Vegan Life Live – Alexandra Palace, London

So this weekend saw the first event by hugely popular magazine ‘Vegan Life’. Like a lot of people, I’m a huge fan of Vegan Life magazine – I’ve had a few of my articles about sanctuary visits published here, plus have had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved who have attended Essex Pig Save Vigils (read about my most recent experience at Essex Pig Save here). So I knew I was going to be in safe hands attending this event. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Alexandra Palace was heaving with people eager to sample some tasty vegan food and maybe learn a thing or two. Here are a few of my highlights from Saturday 7th January.

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The Food Court

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Baking Bad

Baking Bad was my first stop earlier on in the day. I’d heard great things about their cupcakes (and also thought they had a pretty cool name). I was a little upset that my go-to cupcake favourite ‘Ms Cupcake’, based in Brixton (check out my blog about Ms Cupcake here) were not making an appearance, but this was something I thought made the event as a whole a little different to VegFest. There were a lot of new companies that VegFest regulars may not have visited before, so the awesome chance to check out a whole new range of vegan companies. The cupcakes from Baking Bad were beautifully decorated and incredibly tasty.

 Mex It Up

This was another newbie for me. With so much choice in the food court, options from all over the world, and firm favourites like ‘What the Pitta’ with a never-ending queue, I decided to try the vegan world’s answer to Mexican street food – ‘Mex It Up’. Thoroughly recommended! The loaded nachos were great, accompanied by jackfruit and some vegan nacho cheese – what’s not to love?! I also had the New York Cheesecake, a vegan version of the world renowned desert – amazing!

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Vita Coco Kitchen

There seemed to be lots of interesting stuff going on here. I watched ‘Quick and Easy Weekday Dinners’ by Chef Day Radley where she made an interesting combination of butter bean mash and tempeh. You can find the recipe for this and a whole host of other quick, healthy vegan recipes on her website here.

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Palace Suite

Another special mention has to go to Toni Shephard – Executive Director at Animal Equality – who spoke about the realities for animals living on factory farms. Animal Equality are one of my favourite organisations and I really admire the work they are doing. Essex Pig Save teamed up with Animal Equality’s iAnimal campaign – showing people virtual reality footage inside factory farms – earlier this year (read about it here).

Cruelty-Free Shopping

  1. Love Libby X Necklace – I love this brand! I already have a few of their necklaces and bracelets, each one hand-made and unique. Check out their website here.
  2. Wear Your Voice ‘Vegan Power’ Vest – As designed by vegan marathon runner and all round superhero for animals Fiona Oakes (read about when I met Fiona and the animals at Tower Hill sanctuary here). £5.00 from the sale of every vest goes directly to the Fiona Oakes Foundation. Wear Your Voice also have a whole host of different animal rights clothing – check out their website here.

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3. Create & Case ‘Kiss of a Panda’ Clutch Bag – This was another brand new vegan company for me, and I’m so glad I found them! This 100% PETA approved clutch bag is one of many unique and ultra-cool vegan bags and purses. This design was one of my favourites, you can buy one for yourself here.

Overall, I think most people will agree that the first Vegan Life Live event was a great success, and the perfect way to kick off 2017! Taking their own spin on vegan exhibitions that we have grown to love such as Vegfest, I was really impressed with how the event was organised. I’m so pleased that more events like this seem to be popping up all over the place, showing that the demand for vegan products is higher than ever!  I hope to see this event back in London next year.

If you aren’t already familiar with Vegan Life magazine, be sure to check out their website here.

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Travel: Best Vegan Food Spots in Glasgow, Scotland

Happy new year everybody! I hope you all had a great Christmas break. I find the new year the perfect time to get focused and set out goals to achieve for the next twelve months. In my previous blog, I picked out some of my highlights from 2016 (view here), but unfortunately the world of animal rights still has a long way to come, so I plan to achieve much more in 2017!

I spent my New Year’s in Glasgow with one of my best friends and photographer Lottie, check out her awesome photography website here. It’s no wonder she decided to move to Scotland, it really does have spectacular views. We drove to Glen Coe and were greeted by mountains, snow, and plenty of sheep! If you’re staying in Glasgow, Glen Coe is about a two hour drive, and perfect for a day out escaping the city and appreciating the natural world.

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Now…on to the food! To be honest, Scotland really did surprise me. An area known for traditional dishes such as haggis (which you can find the vegan version of at the restaurants I’m about to talk about), I didn’t hold out much hope for vegan food. I was so, so wrong. Not only is the vegan scene thriving in Glasgow with an aray of different vegan pubs and restaurants, these just happen to be the coolest places in town too. My first stop was The Flying Duck which I had heard about prior to visiting, this was just next to the city centre, so easy to find for yummy vegan goodness.

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I absolutely loved everything about this venue; the artwork, the food, the music, the vibe. It reminded me a little of my favourite vegan pub back home in Essex called The Railway Hotel (check out my write up of Mother’s Day at The Railway here). Extra points for the amusing menu with a section named ‘Dawgs’.

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We ordered burgers and mac ‘n’ cheese, which was a little optimistic but its easy to get carried away with vegan food. Everything was delicious. It’s definitely worth checking out The Flying Duck website to see which bands are playing too.

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I also visited Stereo which was another vegan pub/restaurant/gig venue, with a similar vibe to The Flying Duck. I’d heard good things about Stereo, and it’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed. I think this photograph says it all.

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So good! A special mention goes to the battered cauliflower which was amazing. I also had a hot dog with pretty much everything, and brownie for desert. Everything on the menu looked great! After visiting both places, I was reminded of just how relaxing it is going to a restaurant that is 100% vegan. No worrying about specifically ordering soya milk, or making sure the margarine on the bread is plant-based…Glasgow has you covered with these 100% vegan food spots!

I had also planned to visit Mono which I have heard great things about, however this was closed on New Year’s Day (my last day)… so I guess I’m just going to have to make another trip to Glasgow soon! It definitely looks worth checking out, and all these restaurants are within walking distance from Glasgow city centre…bonus!

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So if you’re travelling to Glasgow for whatever reason, you’re pretty much sorted for vegan food. Are there any other hidden gems in Glasgow I haven’t mentioned? I just hope the rest of Scotland is this vegan-friendly!

Vegfest London Countdown – Vegan Athletes Summit – Kate Strong

When gazing at her list of achievements, you may wonder if there’s anything Kate Strong hasn’t done – World Champion triathlete, multiple-award winning entrepreneur, multi-linguist, globe-trotter, philanthropist, author, engineer and of course vegan! I caught up with Kate this week to find out what we can expect from her at Vegfest London.

What are you most looking forward to about speaking at VegFest London?

I am looking forward to meeting 14,000 other positive individuals who are all committed to making a positive change in the world! I want to meet as many people as possible from the business owners, the cooks, chefs, vegans and people interested in this movement!

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When and why did you choose a vegan lifestyle?

I’ve been vegan for over 2 years. Initially, the choice was motivated through me ‘feeling better’ when I was eating fruit and vegetables and eliminating dairy and animal products, yet after having researched and read more about the impact on other species, the environment and other communities, I am 100% committed to whole-food plant-based diet as I see it as the answer to saving the world.

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You’ve had some pretty amazing achievements! What would you say has been your biggest challenge in your athletic career?

Thank you :). My biggest challenge in my athletic career occurred last year when I started hanging around quite a few successful athletes, yet their attitude was one of ‘Have to achieve’ and comparing results to others. I started to do the same, which led me to loosing my passion for the sport and the reason why I started in the first place: because I love it!
Breaking free from this group and investing time into rekindling my passion to strive for excellence without any ego attached meant I’m back on track and raring to go!

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What’s next for you?

At VegFest, we are arranging for me to attempt to break a World Record on a static bicycle, so for the next month or so, I am gearing up for this. Afterwards… who knows! I want to help more and more people transition into a more positive and conscious state of living and working, so there will be courses, books, seminars and events rolling out under my brand very soon so watch this space!

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An exciting time indeed! You can find out more about Kate and her incredible achievements here.

Don’t forget to catch Kate’s talk on Saturday 22nd October – Vegan Athletes Summit – 4pm – Vegfest London.

Vegfest London Countdown – Vegan Activists Summit – Rebecca Fox

Rebecca Fox is another speaker that will be appearing at VegFest London’s Vegan Activists Summit on Saturday 22nd October. Rebecca is part of the team behind the blog Reasonable Vegan (www.rvgn.org) – ‘Promoting skeptical inquiry in vegan spaces, confronting irrationality everywhere.’ I caught up with Rebecca this week, and here’s what she had to say about VegFest (and vegan cheese!).

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What are you most looking forward to about speaking at VegFest London?

I’ve been attending Vegfest for a few years now and have always thought of it as a place to try out new foods and products, (I have in the past threatened to bring my own extra-long cocktail stick to reach through the crowds to the vegan cheese tasters!) but also as a place to be exposed to new ideas and reinvigorate my commitment to veganism.

So, I am looking forward to presenting ideas that are new to many in the vegan community but will support and inspire people to be better advocates. 

When I’ve spoken to groups of vegans about critical thinking skills in the past I’ve found them to be receptive and thoughtful (which is probably why they became vegan) so I also look forward to meeting and connecting with compassionate people and discussing how we approach the world as reasonable vegans.

…and what do you hope to achieve from it?

I’m hoping that my talk at Vegfest will give me the opportunity to share my passion for veganism and give the audience the opportunity to learn some of the critical thinking skills that I find useful and important. I want to empower vegans to use reason and evidence to support their message of compassion and make our movement stronger.

I’m also hoping to try some new brands of vegan cheese!

When and why did you become vegan?

When I was ten years old I realised that meat was made from animals, well, I kind of knew that before but at age ten I think I began to understand what that really meant. And so I became a vegetarian.

I was a vegetarian until in my mid twenties I was introduced to scientific skepticism, which is basically a method for understanding the world built on the principles of reason and evidence. I realised that a lot of things that I believed about the world and myself were ‘unreasonable’ (not based on reason and evidence). So I started thinking about my beliefs one by one and changing or discarding the unreasonable ones.

Then I came to my vegetarianism… and I realised that the reason I was vegetarian was because I didn’t want to cause unnecessary harm to animals… but there was plenty of evidence that the dairy, eggs and other animal products I consumed did cause unnecessary harm.

So I had to give them up, and I became vegan.

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be even though at the time I was living in Australia and had to negotiate many a barbecue somewhat awkwardly. As a vegan I’ve travelled through many different countries and I’m finding it’s getting easier with every day as I learn more about food and as more and more people learn about veganism.

Recently I was at a vegan braai in Cape Town and couldn’t help reflecting on how far I’d come from those first awkward barbies where I often found myself drinking too much on an empty stomach!

What are your future plans for ‘Reasonable Vegan’?

RVGN started as a blog, my partner a few skeptical friends and I dreamed up as a place to host articles by and for reasonable vegans. We’ve published a lot of interesting articles and interviews over the last few years and met a lot of fellow reasonable vegans. 

We’ve been discussing what we think the vegan community needs and what we can do to spread the vegan message. We have decided that we want to focus on giving vegans the opportunity to hone their critical thinking skills in order to make them better advocates and presenting a solid evidence backed resource to help convince non-vegans to go vegan!

So our new project is building a site and maybe an app that will help vegans become more reasonable and reasonable people become vegan. It’s in the very early stages of development (in fact you are among the first to know) but you can keep up with our progress by following us on twitter.

So there you have it, a VegFest exclusive about the future plans for Reasonable Vegan! If you’d like to find out more, be sure to catch Rebecca at the Vegan Activists Summit at 3pm on Saturday 22nd October! Can’t wait till then? Be sure to check out www.rvgn.org

Travel: Los Angeles, California – Top Vegan Food Picks

It’s only when you leave Los Angeles that you realise how easy vegans living here really have it. You’re never far from an amazing vegan restaurant, or places serving delicious vegan options. After my trip last year, I wrote about my food favourites from Southern California, check this out here. But last year was different for me as I was moving around a lot more, exploring as many beaches as I could possibly fit in. This time, LA was my last stop, ending six incredible weeks of travelling through Canada and the States. So I stayed in Venice Beach, and explored as much vegan goodness that this area has to offer. And trust me, there was a lot!

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Venice Beach Boardwalk.

First off, I would 100% recommend Venice Beach as a place to stay while visiting LA. It’s easy to get back and forth to the city, but you’re also right in the centre of some incredible beaches. Santa Monica, Venice, Manhattan and Redondo Beach are all within close reach.

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End of Route 66.

Los Angeles is one of the easiest places in the world for finding vegan food, so I’ve decided to do a countdown of my top five food picks from this incredible trip (these are predominantly in the Venice area, as that’s where I spent a lot of time).

5. Veggie Grill

So in case you didn’t know, Veggie Grill is pretty much everywhere in So Cal. On my last trip, I was so surprised to see a vegan chain restaurant! I visited the Veggie Grill on North Fairfax Avenue, LA, just after I got a tattoo at LA’s only vegan tattoo studio which you can read about here. Good food, quick service and hugely convenient, I really hope Veggie Grill will expand to the rest of the world! (Check out ‘Vegan Life in Southern California – Food Favourites’ for more information on Veggie Grill).

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Indian bowl – yum!

4. M Cafe – Beverly Hills

So wandering through Beverly Hills gazing at shops I pretty much had no interest in (an abundance of leather, fur, alligator skin etc.), I was quite skeptical about finding any decent vegan food options here. But to my surprise, I was pointed in the direction of M Cafe. This is a dairy, egg, and meat-free restaurant, but it does sell fish (unfortunately). However there are plenty of vegan options, and the cookies looked amazing too! If you’re vegan and shopping in the Beverly Hills area, this is your best bet for fresh, wholesome, vegan food.

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Who knew a burger and fries could be so healthy?!

3. The Butcher’s Daughter

If you’re looking for something a little more fancy in the Venice area, The Butcher’s Daughter is definitely for you. Just a short walk from Venice, The Butcher’s Daughter is a vegetarian (but with a lot of vegan options) restaurant with style! Recently I’ve found a huge love for vegan cheesey pizza (check out my blog for Fat Gay Vegan about a new vegan pizzeria in England here), and the one I ordered here definitely hit the spot. I also love the name of this place, and the design and general feel of the whole restaurant. Thumbs up for The Butcher’s Daughter!

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So so good! Vegan cheesey pizza and vegan mac ‘n’ cheese.

2. Seed

Now Seed could not be more different to my last restaurant! This is definitely more of a take-out, quick snack type place, and I pretty much stopped here every day whilst I was staying at Venice Beach. It goes higher up on my list because it’s 100% vegan, organic and everything I ate there was 100% delicious! Smoothies, breakfast burritos, tacos, and even vegan cookies…this place has you covered for a day exploring the local beaches. Personally I would have been lost without it!

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Oatmeal with fresh fruit…goooood morning!

 

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The best kind of club.
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Ain’t no scramble like a tofu scramble!

1. Cafe Gratitude

Cafe Gratitude gets my first prize for vegan food in Southern California. Also located in Venice, the restaurant boasts 100% vegan, organic and locally sourced food. And the theme of gratitude is apparent throughout, even down to ordering from the menu, where you can say ‘I am…’ and then choose your desired feeling/food option. To be honest I’ve never been anywhere quite like it! Great atmosphere, incredible vegan food, and an all round one-of-a-kind restaurant. Even if you’re not staying in the Venice area, this restaurant is so popular there are a couple more around LA, and it’s no surprise why… Cafe Gratitude gets it spot on!

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I am…humble.
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Amazing deserts at Cafe Gratitude.

So that’s my run-down of favourite places to eat in Southern California. What’s your top So Cal spot for vegan food? 🙂

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View from The Big Wheel, Santa Monica Pier.

Supermarket Sweep – Tesco’s New Vegan Range

So I don’t normally blog about supermarkets because, well, I just think there are probably more interesting things in life. But when you’re vegan, it’s weird how even the smallest thing like the prospect of dairy-free garlic dough balls can seem so exciting! When I was in California, I swore by WholeFoods, it was like vegan heaven! You can check out my blog about it here. But since coming back home, it seems that the UK supermarkets are slowly but surely beginning to catch up with the States! And currently in the lead, although with some strong competitors, seems to be Tesco. Here are a few top picks from my latest shop.

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Tesco‘s own range of dairy-free products just seems to be growing and growing. Over two years into my vegan journey, I’m finding that I’m beginning to avoid packaged foods more and more and make everything from scratch, but these new additions were just too tempting not to indulge in. I was also pleased to see that Tesco now stock vegan Quorn products, which seem to be popping up all over the place now. Check out my blog about how great it is that Quorn are finally ditching the dairy here.

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There’s been a lot of hype about the Free From Garlic Dough Balls, and it turns out they actually sell dairy-free good old fashioned garlic bread too! Like I mentioned earlier, it does feel pretty weird to get excited about such small things, but garlic bread was something I really missed since going vegan. Sure it’s easy enough to make your own, but these are perfect for something a little different. I also picked up the vegan garlic pizza bread from Morrisons last week which is definitely worth a try, too.

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These Oriental Cakes with Lemongrass & Ginger Dipping Sauce were a welcome surprise. This is the first time I had ever seen them, and they were delicious! Perfect for a starter if you have company for dinner, or just a treat for yourself.

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And the thing that makes me most happy about the awesome vegan range at Tesco? The labelling system! Most items are clearly marked as ‘vegan’ on the front of the packaging in a circle at the top right-hand corner, although some you may have to search a little deeper for. Could this be the end of tirelessly scanning the ingredients each time to check if a product is vegan? Probably not just yet, but it’s a great start!

So a huge well done for Tesco for leading the way with UK supermarkets, and enabling people to see just how easy it is to live vegan. As more and more people begin to ditch meat and dairy products where the secret ingredient is the suffering of animals, the planet, and their own health, it’s great to see a classic supermarket adapt to this change.

N.B.: Other products I picked up were Three Bean, Sweetcorn & Roasted Red Pepper Burgers; Vegetable Grills and Butternut Squash & Kale Nut Roast.

What’s your favourite new vegan supermarket item?