Happy New Year, almost! Remember this time last year when amazing celebrities kept dying and Trump got elected so people were like ‘thank god 2016 is over!’ not realizing that the former would keep happening and the latter would beget so much worse awfulness because he’d actually be in POWER in 2017?! Yeah it’s been quite a year. I’m not sure if America will ever recover from the assaults against the foundations of democracy and governance but we have to try. So the most important thing to look forward to in 2018 – and work with every fiber of your being to bring about – is a big giant blue wave of votes in November. And if you’re not in America, you still have to work on your own country. I mean even Sweden with all their amazing health- and babycare is full of Nazis so DO NOT REST! Anyway, it’s not all terror and anxiety and sleepless nights and high blood pressure and fear and guilt and despair and hopelessness. Well it is under the cheeto, but we have to distract ourselves every once in a while from the gloom! What follows is a hodgepodge of my favorite such distractions from this past year, in the fields of travel, food, and entertainment, because that’s who I am and that’s what I care about. Also this is a good way to catch up on all the blog posts you didn’t read! And maybe I’ll give a few hopes for 2018, who knows we’ll see.
(that’s me) (isn’t it great that there are no ads on here) (ads are the worst) (especially those vegan bloggers with ads that they don’t control and it’s like meat products every time you look) (or worse yet videos that start playback automatically) (I will never do that to you) (plz send money)
Hello out there! It has been months since I last blogged, I know. I haven’t gone this long without writing since Raul Esparza lost the Tony for “Company” (still not over it) (never forget). I’ve been stupid busy with work since I last dipped my toes into all the writing I have to do about my California trip. But more than that, I couldn’t mentally spend time writing about happy things during the final months of the election. I had to devote time to making calls for Hillz, arguing with internet trolls (I can’t not), and worrying about what would happen to the world if Toilet Emoji won. But I kept telling myself, on November 9, I’ll be able to finally breathe deep again and shake that weight off my shoulders like I’m TayTay at the discotheque, white-girl dancing away from h8ters.
Two weeks ago [this originally read 'Yesterday' but damn this took a long time to write and also I'm so tired after work how do people do things], London held its annual Just V Show at the Olympia venue in Kensington. You might think the V stood for 'vegan' or 'vegetarian', especially given some of the pre-show press materials published online from reputable sources (cough *reputable* cough like Fletcher Reed saying 'honorable'). According to some sources, Just V Show aimed to provide a special event for those who abstain from meat or want to reduce their meat consumption. According to others, Just V was to be a gluten-free show with more awareness than most about other allergens as well. Alas, there were plenty (too plenty) of stalls that were solely actual-meat-based (boo) and plenty of stalls that were definitely not gluten-free, so I think the V stood for...um...verdigris, if nothing else. Maybe Van Gogh. Let's move on before this all blows up like that Vesuvius, hoo boy.
Hello everyone! Today we have a special post about the very helpful book "The Essential Vegan Travel Guide", by Caitlin Galer-Unti of The Vegan Word. The book has been out for a little while but Caitlin and I are both very very important people so this is more of a reminder to buy the book rather than new news. Not only am I going to share my thoughts, which you love, but we have a super awesome interview with the super awesome author herself, CGU! Caitlin Galer University! I ask the tough, hard-hitting questions that we all wished Megyn Kelly had the balls to ask, so gird your loins. Just kidding I ask fun questions. Also buy it here!
As some of you may know, Husband and I recently celebrated our first anniversary! Yay! As some others of you may know, we are going to be featured as one of the couples in VegNews Magazine's upcoming wedding issue! Yay! Now, I don't know about you, but I am getting impatient waiting for the August issue to come out (end of the month!) so I decided to do my own little feature. And this time it's just about us. Well, Husband doesn't like his picture being on the internet, so really it's just about me.
This past weekend was the Brighton edition of VegFest UK, and while the food and vendors were nearly identical to the London VegFest, it wasn't nearly as fun! So sad! Was it because of the crowds? The lack of free samples? The liiiines? The difficult-to-navigate venue? The absence of Vegan in Brighton? Let's talk about it while I share random pictures! Shall we do it with our preferred method of ranking?
On Burns Night, on or about January 25, everyone in London seems to pretend they are Scottish. Well, not authentically/believably Scottish so much as the faux pageantry of the movie-friendly version of being Scottish (plaid and Sean Connery accents aaaand that's all there is to it!). The event, a haggis-focused dinner (eww!), pays tribute to Scottish poet Robert Burns, whose most famous poem is about haggis (so gross). In London, super-overpriced events abound, so everyone who thought the Scots were super dumb for wanting independence can now pretend they are totally pro-Scot and enjoy everything about their fellow countrymen, namely bagpipes, disgusting meats, whiskey, and dancing.
For the last official day of VeganMOFO, I want to talk about London's hottest new nightclub. London's weekend-long VegFest happened a few days ago, and I was lucky enough to eat my way through both days! It was so fun to be surrounded by like-minded people, including some great friends I am so happy to live near again. The best part of any festival like this is the food, and I was not disappointed here. Okay, I was a little disappointed. The actual food for sale from the many, many caterers was overall subpar. However, the vast number of companies giving delicious samples and the overall spirit of the weekend made up for it. I realize I'm a few days late, but it's always the right time for judgment.
The best part of the weekend was the people! I saw my friends from Vegan in Brighton and Alien on Toast (their blog names are so descriptive!), some other mighty fine PPKers, and new blogger friends I admire from Hasta la Vegan and Tea and Sympatico. Jojo spoke to a pretty large crowd about vegan travel, and despite my best efforts to catch her eye and make her laugh, she did a great job! I also caught a little of Brendan Brazier's talk about using nutrition to reduce stress. Audience members were furiously taking notes during his entire presentation, with their eyes wide and bulging like the crazy alien dog at the end of "Ghostbusters", so I assume he is now some sort of cult leader and/or too much Vega.
Most of the food and products on offer were fabulous! I loved talking with several company representatives, most of whom were very friendly and helpful. Before I get to good product booths, let's talk about the food I actually bought.
The best thing I ate were the baked spring rolls full of duck, mustard greens, and sweet chili from this place to the left, The Hungry Gecko, which for two days I thought was called the World Street truck. They were a decent size and priced well at 5£. And they were delicious! I had never heard of this company before and was pleasantly surprised by these rolls. Unfortunately, the next thing I tried from them (and from everyone else, almost) was not as good (see below).
One of my absolute favorite stalls at the fest was BFVB, the Big Fat Vegan Bakery. Now this is what festival food should look like, dammit! Everything they sold was ENORME, yet it was still super affordable. That insanely human-size focaccia was only 3£ or so! I don't know why I didn't buy one. I did buy a very large cream-filled chocolate king that lasted for several days. The donut pastry wasn't as fluffy as it could have been, but it was still awesome! I wish this bakery was easier to find!
As for the vendors, many were outstanding! Even if your product is great, it takes more than that to have a good stall at a fest like this. You need samples, and you need lots of them. You need nice people, and you need to offer deals better than what you usually retail for. Let's look at the vendors who succeeded.
While Ananda had a great product but no samples or legit discounts (I mean I'm not mad), moo free chocolates shared their great product, good deals, and had ridiculously sized samples. They shared new holiday flavors and had the advent calendar for sale for only £4! (I should have gotten one; I've never had an advent calendar!) They also had buckets of broken up chocolate bars for you to try. I loved the people working this booth. They were so friendly and were like, 'Hey did you try this flavor yet?' and held up a bucket to me and I pulled out a 'sample' piece that was like 5 inches long. I couldn't even finish it! And then I bought stuff from them, because that's the point of nice people, good deals, and samples to know if you will like the product before you buy it. People. It's easy. Moving on...
I think Vegusto had the most popular booth in the entire place, because they were selling their hot dogs and sausages on buns. They are sooo good! They had samples of their hard cheeses, which aren't my favorite, but you couldn't even get to them because the line for the food was so long. So worth it! They know how to sell their product and increase interest.
Other great caterers were St Best Caribbean caterers, who had fantastic veggie-filled patties, and Rainforest Creations, whose raw and delicious food I always enjoy in Spitalfields market. Bangwok also had really popular pad thai that people said was great.
The always great Ms. Cupcake sold out on both days super quickly! So impressive!
I also really liked Jollyum ice cream. The lady who helped me was really nice and took time to answer questions. And the product was good too!
Aside from food, I loved the dishware from Magpie. How pretty is it?
While so much was good, I want to also talk about what was bad and what was worse. Yayyy judgment!!
Unfortunately, a lot of the caterers made food that did a disservice to the glory of so much vegan food. It was bland, tasteless, weird, not worth it. Boooo! There is so much delicious vegan food (that even I can make!) so there are no excuses.
First, unfortunately, was the much-anticipated food at Rupert Street's truck. I have been looking forward to them for months, but this experience was disappointing. The corn tamale on a bed of grains and vegetables was so bland that it was like eating weird air.
Next up on my list of sadness was the Pani Puri Pops at The Hungry Gecko. The menu said they were 'traditional Indian street food'. So that sounded promising enough.
The Primal Kitchen was there with unremarkable bars to taste, placed on rough wooden slabs so we got the whole caveman thing. The bars are all vegan, and they weren't terrible, but I'm bothered that a company whose mission is to get people to eat meat, eggs, seafood, and their bars was at VegFest.
The next super sad table belonged to Fry's Vegetarian. I'm sure most of us love their products, but they do not know how to present at a festival. They had 20% off their products, which is definitely awesome, but the table was just their products' boxes, sitting there, doing nothing, no singing, no dancing. Like, who is going to be lured into buying something you can't taste or even see? They had the saddest little sample trays as well, just a few cubes of the weirder meats as far as I could tell. Paltry showing for such a large company.
What makes the following stuff ugly and not bad? Well, for starters, most of the products were actually delicious. Most of the companies are ones that I adore. What makes this ugly is the kind of interaction I had with them during VegFest. It hurts me that our encounters weren't as great as their products, or as great as I had hoped. Some people, man.
First up, well let's just start with the one that broke my heart the most. Vega.
Next up! The ridiculousness of Organic Livity. The raw cakes looked delicious, and what I tried was indeed great. But, they don't look or taste raw. I bought a raw Mexican chocolate brownie with mint cream icing. I was so excited! I love raw brownies and I love mint! But I am not convinced that the mint cream, which tasted exactly like the icing sugar- and margarine-filled frostings every nonraw baker (including myself) uses, was raw. However, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one. (Even though some of the raw cakes looked like baked flour. I don't know how on earth that stuff could have been raw. Unless, as my companion said, the ingredients were raw; the final product wasn't. Love it.)
Lastly, my favorite encounter happened with The Chocolatier, this super fancy water ganache maker who sells to Michelin-starred restaurants, fancy businesses, and of course the Royal Family. The chocolate is outstanding (it better be for £10 per bar), and again I was so excited to buy some of the truffles, but nooooo.
Just to be clear, the slightly older lady working this booth (at least on Saturday) was the sweetest person ever. When you walked by, she stuck out little spoons of their ganache shots and smiled until you ate it. I love her. However, she wasn't there when I was ready to buy on Sunday. A young woman, with what looked like professionally done makeup, who was probably my age but treated me like a child, was in charge. And my friend and I didn't even have a chance to open our mouths before this girl regaled us with how fancy their usual clients are. This is almost verbatim: "We normally do business with Michelin restaurants and five-star hotels, and extremely high-profile private businesses. The rest of our clients are the Royal Family and other highly sophisticated people. We just loooooove doing this public events so that members of the public who normally wouldn't be able to experience our services have this wonderful chance to experience something that normally only highly sophisticated people get to experience." I guess I'm not highly sophisticated enough for her because I immediately vomited upon her. BARRRRRF.
I of course don't want to leave on that vomitous note, so here are a few of my absolute favorite images from VegFest. Overall, it was a wonderful time, and the shitty aspects at least made it interesting.
It's already Vegan MOFO time! Starting tomorrow, every blogger worth some Himalayan pink salt (is that how that goes?) will blog every day (or at least 20 times) in September about vegan-friendly food, travel, products, thoughts, or anything really that doesn't harm our precious aminals. (Or, if you don't have the time, you'll at least be reading tons of participating blogs! Yay readers!) Mofo is pretty difficult! Even if you sit at your computer all day with nothing to do but blog, it's still hard to come up with solid creative content every single day! But, it's so fun and, more importantly, it's one of the best ways to bond in the vegan community.
This year went by so fast, didn't it? The Righteous Brothers were liars. I had so much fun last year in my first Vegan MOFO, when I focused my attention on a series called Veganizing Friends. This year won't be as funny (I pessimistically predict), but it's going to be more practical and useful for fellow travelers and wanderlusters. So, what am I doing? ("What am I doing? What am I doing? It takes most of that cash just to save my ass from financial ruin..." Sorry, everything I say reminds me of a showtune. (ALSO, how amazing is the line "'cause the only room with a view is a room with you in it" siiiiigh.))
The very generous people over at Purfit gave me a huge container of their chocolate Meal Replacement Shake to try, and I must say I really like it. I have been obsessed with Sunwarrior Raw Chocolate protein powder for a few years now, but Purfit has posed a surprisingly successful contender. I would definitely buy this in the future.
For each serving of 37g (or a 'scoop', but my container didn't include a scoop so I used the Sunwarrior one), you get 140 calories, 5g fat, and 14g protein, plus at least 100% of your daily vitamin A, C, B6, B12, and other vitamins. The chocolate taste is the best I've found in any protein powder, from Sunwarrior to Vega to Plantfusion. It's a little chalky, as they all are, but it tastes the most like chocolate milk and not like chocolate-flavored protein. So that's good!