Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vegan Pizza Party!

Who: VegWebmistress Laura Beck and 40 pizza-hungry vegans!
When: December 13, 2009, Chicago, Ill.
Why: Because eating vegan Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is pretty much all anyone ever wants to do.

The Scoop: Vegan pizza is an elusive beast. For many of us, the only vegan pizza we ever get to indulge in comes from our own kitchen. If we're able to find a place with vegan crust, the pizza is usually cheeseless, dry, and bo-ring. However, if you're lucky enough to live in Chicago, Delisi's Pizzeria & Bar has your back. They regularly offer a menu that features not only Teese vegan cheese from the geniuses at Chicago Soydairy, but also several vegan meats, including pepperoni, seitan chorizo, and sausage. All of the meats are from Upton's Naturals, a local company specializing in blow-your-mind delicious seitan.

On Sunday, a group of 40 vegans gathered at Delisi's for a taste challenge to end all taste challenges. Organized by Julia from Snarky Vegan and Melisser from The Urban Housewife, the event promised to be a delicious battle of epic proportions. Our goal was to try several different types of Chicago deep dish pizza—half made with the pizzeria's regular vegan cheese, Teese, and half made with new vegan cheese wunderkind, Daiya—and declare a winner! This was a contest I could physically, emotionally, and spiritually get behind.

When we arrived, we paid our entrance fee (only $12, including soda, tax, and tip! Chicago prices, I love you!) and were given name tags. Next, the chef brought out a panzerotti, which is basically a deep-fried calzone. Hello, obesity! It was filled with tomatoes, Teese, Daiya, and a selection of Upton's seitan. I imagine it's what is served in heaven. SO GOOD. After that, the deep dish pizzas started to come out. They offered up a meat lover's special, Hawaiian pizza (complete with vegan ham), veggie special, and more. We loaded our plates and got down to the taste test.

A sight for hungry, pizza-lovin' eyes.

One bite into this marvelous deep-dish pizza and you'll wonder why you ever bothered eating anything else. Classic Chicago deep-dish pizza has no worldly match; it is spicy, hearty, and flat-out amazing. While opinions varied on which cheese was superior, the consensus was that both cheeses were delicious in their own right. Delisi's agreed and soon will most likely be offering both Teese and Daiya! How's that for service?

Attendee Jon enjoys his pizza afterglow, while Joy longs for her chance to indulge.

It's exciting to walk into what seems to be your typical, unpretentious, neighborhood pizza spot and find they're looking out for vegans, too. Awesome! Co-owner Brian Esterline estimates that about one-third of his clientele is vegan. That's a fact we can all use when we go into pizza places and request vegan options. I don't mean to get all cheesy (ouch!) on you, but if you build it, we will come. We will travel across states, climb mountains, and swim oceans for a tasty vegan treat. I've been known to forsake family and friends for a good vegan milkshake.

Speaking of ice cream, the kind folks of Chicago Soydairy were at the event and brought dessert! We all quickly found room in our expanded stomachs for cherry-vanilla, pineapple, and peppermint ice creams. I don't know how we did it, but what can I say? We were a strong group.

Chicago Soydairy's tasty frozen trio.

The event ended when we were all nearly incapacitated due to our overwhelming consumption. We laid in the booths and begged for relief. And then, we went for more pizza. Many thanks to the co-owners of Delisi's, Brian Esterline and Sean Anderson, and all of their fabulous staff for hosting the event. Now, who else is up for organizing one of these? It's an amazing form of outreach, to the pizza place and to other vegans in your community. When you do accept the challenge, be a doll and invite us, okay? We'll be there with our eating pants on!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's the Millennium!

Who: VN Editorial Assistants Liz Miller and Sara Constantineau
Dinner at a famed vegetarian restaurant!
Millennium Restaurant, San Francisco, Calif.
When: December 11, 2009
To pretend we're rich and fancy for one night (read: charge it).

The Scoop: Before Sara and I return to our respective hometowns for the holidays, we had one goal: splurge on a decadent vegan dinner at Millennium Restaurant! Was it worth getting all dolled up and braving an unusually chilly winter night to get the 411 on one of San Fran’s most esteemed vegan eateries? Well, duh.

After confirming our reservation with the hostess, we spent a few minutes admiring the charming retro vibe of the Hotel California—the building Millennium calls home—before being seated in the cozy, vaguely 1920s-decorated dining room. Maybe our table-for-two was the perfect spot for people watching, and maybe we did some good-natured gossiping while waiting for the waitress to arrive.

Of course, our first order of business was to take a gander at the extensive beverage menu. Sara started the night by sipping on a Current Affair, a cozy combo of vodka, vanilla agave, and crème de cassis, while I opted for the slightly spicy Fiery Basil-Grapefruit Margarita. Thankfully, the restaurant offers a complimentary breadbasket to tide guests over until their appetizers arrive. We figured it was only sporting to clear the entire thing, especially since the bread came with a deliciously addictive side of chickpea spread.

The happiest of hours.

Now, here's the thing about fine dining for the budget conscious: go big or go home. Sure, we could have split an appetizer, skipped the entrée, and called it a night. That sounds fiscally smart, right? Wrong. That sounds lame. After parting ways with the breadbasket, we happily welcomed the arrival of our appetizer, the Savory Bread Pudding Gratin. The verdict: Crazy. Delicious. This rich bread pudding had mushrooms, cashew cream, and a host of other savory ingredients that could convert even the most obstinate carnivore (yes, at Millennium, that is part of the goal).

Deliberating over which entrée to order was a difficult task (sometimes life is hard), but I finally decided on Pumpkin Curry, and Sara chose Masa Gnocchi. We asked our server to recommend wine to pair with our dinner, and she brought us two glasses of tasty, earthy red wine. Molto bene!

Molto bene, Millennium!

The only downside to indulging in such a rich, delicious meal? We were much too full to try any of the restaurant's seasonal desserts. It was truly our loss, because we could hear the Gingerbread Tiramisu calling our names. Oh well, now we have a legitimate excuse to return to Millennium in the near future. Seriously, we'll see you soon, Gingerbread Tiramisu.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

SF Vegan Bakesale, Round Two.

Who: VegWebmistress Laura Beck, VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, VN Associate Editor Abigail Young, and VN Editorial Assistant Liz Miller
What: San Francisco Vegan Bakesale!
Where: In front of Ike's Place, San Francisco, Calif.
When: December 5, 2009
Why: Because who doesn't want to eat cupcakes for a good cause? Crazy people—that's who!

The Scoop: As the sun rose on San Francisco this past Saturday, the VegNews crew was already up, preparing mountains of treats for the SF Vegan Bakesale. And we weren't alone; dozens of people from all over the Bay Area had been mixing, kneading, and baking for the big day. Local vegan bakeries, including Violet Sweet Shoppe, Sugar Beat Sweets, Fat Bottom Bakery, Cinnaholic, Idle Hands Baking Company, and In the Mood for Food (Um, when did SF get so many fabulous vegan bakeries? For the record, I fully approve!), along with more than 50 others, came together and served up the most amazing array of vegan treats I've ever laid eyes on. There were cupcakes, cookies, focaccia, tarts, cream pies, brownies, muffins, pecan pie, croissants, and SO much more. We even had gluten-free and raw treats, too. Talk about covering your bases.

This isn't even half of the table space, piled high with baked goods.

The sale started at 11 am and ran until 4 pm. It was a mad house the entire time, with baked goods and cash being exchanged in a fervor I imagine is matched only by a good day on Wall Street. Hundreds of people descended upon the sale to scoop up the goods, leaving with to-go containers piled high with delicious treats. I was lucky enough to help with the selling and organizing, but it would be a lie if I didn't tell you that most of my day was spent stuffing my face and gossiping with friends. I planned on enjoying only a few treats, but those plans were abandoned as soon as the Candy Cane Joe-Joe's cupcakes hit the table. And then again with the peppermint brownies, and yet again with the caramelized-onion focaccia. Forget it! If you need me, I'll be in hibernation until winter is over.

Oh, I almost forgot the best part! All proceeds from the bake sale benefited two amazing local nonprofits: the Food Empowerment Project, who works with youth and low-income populations to make healthier, more informed food choices, and Save A Bunny, who do exactly that. They save bunnies at the shelter and place them in loving forever homes. Okay, now here's the best part: there were bunnies at the event! I'm not sure if I expressed myself clearly, but just in case: BUNNIES! Floppy, hoppy, adorable bunnies. I wanted to take them all home and turn my apartment into a bunny lair but the boyfriend vetoed it. I might have to reconsider this relationship.

Two adorable bunnies keep each other warm.

When all was said and done, the bake sale raised more than $4,200 for the two charities. Yes, I'll repeat that for you. Four thousand two hundred dollars. Sit on that one for a minute. Personally, I was blown away by the truly inspiring generosity and general awesomeness of everyone involved with the sale. It's such a great way to spend a day. Colleen made the observation that it's the new hang out, and I have to agree. Everyone is in an amazing mood, but how can you not be when you're surrounded by vegan cupcakes and bunnies?

Peter and Khane, VN family, pose with Colleen and their box of goodies

This is the kind of event that makes activism fun. The SF Vegan Bakesale puts delicious vegan baked goods into the world (and into my mouth!), while raising money for very worthwhile causes. And as an official sponsor, you'll see VegNews at the next one. We'll be the ones covered in frosting, trying not to bunnynap Tyson.

Monday, November 16, 2009

San Francisco Green Festival: Robbins, Newsom, Harrelson

Who: VN Publishers Joseph Connelly and Colleen Holland plus the rest of the VegNews staff
Three days of the world's largest green marketplace
Concourse Exhibition Center, San Francisco, Calif.
November 13–15, 2009
Because eating veg is the greenest thing you can do

The Scoop: Yes, it was our last trade show of the year. Yes, is was in our hometown of San Francisco. Yes, it was the eighth annual Green Festival, the joint venture of Global Exchange and Green America (formerly Co-op America), which VegNews Magazine has proudly sponsored since the very first event, held in the very same venue since 2002.

Following the Green Business Conference, attended by VN's Colleen Holland, the GF kicked off Friday at noon. If you have never been to a Green Festival (events this year were held in Seattle, Denver, Chicago, DC, and SF), what you are missing is the "nation's longest running green living event," consisting of vendors, speakers, veg food, cooking demos, a green film festival, children's activities, and did we mention vendors? Here you can find solar panels for your home, kits to convert your hybrid to a plug-in, lots of hemp (clothing, food, recreation), and a festival that actually gets the connection between diet and global warming and which has been vegetarian since day one, thanks to producer Greg Roberts.

After the Friday after-party the party really got going on Saturday morning when best-selling author and longtime friend of VegNews John Robbins was presented with the Green America Award for his "lifetime of leadership" in the vegetarian, environmental, and social justice movements. After brief, poignant introductions by Robbins' son Ocean (founder of the nonprofit Yes!) and Eco-Chef Bryant Terry (more on him in a bit), Green America's Executive Director Alisa Gravitz presented Robbins with the stylish award made, of course, of entirely recycled materials.

John Robbins accepting the Green America Award

Robbins gave a stirring four-minute acceptance speech that ended with this thought: "The purpose of life is infinite gratitude to all things past, infinite service to all things present, and infinite responsibility to all things future." Click here to watch a video of Robbins' moving words.

A new touch added to this year's festival was Soul Kitchen, a day of cooking classes coordinated by Bryant Terry, author of the excellent 2009 cookbook Vegan Soul Kitchen. Back-to-back-to-back demos by Ani Phyo, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and Terry filled the afternoon with yummy treats and vegucation. The all-star chefs even found time to pose for this historic time-capsule photo:

Mangia-a-trois: Chefs Colleen Patrick Goudreau, Bryant Terry, and Ani Phyo

As the evening wound to a close, who else but San Francisco Mayor (and long-time aspiring vegetarian) Gavin Newsom stopped by the VN booth. The mayor and the magazine go way back; Newsom accepted the Veggie Award for "favorite veg city" on behalf of San Francisco at an awards banquet we threw in 2004 at Millennium Restaurant that just happened to be hosted by Green Goddess Julia Butterfly Hill.

VN Managing Editor Elizabeth Castoria, VN Volunteer Extraordinaire Peter Ryan, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom, and VN Publishers Colleen Holland and Joseph Connelly

Sunday was more of the same, and while the crowds were maybe a slight bit thinner this year, the weekend was a resounding success nonetheless. After packing up it was off to MaggieMudd and Café Gratitude (yes, we ate dessert first) with Noelle Callahan and Rebecca Frye of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, who were at the Green Fest to promote PCRM's Humane Charity Seal of Approval campaign, which allows donors to identify which charities provide service and care without using animals. Oh, and could that be the star of current hit movies Zombieland, 2012, The Messenger, and Defendor, Woody Harrelson, sitting at the end of the table? Oh yes it is. I shared a few words with Woody about a possible follow-up interview to VN's November 2005 interview and cover, and he flashed a smile and wink.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Safran Foer in San Francisco

Who: VN Associate Editor Abigail Young and VN Publisher Joseph Connelly
What: “Why Do We Eat Animals?” with Jonathan Safran Foer
Where: Jewish Community Center, San Francisco, Calif.
When: November 5, 2009
Why: To support the release of Eating Animals, a thorough look at factory farming in the US

These days, it’s nearly impossible to glance through my RSS feed without at least one mention of Eating Animals staring me in the face. Maybe I have absolutely no problem with this, and maybe the increasing hype surrounding Jonathan Safran Foer’s first venture into non-fiction had me even more excited for Thursday’s seemingly fanatic festivities. Not only did we have Mr. Foer join us for a catered three-course lunch, but I also made it to his lecture that evening at the Jewish Community Center.

After a few failed attempts at maneuvering the Muni bus system despite nearly a collective year living in the city (Note to self: Presidio Park is not the same as Presidio Avenue), my sister, Alisha, and I managed to make it to the center with a few minutes to spare. The crowd hurried to their seats, and we spotted VN Publisher Joseph Connelly just a few rows ahead.

Copies of Eating Animals, ready for purchase

Foer started off reading from the first chapter of his book, opening up the conversation with his own childhood memories of food and its importance. He kept it brief, giving audience members a good idea of what to expect if and when they bought the book. Foer opened up the floor for a good portion of the evening, addressing audience questions on everything from ex-vegetarians to “humane” meat, and even doled out advice on being veg in the Arctic Circle. (“If your only two options are moose meat or Spam, don’t move to the Arctic Circle.”)

Foer signs copies of his book after the lecture

Overall, the evening was an honest dialogue between a variety of opinions and viewpoints. Listening to the young writer state his case and converse with the audience, it was hard to imagine this was around his fourth or fifth speaking engagement of the day. A meet-and-greet ended the evening in the center’s spacious lobby, where the only thing missing were vegan cupcakes on the sweets-filled snack trays. We hung around as the line died down, and met the man of the hour for a brief snapshot and congratulations. As Foer’s media blitz continues, I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing from him.

Alisha, Jonathan Safran Foer, and me

Monday, November 2, 2009

Boston Veg Rocks!

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Liz Miller and VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig
What: Boston Vegetarian Food Festival
Where: Reggie Lewis Athletic Center, Boston, Mass.
When: October 31-November 1, 2009
Why: To celebrate all things veg (including the city's new vegan pizzeria).

While we love our mild, West Coast climate here at the VNHQ, it is easy to get nostalgic for autumn traditions, like trees glowing with vibrantly colored leaves and the feeling of crisp fall air against warm, winter coats. Fortunately, the 2009 Boston Vegetarian Food Festival offered us the perfect chance to satisfy our fall season craving. The festival, hosted by the Boston Vegetarian Society, celebrated its 14th anniversary this year. Traditionally a one-day event, the festival stretched over two days this year, ensuring that VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig and I would have ample time to indulge in the many food options available. Of course, our main objective was to make new veggie friends, meet our awesome readers, and spread the good word about veganism by selling VN subscriptions. We were lucky enough to have help from VN superstar volunteer Alexandra Santilli, who helped us man the booth on Saturday. We were also lucky to have two amazing booth neighbors, with Vegan Treats to our left, we found ourselves trying (and failing) to resist sugary temptation with the good people situated to our right, the amazing folks over at GREY2K. As the long first day wound day, Lyndsay and I shared (read: devoured) a miniature peanut-butter cheesecake, packed up for the day, and headed out for our next out-of-town adventure.

Daiya breadsticks and marinara: leftovers never stood a chance

Not surprisingly, it was an adventure that involved pizza. All day we'd been anticipating our visit to Boston's only vegan-owned and -operated pizzeria, Peace O'Pie, and we were not disappointed. The menu was stacked with delicious, utterly mouthwatering pizzeria classics, with options ranging from savory calzones to hearty build-your-own vegan pizzas (vegan pepperoni and extra Daiya cheese, please). Excited and a bit overwhelmed, Lyndsay and I finally settled on Daiya breadsticks as an appetizer, and a medium "The EP" pizza, topped high with smoked tempeh, sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed spinach, and garlic on a regular crust, as our main course. Never have vegans so voraciously consumed (nay, inhaled), a meal. In true go-big-or-go-home style, we entered the meal with no intention of leftovers, and no leftovers there were. The breadsticks were warm and gooey, and complimented perfectly with a healthy dollop of marinara. Our pizza was also beyond tasty, with soft, doughy crust; stretchy, flavorful cheese, and savory toppings. Being able to order a legitimate, satisfying pizza—and wash it down with root beer—made us feel exactly 10 years old again, in the best ways possible. The resulting food-coma was completely earned—and surprisingly short-lived, as the meal didn't leave us feeling heavy. Aside from being pizza-crafting geniuses, the folks at Peace O'Pie were also more than generous, gifting us complimentary peanut-butter-and-maple-syrup sweet rolls as a parting gift.

Boston's Peace O'Pie serves up tasty eats, food comas

On Sunday, the festival was almost just as exciting and crowded as Saturday had been. We were overjoyed to find a special gift left at our booth by Edward & Sons, complete with The Road's End Dairy Free Mac & Chreese, Lets Do...Organic Classic Gummi Bears, and more. As the day progressed, we were happy to meet and chat with a whole batch of VN fans, new and old, and learn about the ins-and-outs of Boston's vegetarian community. As the festival wound down, Lyndsay broke away from the table long enough to procure one last sugary treat: chocolate-covered ice cream bars made by Wheeler's Frozen Dessert, the creative confectioners behind some of the best desserts around. With dessert in hand, we packed up our VN tables and headed out to catch our flight home. Thanks for the great weekend, Boston!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Perfect Pizza + Talk Show Exploits

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Sara Constantineau and the rest of the VegNews crew
What: A pizza-filled lunch followed by a stint as a studio audience
Where: A local pizzeria and ABC studios, San Francisco, Calif.
When: October 20, 2009
Why: To put our Daiya shipment to good use and support a fellow veg superstar

The Scoop: When we received a 10-pound shipment of Daiya this week, there was no doubt that we had to make the most of it. Armed with two pounds or so, we headed to a local pizzeria for a full-on, dairy-free pizza experience. Our menu consisted of one huge, gooey cheese pizza, another pie piled high with artichokes, baby spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes, and a giant veggie-stuffed calzone for dessert.

One beautiful, Daiya-smothered pie

Thoroughly stuffed and fortified with many soda refills, we traveled toward the Embarcadero and lined up to watch the live taping of The View from the Bay, since Alicia Silverstone was making a guest appearance to promote her vegan lifestyle book, The Kind Diet.

Once comfortably seated in the studio, we learned how to clap and cheer on cue. After we were welcomed by hosts Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang, the show finally began. We were treated to segments including male-model makeovers and the CEO of 1-800-DENTIST, who taught us how to floss properly (hint: you use a lot of floss). Finally, the most anticipated guest arrived to talk about her book and show off some veg-friendly food.

Alicia Silverstone, VN Publisher Joseph Connelly, and SFVS president Dixie Mahy

Silverstone and Christian raved about Café Gratitude's Key Lime Pie, and she showed off her pantry must-haves, such as Earth Balance buttery spread, brown rice syrup, and Vegenaise. Christian and Wang sampled recipes from The Kind Diet, including tacos, peanut butter cups, and Caesar salad. The hosts raved about the food, and a few lucky audience members went home with a copy of the book. It was just another day all about tasty, veg-friendly eats. No biggie!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicago VeganMania

Who: VN contributor Marla Rose
What: A couple thousand vegan and omni maniacs converging for fun in one perfectly preserved vintage building
Where: The Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, Chicago, Ill.
When: October 10, 2009
Why: Any opportunity to enjoy delicious vegan food, great bands and performers, fabulous speakers, and wonderful vendors is worth taking.

The Scoop: When the idea for Chicago VeganMania first occurred to our local braintrust (basically, me and my husband), we knew it was a good one. We imagined a Chicago-centric event filled with food, music, bands, and performers of the belly-dancing variety, with speakers, an art and fashion gallery, and dozens of vendors. This vision was preserved and expanded over many months with the help of a dedicated group of volunteers, and it finally came true on a cool October day. And what a day it was!

Lines snaked out the front door of Pulaski Park Fieldhouse for hours, seemingly without end, as the first 100 visitors received cruelty-free swag bags (including coveted issues of VegNews Magazine). Everyone in line received five "grub stubs," allowing them the chance to sample free vegan victuals. The chilly fieldhouse soon became warm with the body heat of so many festival-goers and cruelty-free thrill seekers.

A packed house is always a good sign.

The speakers, Dr. Michael Greger, Nathan Runkle, Caryn Hartglass, Dr. Will Tuttle, Rae Sikora, and JC Corcoran, enlightened and educated a packed audience, who ranged from longtime vegans to curious omnivores. In addition to food, we had jewelry vendors, clothing merchants (including Vaute Couture's hot cruelty-free coats), supplements, body care products, and more, all representing the best in vegan merchandise.

Crafts entertained the younger attendees.

Families enjoyed the children's craft area, and spectators viewed performances in the auditorium while eating lunch. It was a day filled with radiant smiles, open hearts, and generous spirits. Incredibly, Chicago VeganMania exceeded our wildest expectations!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tal Ronnen's "The Conscious Cook" Book Party

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly and VN Managing Editor Elizabeth Castoria
What: Book Release Party for Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook
Where: The Home of Tom & Kathy Freston, Beverly Hills, CA
When: October 12, 2009
Why: To Honor the 2009 Veggie Award Book of the Year

The Scoop: High up on Beverly's hill, around endless curvy, tree-lined, sentry post-dotted streets, everyone who is anyone was present at media exec Tom and author Kathy Freston's exquisite estate, for the book release party of the much-anticipated The Conscious Cook. Celeb chef Tal Ronnen's cookbook is perfection on a plate, stunning in every detail, and raising the legitimacy bar of high-end vegan cuisine to new heights. So why not party?

Lia Ronnen, Tal Ronnen, Lisa Lange, Deborah Ronnen

The ever-gracious Ms. Freston joyfully greeted each guest as s/he arrived, opening both home and heart for the occasion (Freston penned the forward to the book). Servers circled with several apps from The Conscious Cook, including Twice-Baked Fingerling Potatoes, Ponzu-Glazed Tofu Crystal Rolls (oops, I had more than one), Quinoa Maki with Avo and Cajun Portobello Fillets, and savory Sweet Onion Beggar's Purses.

Did I mention that the chefs in the kitchen were none other than Molly and Dave Anderson of Madeleine Bistro? Oh yes. And they followed the above with a delicious sampling of Bistro desserts, including itty bity pieces of pecan and pumpkin pies, plus softball-sized vegan doughnuts. Food coma.

While the guests munched and mingled, Chef Tal courteously signed books, gifts of publisher HarperCollins. Next we moved into the living room, where Kathy "presented" the unassuming Tal to the assembled veg glitterati, introducing him as "the most humble, down-to-earth, non-attention seeking man; you have to shove him into the spotlight against his will ... It's like pushing a little bird out of a nest." Tal acknowledged his many contributors, all present, including Dave Anderson ("the best vegan food in the world"), Scot Jones (executive chef at Akron, Ohio's VegiTerranean), Chad Sarno (who opened London's Saf, see review in Nov+Dec's VegNews), Serafina Magnussen (Cook's pastry chef), and Yves Potvin (founder of both Yves Veggie Cuisine and Garden Protein International), "all a part of the book who helped tell this really great story that vegan food is no longer hummus and sprouts." After Tal spoke, Elizabeth and I announced that VegNews' editors had chosen The Conscious Cook as VN's 2009 "Book of the Year."

The presentation over, I was introduced to A Return to Love author Marianne Williamson. Not quite yet veg, she was moved by the evening's happenings and admitted that she was "leaning in that direction." You can do it, Marianne.

Joseph Connelly, Kathy Freston, Marianne Williamson, Chef Tal Ronnen

And a final word from the man of the hour himself. "You know, the book was something I didn't want to do." The world is sure glad you did, Tal. Thanks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Green Stylin' It in the DC

Who: VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig
What: DC Green Festival + Sticky Fingers Bakery
Where: Washington, DC
When: October 10–11, 2009
Why: To catch up with old friends and to promote the green movement in our nation's capital

The Scoop: Being an East Coaster for most of my life, I was very happy to travel to Washington, DC, this past weekend for the Green Festival and to see some old friends, including Kellie, who is a dear friend all the way back to the age of 12. Yes, there were quite a few slumber parties in our past, and I was so excited to revisit those memories once again by bunking at her home. It wasn’t non-stop movies and giggle fests as before, but there was good food and fun, as well as some much-needed catching up.

Kellie and me at the Green Festival

Being the doll that she is, Kellie helped me out at the Green Festival. As you’ve read before, the festival is a sustainable event sweeping the US that strives to spread the green movement by inviting individuals, businesses, and community leaders to come together and share their issues, ideas, and products focused on restoring the planet. The festival is currently held in five cities—Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Washington, DC, and San Francisco—and VegNews has had the pleasure of participating in all of them this year (excluding San Francisco, which is coming up November 13 to 15). It’s fun and educational, not to mention tasty with vegetarian food galore. I don’t want to make you jealous, but I feasted on some amazing vegan soul food from Soul Vegetarian, including some of the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever tasted. You may want to check out a Green Festival happening near you—it’s definitely a good time.

An everlasting friendship

The Green Festival was the focus of the weekend, but I was also able to hang out in the District of Columbia as well. Along with seeing Kellie, I caught up with an old friend, Matt, and his band-mate from their up-and-coming group from the Hampton Roads called The Poly Opto. Last, but certainly not least, I visited another friend who I had not seen in a very long time, named Sticky Fingers Bakery. Let me just say that a Daiya grilled cheese with tempeh bacon and tomato is about the best breakfast in the entire world, and a box full of fresh baked goods (hello, Cowvin Cookies) isn’t too shabby either.

Best. Breakfast. Ever.

Yes, it was a wonderful weekend, and one that I was very sad to see end. Though I absolutely love the West Coast and don’t plan to leave anytime soon, the East Coast definitely has a part of my heart. It’s always a beautiful thing to come back to old friends.

Monday, October 5, 2009

VegFest: Part Two

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Sara Constantineau and the rest of the VegNews crew
What: World Veg Fest Weekend, Day Two
Where: San Francisco County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
When: October 4, 2009
Why: To kick off Vegetarian Awareness Month

The Scoop: Liz and I arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to work the VegNews table at World Veg Fest 2009 this Sunday.

Liz and Lyndsay staff the booth

There were lots of different displays to peruse as the day went on, with everything from juices to sweet treats to therapeutic massage. Trader Joe's had an all-vegan display of some of its best offerings for the veg-inclined, including the very delicious Maple Leaf Cookies. Rainbow Grocery had bushels of complimentary bananas, and Parma was dishing out free samples of our all-time favorite condiment.

After some deliberation, I grabbed some tasty Filipino food for lunch courtesy of No Worries: a plate of rice, adobo (soy chicken in sauce), and apritada (a stew with veggies, soy chicken, and tofu). Refreshed and refueled, I manned the VegNews booth with Frankie while VN-contributor Rory "Skinny Bitch" Freedman held a talk/Q&A session in the main auditorium with VN Publisher Joseph Connelly.

Me, Elizabeth, Rory, Colleen, and Liz

Rory's book signing drew quite a crowd to our table, where readers and fans purchased all four of her paperbacks, including the latest incarnation, Skinny Bastard, a book that shows guy's-guys everywhere why an animal-friendly diet isn't just for chicks.

Before we knew it, it was six 0'clock and time to pack up. All in all, it was a busy, fun-filled day of chatting with readers and trying lots of yummy food. So what better way to cap it off than with some Maggie Mudd sundaes?

Honorary VN Team Member Peter Ryan, with sundaes

VegFest, Part One

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Liz Miller and the rest of the VN gang!
What: World Veg Festival, Day One
Where: San Francisco County Fair Building, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
When: October 3, 2009
Why: Someone wanted to taste test all of the vegan food samples. (It was me.)

The Scoop: A sunny afternoon spent meeting and mingling with vegan friends in Golden Gate Park sounds like a pretty awesome way to spend a Saturday, right? Now add to this not-so-mathematical equation on-site massage therapy, musical entertainment, and more vegan food than you can shake an organic pixie stick at. This, more or less, was the scene at the 2009 World Veg Festival. From our centrally-located VN booth we could take in all the action—and survey lunch options with ease. Our morning and afternoon was spent selling VN subscriptions, selling books (you are what you read!), and making new friends.

Associate Editor Abigail Young and Assistant to the Publisher Frankie McGee

At 4:00 pm the VN crew split into two groups, one to continue manning the booth, and the other to help organize a VN-sponsored Q&A with wellness author Kathy Freston, conducted by VN Publisher Joseph Connelly. Freston, who famously influenced Oprah's decision to try a vegan diet, is the author of Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness and Quantum Wellness Cleanse: The 21-Day Essential Guide to Healing Your Mind, Body and Spirit. Question slips were distributed to the audience and collected by VN staffers, and ranged from "How do I give up chocolate?" to "What is Oprah really like?" Freston's energetic and engaging personality was magnetic, and her passion for veganism was palpable. After the talk Freston migrated back to the VN booth for a book signing and fan meet-and-greet.

Kathy Freston with VN Publisher Joseph Connelly

As the day drew to a close, and with day two still ahead of us, we did some light packing up before heading off to the last event of the day: dinner. And yes, it was definitely an event. Served buffet style, VN staffers stacked their plates to the brim with vegan quiche, Celebration Roast, a sweet-and-savory combo of roasted russet and sweet potatoes, and a big salad. We were lucky enough to share our table with Ann and Larry Wheat (owners of Millennium), Robert Cheeke, Carolyn Scott, Howard Lyman, and Rey Ortega. I was too full (utter failure) to indulge in the apple turnovers and Coconut Bliss ice cream served for dessert, but found them suitably delicious-looking. Check out Sara's entry documenting day two of the World Veg Festival to hear more of the VN team's exploits.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Veggie Grill Opens in Hollywood

Who: VN Contributor Matthew Flanzer
What: An exclusive sneak-peek at the new location of one of Southern California’s best vegan restaurants
Where: The Veggie Grill, West Hollywood, Calif.
When: September 26, 2009
Why: Tasting the good life in LA!

The Scoop: My assignment: jet over to Hollywood and check out the invitation-only unveiling of the new Veggie Grill restaurant. There I was greeted by the bright colors and clean lines of this new vegan hotspot, located in prime real estate beneath the hip Laemmle theater and across from the infamous Laugh Factory, right on the Sunset Strip.
Pressing palms with the founding team of Kevin Boylan, TK Pillan, and Ray White, I was treated to what is clearly the gold standard of this brand of vegan fare: Caesar faux-chicken wrap and mouthwatering sweet-potato fries topped with divinely inspired chipotle sauce.

It’s vegan cuisine for the masses, and they’ve never had it so good. General Manager Kelly Greene tipped the evening into the sublime with a sampler tray of delicious vegan desserts: chocolate pudding, carrot cake, and chocolate-chip cookies. Amidst a crowed room of friends, family, and neighbors, this reporter reclined comfortably in his chair. It had been a good day. The new West Hollywood Veggie Grill opened to the public on September 29th.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

BlogHer Food '09

Who: VN Associate Editor Abigail Young, Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, and Managing Editor Elizabeth Castoria
What: The inaugural BlogHer Food ‘09 Conference
Where: The St. Regis, San Francisco, Calif.
When: September 26, 2009
Why: To get in some offline time with the fantastic food blogging community.

The Scoop: After Friday’s wine-and-tempura tasting party at RN74, I was more than ready for the inaugural BlogHer Food conference to get started. Stepping into the St. Regis hotel, I arrived in time for my personal favorite past-time: goodie-bag collection. A quick check-in garnered me a reusable shopping bag full of edibles, housewares, and fliers, some more applicable than others. My top choice, hands down, was Nature’s Path Peanut Choco' granola bar. I could barely wait for an appropriate snack time. Since not everything was veg-friendly, I took advantage of the donation station, conveniently set up for any goodie-bag discards. Including these donations, 676 pounds of food was donated to the San Francisco Food Bank from the conference.

The morning got exciting as the first round of break-out sessions began, one panel featuring our very own Elizabeth. The packed room experienced a hearty, hour-plus discussion of food blogs’ politics, including hot-topic issues such as veganism, GMOs, class issues, Big Ag business, and more. Kim O’Donnel, fellow panel member and food blogger for True/Slant, also talked about her monthly meatless chats, as well as her weekly Meatless Monday recipe feature, showing the ever-expanding awareness of going veg. While risking nepotism, I will say the discussions resulting from Elizabeth’s own comments were both informative and inspiring.

By lunchtime, our stomachs were growling threats of mutiny, leading us to the gallery room for a conference-wide catered meal.

Colleen, Jill, Lauren, me, and Elizabeth on our way to lunch

Sharing a table with fellow veg-friendly bloggers Jill Nussinow, Lauren Ulm, and Heidi Swanson, we enjoyed a tasty, albeit light, meal, starting with a fresh salad (of course). Romaine lettuce, roasted cherry tomatoes, and kalamata olives helped calm the hunger, although it was the mushroom risotto that finally did the trick. Each bite was accompanied by the emcee stylings of chef Rocco Dispirito, who spent the better part of an hour talking up the meal sponsor. Seeing as how we had the veg option and said sponsor wasn’t the most veg-friendly, we decided to talk amongst ourselves about more applicable topics, such as the wonders of Rainbow grocery and the complexities of vegan cheese.

The afternoon continued with more insightful panels covering practical skills, creative development, and theory. It was fun to see such a vibrant community of bloggers gather offline, engaging in a day of discussion devoted to their passion.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mushroom Meet 'n' Greet

Who: VN Managing Editor Elizabeth Castoria and Associate Editor Abigail Young
What: A pre-conference
Where: RN74, San Francisco, Calif.
When: September 25, 2009
Why: Meeting fellow food bloggers before the big BlogHer Food '09 conference!

The Scoop: Often times, Abby and I like to eat. Sometimes, we even like to eat together, and when the opportunity arose to attend a pre-conference cocktail hour with mushroom-centric hors d'oeuvres, we pretty much jumped at it. The evening was organized by Jessi Langsen of The Mushroom Channel, which is a PR blog for The Mushroom Council. As you might expect, there was a clear theme: mushrooms.

The very chic RN74 was a charming, if somewhat croweded, space for the fun. The place was packed—it was Friday night, after all—with diners, drinkers, and then us, the bloggers. Canapés of maitake mushroom tempura and shiitake veloute—which I was assured was vegan—came around every so often, which we eagerly devourved, having been instructed to come "dinner-time hungry." Abby and I got separated early on by the crowd, but both ended up finding fine chatting companions. It was fun to catch up with Jill Nussinow, The Veggie Queen, and Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer. Abby met Abi Jones, a local San Franciscan—something of a rarity in this crowd—who started Heat Eat Review.

Me, Abby, and Abi, at the evening's end

By the time we left we were all geared up for the following day's conference, about which Abby will have a full report soon!

Natural Products Expo East

Who: VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, VN West Coast Sales Manager Lara Bradley, and VN East Coast Sales Manager Jill Petzke
What: Expo East, a three-day business trip to meet with ad partners and scope out new products
Where: Boston Convention Center, Boston, MA
When: September 23–25, 2009
Why: We love to discover new vegan products for VN readers!

VN columnist/baker extraordinaire Hannah Kaminsky with me

The Scoop: The VN team attends dozens of shows every year to promote the magazine, but nothing quite tops the intensity, energy, and excitement of the Natural Products Expo. At this trade show, where thousands of new products are launched, we walk the show floor for hours to discover the hottest new vegan goodies to share with VN readers. This past weekend, three staffers landed in Boston to discover what’s brewing in new loot. Here are some of our favorites—and you can count on VN to dish more in a future issue of the magazine or on

French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer by Turtle Mountain

Coffee Biscotti hemp ice cream by Living Harvest

Thousand Island dressing by Organicville Foods

Coconut Sugar by Essential Living Foods

Rice Cheese (newly formulated) by Galaxy Foods

Raw Cinnamon Agave by Wholesome Sweeteners

Thai Red Curry by Helen’s Kitchen

Recycled dollar-bill toothbrushes from Radius

Naked Almond Fudge ice cream by Coconut Bliss

Recycled flip-flops by Okabashi

Raw cleansing kit by Garden of Life

Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix by Cherrybrook Kitchen

Double Layer Fruit and Nut Bars by Clif Bar

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies by Everyday Gourmet

Recycled eye glasses from ICU Eyewear

Sesame Garlic Marinated Tempeh Strips from Turtle Island Foods

Dinner at My Thai Vegan Cafe in Boston! From bottom left, clockwise: Long-time veg activist Lisa Shapiro, VegNews East Coast Sales Manager Jill Petzke, VegFund co-founder Zia Terhune, VegNews Associate Publisher Colleen Holland

Friday, September 25, 2009


Who: VN Editorial Assistant Sara Constantineau and the rest of the VegNews crew
What: An afternoon outing to check out the 45th Annual Big Book Sale
Where: Underdog and the Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, Calif.
When: September 25, 2009
Why: We like big books, and we cannot lie.

The Scoop: All work and no play makes magazine editors a little restless, so this Friday we decided to take a little bit longer for our lunch break and head into the city for some food and some fun.

Our first stop was at Underdog in the Inner Sunset, where we grabbed a smorgasbord of vegan sausages and side dishes to go. After piling back into our cars and heading out to the marina, we dined outside in the bright sunshine, a nice change from the usual morning fog surrounding our office. Once we had out fill of veggie hot dogs complete with all the fixin's, we headed inside the Fort Mason Center to check out the Big Book Sale, put on by the Friends of the San Francisco Library to raise money for literacy programs.

Scanning the titles for something specific was a little impossible, but if you kept an open mind you could make some great finds. Everything from pre-1900 classics to manga to rock records was on offer. While I opted to carry my books by the handful, others pushed around huge shopping carts and loaded in choice paperbacks like groceries. When everything costs less than $5, it's easy to go a little overboard.
With full tummies and a bevy of new/old books to enjoy, we headed back to the VNHQ and got back to work with renewed vigor. If you are in the market for some cheap reads, be sure to check out the sale next year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Power to the Peaceful/CARE 2009 Global Action Forum

Who: VN Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Joseph Connelly, VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland
What: 2009 Global Action Forum
Where: Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, Calif.
When: September 13, 2009
Why: Empowering People to Create Solutions to Poverty, according to the festival's tagline.

The Scoop: Tuesday's Power to the Peaceful Press Pass focused on fun times—a review of the Saturday concert in Golden Gate Park. On Sunday, the PTTP people and CARE, the poverty-fighting NGO, extended the gathering to a second day for the first time, with the inaugural Global Action Forum and Celebration, a full-day conference with a bit more of a serious bent.

Musician and humanitarian Michael Franti is the spark behind both. After attending CARE's national conference in Washington, DC this past May, Franti was empowered to do even more, so he created the Global Action Forum to bring the work of CARE closer to his audience.

Yogis Seane Corn and Les Leventhal

The forum consisted of daylong yoga and Brazilian arts workshops, with proceeds donated to CARE. Celeb yogis Seane Corn and Les Leventhal led intense 90-minutes classes, the latter including a special performance by Franti, also a serious yoga practitioner (instant karma: the day before Franti had pulled Leventhal onstage during his finale).

Michael Franti and son, 10-year-old Ade Franti-Rye

The morning exercise was followed by three moderated "action workshops" on climate change, defending girls' rights, and global hunger. While every panelist was an expert, the hunger workshop in particular left me, well, hungry. Nothing was mentioned about the inefficiency of food (meat) production, nothing about the excess of the Western diet (other than how much food is thrown away—250 pounds per second in Europe alone), nothing about eating lower on the food chain, and nothing about genetically modified foods (until an audience member brought it up during Q&A). Ari Derfel, co-owner of Back to Earth, did make one passing "vegan" remark, though it might have had something to do with the T-shirt I was wearing. We did learn that Derfel is opening Terrain, "an all-organic restaurant in Berkeley's David Brower Center, "this fall.
Namkha Rinpoche presents Franti with Tibetan scarf

The event concluded with a reception (not veg, unfortunately), followed by an energetic performance by the talented Brazilian percussion band Tambores Remelexo, and, finally, an acoustic performance by Franti. Prior to taking the stage Namkha Rinpoche, an 18th generation Tibetan monk, presented Franti with a ceremonial scarf in honor of his work, which he proudly wore while he closed out the intense yet overwhelmingly successful two days of music, education, and peace. Mark your calendars—we're already looking forward to next year.
An acoustic close to an electric two days