire Paul Saccone, and a few other friends we hadn't seen in a while. I was starving at this point, so after perusing the menu, I decided on a big ol' plate of French fries. Nothing like a spot of grease after all those healthy Green Festival nibbles. They were really tasty, by the way, especially when dunked into barbecue sauce. Yum!

Yvonne Smith, Paul Saccone, and Jennifer Pickens do "cool" like nobody's business

After rocking out to such classic Cult of Sue Todd hits as "Closer" and "Tampa," the band busted out a stellar rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Even if you, like me, were never a fan of San Francisco's most famous musical hometown heroes, maybe you just couldn't help but wish you had a lighter to flick in the air for this one. When the musical segment of the evening ended, the motley lot of us migrated across the street to a really funky restaurant/bar/swing-goth dance club (really) that just isn't worth mentioning the name of, but let's just say the ambience didn't matter as much as getting to hang out with a cool gang of veggies for one warm November evening.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Prop. 2 Party Play-by-Play

Who: VN Senior Editor Elizabeth Castoria, Peter Ryan, and some of the finest animal advocates on the planet
What: Yes on Prop. 2 Election Night Party
Where: The San Francisco SPCA, San Francisco, Calif.
When: November 4, 2008
Why: To watch and freak out as Prop. 2 passed!

The Scoop: Remember way back in April when a few VN staffers headed out to celebrate the seemingly impossible accomplishment of drumming up enough signatures to get Prop. 2 onto the California ballot? Well, maybe a ton has happened between then and now. Maybe a veritable army of volunteers has leafletted, canvassed, and in all other ways promoted the hell out of Prop. 2 all over the state, and maybe it was officially time to see their efforts pay off. After an excrutiatingly long day of refreshing the online swing-state maps and twitching in anticipation, I headed down to the SPCA, ready to hear some good news.

The scene was quietly energetic when Peter and I first arrived, as most people were glued to the television watching reports of the presidential election results come in. As at any good party, there were tables of food, specifically vegan Mexican food from Flacos and a selection of chocolate-mint mini cupcakes and butterscotch brownies from Sugar Beat Sweets. First things came first: finding and hugging Erin Williams of The Humane Society of the United States, who has worked tirelessly on this campaign. I found her, Karin Olsson, and Andrew Page—also of HSUS—glued to a smaller screen, that of a computer that would soon tell us Prop. 2's results.
What's the hardest part of being so close to victory? The waiting, believe it or not. While some people have been "cautiously optimistic" about the potential of Prop. 2 to pass, a certain senior editor has been convinced wholeheartedly that the passing was imminent from day one, which made the wait even more intolerable. Thankfully, someone thoughtful organized a little distraction called the presidential election. As news that Obama had officially won came in, a massive sigh of excitement and relief went up. Listening to his moving acceptance speech was probably the only possible thing that could have prepared us for the excitement that was about to be announced. Appropriately, the well-oiled, history-making machine that was the Prop. 2 campaign has been compared to the obviously successful, and well-organized Obama campaign.

When the time finally came to make the big announcement, Erin asked us all to keep it down just a bit—we didn't want shrieks of joy from animal advocates disturbing the animals at the shelter! Barely able to contain ourselves, we listened as she told us that, yes, Prop. 2 passed. We died. Some of us may have literally cried—a lot. The excitement, relief, gratitude, and exhilaration of victory was palpable in the room, as people hugged, clapped, and hugged again. Erin gave a brief, lovely speech and thanked everyone profusely, as did Karin and Nora Kramer. By the time the evening came to its close, the world had changed for the better.
An extremely happy Erin Williams and Elizabeth Castoria

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

October/November Marathon Surprise, Part 6

Who: VN Publisher/Editor in Chief Joseph Connelly
What: The New York City Marathon + Dinner at Candle 79
Where: New York City, NY
When: November 2, 2008
Why: To support one of my favorite running buddies and one of my favorite restaurants

The Scoop: With the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival in the books, I hightailed the stolen minivan back to New York in preparation of one more trip into The Big Apple. The bookends of this trip have been the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, and today’s New York City Marathon in … well … see if you can figure that out for yourself.

Marathon runners are addicts, something that cannot be explained, only experienced. My friend, colleague, fellow publisher, Lantern Books co-founder, and VegNews' Spiritual Advisor Martin Rowe, was entered in today’s NYC Marathon. I felt obliged to show him some support, much the same way Noelle had for me a week earlier. Yes, Noelle is also an experienced marathoner, so we are all cut from the same vegan cloth.

Taking the train to my birth borough of Brooklyn, I had Martin’s game plan tattooed on me, and my fingers crossed that he would be where he said he would be at certain times. He’s precise like that. Well, Martin must have been under the influence when he sent out his guidelines, since he proposed we meet him on 5th Avenue when the race was being run down 4th. Runner's high, perhaps? Nevertheless, adjustments were made and positions staked out. With nearly 40,000 people entered in the race, and millions of spectators lining the course, finding someone in this sea of humanity would be about as easy as getting Sarah Palin to eat a veggie burger. Ah, try we must.

I knew other members of Martin’s inner circle were supposed to be at this same point, yet I could not find them. Still, with his schedule running on time, there’s Martin a few yards up finding a friend among the spectators and giving her a big hug. I snapped a few photos before he saw me, and when he did a large smile flashed across his face. Next, he proclaims, in his proper Brit accent, “Where is my wife? Why can’t she ever … ” before Mia materialized from the sidelines, just a few feet away, video camera rolling. Martin does a quick change of shirts—the photos of which I promise not to post—M & M hug, and off he goes. But you can see for yourself by watching Mia’s home movie, should you desire.

A little explanation might be offered here regarding Martin’s outburst. You see, he was running the race for the second year in a Rowe, and last time Mia wasn’t at the appointed places at the appropriate times. Or if she was, she was on the wrong side of the road. You get the picture. In the 2007 race they didn’t once connect. So this year things were already off to a much better start. And so was Martin.

While riding the subway to rendezvous point #2, I had one of those experiences that could only happen in New York. I met a gentleman from Holland, supporting his son, and a pair from Arizona, supporting his wife/her sister. They needed help navigating the NYC subway system, so we all hopped the train together and I got them to where they needed to be. By the time we arrived at First Avenue in Manhattan some 45 minutes later we were all old friends. My old friend Martin, on the other hand, was having a great race on a picture-perfect running day and I soon concluded that he must have been ahead of schedule. Time to hightail it to Central Park.

The next meeting point on Martin’s schedule was the east entrance to the park, on 93nd Street, 24 miles into the marathon. While I didn’t see him, I did see two other friends, A/R lawyer Amy Trakinski and her companion dog Snowman. She had just seen Martin whiz by—yes, Amy has marathon experience as well—so off we went to the steps of the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West to meet up with the athlete post-race.

Before I forget, Martin was running the marathon as a fundraiser for three charities, the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary; a secondary school in Juba, the southern capital of Sudan; and the Small Planet Fund. To read Martin’s blog, learn more about what these charities mean to him, and make a donation to one or all three of them, click here. Or watch the video of Martin's post-race pimping.

The race now over, Martin found us at the museum, where shortly thereafter Mia arrived. Martin ran a very respectable 3:37:45, taking 21 minutes off his 2007 time. Congratulations, Mr. Rowe!

VegNews Publisher Joseph Connelly and Satya Magazine/Lantern Books
co-founder Martin Rowe show off their marathon hardware

Before departing, Amy and Snow walked us to Café Blossom, where M & M refueled. I had a cup of tea then headed off to dinner at the amazing Candle 79, meeting up with my friends Florine and Saul Morrison from London, Ontario, and their daughter Florine Jr., who would be starting an internship at Candle the next day.

As always, the food at 79 was over-the-top delicious. If you aren't hungry, you will be after I indulge you in our indulgences. For starts, how about Grilled Seitan Chimichurri, Onion Rings with Chipolté Aioli, some Cornmeal Crusted Eggplant Napoleon, or the Special Jerusalem Artichoke Salad? Our main courses included Live Zucchini Enchiladas, Grilled Pomegranate Tempeh, and the Porcini Crusted Tofu. Saul was into side dishes: Grilled Oyster Mushrooms, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Maple Roasted Squash, and a huge portion of Polenta Fries (nobody could eat all of one). Yes, we then stuffed ourselves silly with the Key Lime Pie Tart and the Chocolate Brownies Sundae before management decided to treat us to a trio of House Made Sorbets and Ice Cream: Strawberry, Cinnamon, and White Peach.

Candle 79's Grilled Pomegranate Tempeh

In case you are wondering, any weight I might have lost when I ran my marathon on October 26 (remember that posting?) was quickly been put back on during this week. And yes, the food at Candle 79 is as good, nay better, than the above paragraph sounds. There aren’t enough adjectives in my dictionary to do justice to the final supper of my October Marathon Surprise.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

October/November Marathon Surprise, Part 5

Who: VN Publisher/Editor in Chief Joseph Connelly, VN Distribution Manager Katie Paul, + VN Volunteer Extraordinaire Alexandra “Alex” Santilli
What: 13th Annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival
Where: Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, Boston, Mass.
When: November 1, 2008
Why: To promote VegNews at the largest one-day veg event in the land

The Scoop: This marathon of a trip has lasted so long it has now spilled over into a new month. With two days left in my campaign I feel like Obama and McCain, sprinting to the finish with a jam-packed schedule to close-out this adventure before returning to good ol’ San Francisco.

For the eighth consecutive year, VN has been on hand at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, the overly impressive undertaking of BVS, the Boston Vegetarian Society. As running has been a main theme of these reports, it’s most certainly apropos that the event is held at—and in—the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, dontcha think?

There are two main components of the BVFF: The exhibitor hall and the speaker room. The event is free, offering many who might never venture to a veg fest the opportunity to see what we’re all about, without risk. And venture they most certainly did, filling both the hall and the speaker room to spill-over capacity at each lecture.

Alexandra Santilli and Katie Paul

With Katie and Alex staffing the table, I ventured up one floor to capture the impressive speaker line-up that consisted of Vegan a Go-Go author Sarah Kramer, whom you might remember from the little bash we threw in her honor back in October; Get It Ripe author Jae Steele, a fresh and energetic force whom I had not yet met; the venerable Dr. T. Colin Campbell, returning to the Festival for the first time since the publication of The China Study, VegNews’ 2005 Book of the Year; Karen Dawn, Thanking the Monkey author, who has, officially, attended every conference and event this year; Michael Greger, MD, whose lectures on up-to-the-minute vegan nutrition are always informative and never fail to tickle the funny bone; and 2008’s newest sensation, Hannah Kaminsky, the overachiever who had the nerve to publish her first comprehensive vegan dessert cookbook, My Sweet Vegan, at the youthful age of 19. Kids today. Anyone would have to agree that the roster put together by the BVS is first-rate all the way, and the 1,000 or so folks who filled every chair and inch of floor space in the speaker room would certainly agree.

Vegan authors Jae Steele and Sarah Kramer

Downstairs, the exhibit hall was no-less crowded, from the moment the doors opened until late in the afternoon. A walk through the large room, which was nearly impossible to actually walk around, felt like a veritable who’s-who of the veg community. There’s Josh of Herbivore, clothing and publishing magnet; Ryan and Dan of Chicago Soydairy, VN’s 2008 Company of the Year; Our friends Liz, Dan, and Andy from Liz Lovely, whose cookies which redefine the concept; the gals from Café Indigo, frantically cutting up their carrot cake while proudly displaying a framed sign from VN proclaiming it the Best. Carrot. Cake. Ever; Eileen of Simple Food, a company that makes five flavors of soynut butter that might just give peanut butter a run for the money; Jeanine of Snooty Jewelry, making certain everyone has their vegan bling; Mercy for Animals’ Nathan, representing the non-profit side of our movement; Leigh and Ken, owners of Georgia's Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe; and even Derek and Megan, he of and she of Oh Sweet Mama’s Vegan Bakery, walking around recording bits and bobs for their Vegan Radio program. If I didn’t mention you or your company, don’t fret—there's always next year.

Yes, BVS president Evelyn Kimber and her all-volunteer committee really know how to put on a show. Congratulations on another resoundingly successful festival. Will VegNews be back in 2009? We can’t wait.

As for my trip, tomorrow it’s back to NYC for another marathon (could it be?) and a bunch of Candles. Maybe 79.

Monday, November 3, 2008

October Marathon Surprise, Part 4

Who: VN Publisher/Editor in Chief Joseph Connelly + VN Distribution Manager Katie Paul
What: Veronica Ramos’ Masters Art Show, plus lunch at the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center
Where: Boston and Cambridge, Mass.
When: October 31, 2008
Why: For some Halloween culture

The Scoop: Since last checking in, I left NYC, stole a hot ‘n’ stylin’ minivan, and drove to Boston, where Katie Paul flew in to join me for the 13th annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, which you’ll hear all about tomorrow. Today, we were on assignment covering the opening of Masters in Science in Education candidate Veronica Ramos' exhibit of interpretive paintings featuring female animal activists. Veronica, a high-school art teacher and longtime social-justice crusader, was kind enough to give VegNews a sneak preview the day before the exhibit’s scheduled opening reception.

The walls at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design's Doran Gallery magnificently showcased Veronica’s unique talent, bringing to life images that juxtapose the passion of her activist subjects with each woman's particular brand of activism. “Thanksgiving in Paradise” presents Elana Kirshenbaum, founder of Rhode Island Vegan Awareness (RIVA), sitting at one end of a long table, a colorful plate of autumn vegetables before her, her right hand reaching out to a full-grown tom turkey sitting in a chair at the opposite end of the table, Elana’s pensive gaze matched by his regal posture. In “Sistah Vegan Begins Slaying a Few Dragons,” author Breeze Harper stands against a wall, almost as if in a police line-up, with what just might be a pregnant bare belly protruding between her powder blue blouse and white skirt. To Breeze’s right against the wall leans a sword with a lone red ruby encrusted in its handle; to her left, dangling from a thin, black string, hangs the at-once-recognizable, white-goateed-and-bow-tied head of fried-chicken magnate Colonel Harland Sanders, floating in space.

The largest painting on display is a self-portrait; “Take My Tusks If You Must, But Please Leave Me My Dignity and Spirit” could just have effectively been titled “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl at the Circus.” We see a preteen Veronica sitting in the bleachers behind a hunched over, tusk-less elephant, a sad eye staring intently at the viewer. Opposite the elephant is a smiling clown, oblivious to the pain and heartbreak of the innocent creature next to him. Veronica holds a single ivory balloon as if waving a white flag. Surrounding her in the audience are a half-dozen other circus-goers, laughing and smiling, blind to what the elephant and the sole person of conscience feel. The muted tones of the other humans in the painting expertly symbolize both the animal-rights and human-wrongs issues of keeping animals in captivity.

Artist Veronica Ramos poses with
“Take My Tusks If You Must, But Please Leave Me My Dignity and Spirit”

Those in the Boston area can catch the exhibit until November 18.

The second half of our day of culture found us at the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center for a simple yet delicious meal. For just $6.95 each, we were served an appetizer bowl of soup, followed by a large plate that included four entrée selections surrounding an ample portion of perfect brown rice. The soup had a nice kick and a thin stock full of thick vegetables and warm spice. The macro-leaning main course included seasoned tofu, sautéed greens, a cucumber salad, and something with cabbage. Hey, give me a break, I’ve been on the road now for eight days and I’m eating so much it’s difficult to keep it all straight.

The $6.95 daily special at the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center

After dinner, Katie ventured off to visit friends, temporarily lose her suitcase in a cab, and crash a Halloween party. I retired to my compound to prep for the next day's event, which you'll get to read all about tomorrow.