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Friday, July 27, 2012

Linky-Dinks & What-Nots

Roll out the red carpet because it's time for some LINKS!

Vegetarian Summerfest, according to other people...

Dreena Burton was one of the presenters at VS, but that didn't mean she missed out on ANY of the fun. Check out her experience on her site, Plant-Powered Kitchen.

Heather of Healthy Eating Starts Here focused her recap on the healthier side of VS. She created a cute video, too!

Speaking of videos, here's another GREAT visual recap:

I met the gal behind Beans Not Bambi at the Summerfest tweet-up (Hi Christin!) She summarizes a very touching story that Victoria Moran (the vegan pixie, as I like to call her) shared during one of the plenaries.

I also had the utmost pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Jaime of Save the Kales! What an absolute doll! She's blogged some bits and pieces of her Summerfest experience as well.

And now onto the other goods!

How to Travel Alone via Persephone Magazine

How to Travel the World also via Persephone Magazine

Less than three months until the 3rd Annual Tampa Bay Veg Fest! Keep up with all the hub bub on the TBVF Facebook page.

Avoiding illness while traveling via Go Overseas. Do you have any terrible sick-while-overseas stories (that you're willing to share)?

Writer's block? Oy, do I feel ya. This post from A Beautiful Mess gives some nice, cozy suggestions of places to get inspired.

My darling blogger buddy, Adjoa, recently left Tampa for Minneapolis (SAD FACE!). One night we were chatting about all the greatness that will happen when I head up to visit her next year, and I said, "I wonder if there's a Veg Fest up there." She said she didn't know. Then, I swear to you, the very next day, I stumbled upon a link for the Twin Cities Veg Fest, which I promptly forwarded to Adjoa. She went and wrote this very nice recap post on her own blog. Check it out!

A Decade of Advice from Hobo Siren.

What rocked your Internet socks this week?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vegetarian Summerfest 2012: Tips & Lessons Learned

Since I had never been to Vegetarian Summerfest before, I did not know the ins and outs or what to expect, especially as far as prices and lodging. The full registration (5 days), plus airfare, added up to almost a thousand dollars. It's a hefty price tag for sure, even if it's an "all-inclusive" trip. (Hell, I could stay at an all-inclusive in the Bahamas for cheaper!) But ya gotta figure it's not just a room and a ton of food, it's also entertainment and workshops and non-stop learning. I think it all evens out.

But now that I've "been there, done that," I have some tips and perspective to share with you.

There are hotels within a few minutes of the campus. If you split a room with a few people, that would save you some cash. However, now that I know how jam-packed the days of VS are, I would lean more toward staying on-campus. The days are long and they start early and run late. Staying on campus would be far more convenient, even with a couple of hotels being a few miles away. But, if you're trying to save some cash, hotels are certainly an option, as well as camping.

And let's talk about the dorm rooms. I shared an air-conditioned room with my friend, Amber, in the Living Learning Center ("the LLC"), which is where 99% of the sessions/workshops take place. This was hella convenient and would be my #1 choice as far as buildings to stay in. All of the rooms in all the buildings, though, have linen service. Linen service, in this case, means bedding and tiny, tiny towels. The VS registration desk gives you a bar of soap upon arrival. That's it. If you're picky about your bedding situation, bring whatever makes you more comfortable. I can manage to sleep under most circumstances, so I was fine. The towels, though, made me crazy. Amber and I laughed when we realized that what we thought were hand towels, were actually bath towels, as in, for your whole body. Between that and the tissue paper-thin toilet paper, we made a late-night run to the nearby Wal*Mart and bought cheap (but large) bath towels and better quality toilet paper. Those two things made our stay much more comfortable.

Depending on where you stay, you may or may not have a private bathroom. If this bothers you, take that into consideration when you book your room. If you book a non-air conditioned room, you may want to bring or obtain a fan at some point.

But really, you'll spend very little time in your room. It's essentially only for sleeping and bathing. The rooms aren't glamorous, but that's okay. You're not here for 5-star lodging. You're here to get inspired.

There are two different registration packages to choose from: full registration (all 5 days of the event) or the weekend registration (Friday through Sunday). ALWAYS GO FOR THE FULL REGISTRATION. You'll definitely get "more bang for your buck." I am so glad I sprung for the full 5 days because those 5 days FLEW BY so fast, I can't even imagine how just 3 days would feel. Probably like I blinked and missed it. The three days will be even shorter if you fly in later in the day on Friday. Plus, because people are catching flights at all different times on Sundays - presenters included - many sessions get canceled. Sunday hardly counts as a day of activity. As a matter of fact, I didn't attend a single session on Sunday (because Jenny Brown canceled, and because we had a flight to catch). We had time to grab a to-go lunch from the cafeteria and jet out. So, make it worth your while and go for the full five days.

The food is EXPENSIVE and there's so dang much of it. If you can work out an a la carte deal, do it. Whenever I return to VS, I would be fine with ONLY paying for dinners.

I'm terrible at packing for a trip. This is a fact about me, it's something I cannot seem to change, but I really overpacked for this trip.
What you're seeing in that picture are all of the clothes that I packed, but never wore. They include:
two swimsuits - I was excited to learn that we had access to the campus pool, but learned upon arrival that it was not near our dorm building, nor did we have time to swim while the pool was open. It was either swim, or get inspired at a workshop. The choice is obvious.
work-out clothes - extra t-shirts and tank tops, sports bras, yoga pants, 1 pair of sneakers... Who was I kidding?! Yoga sessions started around 5 or 6am (HA!), and there were other fitness classes sprinkled throughout the day, but again: I could either do a yoga session, or go to a workshop with an awesome vegan activist. Gonna go with the activist! We also had access to the school's fitness center, but that was in the same building as the pool. It was inconveniently located, plus there was NO TIME! I got plenty of exercise walking from session to session every day.
"nicer" clothes - I packed nicer tops and a dress (as well as a pair of "nicer" sandals), in case I felt I needed to classy it up a notch. Pfft. No one was dressing up! It's super casual. Anyone is certainly welcome to dress up if they want, but the majority of attendees were wearing jeans and t-shirts. Wear whatever makes you comfortable (always). With the seemingly endless feedings at VS, I recommend loose-fitting clothes and stretchy pants. Leave the skinny jeans at home!
A hoodie and two cardigans - Oh, Florida people. "We're going up north! It might get cold!" I wasn't cold for one single moment! In fact, it was shweaty-balls hot most days at VS. Considering most activities take place indoors, you're protected from all elements. If you naturally run a little cooler than most people, are sensitive to air conditioning, or whatever, then yes, bring a light jacket or something so you're comfortable. I did not run into this problem one single time.

Despite the extra shoes, I wore flip-flops every day of VS, except our arrival day. Since I overslept so often, it was quicker to just slip on some flippy-floppies, plus it was too damn hot to put on socks and shoes. I love flip-flops, anyway, but hitting the pavement hard every day, schlepping from session to session, was no treat for my feet. Oh well.

Some of you may recall, either from the blog or Facebook, that I've started bringing veg starter kits with me on flights to leave in the seat-back pockets. For this trip, I decided to up the outreach a notch. I brought three different kinds of starter kits, as well as stickers, which my traveling friends and I had fun placing in the in-flight magazines. (I wish I had pictures of Joan's strategic sticker placement. She was good at this!)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Beautiful People of Vegetarian Summerfest

Aside from having a steady rotation of varied delicious vegan meals catered to me every day, the other totally awesome part of Vegetarian Summerfest was the people. The lovely, compassionate, vegan people from all over the place. Let me introduce some of them to you.

One of the best sessions I attended was about public speaking, by Victoria Moran. I had never met Victoria before, but of course, I knew who she was. This workshop was amazing. If I could be half the entrancing speaker that Victoria is, I'd be pretty rockin'.
I call her The Vegan Pixie. I swear, this woman sparkles.

I caught Chef AJ twice: first for a packed cooking demo (delicious!), and then again for the hows and whys of an "unprocessed" diet. Her cooking demo was a stitch. AJ always has such a great presence and I love her candid way of speaking, but she also sang two plant-based songs and did a headstand. A chef, singer, performer, published author, stand-up comic... Is there anything this woman can't do?!

I had the divine luck of meeting Rae Sikora before we even got to Johnstown. We ran into her at the airport and we happened to have room in our giant rental car for her to hitch a ride with us. We were all on the edge of our seats the entire ride to VS, listening to her amazing stories about all the amazing things she does to help animals and promote kindness and compassion and understanding. Rae is a beautiful, beautiful soul, on a local and international level. (Seriously, this woman is a bad-ass vegan Mother Teresa.) I feel so blessed to have met her. She was a presenter at VS, as well as a vendor, and sought after by practically all attendees. When it came time for us to snap a photo together, it was her suggestion that we do a jumping shot (and I'm ALWAYS game for a jumping picture!).

Another favorite session was with Joseph Connelly (founder of VegNews Magazine), about traveling as a vegan. He had some technical difficulties at the beginning of his session, unfortunately, but once he got started, I was all ears. He mostly talked about his travels around India, and I was enthralled. I wished his session could have been two or three hours longer. I could listen to his stories and look at his pictures for hours. Also, he reminded me of my beloved late uncle, Michael, in the way that he spoke and carried himself.

Other Amazing People Who Were Not Photographed Or Were So Horribly Photographed That I Could Not Share the Photos

* My new friends at for the Animals Sanctuary in New Jersey. They were selling really great buttons and jewelry (and we all walked away with at least 10 buttons each, I believe). We became fast friends with Tyler, Claudia, and Theresa over the week. Looking forward to when our paths cross again!

* The lovely mother-daughter duo with The Fanciful Fox! I had met them for the first time at CT Veg Fest and it was great to run into them again.

* Milton Mills gets some serious cool points for wearing a Tampa Bay Veg Fest t-shirt to Vegetarian Summerfest. (He spoke at the very first TBVF!) Needless to say, the vegan crew from Tampa were greatly amused to spot a TBVF shirt in the crowd!

* I befriended fellow blogger, Jaime of Save the Kales! What an absolutely darling! We talked (blog) shop a bunch, she sat with us at lunch despite our absurd conversations while eating, and we shared lots of laughs.

* The star of the event was Jenny Brown of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. She spoke at one of the plenaries and I guarantee that she had the undivided attention of however-many-hundreds of people were in attendance for it. She's an amazing speaker and her stories and explanations and reasoning are just... sensible. In my own outreach, I tend to stumble over my words. I feel so much in my heart and I have a lot that I want to share, but then words don't come out as eloquently as I'd like. (See? I can't even explain how amazing her speech was!) We were all so excited to catch her early-morning workshop on the morning of the last day of VS, and then bummed when we learned it was canceled (she had to leave early due to an emergency at the sanctuary). The Tampa crew and I all agreed that when her new book, The Lucky Ones, comes out in August, we'll read it for book club in September. Can't wait to get my mitts on a copy of that book!

There were so many lovely people at Vegetarian Summerfest, and the time goes by so quickly, that I could not possibly have met them all. I'll try to next time, though.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Last of the Summerfest Grub

Oy -- I didn't mean to take a week and a half off from blogging. Life happens, man! I always share fun nuggets of... fun... on the Hungry Vegan Traveler Facebook page. If you don't already "like" it, then by all means, go do that right now. I'll wait.


Great! Now I'm going to pick up where I left off, which was recapping Vegetarian Summerfest, which I attended for this first time this year. As I mentioned, food was in no short supply. I've had many people ask me about the food, and my answer is more or less always the same: On average, there were two items at each meal that I absolutely loved, and the rest was "meh." That's pretty good, considering this was a buffet with enough food to feed over 700 people, and despite the fact that they had badass vegan chefs creating the menu and overseeing the kitchen, the people actually making the food were your average industrial kitchen crew. In fact, at meals, my friends and I would occasionally chat up some of the kitchen staff and ask what they thought of the food. Every single one of them that I talked to had NO IDEA what they were cooking or serving! And many of them needed some reassurance and coaxing to try the food, too.

Try it, you might like it!

But let's get to the food pics.

One day at lunch (or was it dinner? It's all a gluttonous blur), they had a potato bar, which was pretty awesome. The chive-sour cream was wiped out quick, so I utilized this really awesome peanut sauce. It went well with the rainbow slaw, too. A good peanut sauce pretty much goes with everything.

This dinner plate is holding quite a variety. At 10:00, you see kale salad with guacamole, to the right of that are two AMAZING raw nachos (wish there were more of those!), followed by some sloppy carrot cake, with a slab of tofu topped with tomatoes, spinach, and Daiya.

And then there was more dessert: a fruity chocolate cake on top of Temptation cookie dough ice cream. I was so excited to see Temptation! I used to be able to buy that in Kansas City.

And that's it for the meals of Vegetarian Summerfest 2012! I'm not sure if I mentioned this already, but I didn't make it to a single breakfast (they only served it from 7:30-8:30am and I am NOT a morning person). Amber and I stockpiled snacks and fruit in our room, but it's not like we were EVER hungry enough to eat any of it.

Coming up next: the PEOPLE of VS!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Portland Or BUST! VVC 2013

Nothing's gonna stop me this time.

Early bird registration for VVC 2013 opened while I was traveling back from Vegetarian Summerfest to Florida. I was sitting at the Atlanta airport, thinking, It'll probably sell-out by the time I get home. Imagine my surprise when I finally made it home, got online, and discovered that there were just ten spots left at the early bird price. I snatched one up just in time!

Are you going to VVC 2013?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Linky Dinks & What-Nots

Happy Friday, everyone! I have a busy weekend ahead of me, so I'm taking a break from my Vegetarian Summerfest recap and sharing some Linky-Dinks and What-Nots with you! In case you're new to Hungry Vegan Traveler, from time to time I'll share links from around the Interwebs related to veganism and/or travel, as well as a few other things I think are cool (see above Youtube video of a drunk guy singing Seal to his cat). I often share links and pictures and cool things on the HVT Facebook page, but since I don't want to spam your feed, I save many links for these posts. Enjoy!

Lonely Planet author, Leif Patterson, shares some US Road Trip tips. My favorite:
Don’t wear a souvenir state t-shirt until you’re at least two states away from where it was purchased.

Vegangela is back! And I can't wait to read all about her 3-month trip around New Zealand and SE Asia.

From Mighty Girl: What Makes Hawaii Different from the Mainland. (Now I have Hawaii on the brain.)

A lake of Pepto-Bismal in Africa? Not quite...

This video made me cry and cry.

Yes and Yes posted a great piece on traveling with friends (and how to survive!).

Feather from Vegan Around the World shared some tips on how to help budget international travel.

Our Hen House interviewed Ashley Maier of Connect the Dots, which is "a project that aims to help people make the connections between all forms of oppression and well-being, including that of non-human animals and the environment. We hope to build bridges between the movements that address human rights, animal rights, and environmental justice." I totally with them on that.

If you're in the heat wave zone, you'd better check out this weather forecast (especially if you live in Virginia).

What exciting things do you have planned for this weekend?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cake for Breakfast // Sticky Fingers at Summerfest

Although breakfasts were included in our registration, Amber and I never made it to a single one. We stayed up between 2:30 and 3:30am most nights, and with breakfast only being served from 7:30-8:30, it just wasn't going to happen. (Besides, we were never hungry after the previous day's meals!)

However, one day, we kind of did have breakfast. We went to the 10am food demonstration by Doron Petersan of Sticky Fingers vegan bakery in Washington, DC. You may recognize her name or face as the gal who won Cupcake Wars TWICE.

The theme of her demo was coconut. But for us, it was breakfast.

mis en place

We knew from experience that food demonstrations filled up fast. (You'll read about Chef AJ's soon.) Even though we were up late the night before, Amber was up at 9am and down to the demo room by 9:20 to secure seats. She almost dragged me out of bed at 9:20, just before leaving, and I quickly showered and pulled myself together. I was in the shower when she left our room, shouting, "I'm gonna save us seats, but you better not be late and make me look like a jerk!" before walking out the door. I think I breezed into the demo hall by 9:50, just as other people were starting to give Amber the Evil Eye for saving two seats in the front row.

Doron talked about how she went vegan, how she started Sticky Fingers, her Cupcake Wars experience, and writing a book, as well as answered questions about baking throughout.

On the menu: coconut-lemon cookies, coconut cream pie, and "almond joy cake," which was coconut cake with chocolate ganache and toasted coconut and almonds for garnish.

I expected the cookie to be crisp, but I was pleased to have my teeth sink into the cookie rather than snap. At first taste, it was a delicate coconut flavor, but then that burst of lemon shone through. A delightful cookie!

The coconut cream pie was pretty great, especially with that strawberry slice, but that cake, y'all. THAT CAKE.

When I get married, THAT will be my cake. This is saying a lot, folks, because I've always considered myself a strict peanut-butter-and-chocolate ONLY when it comes to desserts, and I've never hated coconut, but it was also never my favorite. This cake, though, takes the...cake. Yeah.

We all received recipes for everything that was made in the demonstration, and the recipes can also be found in Doron's book, Sticky Finger's Sweets, 100 Super-Secret Recipes. (She explained that the "Super Secret" part of the title is a joke toward chefs/restaurants that refuse to reveal their recipes or precise ingredients, whereas the recipes in her book are the EXACT same recipes they use in the bakery.)

And guess what immediately followed this demo? LUNCH!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Somewhere Between "Stuffed" and "Slightly Less Stuffed" // Summerfest Food: Part II

After another day of stuffing ourselves silly, we were invited to cook and bake with Roberta Schiff, co-author of The Vegetarian Shabbat Cookbook and president of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society. Amber and I got crazy-lost getting to her room, so it was sometime between 11 and midnight by the time we found our group. (Mind you, it was already a late-night gathering to begin with. We were just fashionably later in our arrival.) Roberta already had olive biscotti in the tiny oven, but we helped her mix up some dips, and then we mostly just sat around, chatting.

We were still so full from the day's meals that we could just barely taste the dips we were mixing. For those of you building a timeline, this happened Thursday night. The following day brought the following meals...
Lunch was light. Corn tortillas with roasted red pepper hummus and spinach. The tortillas weren't cooked in any way, so they had a strange texture. I ate one and gave the other one to my gluten-free friend, Susannah.

Fast forward to dinner

Spinach with "sea-czar" dressing (Vegenaise-based), walnut-crusted tofu (AMAZING), and brown rice and veggies with some kind of gravy business.

Corn chowder was decent, though super-salty

Dessert was ooey gooey strawberries and "cream" (very sweet and very gloppy, but the cream was good)

Up next: an ultra-sweet "breakfast" with a TV star!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

All vegan buffets, twice a day // Summerfest Food: Part I

Did that title catch your attention?

Seriously, folks. If you go to Vegetarian Summerfest, you will be WELL FED. In fact, that is a gross understatement. You will be gluttonous. You will be stuffed. You will never feel "hunger." Instead, you will just feel "slightly less full."

From our first meal there (which was lunch on Wednesday), I did not feel hunger.
Day One's lunch featured raw zucchini "puttanesca" in the center (honestly, I wasn't diggin' the sauce. Too watery), a raw taco to the left (would've been better with sauce), and stir-fried veggies with brown rice (classically delicious!).

All of that was followed with the gluten-free option from the pizza bar: a corn tortilla stuffed with ooey gooey Daiya mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and tomato sauce (this was really freaking good), along with more veggies (can't go wrong!) and a taste of black bean-quinoa salad.

The dining hall was pretty busy for the first day. Later we found out that around 500 of the 713 registered attendees were already there.

And now I'm not sure which meal these next plates are from. I know I missed photographing a meal or two (naughty blogger!!), so this could be the first day's dinner or the next day's lunch. Whatev -- the day doesn't matter, just show us the food!

So here's some sauteed Swiss Chard with sesame seeds on brown rice, a spinach-avocado salad from the raw bar (so simple and delicious! I think it had a tahini-based dressing), and raw chocolate pudding (avocado and date-based) with bananas.

And then there was this EXQUISITE gazpacho with pumpkin seeds on top

followed by another gluten-free not-pizza from the pizza bar, this time with cauliflower and broccoli speckled amongst the Daiya.

And this is just the beginning, folks!

Monday, July 2, 2012

"I don't think we're at Vegetarian Summerfest anymore, Toto."

I woke up this morning, dazed and confused.

There was a dog staring at me.
My entire body yearned for more rest.
I was laying on a comfortable bed, my head upon thick pillows.
There was a ceiling fan turning above me.
I was in a room with a lot more stuff than seen here.
I was alone.

I dragged myself out of bed to let the dog out, and the fog still did not lift.
Everything was quiet.
I staggered into the kitchen and did not find multiple buffets of steaming plant-rich food, waiting for me.
There was no wood-fired pizza.
No jam-packed salad bars.
No buffet of crafted raw foods.
I opened the fridge and only found almond milk and wilted greens.
(I wasn't hungry, anyway.)

Instead of rushing off from one lecture hall to another to listen to inspirational and talented activists and authors and chefs, I went to work. And I did not laugh until tears were streaming down my face, nor did work motivate or inspire me. It was

I'm definitely not at Summerfest anymore.