Tony Danza Update

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Apparently I've had some concerned readers wondering where we are with our kitty immigration drama so I figured I'd post an update. We've spoken to some Aussie immigrants who dealt with similar issues to get some perspective and here's what we learned:

Australia quarantine, because it has the strictest standards is also known for being the nicest. Also there are designated days where you can visit your pets. Cost is a major downside. His monthly fee is more than I paid for rent on my one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn five years ago. However, it looks like Tim's company may put us up in a hotel for a month, thus saving us a month of rent and balancing it out.

So quarantine it is. Our vet recommended an agency to us called Pet Express that works specifically on pet travel and immigration. So far they've been super helpful in making sense of the mountain of paperwork and jargon we're dealing with, and they will take TD to the airport for his journey. Again, the services aren't cheap but you're paying for peace of mind, and not having to stress about last minute problems that arise.

My only remaining concern is getting him food he likes. Not that he's one of those snobby Fancy Feast cats... he just has, well, a rather sensitive tummy. When his current brand of cat food was recalled recently and we had to temporarily switch him, the results were not pleasant for anyone. I haven't been able to find any Nutro distributors in Sydney. Does anyone know of something that might be roughly equivalent? 

UPDATE: I found Nutro distributors here!

Kind of gross to be writing about the one non-vegan product we allow in our home, but unfortunately TD doesn't have much of a taste for tofu. However, there is ONE VEGAN PRODUCT that he goes absolutely, inexplicably crazy for: So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt.

Yup, that's him with a container of it stuck on his face. The other day I had some with my lunch and seconds after I'd opened it, the delicious aroma awoke him from his slumbers. He spent the next three minutes wandering around the living room and subsequently crying because he couldn't tell where the smell was coming from. (Hint, kitty: it's always in my hands.) When he finally found it, he did his best to try to paw it out of my hands. He's lucky he's cute. This is what goes down every single time I eat this stuff. As usual he got to lick the cup afterwards and was in kitty heaven.

I wonder if they'll let me sneak his favorite treat to him in quarantine. Are there any vegan products your cat goes crazy for? Brighten my day with cute kitty stories in the comments.

Meatless, Communist Mondays

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I read this article on Huffington Post this morning and as usual when I read ridiculous things, I've been stewing and unable to get it out of my head.

So, yadda yadda yadda, a school district in Baltimore has implemented a "Meatless Monday" in its school cafeterias both as an effort to save money and serve healthier options. All of the local parents are down with it. So what's the controversy? Oh, waaaahhh, the poor meat industry is sad that people are waking up to the idea that Americans consume FAR too many animal products and that maybe it wouldn't kill them to skip it for one meal a day, one day a week.

But don't feel too bad for meat industry lobbyists, they've got everyone's favorite, completely rational and well-informed CNN anchor on their side: Lou Dobbs. Dobbs clearly agrees that this is a part of schools "indoctrinating" our youth. Indoctrinating them with what is unclear. Funny, weren't conservatives throwing that word around a few months ago when Obama was going to speak to school children? He was going to "indoctrinate" them with his lefty "stay in school" values.

Dobbs and his cohorts like Glenn Beck seem to want us living in some kind of idyllic 1950s suburbia (or at least their corporate sponsor's version thereof.) And yet they're putting down pretty traditional values like respecting the President, volunteering in your community, and you know, "EAT YOUR VEGETABLES."

The implication here is that schools are taking away children and parents' choice to eat meat. (I guess I forgot how pro-choice conservatives are known for being.) Somehow, they don't have a problem with the complete LACK of vegan or vegetarian choices for children, but once they can't get their uber-wholesome salisbury steak, the schools are suddenly a police state. And let's not also forget that parents still have the option to send their kids to school with home-made lunches.

I completely understand that this is not always an option for families, which is why I support the Physcians Comittee for Responsible Medicine and their efforts to get healthier vegetarian options into schools. But if parents really are outraged by this policy (which, to be clear, it doesn't seem that any of them are) then perhaps a little effort could be put in to your kid's lunch.

I won't even touch the fallacy presented by this video that meat is the only way to give your kids protein (and the idea that animal protein is a revered nutrient). Now that I'm taking a plant-based nutrition class I can't help but be appalled by how much misinformation the media puts out about health and diet.

Anyway, let's focus on the positive instead. Yay for Baltimore schools and let's just hope that more schools are working with great health directors who can provide reasoned, logical facts instead of political distortions brought about by corporate lobbyists.

Vegan Bake Sale Wrap-Up

Monday, October 19, 2009

This Saturday was the first official SF Vegan Bake Sale and it was a rousing success! When we did our first bake sale as part of the World Wide event back in June, we raised $3,000 over two days. So imagine our delight when in this one-day event we raised over $2,600! And we helped two kitties get adopted!

One hundred percent of the money earned went to charity - in this case Give Me Shelter cat rescue. We plan to hold an event every other month or so, with the next one falling around holiday time. These bake sales are great on so many levels because not only does it give us a chance to help out struggling nonprofits, but we're getting some truly delicious vegan food out to people who might not try it otherwise, helping to break down the myth that vegan food is bland or gross. As I've said before, that's my favorite kind of activism.

And it helps bring the community together. I met all kinds of kickass bakers, chefs, and just regular folks like me, whipping up cookies for a cause. In some ways I regret taking so long to get involved with the local vegan community in the Bay Area. I lived here for four years and only in the last nine months or so have I started becoming active. It's something I definitely hope to correct when moving to Sydney.
More photos can be found here, and you should also check out the wrap-up on vegansaurus! Thanks to Laura, Karin, and Abby for being amazing co-organizers.

If you came, let me know your favorite goods you tried. What would you love to see being sold next time? I've got to start coming up with ideas of what to bake in December... More savory goods? The Daiya cheese biscuits were one of my favorites.

Help Design a Bay Area Vegetarian Restaurant

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My husband and I sometimes talk about the all vegan deli-diner we plan to open someday. There will be all varieties of hash browns made to order, the best tempeh reuben money can buy, and of course my famous black and white cookies, amongst many other things.

I imagine it's a common fantasy for vegans - creating a restaurant that serves all your favorite things, especially those that are hard to come by in vegan form. So I was delighted to come across and ad informing me I could design my own veggie restaurant. Following the link took me to a page for GreenBar: a vegetarian restaurant coming to a Bay Area location near me!

It's just a quick online survey polling for demographics, but you can also write in the dishes you would like to see. If you're comfortable giving up your contact info, you can also enter to win an Amazon gift card for your participation. As if I need further incentive to spout off my opinions on food.

They anticipate that GreenBar will be a "casual fast food" type of joint, though they emphasize high quality. Sounds maybe a bit like Plant Cafe, but hopefully a little cheaper and all veggie, and maybe more conveniently located. (To me! Because I'm not moving in three months or anything.)

So while I probably won't even be here to see this restaurant open, you should let you voice be heard. Power to the vegan people!

Soaking Up California: Four New Restaurant Reviews

Monday, October 12, 2009

Apologies for the lag in posts. I started a new job last week at an independent school to help defray our moving costs. Today is Columbus Day (or Indigenous Peoples Day if you live in a city full of hippies like I do) so I've got the day off to catch up.

Ever since we announced a move date we've been feeling like we need to check things off our list of things to do in the Bay Area before we're gone. Unsurprisingly, most of the things on my list have included food. I've checked three new restaurants off my list in the last few weeks.

The first was Souley Vegan in Oakland. They sell some of their products in Rainbow, thus getting me completely hooked on their potato salad. They'd closed their downtown location a while back and re-opened not too long ago, not far from Jack London Square. We split a massive combo plate, the other highlights of which were the Mac and Cheese and Southern Fried Tofu. They also had a live band playing, ridiculously friendly staff, and an overall good vibe.
Last week we took a friend out for his birthday. We met up at City Beer Store in SOMA. It's not often I dine in that neck of the woods with omnis, so we took the opportunity to try Heaven's Dog. Restaurants with animals in the name don't often bode well for us, but this upscale Chinese restaurant from the same owners as the Slanted Door actually had a number of interesting veggie options. The best were easily an appetizer of "vegetarian pork belly" sandwiches which were made from tofu skin and mushrooms. Not sure it resembled actual pork in any way but that's probably for the best.

Then, over the weekend a friend invited us up to Napa. We've been dying to check out gourmet vegetarian restaurant Ubuntu for a while now, and it was well worth the wait. Most of the dishes are vegan or can be prepared so. We split a number of small dishes and recommend the fried chickpeas, the lemongrass curry, and the fregola. Everything was inventive and full of flavor. High quality, fresh ingredients make all the difference. It's pricey, but well worth it.

We found a cheap hotel and stayed the night and the next morning we ate at Ad Hoc in Yountville (just north of Napa). They have a prix fixe Sunday breakfast that, although is not remotely vegan by default, our server asked if we had any special dietary needs to accomodate. We happened to be dining alongside one of their cooks, but I'm fairly sure anyone could go in and ask for vegan options. They did not disappoint with thick-cut toast, and a variety of grilled veggies.

Lastly we were off to do some tastings. I have to admit that I've not always paid close attention to whether or not my wine is considered "vegan." Frankly, anything organic or biodynamic uses animal products in some phase of production, so it seems a bit nitpicky to me. (All hate comments can be left here.) We hit a few bigger places, but I think we could all agree our favorite was getting a private tasting at a small winery called Sullivan. Its proprietor told us all kinds of great stories about the process of becoming certified biodynamic. Apparently one part of this involved having "established" birds that work symbiotically with you to keep out pests. They're not purchased, you basically just have to work in close commune with your land.

We came home yesterday with three bottles, full bellies, and empty wallets. But it was all worth it to soak up some of the best food and drink that California has to offer. If you live in the Bay Area, let me know in the comments what else I need to check out before I leave.

Adventures in Kitty Immigration

Friday, October 2, 2009

When we tell people we're moving to Australia, the first question Tim and I usually get is, "What about Tony Danza?" If you've never met us, you're probably scratching your head. That's because I've not yet formally introduced my blog readers to our pride and joy, Tony Danza:
Look at what a gentleman he is. If you're wondering, yes, he's odd-eyed and deaf. He also has cerebellar hypoplasia which is fancy science talk for "tiny brain." Well, at least the part of the brain that controls motor function. None of his paws really move in tandem together and as a result he can't really walk a straight line. Tim rescued him from some irresponsible care-takers (TD's mom and dad also happen to be brother and sister) 12 years ago, so now he's my step-kitty.

Bearing in mind his age, medical issues and generally awful disposition we've struggled with whether or not he'd even be able to survive the journey. We took him to our vet yesterday though, which shed a lot of light on the situation.

Australia requires that imported animals get microchipped, undergo a rabies vaccine and bloodwork, and then there's a 6 month waiting period before he's allowed in the country. He got the first two yesterday and will get his bloodwork on Oct. 15th. Six months from then is April 15th which conflicts a bit with our anticipated January 25 move date.

So we've got three choices:

  1. Change our move date. Unfortunately I'm hoping to start school in March. It's unclear whether my visa will allow me to go over before Tim, but if it does, then that's a possibility.
  2. Leave TD with a friend, to whom we'd be forever indebted. Unfortunately TD doesn't play well with other animals, and if you don't already have a cat, you probably don't want one. There are also some potential responsibilities that come with it. If you're interested we should have a talk.
  3. Quarantine him in Australia. The thought of him stuck in a cage for several months is something I don't relish, but apparantly Australian quarantine is known for having the best treatment -- making it also rather expensive, however.
The last option of course was not taking him, but the vet seemed to think he's in good enough health to make it, so leaving him behind would be selfish. As much as I sort of liked the idea of moving into a home not filled with cat hair and never having to clean up hairballs and vomit... well, how can you say goodbye to this face?

More to come on the Tony Danza saga...