So, first, I owe you an apology. Tuesday passed and there was no cookie. WTF? How did this happen? It happened when I was hugging my guy the other night and said, “I gotta make a Tuesday’s Cookie for tomorrow,” and he said, “Babe, today is Tuesday.” JEEBUS. So, I’ll just commit to making the next Tuesday’s Cookie so freaking magical that you will forgive and love me all over again. Yes.
[Disclaimer: If you're not a vegan / blogger or you don't care about major vegan blog linking, pictures of me, or pictures of food, reading more may make you uncomfortable. There's a lot of name-dropping + partying + vegan realness up in here, so gird your loins...whatever that means]
Many of you know (because you were there), that I had the pleasure of going to the Vida Vegan Con Conference in Portland, Oregon this past weekend. This is a conference where vegan bloggers, writers, and personalities of all kinds come together to learn, network, and make merry. And because the conference was held in Portland – vegan mecca of the U.S. – that itinerary also included eating and drinking our faces off. At least mine did. The conference was epic, so this account isn’t exhaustive (…though it might feel that way – pack a pillow.), but it should give ya a little taste, and hopefully make you hungry for more.
- Travel Route: Chicago, ORD —> Portland, PDX
- Travel Companion: Kyla Page, friend, non-sexual life partner, and owner/operator of Betsy and Her Vegan
- Flight Conditions: Turbulent (Jesus.)
- Arrived: Thursday evening (with every intention of heading out and eating and such, but instead gabbed like girlfriends do until 3am. Still time well spent.)
VVC Day One – Friday
8:00 am: We rose early and got gussied up. We ate at Veggie Grill (which was located DEADLY close to the Conference space) and it was delish. Then I had a Stumptown Cold Press coffee and off to VVC we went!
9:30 am: Enter the Portland Museum of Art. Sheesh, this place is nice. Like, art museum nice, and it’s already filled to the gills with people you just know are bloggers. How do you know this? Because they’re hoarding swag like it’s their jobs and they’re moving to the windows to take freaking pictures of it with their big, beautiful cameras. Only food bloggers do that shit. And people with OCD. We get our mind-blowing swag bags (yes, the rumors are true) and they weigh literally 30lbs. I am prone to hyperbole, but not this time – those bags were literally jam packed with goodness: Whole jars of chocolate peanut butter, a giant bag of Amaranth…it may not sound exciting, but to vegans, you may as well have just handed us a Maserati. There were even vanilla + strawberry creme flavored dental dams and condoms in our bags. It’s as if the wonderful organizers (thank you, lovelies) had HIGH hopes for our weekend exploits. We didn’t use ours, but I did have a good laugh as sweet Kyla was like, “What is that? A bib?”
9:35 am: We fill out the cute VVC nametags. And then we mosey in to the expo.
9:45 am: There were vegan products e’rrywhere. So Delicious, Go Veggie, Bob’s Red Mill, Coconut Bliss, Wayfare Foods, Peanut Butter & Co., Compassion Couture, Tofurky, Vegan Cuts, Chicago Vegan Foods, Upton’s Naturals, Kevita, Heidi Ho Organics, Nasoya (with their tasty new whipped Nayonaise), Attune Foods (the table for which was run by the delightful purse-addict, K. Sloggett who runs spabettie. Her new name, we’ve decided, is Bloggett), The Better Bean Company, and SO many more [HIRE ME].
10:45 am: Really epic spread. I grab some ridiculously good coffee (this is Portland, after all) at the free coffee/beverage/freshen’ up stand and brace myself. My bag is about to get a whole lot heavier. Praise be!
11:00 am: We meet cool people. We mingle. Finally got to put the beautiful faces to the names of Diane of Veggie Girl, Sharon of Big City Vegan, Whitney of EcoVeganGal, Kristy of Keepin’ It Kind, Tashina of Logical Harmony, Angela of Oh She Glows, and many mo’. Amey of Vegan Eats and Treats and Kittee of Cake Maker to the Stars blow me away with their sweetness. Lots of, “Oh hey, I see your stuff on FB”-type stalker talk commences.
[I HAVE NO PICTURES OF ANY OF THIS. SO I COULD BE LYING. BUT I'M NOT]
12:45 pm: We attended some workshops. The first of which was about Food Styling officiated by the darling Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet and My Sweet Vegan. Have you see this little bit? She’s a tiny force to be reckoned with. She’s talented. And most of all, she’s NICE (not everyone in this industry is nice…) – I introduced myself to her and mentioned that we’d communicated on Twitter (like once before), and she gave me a huge hug. And she had her equally darling mother there. She’s my kind of people.
1:45 pm: Second workshop was run by the idolriffic Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Oh, you don’t know her? Go fuck yourself. Just kidding (sort of). She’s only the author of many vegan cookbooks (pretty much every vegan ever has laid hands over the Veganomicon and prayed) and proprietress of the Post Punk Kitchen. She taught us how to use our iPhones to talk decent food shots. This is helpful for me because I am not getting a camera anytime soon. We left with scraps of fabric that she had used in her recent cookbook shots (Isa Does It, out soon) and warm fuzzies.2:45 pm: I attended a panel about recipe writing with pal Dreena Burton, Nava Atlas, and my girl crush, Terry Hope Romero. Lots of good advice and diverse perspectives on the recipe creation process. Terry made me feel slightly less luddite-esque that I use an old-school reporter’s flip notebook and a pen to create my recipes, so there’s that.
4:00 pm: By this point, I was kind of exhausted, so I took a knee in the Expo room and chilled with some cool ones. You might know them [Name-drop warning]: JL from JL Goes Vegan, Sayward from Bonzai Aphrodite, Bianca from Vegan Crunk (who, incidentally, is pals with my college ex – small world), and Tess from The Blender Girl. Then, as if it appeared out of nowhere, I hugged Jasmin Singer and Veggie Grill brought all of this tasty stuff for us to eat. And it was awesome.
7:00 pm: There was a Pop-Up that night at Herbivore (which is amazing), but we skipped it in favor of meeting up with my high school friends, Lauren (who is a master bartender, formerly of Millennium and Portobello, and now making magic at The White Owl) and Nolan (who is a Naturopathic Physician and a totally hilarious asshole). Lauren, who also hosts the Vegan Supper Club in Portland (which is epic), was our gracious docent and guided us to Departure at the top of the Nines hotel. At this point I wish I had taken a moment from my wine and chatting to snap pics of the insane food here. I didn’t. But rest assured, it was exquisite. So good, in fact, that the vegan royalty (Isa, etc…) were dining just feet away for Laura Beck’s (of Vegansaurus) birthday. So, that must mean it’s good.
12:00 am: We capped off the night with a trip to The White Owl for strong, artisan drinks crafted by Lauren and some photobooth time. The rest, is drunken slumber, as they say….
VVC Day Two – Saturday
9:00 am: You know when you’ve had a lot of “fun” (i.e. drank a bit too much) and you just want to sleep forever? That happened on Saturday morning, but we pried ourselves out of bed because VVC had an INCREDIBLE Portland Vegan Breakfast Showcase poppin’ at 8am, and you know how grabby vegans can be. In the expo room were rows and rows of gorgeous vegan brekkie fare. A.N.D. Cafe, Back to Eden Bakery, Blackheart Bagels, Cinnamon, Divine Pie, Portland Juice Press, Portobello Vegan Trattoria, Raw Potential, Sizzle Pie, and White Owl Social Club all had such super delish offerings. I majorly pigged out on a Sizzle Pie pizza slice with cashew basil sauce, smoky soy curls, and pineapple. It was incredible. All of it was incredible. Vegan Cuts also had these ADORABLE little wooden animal necklaces they were showing (but not selling, YET). I die.
9:30 am: Then I moseyed to the ever-entertaining Fran Costigan’s workshop on Doing Kick Ass Cooking Classes + Demos. I need this, since I’ll be doing more of these this year (yay!) and Fran is the kind of funny, loveable, chic, cool chick you’d love to have as your mentor. If you don’t know her, she’s kind of the biggest deal in vegan desserts and chocolate ever. If they ever make a movie of my life, I want Fran Costigan to be my mother-in-law (I don’t have a MIL, but how fun would that be?), and we could go on zany adventures.
11:15 am: Uh oh, last night’s escapades were getting to me (I am the biggest waste of a conference, I tell ya…), so I again hung out in the Expo Room. Some might say this is lame, but really, this is where the networking happens. For instance, I got to meet the AWESOMESAUCE Heather from SporkFoods who was building delicious bagel sammies at the Go Veggie! table. She and her boyfriend, Joshua, are the cutest little fashionable rays of LA sunshine you’d ever want to meet. Here’s photographic evidence that I wasn’t just goofing off:
12:15 pm: Lunch was served and we got to build our own bowls of deliciousness. Every vegan likes building their own bowl, as evidenced by a line that rivaled that of Moses leading his people. Vegans were seen painstakingly crafting their bowls. I stood in line with the ubergorgeous model and blogger, Emily or My Kind of Life (she’s my kind of people) and I got to meet Megan of The Opinioness of the World (my Boston spirit animal). Hilarity ensued.
1:15 pm: Then there was this Vegan Battle Royale thing, which was cool. Many of us were called up to participate, including yours truly. When challenged to rattle off 15 vegan blogs in 30 seconds, I kinda crushed it. And yeah, I may have named some of you in the process (you’re welcome. payment is accepted up front). I think there were even moments of me doing Ace Ventura-like dance moves and triumphantly saying, “I’m Ashlee Piper and I know all your blogs!” I felt like I was in the Hunger Games, except, I wasn’t going to die. The lovely Ty of Camera Phone Vegan played my eyes as I participated in a blind taste test. That pesky Isa Chandra Moskowitz won, but we were all pretty off the mark (it was persimmon, not tamarind, you assholes). I won cool stuff. It was great.2:30 pm: I wish I could say that I went to more workshops, but I didn’t. I went home to nap and get ready for the gala later that night.
8:00 pm: Kyla and I roll up to a beautiful place in a part of town where our taxi driver tells us all the “good strip clubs” are located. Good to know, I guess. The venue is gorgeous and full of booze, food samples (Miyoko’s cheese and a So Delicious build your own sundae bar), and good tunes (spun by Melisser of Cruelty Free Face). We drank. We ate. We danced a lot. I made new friends, namely Dawn of Vegan Moxie, Amy of Heart Shaped Sky, Christy of The Blissful Chef, and other wonderful people who are and are not bloggers.
10:30 pm: We went to karaoke with Melisser and the Texas delegation. Ross from Texas sang Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls,” (which is straight-up country shit that makes my heart overflow with joy). Emily sang the Dixie Chicks. Kelly sang Miley Cyrus. Kerry, Kyla, and I sang Sinatra’s “Chicago,” because we’re cheesy like that. I sang some tunes. There is photographic evidence of this:
VVC Day Three – Sunday
11:15 am: Reluctantly rise from bed and go to the conference. Eat Veggie Grill. Feel sicky. Go to Terry Hope Romero’s Recipe Creation seminar, if only to get a pic with her and tell her that she’s my spirit animal. Done.
2:00 pm: After a harrowing time trying to get a cab to take us to Herbivore, we finally succeed. We browse nice things. I eat a snack. Ross crashes our party because he’s a stalker.
3:00 pm: Pretty, right? BAD IDEA. I start feeling WAY sicky. And, in reality, I only had three glasses of wine the night before, which is not a lot over a six hour period. I’m just a lightweight. I go back to the hotel room to lament my fate as Kyla peruses Powell’s Books. When I wake up, I feel better and eat lots of the stuff in my swag bag, like Allison’s Gourmet Toffees (amazing), Earth Balance Puffs, and Surf Sweets. All so delicious. Perhaps this is how I got a stomach ache in the first place? WILL I NEVER LEARN?
7:00 pm: We ate some food and started packing (do you see a recurring theme, here?). Yes, that’s lame. But we had an amazing time, and best of all, we met incredible people whom we usually only ogle at online. I truly enjoyed meeting each and every one of you bloggin’ fools. I also left with a lot of motivation to do some new things, pride in the career of blogging (it’s hard, rewarding, wonderful work), and a great feeling of community. Belonging is important, and it’s marvelous to belong to such a kick ass crew.
…And I had to get back to this doodlebug, the guy, and the red elder dog:
Janessa, Michelle, and Jess, you ladies outdid yourselves and made VVC2013 an amazing time. There are rumors that it might be in Chicago next year. If that’s the case, you can all count on me being there, being tipsy, being silly (and maybe even showin’ you around my fair city). Thanks, all and much love!
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OH, and I’m doing a cool Giveaway for fans of The Little Foxes. No, I’m not re-gifting stuff from the VVC Swag Bag. A Matt & Nat clutch is at stake. Here’s how it goes: “Like” here and you’re entered. Done! It’s the right thing to do.