Friday, February 27, 2009

Love Wins, Actually

Who: VN Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Joseph Connelly +VN Senior Editor Elizabeth Castoria
What: An evening of fund raising for the Engage Network
When: Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Where: The Bently Reserve, San Francisco, CA
Why: Because who doesn't want love to win these days?

The Scoop: It's a tough job—going to fancy dinners and meeting interesting people—but someone has to do it. So, Joseph and I diligently donned some nicer-than-normal duds, hopped on Muni, and headed down to The Bently Reserve, which was aglow with red lights—the "love" theme was immediately evident. Inside the love was all around us, in a variety of different forms. After scoping out the extensive silent auction, I headed upstairs to meet up with Joseph, who naturally gravitated towards the VIP reception. Upstairs, servers passed trays of some utterly delicious hors d'oeuvres; the potato croquettes filled with parsely pistou were particularly good. Just before we were ushered to our seats for the evening's dinner and presentation, Joseph snapped this quick photo of Julia Butterfly Hill—one of the Engage Network's founders—and me:
Once inside the main hall, which was also lit with crimson, we got to chat with our table-mates, and listen to a presentation from Julia in which she thanked everyone profusely for coming and supporting the new venture. The Engage Network, as we were soon to discover, is the amalgamation of Julia's What's Your Tree, Seane Corn's Off the Mat, Into the World, and Van Jones' Green For All. While any of these projects would be a worthy cause on its own, getting to see them work together was sort of like, well, a big love-in for people who are trying to do good things in the world. Michelle Shocked, whose birthday it happened to be, added to the lovey vibe by serenading her sweetie during her highly fun performance.

Something that made Joseph and I particularly happy was that, in contrast with the majority of fundraisers, all of the food at the event was vegan, thanks to Back to Earth Organic Catering. It's a rare pleasure to just nibble blithely without worrying about chicken stock in the risotto or any other unwelcome ingredients. The dinner was served family-style, which added an element of community that I really enjoyed; there's something about asking a total stranger to pass the salad that makes you feel like you're already friends. Said salad was a lovely blend of greens and walnuts, and was followed by a trio of entrées: roasted root vegetables and fennel with garbanzo beans, a multi-mushroom risotto, and braised kale, collard, and mustard greens. Despite his in-demand status for the evening, we had the pleasure of sitting with Van Jones, seen below with Joseph:

After dinner, we were torn. Make a beeline for the mountain of cupcakes, courtesy of Peace, Love & Cupcakes (if you're local to SF, look for them at Rainbow!), or stay in our seats and take in the creative twirling of two hoop dancers? Yes, that's hoop as in hula, which is pretty stinking impressive. As someone who routinely injures herself performing such complicated tasks as walking and sleeping, I was thoroughly amazed by the hoopers' ability to, you know, not die while swinging huge hoops around their heads. Thankfully, Joseph made my decision a piece of cake by swooping up a couple mini-cupcakes and bringing them to our table before I even had time to ponder. Any evening that includes vegan food, do-gooders en masse, and yummy cupcakes is a win in my book.

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