When I started my blog three years ago I did so with nothing more than a desire to write. I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, I didn’t know who would read it and I had NO idea if I even had the skills to write. I never studied to become a writer and hadn’t written a short story in years. My tech skills were adequate at best and I really didn’t know what I wanted my voice to be. When you look back at the first several blog posts, that is all really obvious! But once I started, I realized what Napa Valley lacked was a positive voice for vegans. There were very limited dining options; Chefs had made their careers and fortunes serving up plate after plate of animal flesh with no signs of slowing down. Having lived in Napa for 2 1/2 years by the time I unveiled my blog, I realized that I had spent most weekends somewhere else. My husband and I were traveling all over the Bay Area for our food and entertainment and not spending any time in beautiful Napa Valley. So it came down to this…I started my blog and raised my voice for the animals OR I moved. While I was open to starting over somewhere more vegan-friendly, Steve just loved Napa. So, in lieu of an argument that I wasn’t going to win and a move that he didn’t want, my blog was born!
The amount of knowledge I have acquired about winemaking, food and wine pairing, writing and self-hosting has been self-taught and incredible! And I finally realized that this writing thing is pretty cool. And I not only want to keep doing it but I want to keep getting better at it. I want to earn more money doing it. And I want to be seen as an expert on my topics.
The Conference is being held in Santa Rosa and I’m really looking forward to spending my time and money in a city that was so devastated by the 2017 North Bay fires. In fact, the registration fees for the Wine Education sessions and Wine Dinners are being donated to the local American Red Crossbased in Santa Rosa. The Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country is hosting the Conference and will be offering vegan dining options and I’ll get to support all of my favorite vegan restaurants in and around Santa Rosa!
To start this new journey, I’ll be joining close to 300 other attendees at the Wine Bloggers Conference on November 9th – 11th. I will be surrounded by Citizen Bloggers like me; Industry Bloggers; Social Media Innovators and Wine Industry leaders. Day One of the Conference includes Wine Education Sessions with Mark Beringer of Beringer Wines. He’ll be sharing the story behind one of Napa Valley’s most celebrated wines – their iconic Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons. Next, I’ll be learning about the relationshjp between dry-farming & quality wine production with an illustrious panel that includes producers from Armida Winery, DeLoach Vineyards, Oak Farm Vineyards and Quivira Vineyards. That evening the Opening Reception & Expo will include an incredible meet & greet with my fellow attendees; tastings of wines produced locally and from around the world and a big welcome from the event sponsors.
And this is just Day One! My weekend is going to be filled with learning, conversations…and wine! Keep an eye out for what Days Two and Three will include and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!
It has been about a month since my last blog post. I recently returned from spending two weeks up in Northern Michigan visiting friends and family. I planned on doing so much writing and publishing so many amazing posts and instead…nothing. I don’t know who I was kidding. With friends and family abound, my days were full of fun and there was just no time to sit down and be creative. I’m not complaining; it was an awesome vacation. I can’t wait to tell you about it! But, finally, here is my post on the incredible and delicious Sonoma County VegFest…
I am always so excited when the SoCo VegFest comes along in August. It has become my favorite Bay Area veg fest! To see its growth in just four short years is a real thrill. I get to run into old friends & make new ones, meet vendors, learn about animal rights groups and listen to local and national speakers. Oh…and EAT!!!!
Because of the rapid growth of the Fest, last year it was moved into the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa. The Center is much larger and provides plenty of indoor and outdoor space for the event. Though we had to share the parking lot with a local Farmers Market, the spaces opened up quickly and there were no real parking issues. It was really a breeze to get into the event. The entrance was lined with many food vendors offering delicious options along with some picnic tables nestled in under shade trees. There was so much amazing food that day that I cannot possibly list everyone who was there. So, I’ll do the next best thing and tell you about my favorites! Always first on my list is Sebastopol’s famous Muir’s Tea Room. In fact, my first conversation with Christine, Muir’s owner, happened four years ago at the first annual SoCo VegFest. She hadn’t opened her restaurant yet but had big plans and was selling her delicious baked goods. Outside they offered several of their savory sandwich options. The grilled cheese with jam is my favorite. While just inside the door was their sweet’s table. So began my sugar buzz. Cupcakes, homemade chocolates, pecan tortes, cake and more. Everything was as delicious as usual! If I had to choose a favorite, their luscious chocolate peanut butter cupcake is at the top of my list. Gaia’s Garden – one of my favorite veg spots in Santa Rosa offered deep fried deliciousness. Hush puppies, tofu, samosas, oh my! Steve just loves samosas and I tried their deep fried tofu with sweet & sour sauce. It hit the spot and helped level out my sugar high a bit. Later I saw someone walk by with potato salad from Goatlandia Sanctuary. It had a dill flavor and was as good as it looked! Of course, Miyoko’s Kitchen was there offering tasty little bites of their amazing cheeses. I really appreciate that they offer a discount off the retail price when we purchase products at the Fest. Several of the Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf went home with me!
On a side note, I was thrilled to find Miyoko’s High Sierra Rustic Alpine & a couple other flavors on my recent trip to Michigan. I came across it while wandering through the very heath conscious Creation Farm Market shop in the tiny village of Beulah. The shop offers locally grown, organic produce; vegan options galore; holistic skincare made with essential oils and aromatherapy products. After my VERY omnivorous mother tasted the Rustic Alpine (and lost 3 pounds in the week I was there), she announced that she was going vegan for three weeks and has been texting me her successes ever since!
I had my first taste of Health-ade Kombucha earlier this year at the vegan Earth Day festival in Berkeley. They offer about a dozen unique flavor combinations but I keep going back to the Blood Orange-Ginger-Carrot. The flavors meld to create a mouthful of bliss. In addition to being certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, raw, vegan AND kosher, their kombucha is fermented in glass in small 2.5 gallon batches. The glass prevents any leaching from plastic or metal. So, it really is as good for you as you think. My next stop was to enjoy some Subzero nice cream. I had my first bowl of Subzero at the very first annual SoCo VegFest. This seems to really be a trend. They are unique in the fact that they are an ice cream shop with no freezers! When they pour and hand mix the vegan milk into the nitrogen it freezes in 15 seconds (regular ice cream shops take at least 20 minutes). At this speed ice crystals do not have time to form. Creating some of the smoothest, most delicious nice cream available. And I’d know because my husband is an ice cream lover! The peanut butter flavor is my all time favorite!
When I was able to tear myself away from the food, I found my two favorite Festival retail vendors – the Clean Living Collectionand Pinta Libre. A couple months ago I published a post about the Clean Living Collectionafter meeting founder Ariel Welch at the vegan Berkeley Earth Day event. I fell in love with her products. Her 3-clay tooth powder has become my only “toothpaste”. It cleans, whitens and mineralizes my teeth using certified organic ingredients without the use of fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate or preservatives. I purchased the Sage MInt and it is my new favorite! Her deodorant spray is equally as awesome. Once again, it contains vegan, organic ingredients that include colloidal silver and essential oils. My husband has incredibly sensitive under arms and almost everything makes him break out into a rash. But not Ariel’s spray. He loves it! In fact, I am always stealing it from his drawer to use. I really need to purchase my own bottle next time!
Pinta Libre offers a beautiful collection of animals sketched and painted by Valentina Arenas. Valentina and I have communicated for the last couple years through my Napa Valley Vegan Facebook pageand finally had the opportunity to meet this spring at the Berkeley Earth Day event. Clearly, that was the place to be in April! Valentina is a lovely woman and a very talented artist. I took home 3 small framed paintings of a bunny, a lamb and a cow. And since my most favorite animal in the world (besides by adorable doggie Violet) is piggies, I purchased a precious piglet charm for my necklace. I wear it everywhere and always get compliments!
Then came time to check out all of the animal sanctuaries that are working so hard to save lives! They are all doing incredible jobs but I did find myself gravitating to a few favorites. I’m not going to lie that I’m a big supporter of Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR). Not only is JARR the first animal protection non-profit in Napa County to address the needs of farmed animals as well as our beloved cats and dogs but it was founded by a fellow vegan who serves only plant based foods at their fundraisers. This may seem like a no brainer but this is the first animal non-profit in Napa Valley who has made the connection between animals we rescue and animals that are used for food. In just 3 short years, Monica Stevens has grown this grassroots rescue group from one staff member (her) and one volunteer to a full time staff of 6 and hundreds of dedicated volunteers. My next stop was to learn more about the rescued pigeons of Palomacy Pigeon and Dove Rescue. I have met their knowledgable & friendly staff and volunteers many times since my move to California. They are doing an incredible job rescuing birds that are released at weddings or are injured. If I wasn’t moving to Berlin in 10 months, I would love to adopt! Maybe I will find a Berliner pigeon who needs my help! I never grew up with cats and we had very few dogs. Sadly, they were never with us for long. So when I moved into my first apartment, I wasn’t sure what type of animal to welcome into my life. I’d always loved bunny rabbits, at least from afar, One day I was walking through a feed store and came upon these white bun-buns with pink eyes. It took me a while to understand that these poor rabbits were not available as pets. Once I realized it, I bought a little boy bunny, named him Cadbury and took him home to be safe and loved. This then led to a companion for Caddie. Chloe was tiny but fierce. She didn’t much like me but she loved her Cadbury. Save a Bunny (SAB) was featuring one of their rescues and I had to head over and say hi. The sad fact is that while rabbits from feed stores, flea markets and laboratories do end up in local shelters, the majority of rabbits that are euthanized were once family pets and classroom projects. SaveABunny is often the only resource for abused, neglected and homeless rabbits.SaveABunny works hard to rescue the rabbits who have “run out of time” in our shelter system. They may be highly adoptable buns who just didn’t find a home in time or they may have health or behavioral issues or special needs. Once they have a home with SAB, they will never run out of time!
With a touch of sadness, this was my last opportunity to support and enjoy the amazing SoCo VegFest. This time next year, I will be settling into my new home 9,000 miles away. And while you are offering your support to the VegFest, I will be celebrating my first annual Veganes Sommerfest in Berlin!
Whether I am a Napan or a Berliner, I will celebrate these festivals, love & support the animals and have you in my heart! And, of course, we will all continue to eat, drink & be vegan!
The 2nd Annual Sonoma County Vegfest has been such a success over the last two years that they have already outgrown the Finley Community Center located in Santa Rosa and are on the search for a bigger and better venue for 2016! Over 1500 people attended the celebration of compassion this year – 500 more than just last year! There were almost 60 vendors, cooking demonstrations, presentations, animal rights information, the screening of Speciesism, a Kid’s Corner and of course, tons of vegan food to eat! With just a small $5 attendance fee and children under 13 free, it opened the event up to everyone!
As I am sure you are too, I am noticing more and more VegFests and similar vegan events popping up all over the country including our neighboring county Sonoma just over the mountain. Hint, hint Napa – with all of the information out there about the horrors of Factory Farming, the negative health consequences of eating a diet loaded with saturated fat, and the solid fact that the production of animals for meat is destroying our planet, it is time to pay attention. The plant based movement is not going away but growing bigger and stronger every day! Just like so many of my fellow vegans, this festival made me feel right at home. I was able to connect (and reconnect) with others that feel the same way as I do so that I could recharge and keep up the good (nonviolent) fight! Some really exciting news I heard about the SoCo Veg Fest is that of the 1500 who attended half of them eat meat and two-thirds are ovo-lacto vegetarian. But they are curious in learning more and making changes. And being surrounded by good people, great information and delicious food helps in making change!
After attending the Taste of Napa earlier this summer and having only a few vegan choices, I was really excited and ready to eat every tasty vegan treat I could find. And, oh boy, did I! Some of my favorite vendors were at the Vegfest again this year.
Miyoko Schinner and her team from Miyoko’s Kitchen were serving her incredible nut based artisan cheeses. I’ve been eating a plant based diet now for almost 8 years and am still just amazed by the improvements in the dairy free cheeses now available. Just 5 years ago when I made the change from ovo-lacto vegetarian to vegan, the cheese alternatives were so bad that I chose not to eat them. But now, Miyoko’s cheeses are so delicious and authentic they will easily satisfy all of your friends – vegan and non-vegan alike!
V-dogwas there again showing dog guardians that their four legged family members can eat a healthy vegan diet too. V-dog’s kibble is corn, wheat and soy free and is made in the U.S. In fact, I met Linda Middlesworth, co-owner of V-dog, several years ago at Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals and my dogs have been vegan ever since. It is such a comfort to know that my dogs are eating compassionate and healthy food. And they absolutely love all of the fruits, vegetables and grains that I have added to their diet so they have a little variety!
Sjaak’s Organic Chocolateis located in Petaluma and makes the most amazing organic vegan chocolates and candy bars. My absolute favorite are their Eli’s Earth Bars – vegan, organic, fair trade and the best candy bars I have ever had! Sjaak’s also gives back 5% of every sale to non-profit charitable organizations that benefit children so children can embrace what matters – joy, peace and delight! I definitely brought a few of the Earth Bars home with me to share with my husband.
I was also delighted to see Muir’s Tea Room back for the second year. They were still working on opening their new vegan tea room in Sebastopol when I met them at the Vegfest last year. Now they are open and thriving! They were inspired by Scottish conservationist John Muir and opened their tea room in December 2014 in downtown Sebastopol in a historic Victorian home. Offering a delightful respite, they serve the traditional Scottish/English high tea service with tiered racks of finger sandwiches, petit fours, scones, fairy cakes, pastries and a pot of tea. They also offer lunch items that include sandwiches, salads with homemade dressings and 2 house made soups daily. They proudly use the freshest ingredients, local and organic whenever possible! I am absolutely mad for cupcakes and theirs are some of the best. In fact, I had 2 while wandering the Vegfest!
Animal Place’s Vegan Republic specialty store was also there selling vegan groceries, accessories and skin care products!I happily ran into my friend Carol Treacy. Carol is the author of Vegan Cowboy. Mirroring her own life in many ways, the story takes place in Petaluma and is about a 50-something woman wanting to expose factory farming and finally following her own intuition.
I learned about Citizen Foxlast October at Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals event in San Francisco. While they continue working to find their own bricks and mortar restaurant, they currently offer pop-up brunch and dinner. I was happy to see them serving their delicious food at the Fest. In fact, someone walked past be with a vegan corndog and I would not rest until I found out where they got it. The line at Citizen Fox was already getting long even though the Vegfest had just begun. I ordered my corndog and enjoyed every last bite of it!
I also met a couple new vendors this year – as I mentioned before, I am crazy for cupcakes. In fact, the only thing that will lure me away from a vegan cupcake is a vegan yeast raised doughnut! Well, my husband Steve is a cookie monster! And since he was stuck at work all day I promised myself I would find him some yummy cookies. And with the help of My Sweetheart Wife’s Vegan Kitchen I found Steve a ginger and chocolate chip cookie. He was very happy! I also had my first scoop of peanut butter nice cream from Subzero.Subzero is located in Sebastopol and has no freezers in their store. They mix each order individually by hand and freeze with liquid nitrogen! Because each order is custom made, they are able to offer whatever you want…vegan, gluten free, etc. This vegan ice cream was exactly what I remember about ice cream before I gave up dairy. Creamy, smooth and amazing. I was really blown away!
The screening of Speciesism: The Movie was available for everyone to view. The director Mark Devries set out to explore the hidden factory farms that modern farms continue to try to keep secret. Mark Devries takes the viewers on a sometimes funny, sometimes frightening adventure from crawling through the bushes that hide the factories, flying above the toxic manure lagoons and sometimes coming face to face with those who have most at stake in keeping us in the dark!
There were many wonderful speakers this year including Priya Sawhney, the lead international organizer and investigator for Direct Action Everywhere. She discussed the importance of open rescue and also the findings of a recent investigation and rescue that exposed shocking cruelty at a “humane” Whole Foods farm. Priya discussed how DxE’s campaigns have provoked public consciousness and inspired nonviolent direct action in over 95 cities and 20 countries.
Dr. Ulka Agarwal is a board certified physician who specializes in psychiatry, nutrition and integrative medicine. She is currently the Lead Physician at Cal State University East Bay where she developed and leads a weekly employee wellness program on plant-based nutrition. She also worked with Dr. Neal Barnard for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine researching the effects of plant-based diets on chronic illness and mental health. She shared her findings on the relationship between plant-based food and mood. She leads a vegan lifestyle and believes that every living being deserves a life of dignity and respect.
Mark Hawthorne, author of Bleating Hearts, discussed compassionate choices, the truth behind animal exploitation and how we can all make a difference. Offering a very empowering talk, he discussed a wide variety of simple methods for putting compassion into action for animals.
Jack Norris, registered dietician and Executive Director of Vegan Outreach, discussed the research that has been done on vegans, rates for common chronic disease and the specific nutrients we need. Vegan Outreach promotes individual outreach through distribution of booklets on campuses through an Adopt a College program. Jack has also co-written Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet.
Best-selling author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau offered an inspiring, entertaining and informative lecture with responses to everything from “I don’t have time to chop vegetables” and “I tried to be vegetarian but I craved meat” to “I could give up everything, except cheese” and “Vegans don’t get enough protein”. She is an acclaimed speaker and beloved host of the inspiring podcast, “Food for Thought,” which was voted Favorite Podcast by VegNews magazine readers. Colleen shares her message of compassion and wellness on national and regional TV programs, including the Food Network, CBS, PBS, and FOX. Interviews with her have been featured on NPR, U.S. News and World Report, and The Chicago Tribune, and her recipes have been featured on Epicurious.com and Oprah.com. Colleen is a regular contributor to National Public Radio.
I have to make an “Honorable Mention” to the Ugliest Cake I have ever seen! This cake was entered into the Sonoma County Fair’s “Ugliest Cake Contest”. Though the baker was allowed to enter the cake, they refused to display it on the table with the other contestants. They were unable to give him a reason why but the Vegfest was happy to let it be shared with others. I have known about the ugly truth of factory farming for a long time and am no longer able to look away from it. However, not everyone is able to look these truths in the eye quite yet!
The Sonoma County Vegfest earned an A+ from me this year. The food was amazing and plentiful, there were many animals rights’ groups offering powerful information, vegan goods available to purchase (I got a couple t-shirts!), awesome speakers and demonstrations plus a wonderful energy of compassion. Santa Rosa is just an hour from Napa and well worth the drive. Absolutely an experience you don’t want to miss! I look forward to seeing you there next year! Thanks for joining me on my tour of summer festivals. And as always…eat, drink and be vegan!