Q&A and training with Seattle’s vegan trainer Ben Greene

Are you active, vegan, a Seattle dweller and striving for optimal health in all areas of your life? Take heart, you’re not alone. More and more people are realizing that diet alone isn’t enough, and we vegans know how much we love our indulgences. Thankfully, there are now individuals in the city who can help you achieve your health/fitness goals, and I’m happy to know one of them.

Ben BerlinMeet Ben Greene. Seattleite, vegan and badass Ironman Athlete, co-author of The Vegan Athlete and the owner of Greene Multisport.

An impressive resume, right?

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Tacoma Food Co-op is open!

While I was out of town during the last weekend in August for the Con, the Tacoma Food Co-op opened its doors to the public. This business has been in the works for five years and now it finally stands in its brick and mortar form. Though I wasn’t physically in Tacoma on Aug. 26, I still beamed with a little more pride that day. Our co-op’s open!

I stopped by last week to check out the store, meet General Manager Henri Parren and ask him a few questions about the co-op and what kind of offerings local vegans could look forward to.

Before I began to ask my questions, Parren told me a little about his twin sister who still lives in his home country, Holland.

“She’s vegan. Well, nearly vegan,” Parren laughs. “She’s a strict vegetarian. Like her, I have a strong connection to animals.”

If you haven’t met him yet, Parren has a warm and welcoming way about him, and the fact that he shared this story with me was genuinely endearing. It set the tone for the rest of the interview, and for the way I viewed the spirit of the co-op as I walked through the aisles.

Though not vegan himself, Parren has worked for many notable grocery companies in Washington state the past and thus is very familiar with the brands that vegetarians love. In the freezer section, all kinds of vegan meals – from Amy’s pizzas, to burgers to breakfast items, Sunshine and many other veggie burgers and great organic veggies and fruits – all line the shelves. Bulk bins are teeming with grains, (including Bob’s Red Mill), bottles of nooch and Bragg’s are available, chia seeds are in the spice bulk section and soy yogurt and many various milk alternatives are available, too. Almost every product made by Seattle vegan grain meat company Field Roast is available, which was an intentional move on the general manager’s part.

“I’ve worked with the owner of Field Roast, (David Lee) before, and I know all about it. I knew I wanted to have his products here,” Parren stated. Check out my photos of a few other vegan items and products I scouted on my visit:

Not just food! The co-op’s stocked with natural personal care, cleaning, pet and other health-related products. The shelves are still filling up, but I think the options available are an excellent start.

So much local, sweet, fresh produce, (okay yeah, minus the pineapples and avocados).

Does looking at all these vegetables make anyone else feel giddy?

Yes, all three Daiya varieties are available, (I’ve got the Pepperjack in my fridge to prove it).

Gluten-free items abound!

Adorable new grocery bags are in, too. A convenient way to show TFC pride and be good to the environment at the same time.

Two of Tacoma’s premier coffee roasters are represented and available in the co-op, Valhalla and Bluebeard. Coffee’s available by the pound in whole beans or you can grind it in store. Many Mad Hat Tea varieties are also available.

Parren seemed to have a solid basis of essential vegan items in mind, but I wondered if they’d gotten many requests for items before opening.

“Yes, we did get many on Facebook,” Parred affirmed. “We definitely had requests for organic produce and most vegan requests focused also on fresh and local, such as coffee, baked goods and bulk items.”

Though the co-op doesn’t have every item in that a vegan (or anyone else) could think of, Parren and the co-op welcome requests. During the interview, he showed me a stack of items that had just come in as a result of individuals asking for them. So if you can’t find an item you’re looking for, let them know. Parren and co. want to stock the shelves with items they know the community wants. More bulk items and a deli are two things that have been requested the most and that are in the works.

When asked how the reception had been to the co-op thus far after its “soft” opening, Parren didn’t hesitate to say that it’s been all positive.

“It seems that everyone is all about the organic veggies!” Parren exclaimed, with a smile. “With vegans, they are real, conscientious, fun and interesting people. They’ve seen things, heard things and are fun to socialize with. And they definitely aren’t afraid to speak their mind and voice their concerns!” You’ve got that right, Henri. And I for one appreciate shopping at a grocery store where the general manager actually knows what “vegan” means, and respects the lifestyle.

Whether you’ve stopped by the co-op multiple times since it opened (guilty) or you still haven’t made it over yet, all are invited to the Co-op’s official grand opening celebration, taking place this Saturday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. There will be a toast and opening remarks at that time, and it’ll be a great opportunity to meet Parren, the TFC board, fellow member-owners and even join the co-op if you were still holding out. If you haven’t fully realized all the reasons why you should be a member by now, maybe going to the storefront and feeling the sense of community and ownership that emanates throughout will help you understand exactly what we’re all so jazzed about.

Grand opening info:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 10, (09/10/11!)

Time: 2 p.m.-?

Location: 3002 6th Ave.

Tacoma Food Co-op general info:

Address: 3002 6th Ave.

Email: info@tacomafoodcoop.com (this is the co-op’s preferred method of contact)

Phone: (253) 627-3344

Regular hours: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Caffe Dei’s one-year anniversary BBQ wrap-up

Why hello, VM readers! It’s been a while! Travels and more traveling this summer (my favorite time of the year) have sadly rendered me behind in posts, but I promise that I have tons of photos and post material, ready to be set free in the very near future to make up for that absence.

First off, let’s pick up where I left off: Caffe Dei’s 1-year anniversary party. Shortly before the event started on the evening of July 1, Lisa (co-planner of the first ever Tacoma Vegan Bake Sale), our friend Crystal, and I were being interviewed outside of the cafe by a friend/reporter of the Tacoma Weekly for this article on Caffe Dei’s successful first year as well as the growing vegan community in the city. Check out the article and read my, Lisa’s, Crystal’s and Shane/Shuanna’s thoughts!

And now, here are a few snapshots from the anniversary party/mega vegan BBQ:

In addition to celebrating the birthday of a wonderful new vegetarian/vegan-friendly business to the neighborhood, this sign advertises what was (understandably) the main draw for many: burgers that were advertised as being as big as your head, in one of two types: classic or BBQ. I went with classic (I had to), but a few friends went for the BBQ and enjoyed them and their spicy kick, too. Kettle Chips rounded out the plates, that were already filled as it was. See below:

Yeah, these happened. The side view, complete with trimmings, monster bun, and…

aerial, complete with my friends’ plate of demolished burger goodness, our beers and wine, (that was my first Trippel and holy wow, was it tasty) in addition to cupcakes. Because clearly, all of this generously-portioned food wasn’t enough to sate us this Friday evening!

Staff worked hard that night and proved they can accomplish any vegan meal task they choose to take up, and I saw many individuals even opting to get some plates to go.

Patrons reveling in post-gigantic burger bliss.

And others enjoyed the warm weather and good company with burgers out-of-doors.

The event was also such a success and the burgers were so highly lauded that Caffe Dei decided to make them a more regular staple. They are now available for enjoyment on the weekends. I have to attest that they are the best vegan burgers I’ve ever had, and I’m really not a huge veggie burger fan! Get in and try one, (as well as any of their delightful iced coffee and tea beverages) soon!

A sneak peek of posts to come: Vegan Iron Chef, a  summery breakfast recipe, California eats and more Tacoma Food Co-Op updating.

And now, a question: with all of this (glorious) heat finally hitting the Northwest, what are your favorite, oven-free meals to make to keep cool, as well as make use of seasonal produce?

 

The Great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off Q&A and giveaway!

As some of you here in the South Sound may or may not have heard by now, one week from today a really rad fundraising event will be taking place in Seattle. The Inaugural Great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off is a feeder fundraiser that will help Seattle hold its first ever Vegan Iron Chef competition in late 2012, in addition to helping the city compete in regional Vegan Iron Chef competitions down the line.

We here in Washington know that Seattle is teeming with both amazing vegan and vegetarian restaurants and non-vegan restaurants that are incredibly kind to our diets and lifestyles. For this reason, I feel fairly confident that all of the wonderful chefs who make these great meals and experiences possible are definitely prime and ready to show off their skills in a competitive (yet fun and supportive) local event.

The idea to hold a Vegan Iron Chef originated in Portland in June of 2010 and was started as a way to support excellent vegan cooking in the community, and to start a spark to hold similar events in other vegan communities. From the event’s website:

The vision of the Vegan Iron Chef organization is to celebrate creative culinary achievements, unite the ever-expanding vegan community, and encourage and support regional Vegan Iron Chef competitions in cities across the globe. We are a Portland-based nonprofit network utilizing an arts–entertainment platform to bring awareness and respect to the vegan lifestyle and cruelty-free cuisine.

The inaugural event was a great success and is coming back for its second installment on July 10, 2011. In the spirit of supporting fellow vegans and the Northwest vegan community, Vegan Iron Chef organizers Liz Miller, Michele Truty and the lovely Jess Scone will all be in attendance at the Great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off, and will be tabling for their event as well as enjoying some fine chili. I caught up with Anika Lehde of Seattle Vegan Score to chat a bit about the chili cook-off one week out.

Vegan Moxie: What was the catalyst for deciding to hold the Great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off this year?

Anike Lehde: Through writing Vegan Score and volunteering at Sidecar, I discovered how huge and diverse the vegan community is here in the NW. I wanted to do something that would bring the entire vegan community together for something fun and social plus invite lots of non-vegans too.  A Chili Cook-Off seemed like just the right type of event. Then when Derrick Hachey was inspired by Portland to put on a Vegan Iron Chef event in Seattle, I realized that a chili cook-off would be a perfect fundraising event.

VM: Tell me a little more about Vegan Iron Chef, (who, where, what, when) and why you’re helping to bring it north to Seattle.

AL: The Seattle Vegan Iron Chef will be modeled on the event in Portland with local vegan chefs competing, a live audience and then live streaming online for remote viewing parties. The event date and location are still to be determined, but the “who” is hopefully lots of folks in our area. This event will take even more volunteers than the Chili Cook-Off! There are a lot of terrible myths about vegan food and putting on an event that celebrates the fantastic vegan culinary world is a perfect fit for Seattle’s foodie scene. You can be passionate about food and flavor and cooking – and still follow your conscience. You don’t have to choose one over the other.

VM:  Will the Seattle Vegan Iron Chef event be pretty similar to the original Portland event, or will there be some intriguing changes that people who went to the first in Portland (or who have read about it) be curious to know about?

AL: The Seattle event won’t be exactly the same, namely because we don’t have quite the same environment, event space, etc., and because we have the benefit of learning from Portland on what worked best and what could be improved. At the core it will be the same, though. Amazing vegan chefs competing across multiple courses with a “mystery ingredient.”

VM:  I read your interview with Jess highlighting her (and other Portlanders’) support of the cook-off and Vegan Iron Chef, and they’re even coming! In what other ways can you foresee Seattle, Portland, (maybe even Tacoma?) converging to support each other, and maybe in ways other than events?

AL: Right now, there are already other ways that the NW is coming together, especially on the political side. It isn’t strange to see Portland Animal Defense League up here protesting with the Seattle Chapter, or folks from B.C. coming into town for fundraisers, etc. I know people road trip from Seattle up and down the coast for our NW Community. Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma are extremely supportive with each other, sharing information via community blogs and twitter, visiting each other’s towns, and I think that the Vida Vegan Con blogger conference will give folks another great opportunity to meet and think of ways to “converge,” as you put it. Plus there are lots of opportunities to support those just interested in veganism through events and NARN’s Vegan Mentor program.

VM: Who is helping you put on the cook-off?

AL: Oh man, so many vegans and non-vegans alike! Susie Cagle (vegan cartoonist in SF http://www.thisiswhatconcernsme.com/about-susie/) designed the logo and Julia MacCracken designed the poster.  Stephanie Lefaive, Amber Tegantvoort, Mo Wyse, Julia MacCracken, and Sara Beth Russert are baking cornbread for everyone. Helen Pitlick and Derrick Hachey helped post and distribute flyers around town. Peter Keller will be DJing during the event and Shawn McClung will be the official photographer. Brittany Leimbach, Maré Odomo,  Kirby Johnson, Emily Spahn, Jeff Morrison, Simar Tate, Tyler Shannon, Michelle Shannon, (and you!) will be helping set up, take down, decorate, make signs, count votes, pick up prizes and more.

VM: What are you looking forward to most about the cook-off?

AL: The chili of course! But I also can’t wait to hang out with folks I rarely get to see, meet new people and share information about our local animal advocacy groups. (Plus, if you’ve not had the pleasure of hearing DJ Pelvis, you are in for a treat!).

VM:  Tell us about the awards/prizes the winners will receive, (we all know they’re not that important, but cred’s awesome to have!).

AL: Each will get a little assortment of goodies such as gift certificates to local vegan restaurants, music by local vegan musicians, cookbooks and even some handmade vegan pottery chili bowls. One of the winners will get a hand stamped chili spoon too!

VM:  I’ve read the list of chili contenders and their descriptions of their recipes and it seems like there will be a great variety. (Editor’s note: see all of the entries and read about the entrants here). Did you see a few trends in chili forming as the recipes came in, or do you think every recipe is a standout and holds its own?

AL: No trends. I was actually truly surprised by the variety of ingredients, spice level and inspiration for the dishes. No two chilis will be alike.

VM: Okay, that’s all my questions! Thanks for answering them, and is there anything else you’d like to let people know?

AL: Three other things to note: 1. This isn’t an event just for vegans. Everyone is invited and welcome. We encourage folks to bring their friends and family. The chili will be fabulous! It isn’t about being exclusive. 2. The event is also supported by our local animal advocacy groups: NARN, Seattle ADL, Green Vegans, Earth Residents United and Action for Animals. There will information on each of these groups so folks in our community can get to know them better and see if they want to get involved.  3. There will be beer available by donation, too!

Beer and chili are pretty much a match made in heaven. I also saw Anika today for a volunteer meeting for the event and she let me know that if you are planning to go, you should definitely get your tickets in advance! They are going fast and there is limited capacity at the venue. You do not want to miss this sweet vegan event!

Here are the deets:

Date/time: Sunday, May 15, 2011, 6-8 p.m.
Location: Mount Baker Club House, 2811 Mount Rainier Drive South, Seattle WA 98144
Cost: only $10, $7 for students, free for kids under 12. Buy your tickets here, (tickets are also available Sidecar in the U-District).

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So, you want to enjoy some chili and cornbread in good company too, huh? Well, here’s your chance to score entrance for you and a friend for free.

Anika graciously offered up two tickets to the cook-off to give away here on the blog, and all you have to do to win them is:

Leave a comment telling me about the best vegan chili you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Was it super spicy? Mild? Was it from a can, homemade or from a random, non-vegan restaurant that just happened to have this great vegan offering? Whatever and wherever it came from, I want to know about it! Note: You don’t have to be vegan to enter, but the chili you tell me about has to be!

You can enter until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, and I’ll pick a winner at random and announce it on Wednesday morning. Good luck, and I hope to see you at the cook-off!