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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vegan GroupOn?!

I just discovered this site Vegan Cuts the other day, and talk about perfect!  It's essentially a vegan GroupOn.  They have featured items that you get for a steal and it's a fantastic way to get introduced to more vegan products!  I'm so excited for this!!  Sign up to become a member and you get weekly emails with featured deals on vegan products, plus if you refer friends you get a chance to win prizes from companies like Coconut Bliss, Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso and Susan Nichole!!  (Say I referred you, please!)  Happy shopping!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Delightful Finds!

I don't know why it took me so long, but I finally went to Lazy Jane's Cafe for breakfast this weekend with Patrick.  Our usual Chai Lattes and Gotham Bagels with tofu cream cheese weekend breakfast was getting a little old, so we decided to mix it up.  I had heard through the grape vine that Lazy Jane's carries a few vegan muffins and scones, and that they had one breakfast option that can be veganized, the Seitan Hash.  I called ahead and spoke with the cook, and he informed me of this and that they also had some vegan specials for breakfast that day.  So off we went!  Boy, was I pleasantly surprised!  Not only did they have lemon scones, which I got of course, but they also had 2 vegan specials of a tofu scrambler and banana walnut pancakes.  I went with the pancakes, and they were delicious!  The scone was also delectable!  It was more like a muffin top, but I like the softer ones anyway.  The atmosphere was quite charming.  Lazy Jane's is a two story house that offers a homey feel for a great price!  Our meals together only cost $12!  They yell out your name when your food is ready and you bus your own tables.  I loved it!

I really do hope that they continue to have vegan specials and I plan to talk to the cook and ask to have more vegan options added to their regular menu, like a tofu scrambler and/or vegan pancakes/waffles.  It would be quite simple, and I think this would be beneficial to their business.  There are practically no places in town that have a good vegan breakfast.  Monty's does an okay job with their Almond French Toast, but their other options are lackluster and greasy.  Sunroom Cafe also has a tofu scrambler, but it isn't very good either.  If you can get a scramble down right, you will see the vegans running!  The only place that's gotten it right is the Chicago Diner.  Oh how I wish it were here in Madison!

So hear that Lazy Jane's?  We're waiting for you to fill that void!

I would also like to give a shout out to Kelly Peloza, The Vegan Cookie Connosieur herself!  You can check out her blog here:  She will be doing a food demo at Mad City Vegan Fest and she has also blogged about us!  This is shaping up to be a wonderful festival, so be sure to come to the event June 19, 10am-5pm!

And yet one more thing.  One of our vendors for MCVF is Chocolate Inspirations.  They have a wide variety of vegan and gluten free chocolates and desserts.  Their caramels look amazing!  I can't look at this site too long or I start to drool!

Monday, April 18, 2011

VegNews Apologizes

VegNews has come out with an actual apology, from the publishers and editors.  Not only that, but they have promised to never use non-vegan photos again and they are building a vegan photo bank as well.  I'm relieved.  I do think that VegNews is a valuable resource for many vegans and I really do enjoy reading it.  Sure it has some fluff, but it's nice to see what's going on in the vegan community.  I will definitely be renewing my subscription and continuing my support of this magazine.  I'm very disappointed by what they did, but I think they are doing a great job to rectify the situation.  Considering the backlash, I have no doubt in my mind that they will keep their word, otherwise they will lose a vast majority of their readership.  I forgive you VegNews.  I'm all about second chances.  Just don't disappoint us again!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Complete Disappointment, So Long VegNews

I was very disturbed to discover an article yesterday about VegNews using photos containing animal products in their magazine and online while passing them as vegan.  I'm am outraged!  I feel like one of my best friends stabbed me in the back.  Like many vegans who subscribe to this magazine, I eagerly await my copy and I quickly flip through and drool over the photos of supposedly vegan food.  Apparently I've been drooling over photos of food laden with animal flesh and secretions.  Disgusting!  What's worse is that they knowingly deceived us.  Here is an excerpt of their response:

"Yes, from time to time, after exhausting all options, we have resorted to using stock
photography that may or may not be vegan. In an ideal world we would use custom-shot
photography for every spread, but it is simply not financially feasible for VegNews at this time. In those rare times that we use an image that isn’t vegan, our entire (vegan) staff weighs in on whether or not it’s appropriate. It is industry standard to use stock photography in magazines—and, sadly, there are very few specifically vegan images offered by stock companies. In addition, it’s exceedingly challenging to find non-stock imagery that meets the standard necessary for publication. We would love nothing more than to use only vegan photography shot by vegan photographers, and we hope to be there soon."

You can find the full response here.  I think this is a sorry excuse.  I understand that magazines don't have a lot of money, but they release 6 issues a year.  Only 6.  They say from "time to time" they use non-vegan photos, but I find this incredibly hard to swallow.  Just judging by what QuarryGirl showed us here, it would appear that they use these photos more often than not.  There's nothing wrong with using stockpile photos when it's the best option available, but in a vegan publication there is something seriously wrong with using non-vegan food photographs to pass off as vegan.  Linda Holmes from NPR wrote an article that says:

"Unfortunately, when you use pictures of non-vegan food in a vegan publication, you're playing a whole different kettle of...well, not fish, obviously...It can seem like you're disrespecting vegan food in a magazine for vegans.  It's tought to thnk of a better way to anger your reader, other than including a ham hock with every issue."

I couldn't agree more.

The main issue here is that they were not transparent about this.  We had no clue!  I can guarantee that vegans do NOT want to stare at pictures laden with animal products and we would rather take a low quality picture of vegan food than a high quality picture of a burger of cow flesh dripping with fat.  No thank-you!

Often these stockpile photos are also accompanied by a recipe.  So when you make a recipe for a "Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Vanilla Cheesecake" like I did, you'll find that the result doesn't look like the photograph.  I can't wrap my head around this one.  These recipes are provided by some great cook-book authors or food bloggers, who often take pictures of their creations.  Wouldn't it make more sense for them to send in a picture of their food, of the actual recipe when they submit their recipes for print?  Who care if it's a lower quality, at least it's a picture of the food you'll be making!

What's more, is that when a concerned reader recognized one of the photographs as being a non-vegan food from the stockpile site, he commented on their site and sent them a friendly letter trying to help them realize this mistake.  Well, shortly after he posted his comment, it was deleted.  So he left another comment.  That one was deleted as well.  Then, he receives a response saying:

"Thank you for your interest in VegNews.  However, your inappropriate and mean-spirited commenting has violated the policy of VegNews, and we have and will continue to remove any future comments.  Please know that we welcome constructive criticism from all viewpoints, and rarely unpublish comments from readers...Should you have any constructive feedback, feel free to email me directly.  I'd love to hear from you."

Say what?  Isn't that exactly what this reader provided...constructive feedback?  I would certainly say so.  QuarryGirl investigated the policy from a link on the VegNews home page, here.  There is no reference to comments calling out meat pictures, so QuarryGirl left a comment: "just want to let you know that this burger is not vegan.  It's a stock photo of a real beef burger."  Twenty minutes later their comment was deleted.  This is incredibly disturbing.  As QuarryGirl rightly points out, we can only conclude that their is something serious integrity issues at VegNews and they can no longer be trusted. 

Grant Butler of the Oregonian also has a great article on the subject here.  He gives some examples of the counter-arguments, which have been represented by blogger Babe in Soyland and also Ecorazzi.  Again it comes down to a cost issue in both cases.  I don't buy it.  As Grant Butler points out there were more than 250 people who commented on the letter that VegNews released, a number of which were vegan photographers.  "[They] noted that there are many stock images of vegan hamburgers available that could have been used in place of the meat version that VegNews used.  And other comments notes that many vegan bloggers shoot beautiful digital images of the food they write about, so how hard could it be for VegNews to do the same when it tests its recipes."  

My favorite comment: "You're calling it vegan.  Selling it to vegans.  It better be vegan, or you're a cheat and a liar.  Period."  

Case and point.

I have already drafted up my letter to the editor expressing my concern about this.  I want an apology.  Not a poor response like they've dished out, but an actual apology.  I want a promise that they will not use stockpile photos of non-vegan food in the future, or that they will at least disclose this if they do.  AND I want this to come from the actual editor and not the "VegNews Team."  They better fix this fast or they certainly have a shitstorm to deal with.  If they don't do these things I am discontinuing my subscription, which is set to relapse in 2 months.  If you are angry about this, write them up!  Magazine are supposed to listen to their readers, so let your voice be heard.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vegan Escapes!

Wow, it's been a long time!  Sorry folks!  These past few weeks have been mighty crazy.  As some of you may know, it was my birthday a week ago as well as my boyfriend's, so I was a little busy.  It was also my father's birthday the week before, so I've been jetsetting about the past couple of weekends.  Appleton to spend time with my family, so I brought Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes for my father.  His favorite cake is Pineapple Upside-Down, so I thought I'd try these bad boys out.  They were delicious!  I would have an adorably cute picture to post up here, but due to an unfortunate mishap I have lost and/or had my camera nabbed while in Chicago.  Yikes!  So incredibly sad.  Brand new camera that was a gift at Christmas from my wonderful parents.  I couldn't help feel like I disappointed the by losing it.  Oh well.  No sense on holding onto disappointments and regrets when you can't do anything to change them.  Observe and let go, I say!  Especially when my oh so wonderful boyfriend bought me a replacement camera as a belated birthday gift.  So sweet, this one!  He fully deserved his Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Vanilla Cheesecake that I made him for his birthday, as well as the Coconut Heaven Cupcakes that I just made him as a thank-you this evening.  (I'll post all these recipes, BTW, don't you worry!)

Okay, so today's post is dedicated to my trip to Chicago!  Losing my camera aside, this trip was amazing!  I went with three of the most amazing women I know and we ate and shopped til we dropped...or rolled.  We only ate at two restaurants, The Chicago Diner and Karyn's Cooked.  When we first got into town, we checked in at the Wynham Hotel and then we went to The Chicago Diner for lunch.  Yum!  I've been to this restaurant only once before, and I barely ate anything, so I didn't miss the opportunity this time!  It was my birthday weekend after least that was my excuse.  ;-)  I had the Mozzarella Sticks made with Teese Cheese.  They were pretty good, especially for the first vegan mozzarella stick I've ever had, but I prefer Daiya to Teese.  Daiya stretches better.  (Hear that Daiya?  Time to make mozz sticks!)  For the main dish I had a Barbecue Bacon Cheezeburger with Daiya and Sweet Potato Fries.  Absolutely delicious!  Oh, and I also had the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Shake.  Phenomenal!  If you go to this restaurant, you have to get this shake!!!  Hands down, best milkshake I've ever had.

After this meal, we were all fit to burst, so we went to work off some of those calories (a very small fraction) by shopping downtown Chicago!  I haven't gone shopping in quite some time, so I went a little was my birthday after all...right?!  :-O  Anyway, after shopping for about 5 hours and putting quite a dent in my bank account, we were ready for Karyn's Cooked.  We walked on down to 738 N Wells St and only had to wait about 20 minutes for a table.  (They don't take reservations.)  We had the opportunity to stand in front of the dessert case, salivating until we got our table.  As an appetizer we had the Buffalo Wings, which came with three different dipping sauces.  My favorite was the extra hot sauce!  I wasn't a fan of the ranch, but their barbecue is also very good.  For my entree I had the Green Enchiladas.  These are corn tortillas stuffed with garlic mashed potatoes, smothered in a green tomatillo sauce and sprinkled with soy cheese, served with spanish brown rice and refried black beans.  Holy YUM!  I'm already a sucker for Mexican food and garlic mashed potatoes, combine the two and I'm in heaven!  Then to round it all out I had a slice of Carrot Cake for dessert.  Two desserts in one day?  You bet your ass!  It was my birthday after all...right?  (See a running theme, here?  You can justify anything naughty for the sake of your birthday!)  Oh, and I also had a Mango Martini with my meal.  Almost forgot that one.  Very delicious drink!

So after we were gorged and probably 10 pounds heavier, or at least I felt like it, we somehow found the energy to go out.  We got all snazzed up and went to the John Hancock building to have drinks in their lounge at the top of the building.  This is so high up that I got dizzy just from being up there.  There were spectacular views of the city from up there, especially from the women's bathroom.  Kind of funny that the best view out of the whole place was in the bathroom!  We all had ridiculously strong cocktails and then mosied along to another bar a short cab drive away called Maude's Liquor Bar.  I ended up ordering a drink before I looked at what they serve on their menu:  foie gras, bone meal and other equally disgustingly cruel meaty meals.  I was horrified to be a patron at such an establishment!  Next time I'll be wiser and look at what they serve on their menu.  Foie Gras?  Really?!  Diseased liver anyone?  Ugh!  We wrapped up our evening here, then headed back to our hotel to rest up.

The next morning we were somehow hungry again, even after gorging ourselves silly the previous day.  I ended up having a the Egg-Biscuit Sammy that was a chive biscuit with a tofu omelette, seitan sausage,  Daiya cheese and cajunnaise sauce, and herbed potatoes.  One of the best breakfasts I've ever had!  Seriously delicious!  I got one of their vegan cinnamon rolls as well, but I would say you can pass on this.  I wasn't impressed.  It was a bit dry and "meh."  I can do a better job.  The only reason I tried it is because I haven't had a cinnamon roll since I went vegan 3 years ago.

So that concludes my fabulous trip to Chicago!  As you can tell, we pretty much spent the whole time eating.  ;-)  I paid for it many days afterward and I think my ass is still paying for it a bit, but Spring is upon us and I'll work it off!  It was worth it!  Quite the birthday celebration!  Oh, and I almost forgot, it was also my 3-year anniversary of being vegan on my birthday as well!!  Best 3 years of my life!  Happy eating and traveling folks.  You better prepare yourself when I go to Portland next month.  I plan to eat my way across town!