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Laura goes to the 9th Annual San Francisco Vegetarian Festival

Posted Oct 19 2008 9:05pm

Today's review on the9th Annual San Francisco Vegetarian Festival comes to us via guest contributor Laura Bruno. Laura is an author, Intuitive Life Coach and Reiki Master.

Tahoe-based visionary artist and fellow raw foodie Tania Marie decided to swing by Sonoma County on her way home from L.A.  She had just had her third painting (“ Air ”) in a series of five scanned into online format, which meant she carried the original in her hybrid.  Some of you may have seen this Celtic masterpiece before I did, because she premiered it at Raw Spirit.  In any case, I was excited to see Tania, experience the painting, meet her turtle (Gaia) in person, and, well, … EAT!

So many options, so little time!  Tania would arrive on Sunday, so we couldn’t go to Seed, the new-ish raw café in Santa Rosa.  That left the brand new Café Gratitude in Healdsburg, my old standby in San Rafael, a possible jaunt to Berkeley or a visit to one of two Gratitudes in San Francisco.  ( Alive doesn’t open until evening.) Since Tania would have already driven from L.A., I figured we wouldn’t fight the weekend traffic back to SF, but Synchronicity held other plans.

I had wanted to visit the 9th Annual Vegetarian Festival on Saturday, maybe even write a post for WLIR, but life intervened in the form of way too many errands and a funny feeling not to go that day.  Oh, well, I thought, maybe next year.  Then late Saturday night I received an email from Dhrumil saying he’d “totally be down with” me covering the VegFest.  Hmmm … Since Tania and I hadn’t yet decided where to go, I mentioned VegFest as another possibility. We agreed to let Fate take its course; if by some chance she managed to arrive by noon, we’d go.

Holy hybrid!  Tania made super good time and pulled up to our place at exactly noon.  We didn’t want to leave her original painting or little Gaia on the streets of San Francisco, so my loving hubby offered to “turtle sit.”  We hauled Gaia’s aquarium up four flights of stairs and got the painting on round two.  I could have stood all afternoon gazing in awe of “Air,” just taking in all that detailed beauty, but we had traffic to battle and food to enjoy.  So, we hit the road again, making our way through hordes of Bluegrass Festival traffic headed south on the 101.  By the time we arrived in Golden Gate Park and managed to manifest a parking spot, Tania’s dashboard read 2:00.  We were starving!


Tania Marie and Laura Bruno

We each gave our $6 donation and figured we’d take a few photos of the one or two raw vendors, then nosh at Café Gratitude’s booth.  But no!  Something strange had happened since 2007:  rumor had it that raw foodists had taken over Veg Fest.  About three-quarters of the tables featured something raw:  raw cookbooks, water fasting books, raw cacao, raw classes, raw tahini, fresh green juice, raw nuts and rawnola.  Everywhere we looked brought another raw delight to our attention.  OK, we agreed, this might take longer than anticipated, so we took a pre-business snack break.  We ordered the last two “I AM” ice cream sandwiches in double chocolate from Café Gratitude.


I’ve not had an ice cream sandwich in at least a decade, but Tania and I agreed these were the best things ever!  I liked mine so much we ended up having to reshoot some of our photos because I had chocolate all over my face!  No lie, if you come to Northern California, you have got to try these “cookies” with raw ice cream inside.  We believe raw foodies everywhere should launch a campaign:  Out with the Klondike’s.  In with I AM.  These could start a revolution in the freezer.

Having had our first fix, we got serious about talking to folks and taking photos.  Next to Café Gratitude’s booth, we found Parma’s Vegan Parmesan.  Their motto, “Eat in the Raw” means raw so long as you don’t mind a little nutritional yeast.  I was still blissing out from I AM, so I just looked, but this Oregon-based company offers some savory treats packed with Omega-3’s.  Their mission statement is: “To provide healthy, earth friendly culinary delights, uplift humanity's consciousness through business, and leave the world a better place than when we found it.”   


Warren at Parma!

As we made our way past a heavily raw cookbook laden booth, we ran into my neighbor, Cecilia.  She was mid-purchase so we waited for her on the other side of the aisle, where Kaia Foods caught our attention. We talked to co-CEO Clay Blanchard and sampled Cocoa Bliss raw granola, which we loved.  Sensing a theme here?  We also tried Dates & Spices and Cinnamon Raisin, both tasty, but we chased them down with two more bits of Cocoa Bliss.  Hey, they’re low-glycemic! When I asked Clay if he had any fun news to share with WLIR readers, he announced that Whole Foods had just ordered their first batch of Kaia products.  Northern California stores will offer this line first, but Clay hopes for national distribution.


Clay at Kaia Foods

We wished Clay luck just as Cecilia joined us by Lydia’s Organics. I thoroughly enjoyed Lydia’s mini meals at the 2008 Harmony Festival, and I remembered her fresh green juice really hit the spot.  After waiting an hour to park, though, we didn’t feel like standing in a 10-person line.  While Cecilia and I posed for a neighborly shot, she tipped me regarding Lydia’s new Green Power.  If you prefer your greens without enzymes, Green Power lives up to its name, packed with strengtheners like “alfalfa*, wheatgrass*, barley*, chlorella*, spirulina*, nettle*, rosehips*, licorice*, fennel*, dandelion*, kelp*, beet*, ginger*, burdock*, stevia*, peppermint powder*, & love). I had just stocked up on green superfoods, but this stuff gets the RawGlow seal of approval.


Cecilia Benjumea and Laura Bruno (Lydia’s behind us)

On to Living Light’s booth!  I initially felt disappointed that they didn’t have any food for Tania to sample because we had missed Cherie’s talk.  As my earlier WLIR profile of Living Light attests, I absolutely love their food.  In fact, Living Light’s role as a Veg Fest Sponsor had tantalized me our entire way across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Alas, no food this time, but another visit with Cherie Soria and Dan Ladermann made up for that!  Cherie had actually trained a number of the other raw vendors, and she rejoiced in her students’ success.  Her raw seeds have sprouted abundantly and strong.

Speaking of strength and abundance, despite horror tales of today’s economy, the Living Light crew are growing fast, even touring Canada with plans to franchise.  Sales and class enrollment have climbed fast in 2008 as they continue “making healthy living delicious.” 


Dan Ladermann, Cherie Soria and Laura Bruno

Tania bought some beautiful engraved chopsticks, and we headed over to the Living Intentions booth—founded by another of Cherie’s graduates.  We love these addictive little snacks so much that Tania has officially “Gone Nuts!”


I generally avoid garlic, but every once in a while those Rosemary Garlic and Green Onion Pistachios stake their claim on my taste buds. We also like the Cilantro Lime Mojo Pistachios and Pepitas.  Labeled “transitional” foods, they do travel well, and their savory density brings us airy-fairy folks back to earth in a jiffy.

We tried to catch up with Dr. Will Tuttle but kept missing him.  His lovely wife Madeleine told us his speech had been delayed, so we should come by later to hear it.  As we turned towards the Café Gratitude booth again, some bunnies caught our eye.  This was, after all, a Veg Fest, complete with animal rights activists.  We learned that bunnies are the third most euthanized pets after dogs and cats.  SaveABunny is a Mill Valley, CA-based rabbit rescue operation headed by Marcy and Scooter, her ambassador bunny.  Tania and I both love rabbits, so I’ll post more about SaveABunny on my own blog.  We applaud their compassionate and lively efforts at education and rescue.


Laura, Scooter, Marcy and Lyska of SaveABunny

On our way out, the great folks at Café Gratitude’s booth let us know that we could wander a couple blocks up 9th Street to the Sunset District’s full restaurant.  Wow!  We could have our ice cream and eat our enchiladas, too?


Excited, we nonetheless made a beeline for the Artisana booth.  There we met Tristan, who plied us with three versions of Bliss:  Amazon, Goji, and Cacao.  No surprise that Artisana’s Cacao Bliss won the 2007 Expo West Best of Show Award!  Equally impressive and relevant to the raw community, Tristan explained how this Oakland-based company has managed to heighten quality control so that they can provide truly raw and truly safe tahini.  They meticulously monitor everything from farm to transport to production to packaging, ensuring a low temp organic tahini free of harmful pathogens—good news for 100% folks or those who dislike roasted sesame.  I always recommend Artisana tahini because of its mild and creamy goodness.  This is a case where Artisana really lives up to its name; they make a fine art of really raw nut and seed butters.

I asked for news to share with the WLIR crowd, and all I could glean is that Artisana does, in fact, have something new coming soon.  More Bliss, perhaps?  Only mysterious smiles and a promise that it would be “Delicious.”  Tristan loaded us up with the cutest little travel sized samples, perfect for airport security restrictions.  We would have chatted longer, but we were on a 9th St. “mission.”


Tristan at Artisana

Despite all the delicious snacks and enough cacao to fuel folks twice our size, we decided to walk to Café Gratitude.  Neither of us had ever been to the Sunset District before, and we loved its funky, eclectic SF vibe.  Vegan options dotted menus in many restaurants, and the day offered perfect weather:  a sunny 70 degrees with ocean breeze.   We finally arrived at our destination and ordered all sorts of yummy treats.  Tania ordered I AM GRACE, while I opted for another Cecilia recommendation:  I AM ALL OF IT, E3Live with cucumber juice and hydrogen ions, mixed in coconut water for good measure.  Yum, Cecilia, cucumber juice really does mellow that algae sweetness!  (And E3Live shots + raw cacao = quite a buzz.)


Café Gratitude on 9th St. in San Francisco’s Sunset District

We sat in the corner booth pictured above, and I’m embarrassed to say it never even occurred to us to photograph our food.  We simply enjoyed it!  Tania ordered I AM ELATED, the daily enchilada special with extra guacamole, and I satisfied a burger craving with I AM CHEERFUL.  For dessert, we both ordered pie:  I AM AWAKENING (key lime) for Tania, lemon meringue for me.  I have never actually gotten any other dessert from Café Gratitude besides I AM BLISS hazelnut-cacao pie, but I thought I had perhaps had just about enough cacao for a single afternoon.  Our server returned, though, to say they had just run out of I AM AMAZING and would l love something else instead?  Well, if you insist! And so I was BLISS again.

Having filled our bellies, we suddenly remembered Dr. Will Tuttle’s talk and hurried back to Veg Fest.  We managed to sneak in the auditorium just as he started talking about ahimsa, the ancient concept of non-harming, and a major component of ethical veganism.  Dr. Tuttle spoke of his latest book, The World Peace Diet and how what we eat can directly impact our desire for war or peace.  I know that Will Tuttle has personally convinced many an omnivore to go vegan.


Dr. Will Tuttle speaking at Veg Fest 2008

Dr. Tuttle’s lecture wrapped up the entire Veg Fest weekend, and by the time we reached our previously packed parking garage, Tania’s was one of only five cars left.  We reached Sonoma County by 8:00, reloaded “Air” and Gaia, leaving Tania with another 3 ½ hour drive to Tahoe.  After all of that cacao, I barely slept, but I sure enjoyed reliving our day.  What an amazing raw extravaganza!  I felt so blessed to have met and supported everyone there.  Two days later, the celebration continued when I received a phone call from Living Light’s Cherie Soria.  I had entered a random drawing at Veg Fest and won Living Light’s Weekend FUNdamentals Course, a $475 value redeemable any time in 2009!  When I mentioned this WLIR article, Cherie suddenly realized, “Oh, you’re that Laura Bruno!”  We shared a giggle as Synchronicity smiled and winked. 

Laura Bruno, a.k.a. “ The Lazy Raw Foodist,” is an Intuitive Life Coach, author, speaker and teacher of conscious living and energy healing. You can also find her here.

Tania Marie is a visionary artist who also leads Spiritual Egypt Journeys.  She supplied the photos for today’s article, and you can find her worldwide photos and fine art at

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