Sidecar Septemberfest this weekend!

Photo of delicious Sidecar goodies by veganheathen, via Creative Commons

Love supporting sweet pigs and eating delicious vegan cookies? There’s an event happening for you this weekend!

Sidecar for Pigs Peace, the glorious, volunteer-run, all-vegan grocery store in the U District is holding Sidecar Septemberfest! Happening this Saturday and Sunday, the event promises the following wonderful things:

A party!
Free cookies
Free samples
Sweet deals
A wonderful feeling in your heart knowing you supported happy pigs at the sanctuary

Come and stock up on some vegan essentials and/or splurges, hang with good people and earn raffle tickets based on how much your purchase. Rumor has it that there’ll be some awesome raffle prizes, too.

I’ll definitely be attending, as it’s been too long since I’ve visited our city’s only all-vegan store. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Deets:

Where: Sidecar for Pigs Peace, 5270 B University Way NE
When: Saturday, Sept. 8 and Sunday, Sept. 9
RSVP for the event on Facebook here.

Bearded Lady Food Company review on CakeSpy

Habanero brownie from Bearded Lady Food Company.

I love me some sweet treats. A lot. Probably too much. But this has been a part of me since I was little. Growing up I loved ice cream, and as I got older it turned to cookies. Soon came my cupcake phase, then pie, and now I’m way into cookies again. I hold firmly to the belief that life is too short to not enjoy something sweet every once in a while, (you know, especially if you’re eating your kale and fruits too) and thankfully, my friend Roxanne gets that. It’s one of the many things we have in common.

Since she became a vegetarian, we often head out to places to eat veg meals together and sometimes, those dinners turn into dinner and dessert – much to our mutual happiness. That’s how we first ventured to Beaded Lady Food Company with a few other friends. One of our dining companions suggested we mosey on over to the very vegan-friendly bakery post-dinner, and we never looked back.

Roxanne asked me to visit again (after dinner together, natch) and if I’d like to help her review this magical sweet factory in the heart of downtown Oly. Naturally, I said yes.

Our review is now up on the adorable, all sweets, all the time blog CakeSpy, so check it out. If you’re in the Seattle metro area, I highly suggest you make a trip to Beaded Lady a priority on your next visit south. You will not regret it. I mean, just check out their amazing logo! Make sure to bring cash and check the hours beforehand, too.

And now I’m craving a habanero brownie.

Summer fun, food nerd edition: canning and jamming

Over a month ago, two food-loving friends, Adrienne, Roxanne and I were discussing jam-making and canning and the fact that both Roxanne and I hadn’t done either. We both love jam and have an appreciation for homemade food, but were both intimidated by the process of making it at home, (and I was admittedly fearful of botulism).

Thankfully, Adrienne is a pro at canning and jam-making, and even made homemade jam for each of the guests that attended her wedding last year – about 150 people! When she offered to teach Roxanne and I the basics of both of these activities at her home, we jumped at the opportunity. Who can say no to wine, good company, a new/educational food experience, and lots of delicious leftovers? Not this guy.

So we met up this past Sunday at Adrienne’s in Tacoma, armed with lots of strawberries and vegan-friendly sugar to make Blue Chair Fruit’s Strawberry Jam with Aged Balsamic and Black Pepper (and one batch without pepper too). The combo of sweet strawberries (and the classic nostalgia of this jam flavor), richness of balsamic and the kick that black pepper promised all sounded like an excellent mix to me, and I was excited to experience the results.

Once we arrived, we got to work quickly! Adrienne had Roxanne and I hull four pounds of strawberries for the first batch. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lot of strawberries:

After hulling, we put them in a large pot and added sugar, balsamic, and lemon juice. And then we got to stirring. One thing I learned about jam-making? It’s a mega arm workout. I could stand to make more jam.

Technically this is the beginning of batch two, but just wanted to show the beginning of the process.

Keep stirring until juice began to form on the bottom, and so that the fruit doesn’t stick to the bottom. The pot is heated to a boil at this point, so be careful. Skim away any excess foam you see if you don’t want it in the jar (we did this step, but it’s optional).

Me taking a photo of Roxanne photographing the process. Slightly meta.

Adrienne teaching/stirring away.

The jam we made was pectin-free, so we had to test to make sure that it had “jelled” by placing some of the jam on a refrigerated plate. It did, woo! Then it was time to fill the jars. Here’s all the quarter-pint jars we started with:And then we poured jam in through the funnel, filling the jars most of the way. No photos of this as we were busy learning by doing. Next the jars were tightened and put into boiling water for processing. And then…

…we had jam! It had to cool first, but you know, it was definitely jam at this point.

My sweet haul.

I had such a great time getting together with these ladies (who I sorely miss now that I’m a few cities away) and catching up, drinking lots of white zin and of course, dishing about how much we love food and all the summery things we were enjoying. If Adrienne does start teaching jamming classes soon and you’re in the South Sound, I highly recommend taking one. I’m much less intimidated by the whole process now. I’d love to get into canning right away but alas, this hobby will have to wait until I have more space.

One of the very best parts of this class happened the next morning: the tasting!

Needless to say, it’s delicious. The strawberry flavor was perfectly sweet – not too sweet like I feel most jams are, and it was enhanced and brightened by fresh lemon juice. The balsamic added a depth of flavor to this combo that was effortlessly natural. Balsamic isn’t something I think of when I think of sweet things, but I’ve always been impressed by how well it melds with them. That was definitely the case here. I couldn’t taste the pepper in the first jar we’re on, but I think we erred on the side of not pepper-crazy. If I were to do this again, I’d be more liberal with the grinder because I love some spice.

And here’s past Sunday’s breakfast: Ezekiel bread toasted, and slathered with this perfect homemade spread. We’re slowly enjoying it, and I’m also currently thinking up other ways to utilize it. If you have ideas/recipes/suggestions, please mention them in the comments.

For the teacher’s perspective of this class, the full recipe and much more precise directions, check out Adrienne’s excellent post.

Vegan Filipino cooking adventure

Last weekend, I got together with two friends, Helen and Madeline – both Seattleites, food bloggers (Helen is vegan, and Madeline is a vegan sympathizer), and alumni of the graduate school program that I’ll be starting next month – the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington.

One day, Madeline and Helen were chatting up the possibility of having a dinner party where they made vegan-friendly Filipino food so that Helen could experience it (and Madeline could veganize some of her traditional dishes) on Twitter. Madeline messaged and thought I might be interested in joining. Of course I was interested!

Growing up, one of my best friends in my hometown was Filipino. Her mom would make big batches of food for parties and just weeknight dinners and would always invite me over. She loved me, because I ate everything on my plate and always exclaimed how wonderful it was. It was definitely not vegan, but the impact of those very distinct flavor combinations and textures never left my memory. Thus, I was excited to take up the challenge of making some of these (veganized) dishes myself for the first time with great company.

We all gathered at Madeline’s lovely home with fresh ingredients, cutting boards, knives and Helen’s addition of authentic San Miguel beer in tow. Madeline was amazing and prepped separate “stations” (so very Rachael Ray of her!) so that we could each prep different dishes at the same time.

I was in charge of making the adobo – veganized by the usage of Portabello mushrooms. It called for whole peppercorns, which excited this diehard spice lover.

Here was the entire menu, written in order that it was prepared:

Sounds amazing, right?

Madeline was in charge of the afritada, Helen the filling for the lumpia, and Helen and I worked together to prep veggies for an Asian cucumber salad. While we each choppped and prepped, we all chatted about the nerdy things that we’re all passionate about: food/eating, Seattle and social media. The more that we hung out, the more I realized how much we all have in common.

Action shot of Helen prepping lumpia filling.

After most of our dishes were done or prepped, Madeline gave us a lumpia-rolling lesson. Having no prior lumpia prep experience, I was intrigued and also a little nervous that I was gonna mess it up. Thankfully, Madeline was an ace teacher, and after a couple lumpia, Helen and I were rollin’ em up like pros. See here:

Madeline was a great and patient as we learned the subtle art behind lumpia-rolling.

And she showed us the proper placement of the filling on the lumpia wrapper. This resonated with me, as it seemed similar to where you place filling on a tortilla when making burritos. Then came the rolling part, which seemed like it could be dicey, but we got the hang of it quickly.

Lumpia pile success.

I fried ‘em up, and I fried ‘em up good.

Madeline shared that the secret to perfecting fried food: adding kosher salt immediately after it comes out of the frier. Brilliant, and from what I could tell, it worked like a charm.

Big ol’ pot of adobo.

 

Our mighty, vegan Filipino spread.

Madeline had prepared a vegan coconut sorbet as our dessert, but it didn’t firm up as expected. With a slight of hand and amazing improv skills, Madeline and her husband whipped up this amazing dessert for us:

Banana and Jackfruit Turon, with coconut sauce as the topping.

Holy moly. I don’t really have many words for this dish, just delicious “mmms,” “ahhs,” and an assortment of other guttural noises of delicious contentment. It was truly that good.

A few days after we left, Madeline realized that a certain traditional flavor was missing from her afritada: fish sauce. Did she see this as an obstacle? No way! Instead she took it as an opportunity to make Helen and I bottles of vegan fish sauce, and brought some to me at work!

I have yet to use it, but I’ve been plotting all the ways I can integrate it into my cooking in my head since I received it. It was such a thoughtful gift and I’m so excited to use it and see the difference it makes in certain dishes.

I bet you’d like links to the recipes we used for prepping this vegan Filipino meal, huh? Head over to Helen’s post where she has all the tasty links.

It was an awesomely fun and delicious evening with some amazingly inspiring ladies. I can’t wait for our next veganized dinner party/cooking evening, where I’ll be showing the ladies how to cook a specialty from my Mexican heritage that I haven’t prepped in some time: veganized tamales. I’m already pumped.

 

 

 

 

 

Vida Vegan Tech Seminar & Vida Vegan Con 2013

To put my life in terms that others from my generation will understand, things have been coming up Milhouse in a big way for me lately.

More personally (and reflective of real life Dawn), I’ve started a new job that is creative and fun and allows me to write all day.

More professionally but not job-related, I’ve been invited to speak at not one, but two vegan blogging events coming up in the next year that you’ve possibly heard of:

The Vida Vegan Con Fall Tech Seminar in Seattle,

and Vida Vegan Con 2013 in Portland.

How does all of this amazing news makes me feel, you may wonder? Kind of like these super pumped, ridiculously adorable otters.

But really, I’m mostly just honored and so, so grateful.

At both events I’ll be speaking (it’ll be a different talk at each for those attending both!) about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, so much so that I’ll be studying it this fall, and that I sit on a board discussing it with other nerds: social media.

And I’ll be presenting at both with a fellow Seattle-ite, Vida Vegan Con 2011 alumni and Field Roast hot dog-eating friend, Helen of Vegtastic. She’s one of the savviest social media mavens I know, and I’m confident that when we combine our powers, we shall compose two awesome sessions filled with strategic digital media and marketing tips, tricks, and much more.

The Tech Seminar is a one-day event that will focus on all things tech/nitty gritty about blogging: it’ll go more in depth about starting a blog from scratch, which forms of social media to use and how to integrate them, as well as more advanced blog options such as audio/video integration.

The Vida Vegan Con 2013 event will expand upon what the first was: a combination of workshops, panels and social events all celebrating and focusing on vegan blogging and spreading the word about the vegan lifestyle in new/emerging mediums.

VVC friends at the Bye & Bye, looking awesome.

I’ve described Vida Vegan Con to those who couldn’t attend the first as “vegan sleepaway camp,” and I’ve reminisced about it longingly since last August. Sitting at dinners and in talks and social gatherings with hundreds of other people who immediately *get* a big part of your life is an amazing thing to experience, and having the opportunity to learn from these people who all have something to share is even more wonderful. I met so many bloggers I’ve come to admire and came out of the event with a crazy long lists of blogs to read, and many of them are favorites now. More so than that, I’ve got memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, (cheesy, but true).

If you missed the inaugural event and have been kicking yourself since, I suggest you start planning for 2013 now. Whether you’ve been blogging for a while, you’d like to start a blog or you actually don’t have an interest in blogging but would like to meet and collaborate with those who do, I highly recommend the experience. It’s an event that you will gain an inconceivable amount from in just a few precious days. And I’m not just talking pounds from all the amazing PDX food that’s to be consumed.

100 early bird tickets for VVC 2013 go on sale over on the Vida Vegan Con site Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12 p.m. PST for $200.  After they sell out, the remaining tickets will become available at regular price.

Here are some more pertinent deets:

When: Friday-Sunday, May 24-26, 2013

Where: Portland Art Museum, 1219 Southwest Park Avenue,  Portland, OR 97205

I can’t wait to see everyone who attended the 2011 event again, to meet a whole bunch of new folks next May, and to continue eating my way through one of my favorite vegan-loving cities in the country.

So, will I see you at the next Vegan Lovefest?

 

 

Still not tired of vegan Thai: Peanut Sauce

Hey guys! It’s high time I had a guest poster on the blog, and I couldn’t be luckier to have this particular first one.

Anika runs the uber informative, always funny and long-running Seattle Vegan Score blog, when she’s not volunteering at the wonderful Sidecar For Pigs Peace, putting on Chili Cook-Offs or just being a super awesome, sweet professional and vegan ambassador. She ventured down to Tacoma this weekend and hit up a new favorite of mine for this post. Enjoy, and please check out her blog if you somehow haven’t already! It’s been my go-to resource when visiting the Emerald City for years.

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I know my blog is called Seattle Vegan Score, but Tacoma is our littler sister city and it’s vegan-friendly dining scene is growing wildly these days. We should really hang out more often. With that spirit in mind, let me introduce you to a very unassuming joint for Thai-loving vegans in Tacoma: Peanut Sauce Thai Cuisine.

“Don’t judge a restaurant by its strip mall,” has always been my motto – and it came in handy on this recent trip. You’ll find this popular and packed Thai restaurant with a huge vegetarian menu hidden near the Tacoma Mall off of exit 130.


Not everything on the vegetarian menu is automatically vegan, but it is all made without fish sauce, oyster sauce, or shrimp paste. The staff at Peanut Sauce is pretty veg-knowledgeable, super friendly, attentive, and happy to answer any questions about ingredients.

The menu is enormous, with separate sections for vegetarian curries, noodle dishes, general entrees, soups, salads, appetizers, and house specialties. And you won’t find just standard Thai fare here, you’ll get options like avocado curry, fried basil leaves, and all different types of lime, peanut, onion, garlic, and bean sauces.

I devoured a green papaya salad – where they replace the fish sauce with a fragrant tangy concoction of tamarind and soy sauce. Then I stuffed myself full of one of the house specialties, garlic tofu with crispy fried basil leaves. It really is a dish better shared, but who is complaining?

So friends, when you find yourself further south, or *gasp* shopping at the Tacoma Mall, find yourself at Peanut Sauce Thai Cuisine and you won’t be disappointed.

Peanut Sauce Thai
5003 Tacoma Mall Blvd
# 105
Tacoma, WA 98409-7120
(253) 475-4889

Vida Vegan Con: Days 3 & 4

Saturday, August 27 was the first official day of the conference. First things first, and one of the things I was looking forward to the most: the full, vegan breakfast buffet! This is my favorite meal of the day, and most breakfast buffets make me sad, but this one was filled with gf biscuits and gravy, chia pudding (yum), lots of fruit, potatoes, scramble and more! I thought I’d get seconds after this plate, but that did not happen. The idea crossed my mind simply because I could, and how many more all-vegan buffets do you think I’ll be seeing in the near future? Not many, friends.

After breakfast we all headed off to the panels, the first of which I went to was the Travel panel with Laura of Vegansaurus (!!), Webly of Stumptown Vegans, Samantha Cohen and Jason Das of SuperVegan and Carolyn Scott-Hamilton of The Healthy Voyager. The panel covered a range of topics, from how they plan their vegan vacations, to which city they deemed Vegan Mecca (answer was overwhelmingly/not surprisingly Portland), tips for reviewing restaurants and choosing whether to support only all vegan or omnivorous, mainstream restaurants.

The second panel I attended was the Nutrition panel, and I was super pumped for it, as I may have mentioned prior to leaving for the con. On the panel were (left to right in the photo): Gena of Choosing Raw, Wendy of Veg Food & Fit, esteemed cookbook writer Bryanna and Ginny of The Vegan RD. I took a ton of notes on this panel and particularly enjoyed the discussions about raw food vs. cooked, sugar, supplements and the panelists’ current food obsessions.

Panel three of day one was the one and only panel that I was speaking on: The Accidental Journalist. I was plenty nervous before it started, but Michele and Gabrielle calmed me down some, and I think it’s because I could tell they were nervous, too, (sorry to call you out, guys). Prior to the day, we’d been working on our presentation collectively online and I think that we each brought something constructive and helpful to the talk. The consensus after was that people definitely got something out of it and one noted they “were taken back to their high school English classes.” Success.  A few topics covered were: grammar, plagiarism, our biggest pet peeves, spelling and voice and we took a few great questions from the audience. Thanks for being part of the nerdy writer dream team, Gabrielle and Michele!

Photo of me talking with my hands, courtesy of the lovely Jess Scone, (with Michele to the left and Gabrielle on my right).

After the talk was lunch. After reading others’ posts on this day, my photo makes me feel slightly gluttonous, but no matter. It was delicious and I cleared my plate, which was composed of: BBQ tempeh on the bottom, asparagus and an array veggies, kale (duh), orzo salad/raw golden beet salad and pesto potato salad. Goodness gracious.

And of course, first dessert. Luna and Larry’s was a con sponsor, so we all had our choice of original naked coconut or dark chocolate Coconut Bliss bars. I chose chocolate and it was phenomenal – rich, with a smooth texture and the perfect melding of coconut and decadent chocolate. Wow. Great ice cream bar for a hot day.

The next panel was Small Towns, Represent!, with Bianca of Vegan Crunk, John of Laziest Vegans in the World, Lauren from Whoa Wren, Ryan from T.O.F.U. Magazine and Elizabeth from VegNews. I knew I wanted to attend this panel because Tacoma, while getting better, is still challenging at times for vegans and it also seems as though there aren’t many of us. That is until we throw a vegan bake sale, and people start coming out of the wood works! It was great to hear the individuals behind the successful Vegan Omaha group discuss how to start a successful vegan community in an area that poses challenges. I loved this panel because of how interactive it was, due in part to the audience and their helpful questions/answers. I wrote down many ideas that I plan to work on in the near future.

The last talk for day one was Planting Seeds of Compassion: Communication as Activism by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I was only familiar with her cookbooks prior to this talk, and wasn’t very aware of her speaking career, but I know one thing after listening to her speak: the woman is truly inspiring. She’s as passionate as she is intelligent as she is thought-provoking, and I’m so thankful I chose to sit in on her talk about how we can affect change daily simply by living the vegan lifestyle. Here are two quotes I found particularly stirring:

“There is inherent violence in taking the life of an animal. We compartmentalize our compassion.”

“My hope is we all embrace our unconditional compassion and inspire others to do the same.”

Post-panels, we all headed back to our respective rooms to get dolled up for the Galarama at the Ambridge Event Center. The event offered up a great variety of appetizers by The Vegan Caterer, including Gardein chic’n tenders, seitan sliders, salad rolls and bruschetta with spinach artichoke dip. Also: there were slices of Sizzle Pies that went really fast, but we managed to grab some, and I was in heaven. Must go there on a future visit soon!

The event was also a fundraiser for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, and I think almost every person in our group came out with a great basket and prize, (mine was a gluten-free baked goodies basket from the lovely Back to Eden Bakery, which I love!).

Here’s a group of us in our vegan party attire, (Me, Katie, Becca, Taylor and Brit).

We also got in line for a really awesome twist on photobooth pictures: Fliptography flipbooks! Anika, Brit and I wanted to do a metro Seattle/Tacoma book, and here’s a snap of us, pre-Anika jumping in:

Photo by the lovely Megan. Every time I look through this book now, I just start cracking up. What a great, sweet little souvenir!

Post-dinner, pre-flipbooking, there was some definite Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss sundae bar action going on. Vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and peanut butter sauces, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips and marshmallow creme. I didn’t think I could handle more food, but I was wrong.

After the event we walked to the Vegan Mini-Mall to Food Fight! where the Upton’s Natural’s pop-up sandwich shop was taking place. Though we were all filled with food, a group of 5 of us ladies split two sandwiches – the BLT and the seitan eggplant on focaccia. Damn they were delicious. After roaming the stores, we walked to nearby Hungry Tiger Too for drinks, more convos and so Brit and Kyle could split a corndog and tots. I had some bites, I won’t lie.

Some of us decided we’d rather not wait for the bus and thus hit the streets to walk back to our hotel/dorms, despite fancy garb, baskets of winnings and inappropriate shoes (on Taylor and my parts, at least). Despite that, the walk was beautiful, as evidenced by my blurry shot of downtown Portland at night. It was a lovely eve and I honestly haven’t walked around Portland much in my visits to the city, so I was happy we took up this opportunity. This moment was one of my favorites of the weekend, walking with fellow vegans after a great night, taking in Portland for all the beauty and stillness it had to offer.

On Sunday morning, we all headed back to breakfast, despite our 2-ish a.m. bedtimes, (bad partying bloggers!). Breakfast was the same as before, except this time around I got less of everything except added another biscuit and gravy and tried one of the plain So Delicious Greek style coconut yogurts. Loved the consistency and taste. Need to track some down and integrate it in recipes.

My first Sunday panel was Activism, pictured above, with Jasmin of Our Hen House, Leigh-Chantelle of Viva La Vegan, Ryan, Chelsea of Flavor Vegan, Sunny of Peta2 and Isa. As I’ve been learning more and getting more involved in activism, I definitely knew that this was a panel I needed to attend, and I’m so glad I did. The panel focused on ways in which bloggers can integrate activism in their blogs, food as activism, how to get more people to attend events and tips for avoiding “activist” burnout. They also fielded some great audience questions.

Second session of Sunday was Extreme Food Writing Makeover with Dynise of Urban Vegan. As an avid fan of Dynise’s blog and book, I wanted to see how she could help me fine-tune my blog posts and make them tighter, something I definitely struggle with. Dynise gave us all some doable goals, and even had us taste a pistachio and almond and write down what we thought of them immediately as an exercise. After this class ended I had so much to think about in terms of my own food writing, but that all has to wait, as this post is already breaking so many of those rules, (due to length, mostly!). Brevity, no more cliches, choosing better words, etc. are new goals.

Next up, another writing class, (I loved all the writing classes!): Story-making and Food Blogging with Terry of Vegan Latina.

Isn’t she gorgeous? Just as smart, sassy and adorable as I imagined.

I’d read that Romero was a nerd, but I really had no idea until I sat through her presentation, (D&D and cat references abounded). What I found so helpful about her presentation was that she reverted to the basics in regards to writing, such as: what is a story? What’s your story? Who’s your audience and how to battle “monsters” that may come up as you’re writing. I left this talk with, again, lots on my mind, and some great tactics to use when I get stuck thinking “what on Earth should I post next?” Terry’s was easily one of my favorite presentations of Vida Vegan Con.

Lunch followed, and I was too hungry/forgetful and spaced on taking a photo. Thankfully, Katie got a great shot that looks very similar to what I ate.

Imagine this without the rice and black olives, and you’ll have my lunch. I’ll never, ever tire of Mexican food. The buffet included soy curls, Daiya pepperjack, Food For Lovers queso and raw walnut “meat,” (cue our junior high laughter).

Next up was the Publishing panel, with Isa, Terry, cookbook writer and Native Bowl owner Julie, Bryanna, Joni of Just the Food and Ryan. They discussed the many mediums and ways in which one can go about publishing the cookbooks of their dreams. This panel wasn’t of particular relevance to me, but listening to some personal heroes speak on the topic was enlightening.

The last panel I attended for the con was Your Blog Sucks: Opinionated Bloggers. Panelists for this included: Jasmin Singer, Ben Grossblatt, Jordan Pattern and Laura Beck and discussed how to find your voice, letting comments fall as they may, consistency and quality. As Jasmin so eloquently summed up in the beginning, “if you can’t take the heat, stay out of your opinionated kitchen!”

After the last panels, we all headed back to the hotel ballroom one last time for the closing address – the last official element of the conference.

The closing address by Isa and Terry nearly brought my sappy self to tears.

This image inspires me, and serves as proof for anyone who doubted the fact that 250+ passionate, thoughtful and unique vegans can fill up a conference.

My post-con dinner at the Bye & Bye with a core group of attendees: the Eastern bowl with nooch-covered tofu, brown rice, broccoli and peanut sauce, and my gin-based cocktail (spaced on the name).

The crew, all together for one last round of invigorating conversation, laughs and bonding with those like ourselves, (Clockwise, left to right, Jared, Brit, Taylor, Samantha, Me, Becca, Katie and Bianca down in front).

Just writing this made me feel super nostalgic. I said it in my first VVC wrap post and I’ll say it again: I feel so grateful to have been a part of this amazing event, to have gotten the chance to meet many of my vegan blogging heroes and to have learned and partied with them all in a great city. Vida Vegan Con was one of the greatest weekends of my life, and I can’t wait to do it all over again in 2013. See you then, friends!

Vida Vegan Con, I’m comin’

When you read this, I’ll be getting ready to drive down to Portland to attend the first ever Vida Vegan Conference for vegan bloggers. In recent weeks my excitement for the con has mounted to previously inconceivable levels. This week, VVC has swallowed up all my thoughts, much to the chagrin of my job, I’m sure.

The event takes place Aug. 26-28 at Portland State University and will combine workshops, panels, cooking demos and a sprinkling of other events all celebrating and focusing on vegan blogging and spreading the word about the vegan lifestyle in old and new/emerging mediums.

I am so excited to take part in this event not only by attending as many of the amazing agenda elements as humanly possible, but also by presenting for  “The Accidental Journalist” class with two fellow vegan journalist writers: Gabrielle Pope of Vegans on the Move and Michele Truty, co-planner of the conference and Vegan Iron Chef and writer of Vegtastic Voyage.  I read Gabrielle’s work when she was an editorial assistant at VegNews and know that she knows her vegan stuff and is an excellent writer. Michele has so much journalism experience, it kind of blows my mind. Knowing that I’ll be sharing a space with these women while chatting about writing posts that are engaging, meaningful, honest and unique is such an honor. I can’t wait to help to share my experiences both as a journalist and blogger and answer any questions that attendees throw our way.

There will be a lot going on throughout the weekend, (and even a little more as I get into town this afternoon for some conference pre-funking), but here are a few things that I’m most looking forward to:

- As someone who has played with the idea of becoming a nutritionist, I can’t wait to hear the nutrition panel

- The Small Towns, Represent! panel, (for obvious reasons) and publishing panel

- The Galarama and Silent Auction happening Saturday night for a great cause, the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

- All of the amazing MEALS, but most importantly, the Luna and Larry’s ice cream bar at the Galarama. Holy peanut butter sauce and crushed Joe Joes!

- The in-between con event and after shenanigans

- Seeing the adorable Terry Hope Romero in person

- POSSIBLY getting my first ever and totally vegan tattoo at Skeleton Key Tattoo (!!)

- And lastly, meeting so many bloggers, writers and people that I’ve come to respect and admire over the years through the glory that is the Internet, and just getting the chance to hang out with them in the city that loves vegans the most.

If you will be there, drop me a line or just tap me on the shoulder if you see me and and say “hi.” I’ll be the girl with super short dark hair and round glasses. Oh wait, who are we kidding. This event is in Portland, so I guess I could be anyone. Um. Just say hi anyway!

I plan on tweeting often and I just downloaded the WordPress app for my phone, so woo! Technology! Expect to see a few very short posts while I’m on the road. Maybe even some live-tweets, too, if I’m feeling wild. Stay tuned, friends.

 

Vegan Iron Chef 2k11

A bit more than a month ago, I ventured to Portland for an event that I’d been excited about for months beforehand: Vegan Iron Chef 2011. This year was the second ever in the fair Rose City, and I was fortunate enough to get some behind-the-scenes experience as I volunteered to help out the ever-lovely (and busy!) Jess, Michele and Liz with the event. The gig I was assigned?

Co-judge liaison, which means that I helped bring all of the food items out to the judges as they were being evaluated, (along with some other great volunteers!) and made sure they had enough water and wine (they deserve to be wined and dined appropriately). It’s also known as best (volunteer) job EVER. This year’s judges were: John Janilus of The Bye and Bye vegan bar, The Oregonian food writer Grant Butler, vegan cookbook writer and food cart owner Julie Hasson, (she’s just as sweet and kind as you’d ever imagine) and the inimitable co-host Isa Moskowitz. Be still, my vegan beating heart.

The ladies behind Vegan Iron Chef are now seasoned pros at these kind of events, and did an amazing job picking a great, huge space and planning out every tiny detail. I was blown away just being in the midst of such an event for a great cause – informing vegans and non-vegans alike that cruelty-free food can also be delicious, gourmet food.

This year’s chefs were:

- Piper Dixon of Kitchen Dances

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Morgan Grundstein-Helvey of Dovetail Bakery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- and Jeff Ridabock of Homegrown Smoker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(How badass are these posters? All courtesy of Vegan Iron Chef)

Sadly, despite being all amped to see these chefs throw down, I hadn’t previously tried their food. We had an unfortunate incident once when trying to check out Homegrown Smoker (I think they switched locations and we found out after) and nearly went to Kitchen Dances that weekend but didn’t make it. I’ve also heard so many great things about Dovetail from miss Jess, but still haven’t tried their baked goods and Sunday brunch biscuits and gravy. One day guys, one day.

Regardless of these facts, I was still ready to see them all put their spin on the secret ingredient, which I *accidentally* learned of before the big reveal: ginger. I thought this was an excellent choice, as it’s such a touchy subject with people. I’m one of those rare “it’s okay…” kind of people with ginger, but I know it can really make a dish great when utilized correctly. Once the ingredient was announced, each chef ran to grab every ingredient they wanted/could possibly need to create the most impressive and tasty of appetizers, main courses and desserts.

As I was volunteering, I didn’t really get the chance to take any action shots that you’d really love to see. Please accept these before-the-event, setting shots to tide you over:

The front and center judges table, where I would soon be walking up and down, hoping not to spill water/wine/food.

VIPs also got to try the dishes, along with the guest judges. The sweet life.

What’s a vegan event without a tablefull of pins?!

Shirts and memorabilia!

Clearer shot of the judges table in the background, chefs cooking/prep stations in the fore. I was most impressed by the fact that each judge had their own Vita-Mix to utilize.

Not pictured are all of the exhibitor tables, including individuals representing Lion’s Share Industries (woo, Washington pride!), Brass Tacks Sandwiches, Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary, Heido Ho Organics, Upton’s Naturals (<3) and many more. I tried some Brass Tack sandwich samples and man, were they ever good. I think I need to make it a point to get there this weekend.

As chefs and their teammates were frantically attempting to get every element of their meal cooked, prepped, plated and in order, the event’s lovely judges Isa and Nicole Georges provided some funny commentary, checked on the judges progress and guessed what they were prepping.They also gave out some truly fabulous prizes!

And the winner of the event was…Piper Dixon of Kitchen Dances! I tried some of his prize-winning dishes after the event and they were phenomenal. I now know that I need to make it over to his food cart, and soon.

Oh yeah. And just when you think this event couldn’t have been any better, as part of the after party (including live music), there was a VEGAN NACHO BAR. Yes, you read that right. Vegan. Nacho. Bar. I have evidence:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The ginormous alcohol monitor pin/badge was left by another volunteer who wore it through the event. I’d say that was probably the second best gig).

After running around for a few hours before and after the event, I can’t tell you how much this hit the spot. Though let’s be honest here, vegan nachos and beer will always hit the spot, and this is one of the many reasons why Jess & crew are vegan event planning geniuses.

The event brought in well over 300 people to the Refuge event space, and when I went outside for a bit to grab something before things started, the line wound well down the block. Seeing such interest and genuine excitement for a vegan event of this kind was such an incredible experience, and one that I won’t soon forget. Seeing the three chefs work to form some impressive, thoughtful dishes under time (and heat) constraints was extraordinary as well. I missed the first event last year, but you can bet your faux leather boots I’ll be back next year.

For more information on Vegan Iron Chef and to learn how to start one in your area, visit www.veganironchef.org.

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?