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.