Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nabolom Bakery

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly
What: Sunday Sweets
Where: Nabolom Bakery, Berkeley, Calif.
When: June 27, 2010
Why: To Gluten or Not to Gluten

The Scoop: The New York Times Mark Bittman might be vegan before 6pm (as if that's difficult), but I strive to be sugar free until Sunday. I long ago mastered the vegan thing, but I've never been able to fully rein in my notorious sweet tooth. So I do the best I can during the week —not that easy with all the special catered lunches and product samples I'm privy to, as regular readers of Café VegNews and This Just In surely know—and allow myself a treat on Sunday, the day I almost always run a race. I figure I earn it.

Yesterday, though battling a chest cold, I slogged through a 10k in Oakland, put on by the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders, one of the fine running clubs I belong to. I then headed over to The Breakroom Café in downtown Oakland, only to find it is now closed on Sunday. Thankfully I'd printed off a list of restaurants from our good friends over at Happy Cow, and with JPS in head (that's Joseph Positioning System, if you must know) I landed at the Nabolom Bakery in Berkeley.

Nabolom is a worker-owned collective and green business to boot. It offers a wide selection of baked goods, which my informal survey estimated to be about 60 percent conventional and 40 percent vegan. Nabolom, strategically located in the shadow of the University of California, sports a spacious indoor seating area, several café tables in front, and a very Berkeley vibe. It's the type of place where one could grab a muffin, coffee, and newspaper and while away a few hours, with ease.

I decided to play "good boss" and order some staff treats for Monday. In the muffin category the selection tasted like this: banana oat bran, cranberry nut, blackberry pecan, and walnut chocolate. One of each, thank you very much. For the Cookie Monster in me there was monster-sized double chocolate, oatmeal raisin, or snickerdoodle (yes, yes, and yes). To this I added two ginormous wheat-free brownies, and one (very large) very sticky bun.

The Nabolom Bakery goods

Clockwise from top left: Snickerdoodle, Double Chocolate, Oatmeal Raisin

It's nearly 10pm Sunday and I'm quite pleased to report that the muffins, cookies, and brownies are all still with us. The very sticky bun? Well, it didn't make it out of Berkeley, but at least I did make it sugar free until Sunday. This week.

The Four Muffineers?

The world's largest Brownies... wait, does that one have a bite taken out of it?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Skin Trade Premiere

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly
What: San Francisco Premiere of Skin Trade
Where: Roxie Theatre, San Francisco, Calif.
When: June 15, 2010
Why: Fur is Dead

The Scoop: Exactly 10 years ago the acclaimed anti-fur documentary The Witness debuted, winning multiple festival awards while igniting the second wave in the war on what's wearable. The fur industry, left for dead in the '90s, was making a comeback in the new millennium; the gains made over the previous two decades educating the public on the horror that is fur were beginning to slip away.

Another decade has whizzed by, and fur fashion—like vampires—is the new undead, though the same can't be said of the pelts or the animals who used to own them. What can be done? Take an animal-rights-lawyer-turned-filmmaker, mix in a video editor who moonlights as a musician, and you have the latest vanity-be-damned documentary, Skin Trade.

Shannon Keith, Skin Trade's director, founded ARME (Animal Rescue, Media, and Education), the non-profit behind the film. (ARME's first production, Behind the Mask, is an award winning 2006 documentary about the Animal Liberation Front.) Gene Blalock, singer/songwriter of the LA-based alt-rock quartet The Faded, edited Skin Trade while writing much of the original music for the soundtrack. Thankfully these multi-talented overachievers pooled their skills to produce ARME's second killer doc.

The fur industry's latest PR move, proclaiming fur is green, gets debunked in Skin Trade.

Skin Trade begins by stating that the fur industry exists because everyone involved in it is a bold-faced liar, then proves so by alternating hidden camera footage of furriers telling prospective customers that the animals are treated better than household companions with undercover film of what really goes on. Interspersed throughout are interviews with pro-compassion celebs (Congressman Dennis Kucinich, designer Todd Oldham, Ingrid Newkirk, John Salley, Rory Freedman, Rikki Rocket, and more) questioning how this can still be going on.

Director Shannon Keith and Editor Gene Blalock in San Francisco

Keith and Blalock were in attendance last night as the film screened at the San Francisco United Film Festival to a very supportive and moved audience. Skin Trade includes some graphic imagery, always with ample foreshadowing, and needs to be seen by a wide audience. If you are not yet fur free, please watch this film through to the end. If the scenes of what's happening in present day China don't move you, it's time for a heart transplant.

View the trailer for Skin Trade here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vegan Iron Chef!

Who: VN West Coast Ad Rep Lara Bradley
What: Vegan Iron Chef Competition After Party
Where: Backspace, Portland, Ore.
When: June 6, 2010
Why: To celebrate competitive vegan chefs!

The Scoop: Bragging Rights: I am the only staffer who resides in ultra-hip Portland, the number one vegan city in the country. Yes, Kokopelli dances regularly, but with such an established vegan community, the rain can’t dampen the attitudes and lifestyles here in progressive Portland.

A recent Sunday evening was no exception as Try Vegan PDX held their Inaugural Vegan Iron Chef Competition in front of a sold out audience of 125 drooling and envious on-lookers as they watched the five lucky judges sample appetizers, entrées, and desserts from three talented and skilled Portland chefs all vying to claim the title.

The esteemed chefs were Qausu AsaaseYaa, from Asaase Ital Palace, Wes Hannah of Blossoming Lotus, and Aaron Adams of Portobello. A secret ingredient that was to be integrated into every course was revealed to the chefs just 25 minutes before the cook-off and that coveted ingredient was—drum roll please—chocolate!

The announcers of the evening, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Vegan with a Vengeance, and Michelle Schwegmann, co-owner of Herbivore Clothing Company, kept the masses entertained as the judges sampled to oohs and aahs and wrote down their secret scores. The event was live-streamed to an international audience of Portland WannaBes, rain and all, oohing and aahing from their dry couches.

After a close race and some tough decisions by the judges, Qausu AsaaseYaa, was crowned as the Winner of the Inaugural Vegan Iron Chef. Aausu graciously accepted the title for her three tantalizing dishes:

Caramelized Plantains And Chocolate Coconut Sauce With Micro greens
Chocolate Groundnut Stew With Onion Rice
Gari Peanut Candy Hearts With Cashew Chocolate Cream And Berries

Qausu AsaaseYaa, hard at work. Photo by Lucas DeShazer

After the nail biting competition, an after party was held at Backspace Café where Camping Party rocked the house and kept the vibe alive. Prizes were raffled off and appetizers for the food-deprived crowd were abundant. Wine donated by Hip Chicks Do Wine provided a close to a picture perfect cruelty-free evening.