It’s been a little over a week since the first ever Vida Vegan Conference for vegan bloggers took place in Portland, Ore., and I’m still taking it all in. Attendees have gone back to their respective homes in other cities, states and countries, but the effects of converging together over a weekend to share ideas, tips and experiences are still with and affecting each of us, as the event’s Facebook and Twitter, and attendees’ blogs (that’s a link to an RSS feed of all of ’em) affirm.
Before I begin the recap, I have to say that I was completely honored and thrilled to have been a part of this conference as an attendee and a speaker. Jess, Janessa and Michele each put so much of themselves into this conference, and it truly showed. I’m in awe of their individual/collective abilities to plan and put on such a grand event all while working day jobs and maintaining their own lives (and sanity). It just goes to show that when projects start out of passion and heart, something amazing surfaces.
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Surreal. That’s the one word that I feel best sums up getting to meet bloggers I’ve read for years who have unknowingly helped me in my transition to veganism, and also those I’d just heard of recently due to the conference. It was invigorating to know that though some of us are fledgeling bloggers, we were all in Portland for the same reasons: we eat the same foods, strive to live cruelty-free lifestyles and want to tell the world about it.
As soon as I arrived to the University Place Hotel Thursday afternoon (where the event was held), I ran into Brittany, aka Brit_on_Twit to you. She lives north of Seattle and we’d previously met, but it was too funny that she was the first person I saw. From there, we headed to the first pre-Vida Vegan Con event: the Meet and Greet at Vendetta.
We each ordered one of Vendetta’s few, but tasty-sounding vegan items: Brit the Sloppy Joes and I the Tofu Sandwich. It consisted of slices of plain tofu (which I’ve come to like recently, I’ve realized!) with a cilantro-lime seasoning, garlic-habenero sauce and a side of pickled veggies. Appropriately sized and well-flavored, this hit the spot.
Next, it was time for the meeting and greeting!
– I practically grabbed Gabrielle Pope when she walked by and introduced myself, as we were speaking on a panel together but had only met online at that point! And I did the same with Janessa, as we’d emailed back and forth and missed each other at Vegan Iron Chef, but it was so wonderful to see her smile in person.
– Jess introduced us to Bryanna Clark Grogan right away, and I was nearly starstruck. Bryanna’s blog and recipes have been staples in my kitchen for the holidays for years, yet her pleasant demeanor immediately made me feel at ease.
– I saw Australian activist Leigh-Chantelle Koch walk by and said her name, and then she sat down next to me and we chatted about her summer travels and the con for some time. She’s adorable, has impeccable taste in dresses and has an accent I could listen to for hours.
After drinks and chatter, we all mosied on over to the Curious Comedy Theater to see a sneak preview of the documentary “Vegucated.” I’d been eager to see this film and it did not disappoint. What I loved about “Vegucated” was that it not only discussed the health benefits of veganism, but it also covered the environmental and animal rights aspects of it, too. It did so by following around three volunteers who went vegan for six weeks and documenting how they reacted to the changes in their bodies as well as the new information they learned.
As someone who’s been vegan nearly six years I didn’t learn a ton from the film, but I was still moved by it and reacted in all the ways filmmakers want you to: laughed, was angered, and cried. The film was entertaining while still remaining informative, and I urge everyone to see it when it makes its way to your city. I spoke with Demetrius (the film’s PR superstar) and he informed me that the Grand Cinema was the first theater to request the film on its own merit, so dear Tacomans, please look out for it in the near future. For those outside of Tacoma, you can sign up to host a screening and learn more about it sharing it with your community here.
After the film, many of us made our way to the Bye and Bye’s new sister (also all vegan, amazing) bar, the Sweet Hereafter. Here’s my Gin Julep, which was fresh, tart and a taste of summer in a glass, (not pictured, a generous Bahn Mi):
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On Friday, we all had some downtime before the first official con event took place in the afternoon, so many of us gathered to tour the Bob’s Red Mill HQ in Milwaukie, Ore. Our car got a tad lost, but we eventually made it and joined the rest of the group.
I’m a sucker (read: nerd) for these types of tours where you get to see the way that a business is run and how its products are produced, but it’s even better when it’s a company you patronize. Bob’s Red Mill makes 450 whole grain products including gluten-free, pre-made baking mixes, soups and more.
After using many of our senses to experience the products in the factory, we drove to the place where we could procure some: the Whole Grain Store & Cafe.
Though it was lunch time, my breakfast consisted of a very lunch-like, huge burrito, so these monster whole grain pancakes were calling my name. Out of these three, I could only consume one. I took leftovers back, don’t you worry.
Next we headed back to our respective rooms/dorms to get dolled up for the first Vida Vegan event: the VegNews Champagne and Cupcake reception in the hotel’s ballroom.
We sampled Chipotle Cheddar, Smoked Gouda and Monterey Jack hazelnut cheeses and crackers from Portland-based Heido Ho Organics, (each were delicious and I hope they make them widely available soon!) and three different types of cupcakes from local Sweetpea Bakery.
As we enjoyed our fare, we took the time to relax and get to know our fellow bloggers better.
Though I met her the previous evening, I snapped a pic with the lovely Joni of Just the Food,
After we mixed and chatted and drank our fair share of champagne, the posse headed over to a bar I’d been meaning to visit for too long: Tube.
Our group was not one to call it a night early, and thus we made our way to karaoke at Suki’s! There was a large group of con goers here, and we represented ourselves well. Many got up and sang, including myself and Brit for Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere.” Yes, this is one of my standards. There was also some Bowie, Lou Reed, Britney, but Jess’ vocal stylings blew me away the most, (I had no idea you were such a talented karaoke star, girl, no idea!). I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do well.
After we all karaoked our hearts out and realized the rest of our other songs weren’t coming up, we decided to call it a night.
Days 3 and 4 coming soon!