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.