Guest post: We Hella Heart Oakland Veg Week  »

Oakland has long lived in the shadow of San Francisco. Heralded as a gustatory epicenter, Fog City is not only revered for its array of palate pleasing restaurants, but consistently ranked as one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in the world to boot. Not to be outshined, Oakland’s culinary culture is getting a lot of attention these days. The New York Times ranked Oakland as number five in its “45 Places to Go in 2012” list up there with Panama, London, Tokyo, and Helsinki (they must think we have a lot of vacation time). In late February, the Boston Globe wrote, “Leave your heart wherever, but eat in Oakland,” and AAA just this month featured Oakland’s restaurant scene in its Via Magazine. The author wrote, “It’s no wonder that when people ask me, as they often do, where they should go out to eat in San Francisco, I often direct them east over the Bay Bridge to Oakland.”

When it comes to vegan eating, Oakland has a lot to offer. There’s Encuentro, an all-vegetarian wine and tapas bar from chef Eric Tucker of SF’s famed Millennium; Souley Vegan which needs no description; Oakland pizza institution, Zachary’s, which now offers deep-dish vegan pizza; Breakroom for some of the most delicious vegan sandwiches and baked goods out there; and much more. To highlight Oaktown’s growing vegan food culture and encourage more people to reduce meat consumption, a group of local volunteers is coordinating Oakland Veg Week.

Scheduled for April 15-21, Oakland Veg Week will consist of a vegan cooking demonstration, talks on vegan nutrition and animal agribusiness by celebrated speakers Jack Norris (co-founder of Vegan Outreach) and Nathan Runkle (founder of Mercy for Animals); a free screening of Vegucated; and a grand finale celebration where attendees can sample some of the most delicious vegan fare available and hear words of encouragement by Oakland’s own vegan guru Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Local restaurants will be taking part too, adding vegan options to their menus, and at some, offering discounts. A quick glimpse of what can be expected: Montclair’s Italian Colors will offer a vegan tasting menu including vegan seasonal specials like spring greens, fava beans, and fiddleheads. Homeroom, the all-mac and cheese all the time restaurant will dish up vegan desserts to go with its decadent vegan mac and cheese. Montclair Bistro will do a vegan eggplant cannelloni. Hungry?

Recognizing the benefits of a vegetarian diet for animals, the environment, and community health, local public officials are behind the effort. Oakland City Council member Nancy Nadel, Alameda County Supervisors Wilma Chan and Keith Carson, and Rep. Barbara Lee are all pledging to be veg for the week, and some of their staff are too. The city and county are both officially proclaiming April 15-21 to be Oakland Veg Week. And Oakland Unified School District will encourage students to try vegetarianism for the week too!

Not onboard the vegan train yet? Join Oakland residents in signing a pledge to be vegetarian for Oakland Veg Week. Pledgees will receive daily tips, recipes and support. And if you’re already there, it’s a good opportunity to ask friends and family to give the birds a break (and cows, pigs, and turkeys). Non-Oaklanders are welcome. Check out our website for more information and to take the pledge. [Ed.: And more importantly, get your omni buddies to do the same!]

Kristie Middleton, a proud Oakland resident, is a coordinator of Oakland Veg Week and works for The Humane Society of the United States’ farm animal protection. She has successfully worked with dozens of corporations, hospitals, and other institutions to improve the plight of farm animals through humane-minded purchasing programs. Her work for animals has been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times.

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