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01/30/2012

Product Review: VonDulce Danish Candy!  »

I got some gratis samples of VonDulce’s handmade Danish candies to try! VonDulce is a vegan-owned business and the creator, Karolina Zakonek, gave me some awesome background info. While hard candies here in the states are often vegan-friendly, they are usually made with corn syrup. In contrast, check out the sugar Karolina uses:

[VonDulce candies] are made with Fair Trade, 100% Organic, Kosher, Evaporated Sugar Cane, which is not filtered through animal by-products, and produced under strict organic standards. The sugar is not treated with herbicides or synthetic fertilizers, and no chemicals or bleaching agents are used. The freshly squeezed Organic Sugar Cane Juice, is evaporated and crystalized on the same day it is harvested. The Sugar Mills are self sufficient, using the crushed cane stalks (called bagasse) as a fuel for the boilers, which generates electricity, so there is no need for fossil fuels. 

Holy crap that’s some serious sugar! Talk about guilt-free. And no bone char! Nice. I already like supporting vegan businesses but that sugar is just so cool, it makes it all the better. Yes, I’m talking about cool sugar.

Karolina grew up in Denmark where hard candy is a common treat. She learned to make these candies the old fashioned way and uses the same recipe candy-masters used in the late 1700s. She orders all her natural flavoring oils from a Danish supplier so she can get the purest ingredients available. She also doesn’t use plastic molds (which is how most candies are made) so you don’t have to worry about toxins and chemicals leaching into the sugar! Wow girl, you are thorough! I appreciate that. 

My official verdict: These candies are the yum! And SO PRETTY! My favorite flavor is the Lemon Pucker. It’s a great mix of sweet and lemony-sour but not too sour. It’s unique too, nothing like a lemon Jolly Rancher or what have you. The Berry Me and Peppermint were yum too. And if you like root beer, the Sassafras is for you! All the flavor of root beer in a little candy. And licorice fans have definitely found their match, apparently that is a Danish fave! Another note: these candies are gluten-free, gluten-free friends!

So if you want to support a vegan biz and eat some tasty, old-fashioned sweets, head over to VonDulce’s Etsy page and go crazy! Oh and hey, on VonDulce’s Facebook page, they are having a little caption contest and you can win candies before Valentine’s day! So check that out!

12/01/2011

Potala Organic opened in Albany (Calif., right next to Berkeley!) and it’s definitely worth checking out. Several times. And then again. It’s from the former chef at Oakland’s Shangri-La Vegan and the healthy, hearty fare reflects that. Seriously, if you feel disgusting after Thanksgiving because you’re awesome and gave it your fatty all, detox at Potala!

Potala Organic opened in Albany (Calif., right next to Berkeley!) and it’s definitely worth checking out. Several times. And then again. It’s from the former chef at Oakland’s Shangri-La Vegan and the healthy, hearty fare reflects that. Seriously, if you feel disgusting after Thanksgiving because you’re awesome and gave it your fatty all, detox at Potala!

11/26/2010

Happy Thanksgiving from Tessa, who for her FU meateaters day made, clockwise from left: Acorn squash stuffed with kabocha, green apple, and black forbidden rice, with vegan gravy; coconut mashed sweet potatoes; agave cranberry sauce; blue lake green beans; and roasted brussels sprouts. Plus! The dinner is completely organic and gluten-free. Fancy, Tessa! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your mister!

Happy Thanksgiving from Tessa, who for her FU meateaters day made, clockwise from left: Acorn squash stuffed with kabocha, green apple, and black forbidden rice, with vegan gravy; coconut mashed sweet potatoes; agave cranberry sauce; blue lake green beans; and roasted brussels sprouts. Plus! The dinner is completely organic and gluten-free. Fancy, Tessa! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your mister!

05/16/2010

Los Angeles Road Trip: NiceCream’s dreamy vegan ice cream!  »

Sorry my northern compadres, but NiceCream is based in LA. While not totally 100 percent vegan (some of their ice cream has honey in it, but these flavors are clearly marked, and they wrote about their use of honey on their website; decide for yourself), this raw ice creamerie is one of the only (or the only?) dedicated nondairy ice creameries in Los Angeles. Located conveniently off of the 101 at Cahuenga Boulevard (and only a few doors away from SunPower Natural), NiceCream has an assortment of rotating raw flavors (notable: maple pecan, banana chocolate swirl, ginger-basil); toppings include Newman O’s, granola (à la Café Gratitude), raw caramel (made up of some sort of desert plant or something pulsed with macadamia nuts and vanilla), raw chocolate sauce, Dagoba chocolate chips, raw cacao nibs, and chopped fruit.

Pictured is a scoop of ginger, beet, and something-else-I’m-a-bad-foodie-I-forgot-sorry next to the mammoth of ice cream porn: raw chocolate soft-serve (first of its kind?!!?) mixed with fresh cut bananas, doused in raw caramel. SO FUCKING CREAMY AND AMAZING AND YUM OMG. The two together were like $10. Steep? Yeah, no kidding. It’s $3.99 for a scoop of ice cream and the soft-serve can range from $3.99 to $7.99 depending on the size you get. Toppings are $0.99/each. Yeah, that’s pretty fucking pricey. But I guess it goes along with being raw, maybe? Well anyways, it would be nice to see a price drop, but it’s great to finally see a vegan ice cream place open up shop in LA. Oh, and did I mention this place also doing smoothies, juices, and milkshakes?!?! DAAAANNGGGG. Gotta go back to try GoGreen the Sequel: cucumber, kale, celery, lemon, and spinach blended with avocado, Himalayan crystal salt, and chile.

03/11/2010

Raw vegan food from Vivapura rocks!  »

Unless you’ve been living in a fantasyland that involves subsisting on only defrosted leftovers from SF Vegan Bakesales (hey, I don’t judge!), you probably know we vegans can benefit greatly from supplementing our deep-fried vegan Twinkie intake with some raw greens now and then.

Whether or not you fall into the camp that refrains from cooking their food, if you enjoy yummies that taste amazing and are still healthful for you, I highly recommend checking out the excitingly awesome products from the brand-new raw vegan superfoods company Vivapura, located super-close to the Tree of Life raw vegan retreat center in Patagonia, Ariz., which is a tiny town (pop. 1,000) 20 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border where approximately one in 10 residents is a raw food vegan.

Since I live just up the road from Vivapura (I’m currently living and working at working at the Tree of Life), I recently had a chance to drop by the Vivapura warehouse factory and sample a bunch of their stuff. According to Vivapura’s website, superfoods are “plant-based foods that boast extraordinary energizing and healing properties due to their abundance and density of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins, and other vital nutrients.” From the stuff I tried, I have to say I can’t feel a noticeable change in my body, but either way, Vivapura’s stuff tastes amazing. Their superfood products range from raw regulars like cacao nibs, cocounut flakes, gogi berries etc. to more obscure items like wild-harvested spirulina crunchies (spirulina is a protein-packed algae that tastes way better than it should) and several proprietary blends of upscale, nutella-like coconut chocolate crème spread. All of their products are organically grown, ethically sourced and sold at really reasonable prices! (Note: Vivapura does sell a few bee-derived products, which I avoid of course, but everything else is animal-product-free.)

As of right now, Vivapura is only available to SF Bay Area folks through ordering directly from the company’s website or the Tree of Life Culture of Life Store. The good news is Director of Retail Sales Erika Rier assures me Vivapura has laid the groundwork to get their loveliness into Rainbow Grocery, and other local Bay Area independent organic stores really soon. If you want Vivapura products sooner rather than later (which, trust me, you do!) Rier says to request them from your independent local organic retailer.

This is the latest post by Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown. Thanks, Sarah! [image from Vivapura]

03/10/2010

02/05/2010

I am Seva, hear me roar! Raw vegan adventures at the Tree of Life  »

Today I awoke to a gorgeous sunrise over the desert mountain range of Patagonia, Ariz. The wispy clouds swirling around the peaks in the distance reminded me of the geography of my previous hometown, San Francisco. Besides that, the red rock and cactus-infused landscape here at Tree of Life, which is nestled in the midst of highly spiritual nexus of several energy meridians, is a totally new environment for me. But with each day, this oasis feels more like home.
It is my fourth day here at Tree of Life, or as many folks here affectionately call it, “the Tree.” I was brought in to be the Tree’s newest Seva, which is “a deeply intense spiritual journey of commitment, intimacy and transformation.” Being a Seva provides an opportunity for those with spiritual perseverance (or, netzakh in Hebrew, a language spoken in the Essene Kabbalistic Jewish tradition that, along with the American Lakota tradition and the Nityananda Yoga traditions, underpins the spiritual foundation of the community here) to do an individualized work-trade that harmoniously links their particular gifts and the needs of Tree of Life community. 

Besides paying for my flight from SFO and transportation from the Tucson airport, situated an hour and a half from the Tree’s location in Patagonia, and a small fee to live in the staff dorms, every other aspect of living here is included in the work-trade arrangement. This includes yoga classes, meditation and chanting sessions, Inipi (sweat lodges), access to hot tubs, a sauna, personal growth workshops, music and dance programming, incredibly delicious, mostly local and all-organic vegan live food cuisine, and most importantly, the invaluable chance to immerse myself in a unique, spiritual, raw vegan community. All of this is in exchange for my commitment to help Tree of Life to innovate and expand its online media presence to spread the organization’s beautiful teachings of peace, spiritual living and live food veganism to heal the planet.

From just a few short days here, I can already see how much this place changes lives. The day after I arrived, I attended a women-only Inipi, which involved howling and crying and singing and sending out prayers for women in our lives and all women everywhere in a steam-filled, womb-like cavern under the guidance of the fabulous, highly-respected live foodist, dance, spiritual and energy healer Parashakti. Afterward, as we 15 or so women toweled off while sipping organic green juice and grapefruit juice in a warm teepee, people shared the most beautiful words of gratitude for the experience. I felt myself getting wet around the eyes, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just leftover steam!

Thanks for reading! I’ll keep try to keep Vegansaurus updated with my raw vegan Tree of Life adventures, including copious pictures of the amazing things the live vegan café prepares.

This is the latest post by Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown. Thanks, Sarah!

01/13/2010

Un-Cookbook review: The Raw Healing Patch! Veganize your rawness!  »

In my last post on Vegansaurus, I offered a few strategies for making raw organic foods more accessible and affordable, especially for young people and lower-income folks living in the Bay Area. Wherever you fall on the raw-to-cooked spectrum, it’s indisputable that the raw food movement is helping to bring more folks into the vegan fold, which is something all vegans can be happy about. It seems to me that if we find creative ways to motivate raw foodists to go full-on vegan (e.g., rain down on them with mad knowledge, advice, free vegan food and love), we can help them discover that, through raw veganism, they can make a huge difference not only for their own health, but also for the health of the planet. A couple good places to start are local nonprofit People’s Grocery and Lauren Ornelas’ fabulous food justice/human rights/environmental advocacy group the Food Empowerment Project, which work to source ethical products and make organic produce accessible to everyone.

In the spirit of accessibility, I recently got my hands on a copy of The Healing Patch Cookbook produced by the down-to-earth, super-ecologically conscious, queer veg couple Julie Cara Hoffenberg and Sarah Woodward, who together make up the raw food team known as The Healing Patch. The cookbook, which they were kind enough to also make available in an eco-friendly e-book format, is utterly unpretentious, and a great way to usher rawies into the ethical vegan eating path. Hoffenberg and Woodward make clear throughout the witty cookbook that their way of eating and (un)cooking is just that—their way—and that they would never wish to impose them on anyone else; yet they are very clear that raw veganism has remarkably improved their lives. Healing Patch’s primary goal is to offer gentle coaxing to adopt a raw vegan lifestyle, basing their recipes and advice on what helped Woodward heal after her battle with ovarian cancer. Thankfully, they do this without laying on the sorts of guilt-trips or strict guidelines usually found in these .

Healing Patch’s recipes are really easy to make, require no esoteric ingredients, and have cute little factoids, including nutritional profiles. They also offer useful tips on economical home sprouting, gardening, selecting the best produce for each season, and how to substitute recipe ingredients for whatever is local and fresh whenever possible. They succeed at providing ample tricks for being a raw vegan while healing yourself and the planet at the lowest possible expense.

The one issue I take with this otherwise charming volume is that some of the recipes include dairy, ostensibly in order to help folks to “transition more gently” to raw veganism. This is disappointing, especially since the authors clearly believe in the tenets of raw veganism and oppose cruelty and oppression. It seems to me like the duo hasn’t quite made the connection that the dairy industry is horribly cruel and directly supports the meat industry. Maybe they should pick up feminist masterpiece The Sexual Politics of Meat by my personal hero Carol J. Adams—which, by the way, has just been released in a newly updated 20th anniversary edition!

Once Healing Patch gets educated in the ways of vegan feminism by Adams, I’m sure they’ll be willing to make all of their recipes totally vegan. Feel free to comment to them about this on their website—it will be good practice for the raw foodists you’ll be converting to raw veganism in the near future! Anyway, hopefully the next edition of The Healing Patch (which I do hope they eventually write!) will address this concern.

This is the second post written by Sarah E. Brown. Thanks, Sarah!

12/17/2009

The poor vegan’s guide to eating raw and organic on the cheap in the Bay Area  »

As an early 20-something living in the Mission, working for just above minimum wage at a peace nonprofit in East Bay, balancing my drive to be an ethical consumer while adhering to a hella tight budget can be a real challenge. To avoid breaking the bank, I often bypass expensive bars, shops, concerts, clothing stores in favor of free or inexpensive local shows, lectures, art openings, meditation classes and second-hand clothing and wares.  But as an ethical vegan who eats primarily raw, when it comes to feeding myself and those I care about, there are no exceptions: I refuse to purchase anything but organic, local when possible, fresh produce and raw vegan food.

It’s a no-brainer that a diet rich in raw foods is extremely healthful and sustainable for the planet. Cooking foods, especially greens and other nutrient-dense vegetables, kills their live enzymes and makes them less usable by the body. I personally believe that life is about balance, and I am certainly not out to keep anyone from downing ample quantities of Souley Vegan’s sinfully good baked Mac n’ Cheese. But it’s indisputable fact that we vegans need to care for our health. I would argue that the raw food movement has been really remarkable in that it brings a lot of folks to veganism that might not otherwise be motivated to care about food-justice issues. The vegan and raw food movements definitely intersect, but it would be naïve to say that someone who is raw is vegan. Many raw foodists eschew cooked foods but still eat raw dead animals and consume feminized animal protein (raw cheese, milk, etc.).

Unfortunately, raw organic vegan food in the Bay Area has gotten a bad rap for being pretentious (ahem, Landmark) and/or financially inaccessible. This keeps a lot of lower-income folks, especially minorities, out of the raw food movement. A recent raw food festival I went to at the Living Light Raw Culinary Institute in Fort Bragg, Calif., featured speakers, music, tons of raw food products and ultra-fancy, expensive appliances like Dehydrators, sprouters, spiralizers, and ultra-fancy juicers and blenders and, unsurprisingly, very few young people and people of color. This event only further confirmed my suspicion that the raw vegan divide seems to follow class and age lines, and that’s something that I think can easily change. It’s something I want to see change.

So how is it possible to be an organic raw vegan food while living on the cheap? My first piece of advice is to glean as much information as you can from the Internet about what raw foodism is all about and how to do it right (you probably won’t feel super hot if you eat only raw nuts and dried fruit). For some Bay Area-specific tips, check out my nifty guide below. If you’re lower-income and struggling to be a raw food vegan, please share your story with me. I would love to help us band together to figure out creative ways to make raw veganism easier and more fun!

1. Go to Farmers’ Markets as they are about to close. Many vendors offer surplus produce at free or heavily discounted prices.

2. Check grocery stores produce sections for bulk bags of slightly bruised or perfectly ripe organic produce. These are often marked down to almost nothing.

3. Find a Food Not Bombs in your area: The vegan organization provides free, mostly organic vegan meals, which often include raw food.

4. The Gratitude Bowl. Café Gratitude offers a sliding-scale raw vegan dish. It’s filled with kale and tahini and is very filling. If you can afford to subsidize someone else’s bowl, it’s a great way to support lower-income folks’ access to raw food veganism.

5. Visit Alive!* at the Tuesday and Thursday Ferry Building Farmer’s Markets. They offer many hearty items at a much smaller price than they do at their restaurant.

6. Host a raw vegan potluck with your friends. Everyone can chip in and defray the costs while creating a delicious spread. Try Gone Raw for recipe tips.

6. Buy Kaia Foods.* A raw vegan company located in Oakland, Calif., Kaia is committed to making truly affordable raw foods including granolas, sunflower seeds and fruit leathers that are delicious and totally healthy. Plus they donate 1% of their profits to combat world hunger.

7. Sprout your own sprouts! Bike over to Rainbow (or any other grocery store) and pick up some bulk dried chickpeas, mung beans, lentils (just not kidney or black beans, they are poisonous raw!), soak them overnight, then let them air-dry in a mason jar with a bit of cloth or mesh on top. Rinse them once or twice a day, letting them air dry until they have cute little tails. To avoid any bacteria that might grow in those wet, moist environments, after sprouts are full grown, soak them in a bowl of water with a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide (it’s totally safe!) for half an hour. Rinse, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for super-filling, super-cheap, protein-rich, crunchy treat for salads, wraps, etc.

*Full disclosure: my beautiful, also raw vegan girlfriend works at Kaia Foods and I myself worked for a total of one days at the Alive! Farmers’ Market stand.

This post was written by Sarah E. Brown. Thanks, Sarah!

12/02/2008

Review: Minako Organic Japanese Restaurant!  »

Admittedly I love giving every restaurant high ratings because I want everyone to just be fucking happy (I am a classic middle child) but Minako really does deserves the heaps and heaps of praise I’m finna heap on its tiny ass. If you understood that last sentence, bravo!

1) In a city where Japanese cuisine = sushi = FISH TIME IN GROSS-ASS DEAD FISH TOWN, there aren’t tons of choices for us vegans. Sure, if you want another cucumber roll, you can go to Red Box or wherever the fuck the omnivore retards of this city are freaking out about, or you can head to Minako for some fucking SELECTION. An entire special vegan menu full of selection! Thas right! I love the fried veggie eel (the veggie eel = worth living for and you MUST try!) and avocado roll and the grilled eggplant with miso glaze appetizer. The tofu house dish is basically hollowed out (I believe it’s house-made) tofu stuffed with a million surprises. The miso soup is vegan as is the tempura (which is the best I’ve ever had). My parents lived in Japan for a few years and are crazy-picky about their sushi and they love it here. Even my dad eats vegan happily at Minako. This is saying a lot since my dad would happily dine on the tears of human babies if given the option. He’s delightful. Oh and they are constantly adding vegan dishes to the menu and there is always a delicious vegan special or two.

2) The cranky chef mother/super-fresh waitress daughter combo can’t be beat. Plus, mom makes her own ume. I’ll pass (gross!) but it’s cool that she does. Some people (read: assholes) complain about them being too up in your business or curt or cranky or whatever but fuck it, eating at Minako is an experience worth having. And if you’re good to them, they’ll be good to you. It’s like family. Or the mob. You choose. They don’t need more customers so why would they put up with a bunch of jerks? I really wish this was how it worked at my job. I’d be such a lunatic to people who gave me any attitude or tried to get me to work period. I’d get hooks for hands and force people to let me give them back massages. I’m off task here.

3) On my last visit the music included Barry Manilow, Air Supply, Pavement and Eazy-E.  YES, PLEASE!

4) It’s tiny, best for a date or a small group. There is always a wait for a table and your food. Just know and accept this.

Once when I was eating here, this guy—who, by the by, was a DEAD RINGER for a black Chuck Norris. You know when you see people but they are like the Chinese version of your white friend or the Mexican version of your Korean friend? It’s a trip. Well, this dude was Chuck Norris’ straight-up black twin—ordered and ate half the menu and when he was done, a Michael Jackson jam was turned way up and he and the waitress dirty-danced (!) for a couple of minutes. It was so great. This is the kind of magic that Minako holds. If you’re not into that, there is an Applebee’s in Stonestown you should hit up.

5) It’s on my top-five favorite restaurants in San Francisco list. I really love this place and would eat here at least once a week if my checkbook allowed. Currently my checkbook doesn’t allow for much more than a generic Vitamin Water at Walgreens but you know. I’ll get back on top sometime soon. I just gots to work hard and I will achieve my dreams! This is the land of plenty! USA! USA! USA!

[photos via yelp]

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