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Volunteering at Best Friends Sanctuary
Nov09

Volunteering at Best Friends Sanctuary

I was fortunate enough in September to spend some time volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.  The sanctuary serves as the headquarters for the 30 year-old organization Best Friends Animal Society, which launched the no-kill movement and facilitates adoptions and spay/neuter programs nationwide. In addition, BF works on initiatives related to puppy mills, pit bull/breed discrimination, and TNR for feral cat colonies. Nestled in Angel Canyon, the sanctuary is a slice of heaven where, at any given time, about 1700 animals are being cared for by the Best Friends staff. Although most of these animals are dogs and cats that are waiting for their forever homes, the sanctuary also takes in barnyard animals (horses, goats), pigs, bunnies, parrots and exotic birds, and wild life. Some of the animals have special needs, some have come from situations of abandonment or neglect. With the exception of the animals in the Wildlife department, all the animals are adoptable. The miracle here is that there is no clock ticking against them: the sanctuary, then, functions as the largest no-kill shelter in the country; in this idyllic setting, the animals are ensured whatever they need — physical, emotional, and psychological needs — for as long as it takes to find them a family. To spend time in such a gorgeous place with these animals, and the very special people who spend their days caring for them, was extraordinary. The sanctuary is a scenic four-hour drive from the Las Vegas airport. Kanab is a great little town in its own right: this “Little Hollywood” was the location for more than 100 western films. The main street, lined with quaint shops and cafes, showcases a “western” walk of fame that features familiar faces such as Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck; and there’s a museum that houses pieces of old western movie sets. Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes are all just short drives away — we wrapped it all together into one great Utah trip. While the 90-minute tour of the sanctuary is alone worth a trip — some 3 million people visit each year — it was even better to spend a few days there and volunteer. There are plenty of places to stay in Kanab, about 10 minutes from the sanctuary; but if you book well in advance, you can have the added pleasure of staying right on the sanctuary’s premises, as we did, at one of its cabins or cottages. And here’s a tip: whether you are staying on site or in town, lunch at the cafeteria in Angel Village is an absolute must — both...

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Houston’s Green Seed Vegan Cafe
Oct17

Houston’s Green Seed Vegan Cafe

This past weekend, I was back in Houston for Rice University’s Homecoming and Centennial Celebration — and my 20th Class Reunion. Good times! In the midst of all the celebrating and catching up with old friends, my husband Seth and I discovered a little place not too far from campus that became our favorite lunch place. Green Seed Vegan started as a food truck before it found its home at 4320 Almeda (at Wheeler) about two years ago. Everything on the menu sounds so mouth-watering good that it warranted repeated visits just so we could try new things each time. I love that the focus is on whole foods; instead of using mock meats, the staff here uses vegetables and spices creatively, turning sandwiches, burgers, and salads into delectables that surely will keep customers coming back for more. If I still lived in town, Green Seed quickly would become a regular haunt. Sandwiches & Panini On our first visit, Seth went for the Illy Cheesesteak: on a french wheat baguette, you’ll get a heap of portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, and melted vegan cheddar. Fresh pressed panini include the Tosh (Seth’s official fave here): maple jerk garbanzo tempeh with grilled plantains, spinach, and jerk aioli. He also tried the PB&P— caramelized plantains topped wit spinach and nut butter spread. Meanwhile, the man at the table next to ours that day was having the Garden Fresh panini, seasonal vegetables and roasted red peppers in a balsamic glaze topped with spinach and melted nondairy cheese. Burgers While Seth went for the panini, I went the burger route. My first visit, I decided on the Cali Burger, actually a large slice of cauliflower breaded and fried; top this off with arugula, onions, pickles, tomato with spicy aioli on a whole wheat bun, and you’ve got one tasty lunch. But I also enjoyed two variations of GS’s buckwheat burger, which has a softer consistency than the usual veggie burger but is still very flavorful and satisfying. I loved the Fungus Amongous, which piled on mushrooms, cheese, caramelized onions, tomato mayo and mustard; my next lunch there, I went with for the Big Tex (when in Texas…). Topping off the buckwheat patty on the whole wheat bun, a few zucchini “bacon” slices, avocado, cheese, onions, tomato, and mayo (I had them hold the jalapenos). You also might want to try the Dirty Burque, which was awarded this year’s “Best Veggie Burger” status by the Houston Press. Sides at GS include fries, dill sweet potato fries, battered and fried cauliflower florets, and — for something a little healthier — a small kale salad. Smoothies & Salads And...

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Favorite Eats in L.A.
Oct04

Favorite Eats in L.A.

Coinciding with my trip to L.A. last week, the New York Times published an article, Making Vegan a New Normal,which focused on the booming vegan scene in southern California. I’ve written before about some of my favorite L.A. restaurants, and I try to visit a few of them each time I’m in town. But I always make sure also to try some places that are new to me. So here’s my updated list of L.A. faves: Shojin 333 S. Alameda St. suite 310, 90013 213-617-0305 A new-to-me place located downtown that became an instant fave! A vegan and macrobiotic Japanese restaurant with great ambiance and amazing sushi rolls. My husband Seth and I started with the Spicy Rock Shitake Tempura appetizer and then split three rolls: the Dynamite roll (spicy “tuna” and avocado); Yellow Magic Orchestra (pumpkin tempura and curry spiced tempeh); and the Pirates of the Crunchy (fried tempeh, green onion, crunchy tempura batter, and spicy mayo). O Burger 8593 Santa Monica Blvd., 90069 310-854-0234 Also a new favorite. This organic burger joint in West Hollywood isn’t all vegetarian or vegan, but it has a terrific vegan burger. It’s a great place to grab some lunch — especially if you sit outside and have some fun people-watching while you eat. I got the Classic O! Veggie — it’s a homemade burger comprised of spinach, corn, carrots, peas, and cucumber slices. The spinach makes it different from any other veg burger I’ve had; and anything spinach immediately shoots to the top of my personal fave list. My sauce of choice was the vegan Thousand Island, but Seth loved the chipotle. Veggie Grill 8000 W. Sunset Blvd., 90046/ 2025 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90036 323-822-7575 (Sunset Blvd.) The Sunset Boulevard location has become a favorite for grabbing a late-night bite after whatever event has brought us to the City of Angels (closes at 10pm). However, on this trip, we met some friends for lunch at the Santa Monica VG, which is nice because it’s just down the road from the beach and the Santa Monica Pier (roller coaster!). Seth goes for the VG-Cheeseburger, topped with caramelized onions and jalapenos. I cannot resist the All Hail Kale Salad with blackened tempeh. If feeling particularly indulgent, I’ll order a side of sweet potato fries. There are eight locations in southern California, two in Oregon, and two in Seattle (one of them opens today!). I’m hoping a VG will open in NYC sometime very soon. Real Food Daily 414 La Cienega Blvd., 90048 310-289-9910 Sunday brunch at RFD in West Hollywood has become a tradition for us. Seth brunches on the Breakfast Burrito — a whole...

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Eating in Los Angeles
Mar30

Eating in Los Angeles

Most of the time, when I’m heading to California, I’m heading to San Francisco (one of my fave American cities!), Santa Barbara  (yoga!), or San Diego (dog beach!). It’s been quite a while since my last trip to L.A., so last weekend when I was in town for The Genesis Awards, I made sure to check out some places that were new to me. Getting ready for and going to the Awards took up most of Saturday, but my husband Seth and I still made time for some wonderful meals together during our stay, on our own and shared with friends. Elf Cafe Great little vegetarian/vegan Mediterranean place on Sunset Boulevard. The cafe only seats about thirty people, so the atmosphere is intimate, but high energy. My husband Seth and I started by splitting a crock of organic lentils that came topped with deliciously roasted crimini mushrooms and caramelized onions. While Seth opted for the Mushroom Risotto as a main course, I chose the Roasted beet & Braised Fennel that was served with basmati rice and a port wine reduction– a dish I will be attempting to re-create at home very soon! Real Food Daily The West Hollywood location turned out to be the ideal place for Sunday brunch with some friends from Compassion Over Killing. I’d been thinking about pancakes since I woke up that morning, so I had the Blueberry Pancakes, complete with vegan butter and maple syrup. Seth ordered the RFD Benedict, a vegan version of a classic that substitutes savory herbed tofu for the eggs. Complete with tempeh bacon and vegan hollandaise sauce — it’s to die for! Other great dishes at our table: the Sausage Scramble made with Chipotle seitan sausage, onions, peppers, cilantro, and melted cashew cheese, and the Triple Decker Club Sandwich of seitan, tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and veganaise on sourdough. (I didn’t catch what Tobey Maguire was having at the next table.) Cafe Gratitude, Los Angeles Well… we didn’t get here during our long weekend, but I’m including it on the list anyway. Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood has been one of my favorite spots in that city. However, it’s one of the northern California locations now closing its doors. I’m happy to know there’s one to visit in L.A. the next time I’m in town. If you have a Los Angeles fave, I’d love to hear about...

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Hair & Makeup at Fabulous Stylez, L.A.
Mar28

Hair & Makeup at Fabulous Stylez, L.A.

While I was in Los Angeles for The Genesis Awards, I needed to have my hair and makeup done for the event. I wanted to find a place near our hotel, The Beverly Hilton; I also wanted to ensure that whatever products the salon used would be cruelty-free. As many of you know, I’ve been a fan of Aveda products and salons for a long time, so an easy way for this out-of-towner to find a place for prettying up was by checking out the Aveda site. There were a few locations listed on the Aveda web site that were within just a few miles of the hotel. After a little extra searching on the internet for some customer reviews, I decided on Fabulous Stylez on Melrose Avenue in the West Hollywood neighborhood. First, Ashleigh did my hair in an up-do inspired by the hairstyle worn by actress Berenice Bejo at this year’s Academy Awards. (This proved particularly fitting, as I ended up hanging out with the canine star of The Artist, Uggie, later that evening.) After my hair was taken care of, Alexia worked some make-up magic. Thanks to both ladies at Fabulous Stylez for helping me get ready for a truly fabulous evening. Bonus tip! I’ve visited Aveda salons in several cities. If you find yourself in a town you don’t know very well and you need a hair cut, a touch up, or an up-do, Aveda is like an old friend you can always count on. NOTE: After posting this, one of our CFF Facebook friends pointed out that Aveda is owned by Estee Lauder, a company that still tests on animals. Although Aveda operates as a separate entity and is admirable for its own stance against animal testing, I’m hoping its parent company gets on board with cruelty-free...

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Just Back from The Genesis Awards!
Mar26

Just Back from The Genesis Awards!

This past weekend, I was in Los Angeles to attend The 26th Genesis Awards held at The Beverly Hilton. Each year, The Humane Society of the United States hosts a star-studded event that recognizes the contributions by major news and entertainment media in raising public awareness about animal issues. Saturday night’s program was hosted by Carrie Ann Inaba of “Dancing with the Stars.” The evening began with cocktails before sitting down to a 3-course vegan meal, followed by the awards show. Celebrity presenters included Colbie Callat, Bill Maher, Rose McGowan, Cloris Leachman, Jason Ritter, and Moby. In the midst of all the mingling, I enjoyed a conversation with the Today show’s Jill Rappaport, who won for her series of reports on rescuers of homeless animals. However, the highlight of the evening for me was getting lots of face licks from presenter Uggie, star of the Academy Award winning film The Artist. All of the nominees deserve a standing ovation for their inspiring work. Here’s a list of some of the night’s winners, just to give you a glimpse: Feature Film Rise of the Planet of the Apes Feature Documentary Born to Be Wild 3D Dramatic Series Hawaii Five-0 Reality Series Animal Planet Investigates– “Captive Hunting Exposed” Children’s Programming Teennick News w/ Linda Ellerbee National News NBC Nightly News Talk Show The Ellen DeGeneres Show TV NewsMagazine 20/20 (ABC) On-Line Award The Atlantic.com Ian Somerhalder of “The Vampire Diaries” received the Wyler Award, which is awarded each year to a celebrity or public figure who has raised awareness of animal issues via the media. The Ian Somerhalder Foundation “aims to empower, educate, and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet and its creatures. ” Ian actively tweets and blogs about all kinds of animal issues, and even went before Congress to support the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act of 2011. Awesome! The Genesis Awards will air on Animal Planet, May 5th at 4:00pm (EST), with an encore broadcast on May 6th… watch for me in the audience! Silent Auction In addition to the dinner and awards, the night includes a silent auction and a rockin’ after party. Among the items to bid on were some of my favorite cruelty-free products, such as a coat by Vaute Coat and a faux-fur vest by Impostor. I walked away with a gift bag by one of my NYC faves — Candle 79: a gift certificate to the restaurant, plus a few tee-shirts and the new Candle 79 cookbook. A peek inside the program… Extra special for me about this event: as purchasers of “Gazelle” tickets, we were listed in the program among the...

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