Q&A – Tabitha Logan on the Compassion Revolution

On July 23, compassionate Connecticut residents, businesses, restaurants, vendors and speakers will join together in New Haven for the second annual Compassionfest, a full day of vegan food, entertainment, conversation, crafts, and more. We attended last year’s Compassionfest, and it was awesome – so much good food, amazing local merchandise, great music and high energy! With a move to New Haven, this year’s event promises to be even bigger and features the awesome vegan, animal activist, author, and host of the Our Hen House podcast, Jasmin Singer. This is big time, folks.

We caught up with Compassionfest founder Tabitha Logan to chat about how the event began, what we can expect this year, and her thoughts on the importance of compassion. Basically Tabitha rocks our socks.

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So, how did Compassionfest begin?

I was a barber for 14 years. It was a career I found very rewarding in terms of people I got to know, but over time I also began to feel my life was too focused on the external. I started looking inward to find what made me happy. I found that making candles was a healing, meditative practice that relaxed me. I also knew I wanted to make a difference for non-human animals. I’d always felt a special bond with the Hippo. Putting the two together, it became the start of my candle company, Hipponotic Candle. As for “why hippos?,” I feel they’re misunderstood in a way I could personally relate to. People seem to be deeply judgmental about these amazing animals, and I wanted to shed some light both metaphorically and literally. Key to this understanding of the hippo was a book called “A Hippo Love Story” by Karen Paolillo. Her story and the story of the Hippos she saved deeply inspired me, and as such, I vowed to donate 10% of all candle proceeds to “The Turgwe Hippo Trust”, “adopting Hippos” whenever I’d sold enough candles.

It was about 5 years ago that I began attending festivals and events as a vendor. It was through the experience of being a vendor that I learned both what I wanted to see in an event, and the kinds of vendors that I wanted to help. It has been an incredible honor to have gotten to know so many amazing people through these events. Crafters/product-providers, entrepreneurs, small businesses, non-profits, and just plain “good folk”, thinking globally and acting locally, looking to create positive change in their community. Ultimately, I began consider the idea of a whole new kind of community-based event centered around these people and principles of community. The idea bounced around in my mind for a year or so, but came to life when I set foot on the “The 1253”, also known as the “Whitneyville Cultural Commons” in Hamden. It was a feeling that is hard to describe. Basically, I saw the whole event I’d envisioned unfold in my mind as I walked on the grounds. It felt less like a idea than an energy that came to me. That’s when Compassionfest was born. I just new it had to happen, and happen there – even without having met the proprietors. In fact, meeting Laine, Jennifer, and Rob only confirmed everything I’d felt. They proved to be not just open to the idea, but as excited about as me about what Compassionfest was about.

What is the mission of Compassionfest?

The mission of Compassionfest is to unite like-minded people who believe in the values of being just, kindness, equity and compassion. The ideas of Compassionfest represent something that should happen every day, and as such, the event itself is a day when we particularly focus on making it happen; a day to bring your best self forward, leave all divides behind, and resonate on our common ground with absolute respect for one another. It is all welcoming event, a festival of inclusiveness, where everyone should be comfortable to be simply as they are, allowing that same acceptance for those around them. With those principles in place, we also include the rest of the animal kingdom in the idea of Compassionfest. The animals we share the earth with need love and acceptance just as we do. This is the basis for veganism as a core component of Compassionfest. All vendors must be vending 100% vegan, meaning not only that all their foods are only plant-based, but all products manufactured are cruelty-free as well.

How did it feel to see Compassionfest come to fruition? What was last year’s event like? Was the response what you expected? Did anything surprise you?

Last year was a roller coaster of emotions. Being the first Compassionfest, there were a lot of unknowns. And on top of that, a couple of days before the event, my cat companion Thorpedo passed on. He was such a wise and handsome beast. I felt so honored to have him in my life as long as I did. I was grateful he wasn’t in pain anymore, but was still very much grieving over him by the day of the event, which made it bitter-sweet. But I also felt so much love from the community that day. Seeing people smile walking around enjoying the event help mend my heart.

A survey was sent out to those that attended the event. I was pleasantly surprised at the positive feedback and encouragement to continue the event.

Tell us about this year’s event. What can attendees look forward to? What is new, what is changing from last year? What are you most excited about?

We have lots of new & exciting happenings this year. We have lots of speakers this year, with our featured speaker is Jasmin Singer, known for her wildly popular podcast “Our Hen House”, and also now for her bestselling new book Always Too Much and Never Enough (which I am reading now and can’t praise enough). Also speaking this year is Connecticut’s own vegan celebrity and founder of Ahimsa Health & Harmony Wellness Center, Mary Lawrence. Besides speakers, there will also be a poetry slam hour with Sky Raven The Vegan Poet, a healing workshop by Kelvin Young of Toivo, as well as numerous other DYI workshops on the grounds. New this year is what we call “The Time-in Teepee”, a giant meditation teepee in the middle of the grounds where people can escape from talking and crowds for a moment of peace.

Of the 70+ compassionate causes and cruelty-free product vendors we are honored to host, new this year we have G-Zen‘s award-winning vegan food mobile Gmonkey, rated one of the country’s top 5 best food trucks by both VegNews and Peta. We also honored to have Sea Shepherd Conservation Society this year. And well know vegan apparel company Grape Cat… There are too many new and returning wonderful vendors to name here, for the full list of who’s coming this year, please see our website (www.Compassionfest.net). (ed note: Vegan CT will have a table as well – stop by and say hi!)

This year I have a much better idea of the lay of the land and the max of vendors we can fit. I know now more space could have been filled. Its all a learning process. It starts with desire then the rest will follow. Sure at times I am afraid of failing or looking like a fool. There are no guarantees in life. What helps me get by is an open heart and a good sense of humor. I can honestly say most times I have a tendency to jump into the void. My husband Bret can attest to this. Lol.

I am most excited about Compassionfests turning up in other communities. Vegan Spirituality is lending a helping hand in offering to get the ball rolling with this. Contact veganspirituality@gmail.com.

Compassionfest gives me hope for a better future for the People, The Land & The Animals. Love is always the answer no matter what the question. We need our community to come together in order to remind ourselves change is possible. I am dedicated to the Compassionfest cause. I plan on continuing doing my part in the Compassionfest Revolution. It so much more than one day – it’s a movement.

What does Compassion mean to you? What are some easy things anyone  can do to practice a little extra compassion?

I like how Prince put it: “Compassion is an action word without boundaries”

I think its important to remember to practice different forms of compassion in action. Be the change you want to see even when no one seems to be paying attention. Don’t forget to be good to yourself you are worth it. Practice self-compassion.

Thanks Tabitha! For more info, visit compassionfest.net or find the event on Facebook.

Vegan CT Holiday Gift Guide!

It’s that time of the year! Gift giving time, for those who celebrate holidays – and gluttonous eating/hibernation time for all.

Have loved ones you’d like to gift, but also want to support local, vegan businesses? Vegan CT gotchyoo.

Vegan CT Holiday Gift Guide

Local Author Cookbook!

You’ve got a few family members that are on the veg fence, but just don’t know what to make at home. We’ve all been there. Give them a cookbook by a local CT author!

Avon resident Terry Walters‘ books Clean Food, Clean Start, and Eat Clean Live Well, are all awesome collections of delicious, healthy, and animal product-free recipes, as well as ingredient guides and cooking instruction that can help any novice get on the path to gourmet at-home vegan cuisine. Or, at least, they’ll be able to throw together an amazing stir fry.

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photo credit: partyinmyplants.com (awesome website name)

Connecticut raw food chef Anastasia Voss has a brand new (un?)cookbook that is a great way to get more raw fruits and veggies into your life. And who couldn’t use a little more roughage, amiright? Plus eating raw feels awesome and can be easy and delicious. The book is available for order on her website, AnastasiaRaw.com.

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photo credit: anastasiaraw.com

Local vegan swag!

We love all of the amazing merch that comes out of Compassion Company, an all-vegan clothing company run by Connecticut native Andy (also co-host of The Bearded Vegans podcast!). The designs are incredible and have a great, pro-veg message (and sometimes use profanity, sorry not sorry).

Bonus: Compassion Co. sources organically-grown cotton and water-based inks, so as to help the planet even MORE, and 5% of every sale is donated to a featured animal-saving organization. So much karma!

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I mean, hello.

Friends of Animals, a wonderful animals rights organization based in Darien, has an awesome online store full of fun stuff, including a plant-based dog treat cookbook (!), t-shirts, tote bags, hats, stickers, and more. Something for everyone on your list!

Plus, proceeds support FoA’s many animal protection initiatives (including the promotion of a vegan lifestyle). Win. Win.

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Personal chef-ing!

Remember how I said all that stuff about cooking? Forget it! Give your loved ones a personal chef and you are golden for like a good 5 years of holidays.

New Haven-based Well On Wheels is a personal chef service that creates whole-food, plant-based meals that look delicious and healthy. And, Chef Mary offers classes and private instruction. So you can do it yourself, maybe, if you ever want to stop being lazy (never!).

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Chef Mary Lawrence of Well On Wheels

Give the gift of vegan eats!

Everyone loves them some delicious food. We’ve got quite a few amazing veg restaurants, bakeries, and specialty stores throughout the state that all offer gift cards. What better gift to give than the gift of not-having-to-cook? (none, IMHO).

Check out our Restaurant Guide for a list of vegan and veg-friendly restaurants and shops, and pick up a few gift certificates for the fam. And while you’re there, pick up one for yourself too, because Happy Holidays Me.

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 Make a donation

What’s even better than stuff? Generosity. Make a donation to a Connecticut farm animal rescue and sponsor an animal in the name of a loved one. You’ll all get the warm and fuzzies knowing that an animal in need will now be warm and fuzzy too, thanks to your gift. Try Ray of Light Farm, Tara Farm Rescue , and Beech Brook Farm Equine Rescue.

Note: these organizations do not identify as vegan. But they do great work to save animals. So it’s up to you.

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photo credit:  facebook.com/beechbrookfarm

 

Whatever you give, have a wonderful, cruelty-free holiday season all!

 

Eat Sweet Potato Fries = Save Animals

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On Tuesday, Aug 18, the lovely folks at ION Restaurant will donate 10% of all profits to support the Hartford Walk for Animals. What a great opportunity for double-duty karma! Eat delicious vegan food (saves animals) and proceeds save even more animals. So if you don’t always recycle, and you don’t call your mom often enough – make up for it right here, right now. Also, call your mom. And recycle, the planet is not your wastebasket!

Join the facebook event here.

xoxo Vegan CT

A Vegan at Xfinity Theatre.

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Last weekend, Vegan CT Jr. begged and pleaded that I take him to Warped Tour at The Meadows, Comcast Theatre Xfinity Theatre or whatever it is called these days. As I always do when we go to major entertainment venues, I packed us some food, cuz I never know what to expect. For the Warped Tour, Xfinity Theatre allows concert goes to bring in “a small snack,” which is a bummer as I usually like to bring “a large cooler,” and which I interpreted to mean: 4 apples, peanuts, roasted chickpeas, and granola bars. That, friends, is a small snack in the Vegan CT household. (Note: the small snack rule was for Warped Tour as it is a day-long festival. No clue what the policy is for regular concerts.)

I knew that that would not hold us over for 8 straight hours of jumping around and screaming, and later in the day, both hungry, we surveyed the options. Several food trucks were parked throughout, though none with much in the way of vegan offerings, so I crossed my fingers and headed to the theater’s concession stands.

Lo and behold! Xfinity offers not one, but two vegan meals – the traditional portobello burger, which I was pleased to see but if I have to eat another portoburger I might lose my mind, and a vegetarian rice bowl.

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This may just look like a salad, but underneath that mix of arugula, cucumber and tomato was a nice bowl of rice, pinto beans and tofu, spiced Mexican style. It was about as tasty as you can hope for in a concession stand meal, and I was really pleased about the TWO types of plant proteins in this dish. We vegans are lucky if we get one! This kept me satisfied through all the rest of the evening of head-banging and mosh-pitting (just kidding, I did none of those things).

The concessions stands also offer fries, no-butter pretzels if you ask, and various other vegetarian but not vegan offerings (I’ll admit, “dessert nachos” sounded amazing). All vegetarian options were marked with a little green V. Bonus points for not making us have to ask you a billon questions!

Xfinity, we see your efforts and we thank you.

– The Vegans

ADDITIONAL BONUS: Warped Tour included awesome vendor tents by PETA, Mercy for Animals and Action for Animals. AND, several of the musicians in WT bands are vegetarians, and were featured in a booklet about food choices handed out at the show. YASSS.

REVIEW: Zest 280 is totes cute and tasty.

Friends!

It’s been a while, but I’m back with a series of reviews this summer and I’m ready to roll.

Recently, I popped in to the new West Hartford cafe, Zest 280. It’s a pretty adorable little spot just opened by the chef who runs the very delicious Pond House Cafe, and WH is shockingly devoid of casual, veg-friendly eateries, so game on!

Zest 280 is located on West Hartford's fun and funky Park Road

I checked out the menu online in advance and was happy to see lots of sandwiches, salads, and noodle/grain bowls which usually just about guarantees decent veganizability (new word, just made that up). The cafe is a very cute mix of seating with an outdoor patio for prime Park Road people-watching.

Zest 280 inside

The reality of Zest’s offerings was a little less vegtastic than I had imagined, however. All of the salads automatically included meat or cheese, and while I’m happy to ask for a sans-animal order (and the waitstaff was more than happy to accommodate), it always seems weird to me when a restaurant does not offer a single salad that is already vegan. It’s salad! How America became obsessed with adding meat and dairy to a dish that is inherently vegan is beyond me.  Bonus points for offering tofu as an addition, but still. After removing half of the items that already come on the salad, plus an extra couple bucks for tofu, I don’t think I’d be left with much for my money. End rant.

I’d heard great things about their arepa, and the server assured me that the corn patty itself was vegan, so I excitedly ordered it without cheese or sour cream on top – BUT, after the others at my table were served, I was told that in fact the arepa mix itself has cheese in it. Another bummer.

Our server was incredibly sweet and apologetic and brought me a complimentary cup of their vegetarian chili (ask for no cheese) while I looked for another option.

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Redeemed! This chili was delicious – full of lots of beans, sweet potatoes, and perfectly spicy/sweet. Plus chips for dipping = I was happy. I’d order the larger bowl size next time for my full meal.

The sandwich menu at Zest is a little more veg-flexible – a Zestwich has marinated eggplant, grilled artichoke, chipotle hummus and grilled peppers on foccacia (ask if the bread is vegan!), and their spicy chicken wrap has a spicy tofu option (ask for no cheese). They also offer a soba noodle bowl, with a noted vegetarian broth (thank you!) chili, lime, edemame, tofu, veggies and avocado.

I went with what I thought would be a lighter choice – I was already almost full after that small but hearty cup of chili – and ordered a make-your-own grain bowl with brown rice, lentils, rapini, peppers and avocado (tofu is available as well).

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This dish was beautiful, clean, and perfect for what I needed. The broth in the bowl is light and not overly flavorful, but the veggies and grains don’t need much – they’re pretty delicious on their own. We also ordered sweet potato fries to share, because sweet potato fries.

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They were super good.

Zest 280 has some creative daily specials that may be veganizeable, and a nice menu of refreshing drinks – ginger iced tea and coconut lemonade were both very tasty. They also have fresh, seasonal house-made juices that change regularly. Desserts are not vegan.

I enjoyed Zest 280, despite a few obstacles. The food was tasty, the service quick and the atmosphere was fun… and it’s really great to see new spots open with vegan options and plant-based proteins on their menus!

Progress.

Vegan CT Awards 2014!

2014 was a sweet year for Connecticut vegans. From new restaurants to veg-friendly menus to amazing new products, there’s even more deliciousness throughout the state for everyone to enjoy. And, because superlatives > top 10 lists, here are our Best Ofs for 2014:

Best Omni Restaurant With Mad Vegan Love

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This is a tough one – Connecticut restaurants are definitely catching on and creating great options for vegan diners, across the board. But we have to give props to Forbidden City Asian Bistro, who this year rolled out a full vegetarian/vegan menu with some seriously fantastic dishes.

Honorable mention: DaLegna, New Haven, who offers not one, but SEVEN completely vegan pizzas and several appetizers; Black Bamboo Chinese Restaurant for their awesome vegan menu; lots of others.

Most Incredible New Stuff That Makes Us Drool

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We’re convinced, nothing can stop Divine Treasures, LLC from taking over the world. This little 100% artisan chocolatier has totally upped the veg game by introducing a line of handmade vegan “cheeses,” calzones and veggie-packed pizzas. DT also began hosting an occasional multi-course gourmet vegan dinner event that always sells out. Bravo!

Runner up: Chipotle, for it’s Sofritos tofu; Field Roast Chao cheese slices; Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies.

Best Veg Bakery

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With its recent expansion in offering wayy more vegan options this year, the award for Best Veg Bakery goes to Dee’s One Smart Cookie! Cupcakes, donuts, breads, desserts and more are now available egg free/vegan in this already gluten- and (almost entirely) dairy-free bakery. We especially love that vegan pizzas are now available on Wednesdays and Fridays, due to high demand.

Runners up: Nature’s Grocer, Vernon; Shayna B’s and the Pickle; The Sweet Beet, Granby; NoRA Cupcake, Middletown; Hardcore Sweets, Waterbury

Newest Cool Kid on the Block

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Huge welcome to The Sweet Beet, the newest kid on the all-vegan restaurant block! This under-the-radar spot offers deliciously vegan and GF meals to-go, bakery goods, soups, and more. We hope you choose to be Donnie Wahlberg (swoon).

The We ❤ Food Trucks Award

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With only two all-veg food trucks in the state (to our knowledge), this one had to be a tie. And rightfully so, as we just adore both the Amor Food Truck and G-Monkey Mobile for hitting the road and spreading the veg love throughout the state at farmers’ markets and events. Keep it up!

Most Cheer-Worthy Conversion Award

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We’re so proud of long-time Connecticut vegetarian spot ION Restaurant for taking the plunge and going 100% vegan this year!! Their new, beautifully-swanky (but comfy/casual) location and updated, modern menu only add to the exciting changes at one of our favorite restaurants. Same great sweet potato fries, tho. Looking forward to great things in 2015. GO TEAM.

Saddest Goodbye

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This year, we lost the incredible Six Main Restaurant in Chester, whose inventive, delicious meals were only complimented by a beautiful locale and wonderful service (and a great bar). We’re so sad to say goodbye to this restaurant, along with brilliant chef Rachel Carr, and can only hope that she might give CT a go again in the future. Lesson, vegans: please go support the veg restaurants! They need us, and we need them.

Runner up: So Good Vegan Cafe, Ridgefield. (Dang)

Sweetest Veg Celeb Endorsement

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Tie: Senator Cory Booker/Bey and Jay

Ok, the king and queen of hip-hop only went veg for a short time… but we truly believe that they helped to open up the minds of many who would never have considered veganism, and for that we are grateful. Cory Booker, on the other hand – well, we have high hopes for him! Although only pledging to go vegan through the end of 2014, he has been very public with the experience, giving inspiring interviews about his (ethical) reasons for the choice, twitter bombing us with questions and making us jealous of his many trips to DC’s veg restaurants. We think his lifelong veganism has a high likelihood. Plus he’s a darn good guy with a winning smile, and I see a future between us. “Mrs. Senator Vegan CT Booker” has a nice ring to it.

Runner up: Jennifer Lopez.

Swankiest Swankness Award

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Though 2014 was not it’s first year, we have to give a shout out to the Max Restaurant Group for hosting yet another Vegan Table edition of it’s popular Chef-to-Farm dinners. The inspiration of Max Oyster Bar Chef Scott Miller, this event is a fancy but incredibly fun opportunity to eat a gourmet, multi-course vegan meal, cooked on-site with local, just-picked ingredients. Plus, it’s just exciting to see veganism represented at by an omni restaurant group at such a public level. Now if only we can get some more vegan options in those restaurants!

Under-the-Radar Amazingness Award

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Go to Heirloom Food Co. Seriously, go. This mostly-veg spot is really fantastic, and the Quiet Corner is just hogging the good stuff here. Danielson may be a trek for some of us, but its worth it. Make a day of it, and plan to stop at Heirloom for lunch. Order a bunch of things (including the beet burger, delish), relax in the cute dining area, and then take some baked goods to go, because once you’ll leave, you’ll wish you had more. Trust us.

Runner up: Shandal’s Vegetarian Cafe, Bridgeport, Fuel Coffee Shop, New Haven.

Vegan State Ambassadors Award

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G-Zen in Branford has been receiving some serious nationwide buzz all year – including top awards in Travel & Leisure Magazine, Shape Magazine, Huffington Post – and well-deserved. With a consistently evolving menu of delicious organic, farm-to-table dishes, huge social media presence, positive vibes and a seriously photographic couple of vegan chefs at the helm, G-Zen is putting CT on the vegan map, and that can only mean great things for all!

Awesomest Supporters Award

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Well, that goes to you. Come on, you knew it was coming. Connecticut vegans (and vegetarians, and the veg-curious too) rock, and I’m so thankful for your support, tips, and ideas. And of course, so are the animals. Keep on rockin, CT.

That’s it! Here’s to a very veg-tastic 2015, all. Thanks for being along for the ride.

xo,
Rachel

GIVEAWAY TIME – Rachel Carr Cooks at Real Art Ways!

It’s time for a giveaway!!!

On Monday, September 29, Real Art Ways hosts it’s TASTE event featuring none other than Rachel Carr, chef of (the now closing! Sad face.) Six Main Restaurant in Chester – and we’re giving away two free tickets!

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The event includes a viewing of an episode of the French cooking series “Inventing Cuisine,” followed by something delicious prepared by the featured chef and the chance to chat about the cuisine. And, yes folks, Chef Carr’s dishes will be 100% vegan. 

This is a rare chance to get up close and personal with an amazing vegan chef and enjoy a fun night of art, good food, and schmooze. And it will be a ton of fun. And I will be there and we can all schmooze together!

To enter, comment below, on Facebook, or on Twitter, and tell us:

If you had a vegan cooking show, what would it be called? 

We’ll pick a winner on Friday, September 26. Good luck!!

For more info on TASTE, click here.

Max’s Features “Vegan Table” Themed Chef-To-Farm Dinner for the 2nd Year!

It’s happening! The Max Restaurant Group‘s fancy schmancy Chef-to-Farm Dinner Series will once again feature a dinner with the theme “The Vegan Table.” 

I went to this last year and it was an AMAZING experience. A gourmet, 100% vegan 5-course meal, served right on the farm by the chef himself with local ingredients and a tent full of veg love. 

Yes, it’s pretty pricey, but if you can swing it – treat yo’ self. Then eat pb&j’s for the rest of the month like I did.

More info: http://www.maxcheftofarm.com/

 

Max Farm

We’re looking for some new peeps!

We're growing!

Vegan CT is expanding, and we’re looking for a few new peeps!

We’ve got some BIG ideas for world domination  making Connecticut an awesome place for veg*ns –  including a BRAND NEW website chock full of awesome restaurant reviews, articles, interviews, recipes and giveaways, hosting events (vegan food festival, anyone?), and lots more.

And to do that, we’re looking for awesome folks to join our Editorial Team!

In order to join the Vegan CT team, you:

 – Do NOT have to be vegan or even vegetarian! – 

– DO have an interest in plant-based foods – 

– Are an engaging writer – 

– Like to eat – 

– Like to write about eating – 

– Can take cell phone food porn photos like a champ – 

– Are energetic and passionate – 

– Have great ideas for what you’d like to see on Vegan CT – 

We’re looking for a diverse team of contributors from all over the state and from a variety of different backgrounds as columnists focusing on: local restaurant/product reviews, recipe development, events, celebrity gossip, local animal/environmental/political issues as they relate to food choice, food photography, and more.

TO APPLY:

Answer the following question: What is the BEST plant-based meal you’ve had in Connecticut and why? Describe it!   Include your name, town you live in, and short description of yourself and why you’d like to write for Vegan CT, put it all in an email, and send it to: veganct@gmail.com

Applications will be accepted through July 31. Applicants should be able to commit to a minimum of one content submission per month and attend quarterly editorial team meetings (they will be super fun veg potlucks) – the first will be held some time in September.

Vegan CT is a startup and writing positions are currently on a volunteer basis only – however, as we continue to expand, opportunities for compensation will develop.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

Want to get involved bu not interested in writing? We’re looking for Street Team members to represent Vegan CT at local events and spread the word! Interested? Email veganct@gmail.com.