Monthly Archives: March 2012

Texas Veg Fest Countdown: An interview with Molly Frisinger Festival Outreach Director

I thought it would be fun to spotlight some of the different things going on at Texas VegFest, because I want you all to go! I want you to LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK and tell all your friends that this shit is happening. It is going to be so awesome and well worth a trip!

As you may know Molly is a friend of mine and the voice behind The Lonestar Plate, the vegan blog of Texas and Texas Chili cook-off champion. I want to call her a tireless advocate for veganism but I happen to know she is really quite tired from working around the clock on getting everything ready for Texas VegFest. She answered a few questions for us about the festival this weekend March 31

Why do you think Austin needs a Veg Fest?

People are constantly saying, “You can’t be vegan in Texas,” and yet here we are in Austin with a thriving vegetarian and vegan community and so much interest in plant-based cooking. We wanted to create an opportunity for everyone to get together and celebrate the great vegan food and resources that Texas has to offer. We especially wanted this to be an opportunity for people who, maybe they’ve heard about Meatless Monday or they have a cousin who’s vegan, and they’re interested in learning more but don’t know where to start. Texas VegFest is that place. Eat some tasty food, learn how to cook a few vegan meals, and just have fun with it.

What are you most excited about, personally, at festival?

I love to cook, so I’m really looking forward to seeing two of my favorite vegan chefs do their thing. Isa Chandra Moskowitz is making comfort food favorites like mac’n’cheese and BBQ seitan with her special twist, and Terry Hope Romero is making tamales, which have always intimidated me a bit. And really, if I’m honest, I’m looking forward to trying samples from all my favorite food companies like Upton’s Naturals, NadaMoo, Gardein, and Tofurky. Rumor is there will be some new products introduced at Texas VegFest!

I heard you are going to have some fun activities for children, which I have noticed many people seem to have. What kind of stuff are you going to have for them to do? (I want to tell my neighbors so maybe my street will be quiet for once)

Yes, surprisingly, a lot of people have kids! We’ll have a section of Fiesta Gardens set aside for kids’ activities. There will be a moonbounce, a gardening activity sponsored by Urban Patchwork, and games and activities to encourage healthy eating. There’s also lots of space to run around.

What do you think the foodies would be surprised about regarding TexVegFest or veganism generally?
A lot of people focus on what they’re giving up when they go vegan, but what I experienced, and what a lot of people experience, I think, is that it opens your cooking horizons. I’m not sure I’d be so comfortable cooking curries, making my own bread and pizza dough, or exploring grains like quinoa and millet if going vegan hadn’t nudged me out of my comfort zone.

I think Texas VegFest is a good example of this. If you look at the food our vendors will be serving, you’ll see samosas, chaat, empanadas, burgers, tamales, Ethiopian, Frito pie, Indian, hot dogs, TexMex, Mac’n’Cheese, and more ice cream and baked goods than you can imagine. It’s just a huge variety of foods.
It sure sounds like a lot of great food, what other adult entertainment is there going to be? I guess that kind of sounds like I’m expecting strippers….
That was a setup so I can talk about Purrfect Pineapples, wasn’t it? They’ll be there with their custom-made animal-friendly lingerie. In fact, bring your wallet, because Herbivore Clothing, Stay True Organics Tattoo Aftercare, Monkey Wrench Books, Back to the Roots, and Vitamix will all be there, too.

In between shopping and stuffing your face, we’ll have some great speakers and music as well. Dr. Michael Greger has an interactive presentation about health eating, and bodybuilder Robert Cheeke will be there to discuss fitness. If you haven’t ever seen Robert Cheeke talk, you’re in for a treat. I’ve never met anyone so extraverted and outgoing before. Erica Meier of Compassion Over Killing has a really great speech about getting more veg options in restaurants, as well. And on the other stage, we’ll have music by Roxy Rocha, the Wheel Workers, and other great Texas bands.
Now everyone is going to think this whole damn interview is scripted so you have forced my to ask something totally off the wall. If you could wave a vegan wand on one Austin restaurant which would it be? And don’t give me some activisty answer and pick something just because it’s popular and more people would eat vegan just because of that. Where would YOU love to go if it was the same menu but all vegan versions.
Mandola’s Italian Grill, or really any pretty good neighborhood Italian restaurant. I can get a really nice Italian meal at Asti or Sagra, but I miss having a neighborhood pasta joint where I can get ravioli, eggplant parm, and a salad with that tomatoey house dressing that all Italian restaurants have.
Thanks Molly for your time and for all your hard work with the festival!

Texas VegFest Countdown- Interview with Robert Cheeke

I thought it would be fun to spotlight some of the different things going on at Texas VegFest, because I want you all to go! I want you to LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK and tell all your friends that this shit is happening. It is going to be so awesome and well worth a trip!

People have all these preconceptions about vegans. Sometimes it can totally throw me off like when people think I am going to be some sweet demure earth momma. Talking to vegan bodybuilder and animal activist Robert Cheeke reminded me how different we can all be. He is someone who works tirelessly to improve his health and fight the cause while I’m laying around thinking about nachos. Robert started down the veg path when he was just a teen volunteering with Food Not Bombs and doing Animal Rights Week at his school. He recently moved to Austin because he wanted to get some sun (we’ve definitely got some of that) and training but I got to ask him a bit about what he thinks of Austin and being a vegan.

Hi Robert! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions. Have you tried any restaurants here in Austin that you liked?

I went to Mother’s on Valentine’s Day with my friend and liked it a lot. It was a combination of a sit-down casual dining experience along with a fairly quiet feel to it, which I enjoyed. I’ve also been to Bouldin Creek Café and had a great Sunday Brunch with friends. It is a little busy and trendy for my taste, but the food and overall experience was enjoyable. For dessert I’ve been to both Sweet Ritual and Toy Joy and had some pretty good treats there. I’m not one to eat treats often, so I don’t expect to frequent those places regularly, opting for fruit as dessert instead, but as a social experience with out of town visitors or a meet up with locals, they are fun places to go.

While on tour a couple of years ago, the experience that compelled me to move to Austin (I just signed a 10-month lease last week), I went to Mr. Natural, Beets Café, Wheatsville Co-op and of course the iconic Whole Foods Market flagship store. I’ve been to three potlucks at Rip Esselstyn’s house as well. I plan to go to Counter Culture and explore more vegan and vegan- friendly places in Austin during my time here. In general, my objective moving here is to focus on my fitness training, book writing, and outdoor activities in the sun. I don’t necessary go to a lot of vegan places, often times preferring to eat at home working on my projects, but when the social opportunities present themselves, I’ll make my way out. I somewhat got a lot of my dining experiences out of the way in my initial few weeks in the city and now it is time for me to get down to business editing my book.

I know that you first became vegan when you were pretty young and, I would imagine not quite as buff as you are these days. Do you notice that people treat you differently when they find out that you are vegan and a bodybuilder as opposed to scrawnier vegan kid?

I’ve been vegan since 1995 and I was 15 years old at the time of my lifestyle change. I weighed 120 pounds back then and recently have been as heavy as 195 pounds. I think the primary reason people would interact with me any differently now is because they find my physical transformation intriguing. Perhaps as an athlete I am taken more seriously now too. I still have a very long way to go to achieve personal goals I have for myself and for the movement I represent so I continue to work hard day in and day out to get closer to making those aspirations realities. I have a very practical and logical outlook on life as well, and I know that if I truly care about the movement I claim to care about, I’ll carry myself in a way that is more likely to inspire others to be more compassionate. It just happens that being healthy, happy and fit is more attractive and desirable than being a scrawny person. When we attach the word vegan to each type of lifestyle (fit and scrawny) they represent different things, and I choose the one that creates the most positive change and does the most good in the bigger picture.

Do you think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about vegan nutrition and if so what do you wish people were taught in school?

Like any controversial topic, I think there are a lot of misconceptions, misinformation, lack of education, lack of critical thought and lack of personal ambition to find truths within a given subject matter. I think that all applies accurately to how I view vegan nutrition. I still continue to struggle grasping the fact that people find me interesting, worthy of featuring me in their newspaper or magazine, or interview of this or that nature, simply because I eat plants and exercise. I think if we were taught at a young age to simply eat healthy plant foods, exercise regularly and engage in the activities that make us smile the most, we would be far better off in health and in life. If those simple principles were taught in schools we would have a healthier society. I care deeply about education, about children and about the future for everyone, even well beyond my existence on earth. I’ll continue to contribute ideas, time and resources for improvement in education in our schools.

I’m so excited about Austin’s first ever Texas Veg Fest, What do you think we will get to hear you talk about?

I too am very excited about Austin VegFest. I’ve been attending VegFests across North America for the past six years, sometimes visiting a dozen in a single year, but I’ve never been to one in Austin and I’m honored to be speaking this year. The audience attending my talk will walk away with some new outlooks on not only veganism and fitness, but on life in general. I have a hard time addressing general health and fitness principles without projecting my views of the all important essential actions that make all areas of life better. There are some common practices many people overlook and I shed light on them, revealing their importance, outlining how they can help us in every area of life. Namely, the roles that consistency, accountability and transparency play in our everyday lives, determining success or failure.

I often quote Mark Twain and reference Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others, when I talk about initiating change, living a purpose-driven life, and excelling in your chosen craft. I’ll talk a bit about my background, my fears about getting enough protein to build muscle on a vegan diet, and about the principles that seem to be best suited for building muscle, increasing energy, burning fat and loving life. It should be a lot of fun. I’ll talk about some of my training philosophies and my approach to eating which combined made a former skinny farm boy a champion vegan bodybuilder.

What is your new book going to focus on?

My new book is about living life with purpose and meaning, enjoying and maximizing the 1440 minutes we have each day. It’s about for living for 7/7 days a week, rather than 2/7 which most people tend to live for (the weekends). It’s about discovering what your passion is and making that a priority, creating what I call True Return On Investment (True ROI) of Life. It doesn’t really have anything to do with veganism or fitness but has everything to do with the fundamental principles I believe in, which do go hand in hand with living a compassionate lifestyle. My new book which I am currently editing also contains motivational quotes I’ve been writing since 1999 and chapters that analyze The Beginning, The Here and Now, and The Future, with clear examples of how our behaviors, attitudes and character traits were formed and how they impact us daily.

My aim is to create a helpful resource for people to use to gain enlightenment and understand why they believe what they believe and how they came to those conclusions in the first place.

With that in mind, a conscious approach to daily interaction with others, anticipating the impact on those we communicate and interact with, is empowering and should lead to greater happiness and less suffering. I move into my new apartment/writing studio at the end of the month and I can’t wait to get into writing/editing mode from morning until night until the project is complete. Once the book is complete, I’ll likely embark on another speaking tour, but as of now, my Austin VegFest presentation is one of the last I have scheduled for the rest of the year, until the book is complete.

Do you ever like to lie around and be totally lazy? Like on rest days?

I’m uncomfortable with the word “lazy” describing my actions and I work hard to avoid being associated with it. I do take some time to relax every now and then, but surely not as often as most people. I’m known for my 12-18 hour work days, which are deliberate and purpose-driven for meaningful reasons to create specific outcomes. Though I don’t relax as often as most, I find ways to create relaxing environments and I also truly enjoy what I do during the majority of my waking hours. One of my favorite ways to relax is to be in the sun (one of the reasons I moved to Austin) and that is where I feel at peace more than any other environment. In fact, I might be moving to the Caribbean when my lease is up in Austin, not to relax on the beach every day, but to find a new meaningful work environment with the opportunity to take that relaxing nap on the beach if desired. I know the value of rest, and a favorite activity of mine is sleeping in after a long day and tough workout, I just don’t do a lot lounging around for fun. I figure my role in life is to spend my time making other’s lives better, and in turn that will also improve my quality of life. That is why I work so hard. I’m driven to make a difference.

Thanks a lot for taking the time Robert and good luck with everything! And welcome to the sunniest place I know of!

Texas VegFest Countdown – Capital City Bakery

I thought it would be fun to spotlight some of the different things going on at Texas VegFest, because I want you all to go! I want you to LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK and tell all your friends that this shit is happening. It is going to be so awesome and well worth a trip! 

Sometimes I think I should start sentences in a way other than “I am so excited that….” but, damnit, I do get really excited about things! When Dan told me last night that he was going to make OCCUPIE with Mac Daddy and smoked collards I did a whole interpretive dance. The point is, I don’t have words for how excited I am that Kristen Davenport is opening a new, all vegan Capital City Bakery in April, excited doesn’t cut it!

Kristen delivering Pain Au Chocolate for Dan's Birthday!

I first met Kristen at a bakesale, I think, and from there I tried to weasel my way into her life in an attempt to get as many cupcake castoffs as possible. Lucky for me, she turned out to be a an awesome person too. Her baked treats get better all the time and she has been winning awards left and right so the whole of Texas should be absolutely stoked that they are going to be able to purchase her pastries on a whim soon enough. And you know what, you don’t even have to wait for her Yelp to get filled up with reviews, I can summarize right now what they are mostly going to be like:

“I’m SO not vegan, actually I like to eat [choose one] my weight in butter OR three hams covered in bacon on top of a roasted feral hog at least once a week OR *real* desserts. I went to Capital City Bakery because [choose one] my boyfriend made me OR I read good things and didn’t believe it OR I didn’t know it was vegan and I couldn’t believe how fantastic it was and I am a total expert on pastries since I [choose one] once went to Paris OR studied at Ecole du Cordon Bleu OR blog about cupcakes in Austin. I ate so much that I felt damn lucky that I rode my recumbent bike there.”

But you can beat these yelpers to the punch by going to Texas Veg Fest where Capital City Bakery is debuting their line! Kristen is going to have a booth there and she is one of the festivals organizers. And since I posted this picture you can even say hi. Then you can write your own review or like the bakery on Facebook. (She made me say that last part but you still should do it)

Native Foods, Chicago Diner, and a trip to Greektown

In Austin there isn’t really a first day of Spring. You just start to notice fewer days of winter. Then the pink trees come out and the masses move in for SXSW and it is just one big party. I kind of miss that first excitement though, like in the Northwest when it finally stops raining and everyone kind of looks up for the first time in months. In Chicago, the first day that you don’t really have to wear a coat anymore is the happiest day ever. Everyone starts wearing their brightest colors and every dog in the city is panting from their first long walk of the year. I was so excited that this year I got to experience it since they happened to have the first nice day while I was visiting. I even got to ride a bike on the lake trail which was super exciting because I haven’t been able to walk since last June without assistance and being on a bike made me feel so active. 

I loved all the shiny happy people and listening to Sufjan Stevens rock out on my headphones.

They opened up a Native Foods in Wicker Park a few months ago two blocks from my sister’s place which is so freaking convenient. You can even order on the internet and they have it waiting for you! I wish we’d get one here. I love that you can get relatively healthy bowls (I loved the Gahndi bowl with blackened tempeh, vegetables and curry sauce but not as much as the soul bowl I had last time), salads, or the incredibly decadent Oklahoma bacon cheeseburger.

The fried pickles were totally awesome but it still didn’t match the tastieness of the fast food-style bacon cheesburger from Arlo’s in Austin. The Ensalada Azteca which was surprisingly not fresh tasting though it was the dead of winter, at least theoretically. 

Since it was near St. Patrick’s day I kept seeing giant billboards for the Shamrock shake which made me really nostalgic, until I went to the Chicago Diner and got the vegan version! It was a million times better and went perfectly with my monte cristo sandwich. 

I have the hardest time ordering there! Every single thing I try is a new favorite.

Another night we went to Athena in Greektown to celebrate my friend’s upcoming wedding and I was surprised that there were so many vegan options on the menu. Our waiter was named Socrates. It would have worked a lot better if I had ordered a combination plate but I really wanted to try the gigante beans. 

They were, in fact, enormous. My friend’s dad really wanted me to put a quarter on the plate for reference and I wish I would have so you could see! They were really good, flavored with lots of oregano and tomatoes,  but I felt pretty silly just eating beans.

While visiting my uncle I took the required shots of slivovitz. Then I had to take a picture, I just love this character on the bottle, I don’t know if it is because the mustache that make him look so shady or that those plums are so so large they resemble maracas but it is definitely better than the homemade stuff in back. 

Back home now and the countdown begins to Texas Veg Fest!