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!