Monday, March 29, 2010

Homemade Hustle Does Beats 'n' Brunch

Who: Editorial Assistant Abigail Wick
What: Beats and Brunch
Where: Bollyhood in the Baobob Village, San Francisco, Calif.
When: Saturday, March 27
Why: Delicious vegan food, friends, and sunshine. Obviously.

The Scoop: Babs Barry and Nikole Lent typify modern-day Renaissance women—they are clothing designers, founders of humanitarian fashion collective fAction, vegan activists and local-foods innovators. Operating under the moniker Homemade Hustle, Babs and Nikole wear funky, hand-crafted garb and dispense “guerrilla, vegan street food.” The pair's latest project is hosting a weekly vegan brunch at Bollyhood, part of the Senegalese-rooted Baobob Village.

Babs hustlin' in the kitchen.

Their inaugural event, Bollyhood Beats and Brunch, happened last Saturday on a splendid San Francisco afternoon. The eccentric crowd wore campy-chic duds, ranging from rhinestone cowboy and full-on Indian sari, to Turkish belly dancer and sweet-home-Alabama retro. People dined al fresco, sitting on rickety chairs at tiny café tables scattered across the sidewalk on 19th and Mission Street. The quirky, inviting company comprised a colorful backdrop for the main attraction—sumptuous, simple fare.

Nikole serves salad with a sweet smile.

Homemade Hustle’s menu boasted “Big Guurl Salads” called No You Didn’t!—baked tofu, caramelized onions, snappy green apples, candied walnuts, shredded purple cabbage, avocado, and scallions with ponzu dressing on a bed of greens—and the fantastic Ya Herd Meh?—rigatoni pasta with creamy cauliflower and white lima beans, fresh grape tomatoes, shredded purple cabbage, onions, garlic, and lemon on tahini-dressed greens, with fresh cracked peppercorn.

The sandwiches included the Jesus, Joseph, and Mary—shiitake and trumpet mushrooms with barley, butternut squash purée, garlic kale with caramelized shallots, and avocado on homemade flatbread. One word: holy-mother-of-god. Homemade Hustle also offered the Durty 30—pulled seitan with purple cabbage slaw and sesame aioli on the aforementioned homemade flatbread.

Marika and vegan pancakes go hand-in-hand.

My vagabond friend Marika, back in town from a year hitchhiking through Mexico and Central America, ordered one of the pancake offerings, Mama Said Knock You Out—two vegan “buttermilk” pancakes topped with fresh, seasonal stewed fruit and covered with a whopping dollop of chocolate mousse. Yes, Marika had tears in her eyes—not only because her entrée tasted so good, but because she was too sated to order Fo’ Sho’—Korean pancakes with broccoli, scallions, and kim chi, served with rice vinegar and soy dipping sauce.

A whirlwind of snacks, sweets, and sides rounded out the affair—from Brazilian-Nigerian Acarajes to Badankadonk Bread Pudding. What, with terrific folks and tip-top food, Bollyhood Beats and Brunch is sure to become a local, Saturday institution. Three cheers to Babs and Nikole, the brains behind Homemade Hustle!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

LA Whoa! Man

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly
What: A week of non-stop publisher duties in the Angel of Cities
Where: Hollywood, Torrance, and Anaheim, Calif.
When: March 8–15, 2010
Why: To live and dine in LA

The scoop: My week-long, über overflowing sojourn to the giant suburb that is our nation's second largest city could have yielded a Press Pass post every day. Alas, I know you are busy, so I've distilled it into this Top Ten Moments of Extravagance from the town that invented the concept. For additional photos of my festivities, check out VegNews' Facebook page. What? You aren't our friend? Better remedy that pronto. In no particular chronological order:

10. Cruzer's Pizza—Los Feliz's charming pizza joint has gone from meat to Daiya cheese to 100-percent vegan. I sampled the soon-to-be-on-the-menu VegNews Pizza, oozing with housemade pesto, mozzarella "cheese," artichoke hearts, tomatoes, spinach, and roasted garlic. Can you resist?

The first VegNews Pizza at Cruzer's

9. Exsalus Health & Wellness Center—I enjoyed a long chat with Dr. Matthew Lederman, co-founder of Exsalus (along with his wife, Dr. Alona Pulde). The couple has written a book, Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole. They practice plant-based nutrition in the style of Drs. Klaper, McDougall, Esselstyn, and Greger, and have plans to open clinics nationwide.

8. LifeFood Organic—For lunch, I dined with rauwthor Ani Phyo at this brand-new café in Hollywood with an outstanding menu of fresh, incredibly tasty, raw, live, organic foods. Chef Laurel Anderson has relocated from Seattle and added this steady gig to her catering uncookery, The Good Life Raw Food.

7. Real Food Daily—Though not all that hungry due to the late and scrumptious lunch, I could not turn down a chance to chat and chow with three phenomenal colleagues: fellow Bay Arean Marti Kheel, author of Nature Ethics; local activist extraordinaire Libra Max, and Rory Freedman, co-author of Skinny Bitch and VN's 2008 "Person of the Year." The food: Excellent. The company: Priceless.

6. Maggie Awards Judging—I ventured to the R.R. Donnelley plant in Torrance for a day of judging the Western Publishing Association's annual Maggie Awards, the longest running and most prestigious industry awards in the West. It was my fourth year as a judge, and quite a rewarding experience as I get to see what other magazines are doing.

5. Veggie Grill—The newest in the four-restaurant chain (the fifth in Santa Monica opens this October) which I've dubbed "the Sunset Grill," as it's located on Sunset Avenue in West Hollywood. Dinner company included co-founder Kevin Boylan and a trio of vegan athletes: Jon, Jesse, and Henry. Jon Hinds is the founder of Monkey Bar Gymnasium, and yes, he's big, and yes, he's vegan.

4. Babycakes NYC—On my way to Anaheim, I stopped at the brand-spatula-new Los Angeles satellite of The Big Apple's award-winning Babycakes NYC for some photo ops and staff treats. GM Jennifer Frizzell made sure we were well-desserted, which this "cookie sandwich" photo of our hard-at-work staff, just arrived from SF, clearly shows.

The VN crew kicks off Expo West weekend with dessert by the pool

3. The Natural Products Expo West —A three-day orgy of natural foods and products, the ultimate reason we are all here finally arrives. So you did follow Elizabeth's tweets and Abby's Facebook updates? You will be hearing more about Expo West in the days, posts, and magazines to come, including which companies were awarded the coveted Best of Show Awards™ on Sunday.

Sharing a pizza with Rory Freedman, Libra Max, and Heather Mills at the Expo

2. Hoa Sen Vegetarian Restaurant—You'd think after being surrounded by ample samples for eight hours no one would be hungry. You don't know Joe (or his staff). This adorable, local, vegan Vietnamese restaurant over-delivered with delicious real food, which isn't easy to find at the Expo. We ate well.

1. Tofoo Com Chay—The staff had all flown their separate ways, leaving me to drive the rental back to San Francisco. Lonely and hungry, I made a quick stop to this favorite spot from back in the day when VegNews was located in the South Bay. This tiny restaurant/deli is still large on taste, so I took home several meals worth of soups and sandwiches. The detox starts now.

Yes, that comes to seven delicious veg restaurants in eight days, each unique and each excellent, from raw foods and pizza to ethnic eateries and desserts. It's so easy being vegan.