Friday, December 10, 2010

Forks Over Knives Screening

Who: VN columnist Gena Hamshaw
What: A special, pre-release screening of Forks Over Knives
Where: AMC Loews on Broadway, New York, NY
When: December 6, 2010

The Scoop: On Monday night, animal lovers, environmentalists, health enthusiasts, and foodies gathered together for a screening of filmmaker Brian Wendel’s Forks Over Knives. The documentary, which will be released nationwide on March 11, 2011, examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called “diseases of affluence” can be controlled or reversed by adopting a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Told through the lives and work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn—who have championed the power of plant-based foods throughout their careers in medicine—the film also documents the remarkable healing stories of their patients.

Notable supporters of Farm Sanctuary and of the film—including vegan authors John Joseph and Victoria Moran—gathered for a pre-party reception, where they sampled cuisine from New York culinary institution, Candle 79. The owners of Candle 79, Bart Potenza and Joy Pierson, were hard at work in the kitchen, churning out plate after plate of piping hot seitan chimichurris, bowls of tangy guacamole, and platters of an irresistibly flavorful hummus and quinoa terrine.

Candle 79's signature seitan chimichurris

Meanwhile, veteran vegan pastry chef Fran Costigan astonished partygoers with her desserts. (I had to fight a few other guests for the last PB&J chocolate cup parfait, but it was worth it.) Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur shared a few salutary words. “Most people are basically compassionate,” he said. But he added that we need films like Forks Over Knives to inspire positive change.

Fran Costigan in a free moment

After the film, audience members were given a chance to ask questions and chat with the filmmakers and participants. On the panel discussion after the film were Baur, Brian Wendel, and Rip Esselstyn, author of the bestselling The Engine 2 Diet, who is profiled in the documentary. Before leaving, I approached Brian Wendel, whose own life was changed by reading The China Study in 2008, to congratulate him. His face lit up when I mentioned that I was there on behalf of VegNews. “They have been so supportive,
he said. “We’re all very excited.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spork Foods Holiday Bazaar

Who: VN Contributor Polly Walter
What: Spork Foods Holiday Bazaar
Where: Spork Foods Kitchen, Los Angeles, Calif.
When: December 5, 2010

The Scoop: 

It never takes much convincing to get me shopping, but I was especially eager to take refuge from a gray Los Angeles Sunday at the Spork Foods Holiday Bazaar. Hosted by sisters Jenny and Heather Goldberg at their gorgeous kitchen/event space, the sale featured eco-friendly and cruelty-free items from local artists including nontoxic nail polish by Sheswai Lacquer in rich plums and reds, I. Ronnie Kappos vintage glass jewelry, and original art and stationery by Kevin Tseng.

A few of I. Ronnie Kappos' offerings

I purchased an amazing vegan soy candle by A Scent of Scandal in one of my favorite, but hard to find, scents—fresh cut grass. As part of their “Candles for a Cause” collection,15 percent of the sales from this scent benefits Farm Sanctuary.

And of course, Spork Foods gift certificates good for live or the recently unveiled online cooking classes were also offered, complete with cute little holiday cards. While clouds gathered outside, guests, including actress Emily Deschanel, were treated to Chef Jenny’s famous Mexican Wedding Cookies and iced tea while they shopped. Heather says that they decided to host the event because of the importance of buying well-made, local gifts. "We love supporting local artists who also make amazing products!" she says. "Since we're lucky enough to have some incredibly talented friends who wanted to sell their goodies, no one has to brave the mall, everyone gets their holiday shopping out of the way, and we can all feel great about our purchases!”

Heather, me, and Jenny, feeling festive!

The event was a huge success, with all of the vendors basically selling out of their products by the night’s end. Hopefully the Spork ladies will make this a tradition—I already can’t wait for next year!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brendan Brazier, Gene Baur, and that Guy from VegNews

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly
What: A Run Around a Lake
Where: Lake Merced, San Francisco, Calif.
When: November 21, 2010
Why: Vegan Athletic Prowess

The Scoop: Brendan Brazier is a vegan machine. The former professional triathlete, two-time Canadian 50k champ, best-selling author of Thrive and Thrive Fitness, formulator of the Vega line of plant-based food and sport drinks, and Hugh Jackman's vegan guru was in the Bay Area on a promotional tour when he received a call from VN Publisher Joseph Connelly (that would be me). The San Francisco-based Dolphin Sound End Runners were holding their weekly Sunday morning race, this one being the Lake Merced Single/Double, meaning one or two loops around the 4.5-mile man-made lake. I invited Brendan to join us. He said he'd try to be there.

Ominous clouds hovered over Lake Merced on the morning of the race

Gene Baur is a vegan wunderkind. The co-founder of the farmed animal rescue movement, president of Farm Sanctuary, and best-selling author of Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food was in Northern California for his Orland property's annual Celebration FOR the Turkeys, held Saturday, November 20, which included special guest John Salley, four-time NBA basketball champ and the newest vegan... well, you get the picture. I invited Gene to the race. He said he'd try to be there.

Joseph Connelly is a vegan. Slow of foot but swift of mind, he might not finish first but enjoys writing about himself in the third person. He's a runner as well, and his connections as publisher of VegNews Magazine sometimes come in handy. The morning of the race the weather was horrible—cold, windy, and quite wet. I was pleasantly surprised when Brendan called. "I'm on my way."

Gene, meanwhile, was driving in as well, and it didn't look good. Taking a wrong turn after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, the race started without him. About two miles in he blazes by me. He had a five-minute late start and was making up the time. Gene finished a quite respectable 21st overall in the single loop race, and probably would have been in the top 10 had his GPS been working. Brendan, meanwhile, ran away with the double loop, finishing not only first but nearly three minutes ahead of the second place runner. You can view the results here.

Brendan Brazier, Gene Baur, and Joseph Connelly at the VNHQ

After we all showered and warmed up, we headed to Herbivore for brunch and then a quick stop at the new VNHQ, where we showed off our trophies, sort of. Brendan and Gene left signed copies of their books, which we are giving away! Simply submit a question for either Brendan or Gene in the comments section below to enter; we'll pick the best, you'll win a book, and we'll even get them to answer your query.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bold Native Premiere in San Francisco

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly and VN Managing Editor Elizabeth Castoria
What: Premiere of feature film Bold Native
Where: Red Vic Movie House, San Francisco, Calif.
When: November 18, 2010
Why: A packed theater of like-minded folks

The Scoop: When was the last time you heard of the release of a full-length, ALF-themed feature film? I thought so. Bold Native tells the story of uncover activist Charlie Cranehill's (played by Joaquin Pastor) attempt to mastermind a couple dozen simultaneous animal-rights actions across the United States while being pursued by both the FBI (trying to capture him) and his food exec dad (trying to save him). While the film hasn't been picked up for nationwide theater distribution, it has screened around the country to much acclaim—including this NYC event hosted by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. The San Francisco premiere was an event in its own right.

Author John Robbins opening the evening

Author and activist John Robbins eloquently introduced the film to a who's-who crowd at the historic, independent Red Vic Movie House, located in SF's famed Haight-Asbury district. After the screening film makers Denis Henry Hennelly and Casey Suchan took to the mic, talked about the making of the film, and introduced members of the cast. Finally, released SHAC-7 political prisoner Jake Conroy spoke passionately about his journey of activism as well as his time in a federal prison.

Producer Casey Suchan with writer/director Denis Henry Hennelly in San Francisco

Bold Native is a powerful and educational fast-paced film with a mission. It includes graphic images of animal exploitation, along with frequent cameos by real activists, each weaved seamlessly throughout the movie. Those familiar with the animal or vegetarian movements will smile as they recognize friends and colleagues often on the silver screen, giving the film a very documentary-like feeling for those in the know, without compromising its serious subject. Raw foodist Tonya Kay has a memorable role, playing a hippier version of herself as I Rock. Bold Native is now available on DVD. Purchase two copies, hold a screening in your town, then give away the second copy, to keep the momentum moving forward.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gracious Gourmand

Who: VN contributor Jasmin Singer
What: Gracious Gourmand
Where: Second Stop Café, Brooklyn, NY
When: November 19, 2010

The Scoop: It’s true: Brooklyn is New York’s newest food Mecca. And last Friday, the L-train delivered me to the height of good taste.

“It’s a platform for chefs to get very experimental and avant garde with vegan cuisine, and really push the boundaries,” says Joshua Katcher, mastermind behind the city’s new hot ticket, Gracious Gourmand.

The man of the evening, Joshua Katcher, and me

The bi-weekly Friday night supper club boasts a different chef each time. For my lucky day, Chef Ella Nemcova of The Regal Vegan outdid herself, winning the hearts and stomachs of even rabid meat-eaters. One guest remarked, “I am an avid carnivore, and that was an amazing meal.”

The impressive entrée was a mouthful indeed: Rice Cannelloni Stuffed with Lobster Mushroom, with Pecan Braised Leek and Tempeh in a Porcini Cream Sauce on Kabocha Squash Puree. It was not only superb, but substantial. (“I like to eat a meal and feel like I’ve eaten a meal,” Nemcova told me.) Though each course was extraordinary, most memorable was the Lebanese Garlic, Cashew Cheese, and Smoky Kale Napoleon. Vaguely reminiscent of spinach pie, it was infinitely more complex, with bold flavors that popped and perfectly blended textures.

The amazing Rice Canelloni

Katcher, founder of The Discerning Brute, began Gracious Gourmand last summer to show off the delectable diversity of foods available to those with an appetite for compassion. Snuggled in the back of the quaint Second Stop Café (near the L train’s second stop in Brooklyn), Gracious Gourmand is “an iconoclastic feast for food-heretics,” explains Katcher, who will soon be in Paris organizing a cruelty-free fashion show for Paris Vegan Day. “And that really is my underhanded way of saying vegan.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Second Annual Curry Cook-Off for Bhopal

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Gabrielle Pope
What: 2nd Annual Curry Cook-Off
Where: The Women's Building, San Francisco, Calif.
When: October 21, 2010
Why: Curry for a cause!

The Scoop: When I read about the Curry Cook-Off on the amazing SF vegan blog Vegansaurus, I needed no further convincing. So maybe it was initially the promise of unlimited curry-tasting that drew me in, but the cause was certainly what solidified my commitment to the event. This was the second year of the annual curry cook-off, organized by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal to raise funds for the victims of the world's worst industrial gas disaster that occurred in Bhopal nearly 26 years ago. Far too often suffering is forgotten as the years pass, but the effects of a disaster resonate for years afterward when it comes to victims, families, and communities effected. Victims from Bhopal are still struggling to obtain access to medical care and other forms of aid, so help is very much needed.

Original photography of children in Bhopal

I arrived at the Women's Building on 18th Street feeling very much like a neighborhood guest, seeing as how VNHQ has now moved to the Mission district, and even received a welcome to the neighborhood when I introduced myself to a woman who revealed to be, like myself, a British Columbia transplant. My new friend and I eagerly lined up for the curries, which were all vegetarian, and mostly vegan. I tried 5 or 6 curries out of about 9, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were properly spicy. I'm a humungous fan of spicy food, and am always disappointed when curries are too mellow. My new friend and I compared notes on our favorite Indian restaurants in Vancouver while we were dished out curry after curry. Though most of the curries were North and South Indian-inspired, there were some definitely Thai- and Southeast Asian-influenced offerings. How lovely it was to breathe in the aroma of sauteed spices among a roomful of people eager to eat veg curries and learn more about the cause in Bhopal.

Not the best photo, but definitely some quality curries!

The event also featured a silent auction featuring items such as Ayurvedic consultations, handmade bags from an artisan in Bhopal, original art, and contributions from local businesses. A slideshow was set up featuring images of the disaster and its victims. I can confidently say that this evening greatly inspired me, and reminded me about just how powerful community incentives for change and charity are.

The curry line, pre-serving

The evening ended with a beautiful traditional dance performed by Christine Germain, and what reputedly followed was an announcement of the curry winner, but I was admittedly already back on MUNI on my way home in a curry-induced food coma. I had had such a hard time voting anyway, which is somewhat remarkable since I can be somewhat of a curry snob! I can't help it, Vancouver's South Indian and Thai restaurants have left me with high standards, which were happily met last night. The Curry Cook-Off was a wonderful event, and one that I will happily return to next year. I sincerely hope that the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal raised a significant amount of money for victims of the disaster, because they certainly left an impression on us guests.

Slideshow featuring protests for Bhopal

Monday, October 18, 2010

Texas State Veggie Fair

Who: VN Contributor Jasmin Singer
What: DallasVegan’s inaugural Texas State Veggie Fair
Where: The Phoenix Project, Dallas, TX
When: October 16, 2010
Why: To rival the “other” Texas State Fair and celebrate compassion

The Scoop: At the Texas State Fair in Dallas, the “entertainment” includes penned-up, branded animals sitting in the hot sun, a rodeo, and a livestock contest. At the petting zoo, I see a giraffe, his head an inch beneath the ceiling, take bites out of the fence holding him captive. You can smell his fear.

Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, you can smell the compassion (and the fried vegan cookie dough) wafting from the Texas State Veggie Fair. The Veggie Fair, the antithesis of its ugly cousin, is the brainchild of Jamey Scott of DallasVegan. For vegans craving the state fair experience sans cruelty, it offers a fried vegan food contest, vegan fair food (funnel cakes, anyone?), carnival games, prizes, bands, and, of course, clowns. As for the Veggie Fair happening on the same day as, as Scott puts it, “the other fair,” it’s hardly a coincidence.

Fried Funnel Cake (photo courtesy of Silvia Elzafon)

Eddie Garza, Mercy For Animals’ (MFA) Texas Campaign Coordinator, elaborates: “The Texas State Fair is all about making animal agriculture seem like a fairytale… when we know that the reality is that the animals are generally from factory farms, kept in spaces so small and tightly confined that they can’t even turn around or spread their limbs.”

So who can you find at the Veggie Fair? Everyone from kids wearing Texas t-shirts playing in the bounce-house or getting their faces painted, to tattooed 30-somethings (okay, myself included) munching on corn dogs and having their tarot cards read, to the veg-curious learning from groups such as the Black Vegetarian Society of Texas, Animal Connection of Texas, Dallas Vegetarians, and MFA.

Face-painting fun (photo courtesy of Silvia Elzafon)

The Dallas vegan scene is skyrocketing, and it’s largely thanks to Scott and Garza’s outreach. Not only does DallasVegan host a monthly Vegan Drinks event, but thanks to MFA, the city is getting ready to celebrate Dallas Vegan Week, during which upscale Dallas restaurants will offer vegan options. Kudos to Dallas' blue-ribbon activists!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tofu U and Skinny Bitch's Kim Barnouin

Who: VN Editorial Assistants Brooke Still and Gabrielle Pope
What: Tofu U Event with Skinny Bitch's Kim Barnouin
Where: San Francisco, Calif.
When: October 7, 2010
Why: To learn about Nasoya tofu's latest project and mingle with Kim

The Scoop: As vegans, we need little convincing of the benefits of tofu. But preparing it day-to-day can be another story. Draining, dressing, and devouring tofu at home can be somewhat of a difficult task for those of us who are culinarily challenged (Read: Yours truly). To answer the frustrations of amateur cooks everywhere, tofu brand Nasoya has created Tofu U—a virtual campus that schools the public on how to transform that watery block of soy into something edible, and delicious! To learn more about Tofu U and have a mini-, mid-day-celebration of veg life, Gabrielle and I went to The Plant Café Organic yesterday afternoon for a lunchtime event.

This was my first trip to The Plant Café Organic on Pier 3 in San Francisco's Embarcadero, and it was amazing. The restaurant is on the water (and by on the water, I mean RIGHT on the water), giving us a beautiful view of the ocean and the Bay Bridge. We nestled into our seats, right near the demonstration table. Skinny Bitch's Kim Barnouin, whose new book Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook is due out in mid-October, soon graced us with tofu demonstrations. I loved her idea of cutting tofu into strips, brushing them with almond milk, then dusting them with panko bread crumbs, and baking to create crispy treats, great for salads, stir-fries, or by themselves with a dipping sauce. And Kim was a sweetheart—such a treat to listen to her speak!
Barnouin's tofu demonstration

A treat, of course, nearly upstaged by the scrumptious lunch. We enjoyed a savory salad, tofu tacos with mango chutney, and finished the meal with a heavenly chocolate volcano cake—the kind you cut into a find a warm, gooey center. Delicious!

Our chocolate cake, aka heaven

After we ate, Gabrielle and I mingled with the Nasoya folks and Kim, chatting about tofu, veganism, and California. We were most pleasantly surprised to receive copies of Kim's new book—which this morning Gabrielle and I discovered we both read in bed last night! I for one know it gave me sweet dreams of all the tofu and Skinny Bitch meals to come.

Kim, Brooke, and Gabrielle

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

San Francisco Vegan Fashion Show

Who: VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig
Where: San Francisco, Calif.
When: October 2, 2010
Why: To bring hip, sustainable, and vegan fashion to the SF Bay Area

The Scoop: The fashion industry doesn't usually have the best record for being cruelty-free—go to New York's fashion week, and you're sure to find animal products of all kinds, including fur, leather, snake skin, and more. Well, things are changing, and vegan fashion shows are starting to become all the rage. Recently, there was one in Albany, NY, and just last weekend, the first Vegan Fashion show took place during the World Veg Festival Weekend in San Francisco.

The show was completely sold out

Being the Trade Show Manager of VegNews, I attended nearly the entire show, so I was happy to get a break from the booth for a short while to take in some fashion. The event was organized by Karine Brighten of Karine Brighten Events, who's fairly new to the SF Bay Area, but is making a big name in the vegan community, specializing in affordable, eco-friendly events. She told me that she has been working on the fashion show since May, and she personally made sure that each and every one of the models was vegan.

The fashion show featured designs from Vaute Couture, Pansy Maiden bags, Reco Jeans, Lion's Share Industries, Melie Bianco, Cri de Coeur, and Mission Savvy. Jennifer Miller, the founder of Mission Savvy, even sent in a video introducing the fashion show. Her designs take on themes that directly relate to animal-rights issues, such as animal captivity for the purposes of entertainment and consumerism.

One of the several lovely models in the show

The show was highly anticipated, shown by the crowd that waited outside of the auditorium doors for nearly an hour beforehand. When the show began, Karine gave a short welcome, and introduced the emcee of the night, Rory Freedman. The entire show was a major success, and very professional. Not to mention, the clothing and styles were to die for. I'm definitely looking forward to the second SF Vegan Fashion Show!

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Gabrielle Pope
Where: San Francisco, Calif.
When: October 1-3, 2010
Why: 750,000 people can't be wrong, a free weekend of bluegrass in the park is a lovely weekend indeed!

The Scoop: This year marks the 10th Anniversary of San Francisco's annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. A bluegrass nut and enthusiastic purveyor of all things free, I've been excited for the festival ever since I stepped off the plane back in the summer. That my boyfriend, Jay, was here visiting for the weekend, and that I live just one block from Golden Gate Park where the festival is held, were just icing on the cake.

With more than 80 acts playing on six stages, one needs a schedule, map, and a plan in order to get the most of what the festival has to offer. This is my advice to myself for next year, because Jay and I were more than a little bit disorientated and indecisive heading to the festival on Saturday after a brief stop in at the SF World VegFest, which was also held in Golden Gate Park. With acts such as MC Hammer, Patty Griffin, Joan Baez, Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes, and my personal favorites Railroad Earth, Yonder Mountain String Band, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The Avett Brothers, and the David Grisman Quintet to choose from, how am I supposed to make a decision while thousands of people are vying for spots of green to sit down?

We decided to start off at the smaller Porch Stage, where we caught a little bit of Exene while we planned our next move. Considering we were mainly at that stage to gather our thoughts, I really enjoyed Exene's music, which heavily features my favorite instrument, the fiddle.


We then headed down to the much larger Banjo Stage and were completely overwhelmed by the crowds. The festival attracts all types of people, from aging hippies to teenagers sneaking Pabst Blue Ribbon, and there was definitely an electric feeling in the air just as Joan Baez was about to go onstage. We ended up taking a break from the crowds to buy some yucca fries and watch a quartet of cute busking children play folk tunes before returning to catch the David Grisman Quintet. Jay took me to see David Grisman on our very first date years ago, and we always try to see him every time he is playing a nearby show. I just can't get over what a master he is of his mandolin, which is probably why I failed to snap a pic during his set!

A more relaxed scene at the Porch Stage

Despite being crazy for the music, I don't do too amazingly with crowds, and I needed out! After a jam-packed afternoon featuring lunch at namu restaurant and an evening concert at the Fillmore with Railroad Earth, we were ready to head back to the park on Sunday for more. The Arrow Stage was definitely our scene, so we sat back with some snacks (Stonewall's Jerquee and Trader Joe's Chocolate Almonds, yum!) and enjoyed the Yonder Mountain String Band's set. I've seen the band play several times before, and it always amazes me that they have no percussionist, because they create such a prominent rhythm with their strings. We were able to catch the very impressive first half of The Avett Brothers' set, but when our tummies started growling (when I need food, I need food) we headed to the nearby Marnee Thai restaurant in the Inner Sunset for some satiation.
Our solution for the lines at bike storage!

Next year, I vow to be more organized and catch many more acts, because this event is probably one of the best festivals I've ever been to!

Monday, October 4, 2010

San Francisco's World Veg Festival

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Brooke Still with the rest of the VN staff and lots of happy vegetarians
What: The 11th Annual World Veg Festival Weekend
Where: San Francisco, Calif.
When: October 2 and 3, 2010
Why: To celebrate all things veg in the Bay Area and beyond!

The Scoop: From Thailand to Toronto, from Seattle to San Diego, vegetarian, vegan, and animal rights festivals happen year round, and this weekend, it was VN's hometown's turn at the 11th Annual San Francisco World Veg Festival Weekend, hosted by the San Francisco Vegetarian Society. Each year, the festival is held around World Vegetarian Day, and always draws scores of people wanting to celebrate all things veg. So we packed up all our goodies from our new headquarters and headed over to Golden Gate Park.

Everyone picked up a copy of VegNews!

Believe it or not, this was my first veg festival, and I wasn't sure what to expect short of, well, food. I wasn't entirely wrong—there was A LOT of veg food, from cupcakes to Tofurky pizza samples (I only had one! ...ish) to Asian cuisine to granola bars—all proving how diverse and delicious veg fare can be. But there was so much more than that. The World Veg Festival was stacked with literature and information on the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle. Everything you could ever need to know about the status of factory farming, ways to help shelter animals, or how to whip up a cruelty-free dinner in no time was available. Oh, and fashion. Gorgeous vegan clothes were for sale, supplied by many a vegan designers, including Vaute Couture.

Vegan fashion

And of course, as is the case with these amazing festivals, there was a wide range of speakers to choose from, including Dr. Steve Blake, VN columnist Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, John Robbins, Dr. Michael Greger, Skinny Bitch's Rory Freedman, and more. The weekend was also packed with other exciting veg events, including an interview of the fabulous Ms. Freedman by VN Publisher Joseph Connelly.

I had a great time donning my very first "You Are What You Read" t-shirt, and helping spread the VN love by selling subscriptions. We rocked our shifts and had an amazing time at the festival full of like-minded, fun-loving people. Don't miss recaps from the first all-vegan fashion show and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival coming this week!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Annual Chile & Beer Dinner at Millennium

Who: VN Editorial Assistants Brooke Still and Gabrielle Pope and VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig
What: Millennium's Annual Chile and Beer Dinner
Where: Millennium Restaurant, San Francisco, Calif.
When: September 29, 2010
Why: To spice up our Wednesday night ... literally.

The Scoop: When VN asked Gabrielle and me if we would be interested in going to Millennium for their chile and beer themed dinner, I don't think either of us ever responded to an email faster. That is until VN asked us if we would like to try the beer pairings that came with the meal—I emphatically typed YES. So we prepared ourselves for a delicious late-night dinner at San Francisco's classiest vegan eatery. And of course, our beloved office manager and friend Lyndsay Orwig just had to come along for the ride.

  • VN Editorial Assistant Brooke Still and VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig.

Up until the day of, Gabrielle and I had planned on sitting down to a full night of chili, as in bean-and-tomato-filled stew. Clearly we did not do our homework, because we were treated with instead was a five-course meal based on the multi-faceted tastes of chilies, as in the peppers, from northern California farm Tierra Vegetables, and handpicked by the Millennium staff.
Was there salsa you ask? Oh yes, there was salsa. That and so much more. Our meal began with Seared Chillies and Grilled Flatbread, filled with a white-bean spread and paired with a white beer. Next we had the most savory Blue Corn Mesa Crepe with roasted poblano and tomatillo pozole verde and cilantro salad, matched with a delicious wheat beer. Following that, we were served Steamed Bao, which was probably my favorite course—tea smoked tofu and glazed eggplant atop delicious bread and served with shiitake and mung bean salad.

Steamed Bao with Tea-Smoked Tofu and Anise Glazed Chinese Eggplant

We then had Seared Semolina Dumpling, filled with squash and pepper and paired with a porter. We topped off the whole meal with a decadent Chocolate Ganache Cake and Thai chile-Tom Kha ice cream. I think it's safe to say I'll never eat again.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

An amazing meal at a stellar restaurant was my perfect introduction to Millennium, where I plan to return for every special occasion. My birthday's coming up. Just saying.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair

Who: VN Trade Show Manager Lyndsay Orwig and VN contributor Moira Nordholt
Where: Toronto, ON
When: September 10 to 12, 2010
Why: To hang with fellow vegetarians in our neighboring country up north

The Scoop: Being the Trade Show Manager, I go to a lot of shows throughout the year. They're all great, don't get me wrong, but I was really looking forward to heading to the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair. I've only been to this culturally diverse city once, which was a treat. I'm very lucky to have a good friend there, Tonya, so I was expecting a great time, and boy was I right!

A couple hours before the fair began, I was able to check out Fresh, a popular, mostly vegan restaurant. The weather was great, so Tonya and I dined al fresco, which was a delight! The most interesting thing on the menu? The Quinoa-Battered Onion Rings for sure. They were so delish, I forgot to take a picture before I devoured them.

The Deluxe Burger with Coconut Curry Sauce. Yum!

The Food Fair is a three-day show completely free to the public, and includes a ton of vendors, including Gardein, Vitamix, Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss, and Sequel Naturals, to name a few. It's also located at the Harbourfront Centre, on Toronto's waterfront, which is gorgeous. Not to mention that it's held in the most perfect time of the year, autumn. Being from the East Coast, I miss my seasons, and fall was always my favorite, so it was amazing going back to that, even if it was only for a few days.

The enthusiasm for the vegetarian lifestyle was all around, which is always great to experience, and I met a lot of great people, a couple being strong leaders in the veg movement including Carol J. Adams and Jae Steele. Fun times were definitely had, so much so that I didn't even feel like I was at work. If you are in the Toronto area a year from now, be sure to check out the festival—you won't be disappointed!

The Food Issue was a big hit!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Vaute Couture San Francisco Pop-Up Show

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Brooke Still and VN Associate Editor Liz Miller
What: Vaute Couture's San Francisco Pop-Up Show
Where: San Francisco, Calif.
When: August 29, 2010
Why: Vaute Couture was visiting San Francisco with a new line, and we just had to check it out!

The Scoop: Famed vegan coat designer Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart was recently on tour throughout California presenting her newly designed fall and winter line of Vaute Couture. As as Leanne fans and certifiable shopaholics, VN Associate Editor Liz Miller and I decided we just had to check out her San Francisco show. So we headed to the Mission on a sunny Sunday afternoon only to wish it was colder so we could properly bundle up in her adorable coats.

The pop-up show was held in a.Muse Gallery, where we were greeted by natural light, vegan chocolate cupcakes, hot tea, and Leanne's new collection, fresh off the runway of Fashion Week. I got the opportunity to live out my model dream, which was stunted at an early age when I stopped growing at 5-foot-2. First, I tried on Leanne's newest creations: the urban snow coats. The coats are the vegan answer to insulated, warm, wind- and water-resistant winter coats. No geese were harmed in the creation of these hand-stitched beauties, made at living wages in Brooklyn, aka Leanne's new hometown, having recently moved from Chicago. And each style is named after one of Leanne's favorite teachers.

Me in the Audrey coat—so warm!

Next, we moved on to the pieces that made Vaute Couture famous—her gorgeous winter coats. Again, Leanne uses all-vegan materials to create a unique, wool-like blend made from recycled fibers. The texture of the coat is so scrumptious, it won a Polartec APEX award—an award that normally goes to such giant mainstream companies as The Northface. The upcoming line had some new styles and updates of some old favorites. I fell in love with the Audrey coat, inspired by Audrey Hepburn. It's hard to fall in love with the details in all her coats, which are origami inspired with a blend of old Hollywood glamour. In addition to the treasures I tried on, Leanne is introducing for the first time a men's line, modeled in her look book by The Discerning Brute's Joshua Katcher. To top it all off, Leanne also showed us some of her mini dresses, tanks, tees, and soy-based knitted scarves, hats, and headbands. The scarf/muff creation is already at the top of my holiday wish list.

Some of the new dresses and windbreakers

Before heading back to Brooklyn for the launch of the new Vaute Couture line, Leanne dropped by the VNHQ. After spending time with her and her creations, we can't wait to snuggle up this winter with her compassionate fashion—coats like that make the winter cold worth it!