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!