Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Halloween Comes Early this Summer with Los Angeles' ScareLA Convention

Whoa, the coolest news ever was announced August, LA will host its first ever Halloween convention! It is being organized by the cool cats over at CreepyLA and promises lots of Halloween and horror themed panels, booths, speakers, workshops, screenings, and so on!

Here is a little bit of what to expect, courtesy of ScareLA's site:

ScareLA premieres on August 10 & 11, 2013 as the first Los Angeles convention dedicated to celebrating Halloween. Situated in the entertainment capital of the world it will combine the city’s top talent and unique cultural setting with a twist! Drawing fans and haunt entertainment professionals, the event will feature top attraction designers and operators, manufacturers, artists, filmmakers and more. The weekend-long Halloween season teaser will celebrate California’s hottest scary faire with attraction unveils, workshops and classes, top industry panels, haunt tours, screenings and activities. Share, inspire, play – ScareLA.

Sounds pretty awesome, right?!

Tickets are set to go on sale this month...I can't wait to buy mine!!

Read more on ScareLA's website!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Vegan Soft Serve at the Veggie Grill in Laguna Niguel, CA

Vegan soft serve from Veggie Grill in Laguna Niguel!

Veggie Grill recently opened its newest location in Laguna Niguel, California and to the delight of Orange County foodies is using this location to try out vegan soft serve ice cream! I recently visited this Veggie Grill location to try their soft serve and can I just say...OMG it was UNBELIEVABLY DECADENT & DELICIOUS!

First off, this Veggie Grill is so nicely decorated and quite spacious! It looks very chic and I really like how they decorated this one. There are plenty of tables both inside and outside and it has a very welcoming feel to it. Mister Spooky and I went there on a Monday night and the place wasn't too crowded, but it started getting pretty busy with local families coming in around 7ish.

Veggie Grill in Laguna Niguel interior - 
not pictured are the roomy booths along the wall

Now, I didn't see the vegan soft serve listed on the menu, but it is the first thing I asked about! I've heard that there have been some instances of their soft serve machine breaking down or the restaurant not having soft serve available for whatever reason, so I wanted to make sure they had it before ordering. They assured me it was available, though. I went ahead and ordered my meal (I got the vegan "crab" cake, which was delicious BTW) and the soft serve. They give you a little sign for your table so they can bring you your soft serve once you've finished your meal.

Veggie Grill in Laguna Niguel interior - love the ambiance!

I ordered the soft serve with all the toppings (Newman-O's cookie crumbles, chocolate sauce and nuts) and got the "swirl" - both chocolate and vanilla mixed. You can get either flavor or the two mixed together and whatever toppings (or no toppings) you want! As you can see, I went all in and got everything possible on it!

The soft serve was absolutely me it tasted like a Wendy's Frosty (which I used to love in my pre-vegan days), but so much better and more flavorful and rich! It didn't taste like regular ice cream (and it shouldn't), but an entirely new and delicious concoction! I've never tasted its equivalent! Mister Spooky loved it as well, and he usually isn't a sweets type of guy and he isn't even vegan! I had to fight him for the last couple of bites, haha!

The soft serve is made by Chicago Vegan Foods (fine purveyors of Dandies vegan marshmallows and Teese vegan cheese) and I really hope more restaurants pick up this amazing vegan product! It is so amazing I want more people to be able to experience it to see how delicious a cruelty-free lifestyle can be! Lucky for us, Veggie Grill plans to expand this soft serve to their other restaurants providing it does well at this test location. Considering how amazing it was, I don't see how it can fail!

I can't wait to go back to this location JUST for more soft serve! I encourage you to visit this location as well and let the Veggie Grill know how much you love this product!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Restaurant Review: Vegan Pizza in Garden Grove, CA

Philly Cheez Steak Pizza from Vegan Pizza

Did you know that the first ever all-vegan pizza joint has opened in Orange County? Sure, lots of places make an awesome vegan pizza (mmmmm, like Zpizza's Berkeley Vegan pizza), but the new Vegan Pizza in Garden Grove is different in that ALL menu items are vegan and they have lots of vegan fast food items other than pizza. We are talking pizzas, corn dogs, Buffalo wings, chili cheese fries, pastas and a variety of desserts! Woo hoo!

They opened a few months ago and I was finally able to go there last week to try some of their menu items. They are located in a strip mall off of Chapman Avenue in Garden Grove and while their surroundings might be humble, their vegan food definitely earns them some bragging rights!

The first thing I noticed on the menu was a vegan corn dog, which I just HAD to order! Their veggie dog is dipped in scrumptious batter and deep fried to crispy perfection. I can't remember the last time I had a corn dog, but I remember basically living off of them in my pre-vegan days of college. This cruelty-free version tasted just like how I remember them tasting, but better! The golden, crispy batter that enveloped the veggie dog was just to die for!

Vegan Chili Cheez French Fries and 
Vegan Corn Dog at Vegan Pizza

I also ordered the Chili Cheez French Fries and was surprised how big the portion size was! These fries were piled high with refried beans (not your traditional chili), vegan cheese, jalapenos, onions, sauce and olives. They were tasty but could have used a bit more sauce and/or beans.

Mister Spooky ordered the vegan Philly Cheez Steak pizza (pic above), which was really good as well (yes, I snagged a few slices). The crust was cooked just right - crispy and chewy. They were also generous with their toppings of bell peppers, onions and vegan cheese (pretty sure they used Daiya), though it could have used a bit more "steak". Still, it was definitely a tasty pizza pie and I can't wait to go back and try their other variations (like Greek, Mediterranean, Indian, Meat Lovers, etc.).

I got one of their vegan pastry puffs as a dessert, but it was more of a turnover rather than a pastry puff. It was good, but I wasn't blown away by it. Next time I'd like to try their chocolate cake!

They have a ton of other options, like pasta, sandwiches, salads and lots of sides...I can't wait to go back and try them all!

Vegan Pizza in Garden Grove...just look for their cute 
SmartCar parked out front!

I also liked the service and the owners were really sweet and friendly! It felt very welcoming and they greeted you like family! They have several tables for eating in, or you can take your food to go. It's not fancy, but it is clean and inviting, perfect for grabbing some vegan comfort food!

I will definitely go back and if you are in Orange County I highly recommend checking out Vegan Pizza!

You can check out their menu and get more info on their website.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Visit to The Gentle Barn Animal Sanctuary

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to visit The Gentle Barn, an animal rescue and sanctuary in Santa Clarita, California. The Gentle Barn was founded in 1999 by Ellie Laks as a place to rescue, rehabilitate and provide sanctuary for animals. The 6-acre Santa Clarita location has been open since 2003 and currently provides a safe haven for more than 170 animals! Besides saving animals, The Gentle Barn also provides rehabilitation to children and adults from the inner-city, group homes, mental health care facilities, foster homes, and schools by giving them an appreciation for all life through interaction with the animals.

 Vegan Bake Sale was a huge success and raised more 
than $1,300 for The Gentle Barn!

I wanted to show my support for all the wonderful things The Gentle Barn does, so I went last Sunday since they were having a vegan bake sale to raise money for the sanctuary! All proceeds of the bake sale were going directly to The Gentle Barn - vegan sweets for a good cause?! How could I not go?!

Petting Faith the cow!

This was my first time going to The Gentle Barn, and it was a very special experience! I got to hug cows, brush pigs, feed horses, scratch goats, and spend time with chickens, a peacock, turkeys, sheep and all the other animals! Founder Ellie gave a touching talk about starting the sanctuary and everything they do for animals.

One of the Barn's beautiful rescued horses

Her talk was really heartfelt and she spoke how all animals feel and experience emotions just like humans. Just because we have different bodies, we are still all same on the inside and feel pain, joy and sorrow no matter what species we are. I am sure her talk inspired others to respect animals and truly love them by not eating them. Ellie even recommended a vegan diet and provided hand-outs to people who wanted to learn more about a cruelty-free diet.

Jewel, the Barn's resident peacock!

Of course, I enjoyed the vegan bake sale and got to try some yummy treats! I also got to meet fellow vegans that I had only known through Facebook or Instagram! It was so cool to connect with people who shared the same values and beliefs as I did!

 Giving Linus the pig a nice brushing!

Above all, though, the most special part of the trip was being able to see animals happy and seeing people being able to connect with the animals. I'm hopeful that many made the connection that these loving creatures don't belong confined in a factory farm or on a plate, but free to live their lives in sanctuaries like The Gentle Barn. 

Brave Heart was such a sweetheart! He loved getting
scratched behind his ears 

The trip to The Gentle Barn was really really made me re-connect with the reason I went vegan in the first place - the animals! It was so great to see all the different animals with their different personalities and to see them so happy! And eating some vegan treats was an added bonus!

A vegan candy apple from the bake sale! 
It was soooooo good!

I highly recommend everyone, vegan or not, visit an animal sanctuary like The Gentle Barn. It is a wonderful experience to connect with other sentient beings and show them they love they deserve. 

To learn more about The Gentle Barn, please visit their website
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