Tuesday, March 17, 2009

PROBAR Pampering

Who: VN Publisher Joe Connelly + VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland + VN Editor-at-Large Jennifer Pickens + VN Western Ad Sales Rep Lara Bradley + VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig + VN Editorial Assistant Melissa Feineman
What: PROBAR-sponsored evening of yoga and vegan wining and dining
When: Thursday, March 5, 2009
Where: Malibu, California
Why: To decompress before the three days of pure insanity known as Natural Products Expo West

The Scoop: There's a chance that we may have alluded to this fact before, but Expo West is what is referred to in certain circles as insanity of the purest form. Sure, we love having the opportunity to sample all the latest and greatest products on the market, getting to spend some time out of the office, and for some of us, whiling away a day at Disneyland investigating what sorts of options there are for vegan visitors. However, the conditions of Expo West being what they are (trying to cram as many taste and product-sampling sessions as possible into a three-day period), even the most seasoned experts run the risk of succumbing to information overload.

Clearly, the kind folks at PROBAR are well aware of this fact, which is why they thoughtfully extended an invitation to VN staff and other media types to spend a relaxing evening at the property they were renting for their staff in Southern California.

Allow me to paint a little picture for you: as the sun sets, you are welcomed into a palatial home (yes, this home actually had two separate wings) overlooking the shores of a lake. You are then guided to a large heated tent where you are invited to participate in a Hugger Mugger-sponsored yoga session. After you've spent some time stretching and relaxing, you are then treated to an amazingly delicious–and all vegan–dinner, made by PROBAR's founder and resident "Food Evangelist" Art Eggertsen. No, this is not a dream, though it may certainly sound like one.

PROBAR founder Art Eggertsen with his not-so-secret admirers.

As we were enjoying the incredible food (the Italian theme featured delights such as Field Roast-stuffed peppers, polenta lasagna, orzo risotto, and roasted vegetables), we were also recounted with the PROBAR story and briefly introduced to some of the key players in the PROBAR family. The entire VN table was practically swooning as founder Art Eggertsen explained his vegan ethos. While never preachy, he spoke very convincingly about how veganism (and meat-eating) can affect our planet. Several VN staffers noted that Art's heartfelt words were having a clear impact on everyone in the room, and we could absolutely understand why he chose the moniker "evangelist" for himself.

As if we needed any more special treatment for the evening, we were flabbergasted by the sheer amazingness of the dessert selection. Vegan cheesecake and gelato in truly incredible flavors (Amaretto, anyone?) had us pretty much speechless. For anyone who hasn't personally met the VN crew, please note that this is quite an awesome feat.

The evening was, by all accounts, a fantastic success. We left feeling not only stuffed to the gills on one of the most amazing meals ever, but energized by this company's mission, ethos, and all-around incredible team.

Art poses with some of his awe-inspiring cheesecake and gelato.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Goofy Day at Disneyland

Who: VN Editorial Director Aurelia d'Andrea, VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig, VN Editorial Assistant Melissa Feineman + VN Editor- at-Large Jennifer Pickens
What: Disneyland!
When: March 5, 2009
Where: Anaheim, Calif.
Why: A day of fun before Expo West weekend

The Scoop: Each year the VegNews crew heads down to Expo West, and we always wish we had allowed an extra day in the OC for Disneyland, since it's right next door to the Anaheim Convention Center. So, this year, we did it! Now, it's no secret that the VN gang is tons of fun, so spending a day together at Disneyland was guaranteed to be a blast. And it was.

We walked to the park from our hotel and arrived bright 'n' early as the gates opened. Excitement overcame us, and Aurelia and I gleefully screamed and ran straight for Space Mountain, only to discover the ride was closed. Disney "cast members" assured us that it would open soon, but we needed a fun fix fast, so we hopped on the nearest ride with no line. Since we still couldn't scale the final frontier, we headed to our second favorite mountain, the Matterhorn. Sorry, closed for refurbishing. Oh no! As this was Lindsay's first trip to Disneyland, we'd promised to take her to all of the best rides. If we didn't get on a high-speed rolly-coaster soon, we were going to leave a trail of shredded mouse ears in our wake. Luckily, we were able to salve our wounds with a giant dose of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Veg eating at Disneyland has become much easier than it used to be when I worked there in college. (Go ahead, get all of the laughter out of your system, I'll wait.) These days, The Happiest Place on Earth offers grilled-vegetable sandwiches and veggie burgers in Tomorrowland, which is where we headed for lunch. Melissa opted out of this meal because she wanted to try the vegetarian gumbo in New Orleans Square. The rest of us indulged in burgers and fries before running off to take in a few more rides. And, hurray! Space Mountain was finally open.

After a few hours of running ourselves ragged, we were happy to sit and rest our feet while Melissa enjoyed (and shared) her vegetarian gumbo. It's a hearty meal of veggies in a tomato base, served in a sourdough bread bowl which Melissa and Lyndsay thought was pretty flavorful and filling, with a nice, spicy kick.

Melissa and Lyndsay tuck into the gumbo at New Orleans Square

Finally satisfied that we were able to ride everything we wanted, we rushed back to our hotel to get ready for an amazing vegan dinner by chef Art Eggertsen, courtesy of the folks at ProBar. More about that in another post. With the exception of the Matterhorn closure, it really was The Happiest Place on Earth for a day. Thanks, Disneyland!