Monday, August 31, 2009

Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly, VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig
What: Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival
Where: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
When: August 28–30, 2009
Why: Think Woodstock. Without the mud or nudity.

The Scoop: The East Coast might have its All Points West Music & Arts Festival, but, you know, it’s in New Jersey. Year Two of San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, which I’m trade marking as All Points East™, might be 3,000 miles from the birthplace of the three-day, any-kind-of-band-goes fest. That’s OK. Since it is held in August—the same month Woodstock took place—and within shouting distance of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, I think it only fair that we take back what rightfully should have been the City by the Bay’s all along. Forget Coachella, Bonnaroo, or any of those other posers. San Francisco now owns the multi-stage mega-concert. There’s no competition.

Where else can you enjoy a beautiful, outdoor, mild-weathered, perfectly organized production all within a major city’s limits? No desert storms, no off-the-beaten path drives, plenty of toilets, great food, social consciousness, seven stages, and no need to camp. Leave the park at night, come back the next day. And why not, as many of the bands play after-hours “night shows” at local venues?

The three day line-up had something for everyone, in no particular alphabetical order: Band of Horses, Black Eyed Peas, Incubus, M.I.A., Dave Matthews Band, The Mars Volta, Mastodon, Modest Mouse, Jason Mraz, Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, Pearl Jam, Q-Tip, Silversun Pickups, TV on the Radio, Tenacious D, Ween, Lucinda Williams, even Tom Jones—yes, that Tom Jones, who rocked the house lawn like nobody’s business. At nearly 70, Tom not only still has it, he could teach a few of the younger kids a move or two. And thankfully, bless the gods, Tom’s pants aren’t as tight.

He's not unusual: Tom the Bomb.

We attended all three days of the festival, watched a combined 16 shows, got plenty of exercise and Vitamin D, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves to the point that we couldn’t believe this was “work.” Our dual mission: scope out the veg-friendly artists, which included Jason Mraz and Conor Oberst, and spy on the eco-efforts of the exhibits, to make sure they were as billed. “Whether it was Jack Black making love to the crowd, or the groovy beats of Jason Mraz, there was something for everyone at the Festival,” including free Heineken in the press tent, says a happy Lyndsay Orwig, VN’s office manager. “I was pleased to see many of my favorite bands, who played both old and new songs, and kept a smile on my face the entire weekend. I am hooked, and will be going back next year.”

"I'm Yours": VN's Lyndsay Orwig checks out Jason Mraz

Mraz and Oberst gave impassioned performances, while Lydia’s Organics, our friends from Sambazon, and Whole Foods Market were among the food vendors that catered to those on the lower end of the food chain. While there was plenty of dead stuff being sold, veg options were available— we could even get kombucha on tap.

Lydia's Serves up raw vegan chow...

...while Whole Foods offers Kombucha on tap.

The environmental efforts were stellar, with ample recycling and composting stations, solar power stations (one stage was powered by the sun), and a slew of fine exhibits, including Toyota’s Prius, Garden for the Environment, and the TRASHed Recycling Store. Life is good.

Now, if I could only get Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb” out of my head...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Saturday Sound-off

Who: VN Associate Editor Abigail Young, VN Publisher Joseph Connelly, VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, and VN Editorial Assistant Kailey Harless
What: PCRM’s School Lunch Sound-off
Where: a.Muse Gallery, San Francisco, Calif.
When: August 22, 2009
Why: I was told there’d be vegan tamales.
The Scoop: This was an extra-special Saturday, seeing as I’m generally of the sleep-until-noon variety. I happily put my weekend tradition on hold for an event not to be missed—the School Lunch Sound-Off, presented by the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine. I managed a pre-lunchtime wake-up call with (relative) ease, and made my way to a.Muse Gallery with the rest of the VN crew for what promised to be a fantastic start to my Saturday.
The event, spearheaded by everyone’s favorite Ms. Laura Beck, brought students, parents, and citizens together to discuss PCRM’s Healthy School Lunches campaign, aimed at bringing vegetarian and vegan options to public schools nationwide. To fuel attendees brains, an all-star vegan feast created by local SF talent awaited guests. I’m not ashamed to admit, I was one of the first to hit the serving table.

The front of the serving line—the happiest place on earth
You can’t blame my eagerness—this wasn’t ordinary “free food.” A triple culinary threat brought the party, formed by the Brassica Supperclub gourmands, the elusive SF Vegan Tamales crew, and the always tasty Sugar Beat Sweets. The results? We’re talking two kinds of vegan tamales, fresh fruit salad, savory white and black bean dips, heirloom-tomato bruschetta, and bite-sized cupcakes, including my personal favorite flavor combo, chocolate mint. Maybe I got seconds. You would’ve, too.

A full plate of vegan offerings, including the infamous tamales
The food served as a welcomed bonus, but not the main attraction. Millennium chef Stephanie Roston started off the afternoon’s lecture with a brief history of her experience with kids and healthy eating (conclusion: kids love healthy food!), followed by a talk on nutrition by Susan LaVelle, a family nurse practitioner. The facts and figures about childhood obesity and its resulting health risks, not to mention first-hand accounts of her professional practice, were unsettling. Considering 30.5 million school lunches are served everyday, the cafeteria seems like a great place to initiate healthy change.
The third speaker was former Taxi-star, nutritionista, and best-selling author Marilu Henner. During her passionate speech, Marilu shared her personal vegan history, reaching back more than 30 years, and her motivation as a mother and educated activist for supporting PCRM’s initiative. The word “firecracker” could be heard throughout the room as the perfect descriptive of Marilu. An inspiring force to be reckoned with, she’s spreading a message of health across the country.

The rest of the afternoon passed with mingling, including a run-in with our friend Michelle (who also works with PCRM) from Vegan Break, and other fun activities: planting take-home flower pots, writing letters in support of PCRM, coloring, and making awesome animal-shaped PB&J sandwiches. Okay, so maybe some of these activities were originally planned for the younger crowd. Still, they were enjoyed by all, as was the entire afternoon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mad Hatter Vegan Tea Party

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly
What: Mad Hatter Vegan Tea Party
When: Sunday, August 23, 2009
Where: Secret Tea Garden House, San Francisco
Why: Fun Fund-raiser for SFVS’ World Veg Festival Weekend

The Scoop: Carmen Miranda didn’t show, though she would have been darn proud that much of her sisterhood was in attendance at yesterday’s Mad Hatter Vegan Tea Party, a unique fund-raiser thrown by the San Francisco Vegetarian Society to support its 10th Annual World Veg Festival Weekend, coming up Oct. 3–4.

Maybe 40 or so guests squeezed into the adorable teeny-tiny Garden Room of the Secret Garden Tea House, mostly women, and almost all of them sporting fancy hats, stylish hats, silly hats—even a deep purple Dr. Seuss-style Cat-in-the-Hat hat (well, the cat wasn’t there. It must have been his human’s day to wear it).

The festive afternoon included a special menu prepared by Secret Garden with tea and vegan delights, such as scrumptious sandwiches (marinated cuke with dill; pesto and tomatoes; banana and walnut), salient savories (rice roll with basil; mini chili-lime corn-stuffed red and green peppers; curry-quinoa filled baby pitas), and smack-lipping sweets (sour-cherry-pear tart; vegan cranberry and blueberry scones; and choc-chip and sugar cookies donated by Violet Sweet Shoppe. More on them in a bit). The fare was as delicious as it sounds, which quite pleased me, since I'd just come from a social engagement where the only vegan items were the fruit salad and dry diner rolls. Thankfully, I held off until the tea party.

The Secret Tea Garden House goes vegan for a day!

Dixie Mahy, the Grande Dame of the San Francisco veg scene, recruited me to judge the Mad Hatter contest. I quickly convinced Millennium Restaurant owner Larry Wheat to be my sidekick, and Larry found the lone woman in the audience sans head-wear as the third judge, “to break the tie.” This was serious stuff. Our assignment was to pick the Most Unusual Hat, the Funniest Hat, and the Prettiest Hat. Nancy Loewen, SFVS’ vice president and a former VegNews intern (no judging bias here) was awarded the Prettiest for this over-the-top topper:

Prettiest hat winner Nancy Loewen, left, with SFVS' one-and-only Dixie Mahy

Next up was the silent auction (this was a fun(d)-raiser, recall). Shoehorned into one corner were about 20 items up for the bidding, including a two-night visit to Mendocino’s The Stanford Inn; gift certificates to such favorite restaurants as Candle 79, Herbivore, and Millennium; and an Almond Milk Chocolate Cake from San Francisco’s own Violet Sweet Shoppe. I’m happy to report that yours truly was the high bidder of this last item—surprise, surprise—which we will enjoy at today’s staff lunch. You can taste the cake along with us at our award-winning blog Café VegNews.

Vegan yums: The Violet Sweet Shoppe Almond Milk Chocolate Cake

Festive festival foodie fundraising. Is there a better way to spend a Sunday summer afternoon?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

B-Town Chowhounds

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Charlotte Gordon + VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig
What: A day in Berkeley
When: Sunday, August 9, 2009
Where: Berkeley, Calif.
Why: To chow across the Bay

This weekend, we braved the belly of the BART beast for a shot at the best brunch in the Bay Area. But when we arrived at Fellini in Berkeley, not one glass was full of freshly squeezed OJ, nor was any vegan paralyzed in a wide-eyed stare at a menu, attempting to process the incredible amount of animal-free brunch options. The restaurant was, unfortunately, as empty as our stomachs and as closed as our minds were to rational thinking at that point—we were hungry, outraged, and ready to claw open the front door. But mark my word, we’ll be back when Fellini reopens on August 21. After gathering what wits we had left, we headed to Herbivore in downtown Berkeley to sample their brunch offerings: some southwestern scrambled tofu, a side of espresso shake, and a mighty green pesto tofu scramble.

The Southwestern Scramble. Um, yeah, that's a lot of food.

Lyndsay enjoys the awesome espresso shake.

It was just the right amount of tastiness to satisfy our cravings for a good brunch and fuel our Berkeley wanderlust. We made our way down Shattuck and lost an hour to thrift-shopping mecca, aka Crossroads Trading Co., before geeking it up at Comic Relief and Other Change of Hobbit, a science fiction and fantasy bookstore where cats roam free. Feisty felines greeted us as we browsed the aisles, then they retreated to paw at strings and used copies of Philip K. Dick novels.

After securing some ample sun damage from walking store to store in the heat, it was time to find comfort in gelato, and tons of it. Cookies ‘n’ cream and pistachio soy-based gelato, that is, at Gelateria Naia. Yum. We just had to forgo the bounty of fruit-based frozen treats—plum, pineapple, and banana, just to name a few—for this variation of the classic peanut butter and chocolate combo.

'Tis soy gelato!

With stuffed tummies as well as backpacks and bags, we headed back to San Fran looking like two bag ladies with all of the day’s purchases. And even though the credit card bills are getting ridiculous, watch out Fellini, because it is so on at the end of the month.

Monday, August 10, 2009

From Cupcakes to Karaoke

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Kailey Harless, the rest of the VN gang, VegWeb Web Mistress Laura Beck, plus friends
What: An evening of good eats and great tunes.
Where: Ike's Place and The Mint, San Francisco, Calif.
When: Thursday, August 6, 2009
Why: To eat well and let loose.

Though I’ve only been working at VegNews for a bit over two months, there are many things I’ve learned so far. Yes, we love our Parma!, communal lunches, brainstorming issues months in advance, and working hard to make the magazine we all love so dearly. But more than anything, VegNews loves balance. Just when you think you’re going to drop from exhaustion, a day of pure delight and fun rescues you.

Thursday we were all busily working on our countless projects when a lunch guest arrived bearing gifts. Might I mention she arrived with the best kind of gift, especially around this office: an edible one. Tessa Strauss, of the divine blog, Cookies and Candids, and her friend Julie joined the crew for lunch and supplied the most exquisite dessert I’ve had in months. Perhaps years. After staring at the cupcakes throughout lunch, we finally dove in to these beauties:
Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

What you see here are decadently delicious cupcakes. In the forefront are White-Chocolate Champagne Cupcakes filled with white-chocolate ganache and topped with gold sprinkles, in the middle are Rich Chocolate Almond Cupcakes with a marzipan layer, and behind is the genius baker. I kept shaking my head in disbelief as I bit into these perfectly moist, fluffy, just-sweet-enough delights. How could these be so phenomenal?

As if our afternoon sugary feast hadn’t been enough, the VN crew decided to end the day with a well loved tradition. Somehow, one of the VegNewsies came up with the idea to combine Ike’s sandwiches and karaoke into one night of both pure scrumptiousness and hilarity.

We made the pilgrimage to Ike’s Place after work, where Charlotte and I split a sandwich. (A side note: you will be made fun of for not eating a whole sandwich by yourself when dining with the VN crew.) The perfection of this sandwich helped me ignore the haters. Take a look at the gorgeous vegan “We’re Just Friends” (can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered that line).
Vegan turkey layered with orange glaze, avocado, soy cheese, tomato, and lettuce all within Dutch Crunch bread

Happily full, we trekked the few blocks to The Mint. Some sang, some danced, some (aka Laura Beck) performed "The Thong Song" with incredible aplomb, and we all enjoyed a much needed night out.