vegansaurus!

07/09/2014

Vegan Travel, Romance Novel-Style in Mendocino  »

Up a small highway from the beach cliffs of Mendocino, surrounded by lush, color-popping gardens, sits the breezy Stanford Inn by the Sea eco-resort. I mean, don’t you already feel more relaxed?

Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Maybe you’ve even visited? I went for the first time a few months back and I can’t believe it took me this long.

Full disclosure: while still a bit folksy, this was a luxurious vacation for me. I normally crash on friend’s couches or find the cheapest possible sun-bleached California motel. While The Stanford Inn is no such place, it’s also not a hyper modern or glam resort of the boutique hotel variety.

It does, however, serve you fresh, warm vegan chocolate chip cookies upon arrival, and every day after that. God, I wish someone would leave gooey cookies out for me nightly back in the real world.

There’s also a complimentary dessert and tea-time nightly for guests. And this was my introduction to the Stanford Inn at the Sea, after a windy drive from San Francisco. With my husband and rescue chug in tow, I walked past an already-crackling fireplace in the modest, lodge-like common area and devoured a rich chocolate torte with hints of orange along with a mug of hot mint tea.

When we made it to the room, there were vegan dog treats wrapped in plastic with a bow and the aforementioned chocolate cookie plate — because we needed more desserts — along with a rustic bedroom set and wood-burning fireplace, already roaring.  We opened the picture window porch doors to views of endless greenery and far off waters. It’s all feeling very Danielle Steel at this point.

We traipsed through the gardens to meet the lodge’s elderly llamas, who lived up to their expected cuteness, along with a few donkeys and at least one pony. Below that we walked down to Catch a Canoe & Bicycle Too, on the edge of the river. The inn has a deal with Catch a Canoe, and guests can ride complimentary mountain bikes during their stay.

Later, we made it back to the saltwater pool and Jacuzzi at the Inn, essentially enchanted in the atrium trimmed with wild plants.

Throughout our stay, we munched complimentary breakfasts at the Raven’s Restaurant (attached to the inn) of delicious, decadent vegan Florentines and benedicts and the signature brunch dish: The Stanford Citrus Polenta over braised greens with cashew cream sauce. We returned nightly for the excellent tempeh burger, tamari-maple glazed tofu, and winter ravioli with butternutsquash filling in beurre blanc sauce.

Did I mention that our dog happily sat at our feet during the entire stay?

Perhaps it all sounds a bit (cashew) cheesy, but the comfort of knowing everything you’ll be eating is both vegan and yummy, matched to all those romance novel touches of crackling fireplaces, windswept beaches, colorful gardens, and secluded-feeling saltwater pools makes the Stanford Inn a rather irresistible spot for veg couples. 

06/10/2014

Oakland’s Awesome, Sun-Baked, Line-Filled Vegan Food Fest   »

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Let’s get this out of the way: the lines were long. And I mean like, crazy long. Long enough to wind through the outdoor patio lined with pop-up vegan restaurants and snake back around on themselves.

The first annual Oakland Vegan Beer & Food Festival this past Saturday was well attended, almost shockingly crowded. We knew Oakland loved a good vegan dish (and beer), but wow. Some reported waiting in line for up to two hours.

Although certainly frustrating, I’m going to look at the silver lining here and posit this simply means they’ll need more space and more food booths next time, which the organizers know—not such a bad thing.

After the fest, Hella Vegan Eats posted a love note to the community on their Facebook page that included this insight: “We are overjoyed that there was such a positive response to this event even with the crazy long lines. We can’t wait to begin planning next year’s #OAKVEGBFF with way more vendors, more space, better organization, etc. Now that we know to expect so many people, we can plan accordingly!”

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Personally, I waited half an hour in line then another half hour for one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever had, courtesy of S+M Vegan. The flavorful Okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancake) stuffed with tots and veggies and topped with pickled relish and sweet soy was succulent and satisfying. Standing while eating, I finished it far too quickly.

While waiting, we sipped tart ciders and sampled decadent pastries including a gooey chocolate grasshopper bar and caramel cupcake from Timeless Coffee. As the Oakland sun beat down, I tried tastes of a dark Ale Industries Rye’d Piper and the Linden Street New Oakland Glow.

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I also got a chance to chat with the duo behind Rhizocali Tempeh. They mentioned that they were surprised, coming from Gainesville, Florida, a town with two independent tempeh-producing companies, to find no other locals currently producing tempeh in Oakland. Nuts, right? The organic tempeh-makers based in the same commercial kitchen as Hella Vegan Eats and S+M Kitchen.

Wildly popular fest organizers Hella Vegan Eats had some especially long lines as well, but I saw many a vegan walk away ecstatic with a glistening plate of fried “chicken” and waffle or mac-n-cheese Lusty Lovers tacos from their booth.

While the food vendors were all lined up in the outdoor patio, inside we got to check out some rather shiny classic cars and art installations.

Outside, dogs roamed the lines, some very cute pups up for adoption via Rocket Dog Rescue—which received 20 percent of the event’s proceeds—and others brought by attendees, just stretching on leashes and seeking fallen drops of precious veggie meats.

To see more yummy photos of the event, creep on the #OAKVEGBFF hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.

06/03/2014

First ever Oakland Vegan Beer & Food Festival is THIS WEEKEND  »

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Bay Area: Did you also watch the drool-worthy photos from the second annual La Vegan Beer & Food Festival roll in on Instagram and Twitter with stomach-rumbling envy a few weeks back? Just me? Well surprise, surprise, we’ve got our very own (granted, relatively more intimate but just as fun-sounding) vegan beer and food fest going down this weekend! Envy-drool no more.

The first ever Oakland Vegan Beer & Food Festival takes place this Saturday, June 7, 11am-5pm, in the beer garden/art gallery space Classic Cars West, 411 26th St., Oakland. It’s free entry but like all food pop-ups, you’ll pay for your eats as you go.

The awesome ladies behind popular vegan pop-up Hella Vegan Eats will be serving up their signature blend of out-of-this-world colorful dishes:  Lusty Lover mac & cheese tacos, mini potsticker burritos (yep), “chicken” and waffle bites, and smoked seitan reubens.

And Black Spring Coffee, Curbside Creamery, Timeless Coffee Roastery and Bakery, S+M Vegan, Rhizocali Tempeh, and more will join Hella Vegan Eats in the gallery.

I recently got on the S+M Vegan tip when I discovered their cashew cream cheese in specialty flavors, which you can pick up at Berkeley’s newish vegan store, Republic of V. The plant-based couple behind S+M is also know for pop-ups and cooking classes. Their Saturday menu is still being fine-tuned but they say it will be a selection of their favorite foods from different countries, inspired by their travels. That will likely include a Drunken Chicago Dip sandwich featuring savory beer-infused seitan served au jus with crunchy giardinera and sweet peppers in a Dutch crunch roll, a Drunken Croque Monsieur sandwich with thin slices of hickory smoked tofu, secret cheesy sauce, pickles and mustard au vin rouge, a take on Okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancake) stuffed with Tater Tots and veggies brushed with sweet soy glaze and a Kartoffelsalat (German potato salad).

On the sweet side, Black Spring Coffee, which opened its doors last year, is known for yummy vegan pastries, as is fellow Oakland coffee shop, Timeless, which has warm house-baked treats. Black Spring will have pastries and iced coffee; Timeless is bringing pour over coffee, chocolates, and even more pastries. Oh and Curbside Creamery will have vegan ice cream sandwiches!

CommonWealth Café & Pub is bringing a variety of beers and ciders.

Plus, there’ll be DJ sets by Alexa Pantalone and Melissr Elliot. Even cooler? It’s for a good cause: 20% of food sales benefit Rocket Dog Rescue.

Better start warning your friends of an onslaught of incoming vegan food photos. Come to think of it, is there an official Oakland Vegan Beer & Food Festival hashtag yet? I’ll keep a look out.

The goal is make this a biannual event, with one in the spring and one in the fall, and smaller nighttime versions taking place once a month. 

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