On October 1st, World Vegetarian Day, the best of So. Cal’s veg eateries gathered together in the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden in Long Beach, Calif., for Compassionate Cuisine, an annual food, music and art event hosted by Animal Acres farm sanctuary.
The smooth sounds of jazz pianist Scott Sorrentino welcomed me into the garden where booths serving samples of signature vegan dishes and products were set up around the perimeter of a sparkling koi pond. Animal spirit totems and a Senju Kannon statue, the Buddhist symbol of compassion, were nestled amongst the camellias. Giant orange koi fish lapped at the water’s surface, greeting guests as they passed. Animal Acres couldn’t have picked a more appropriate venue.
With tasting booths throughout the garden, I reached for the first plate I saw—a cluster of leafy greens with fresh tofu from Melissa’s Produce. At the Kamal Palace table I enjoyed authentic Indian rice with flavorful Saag Peneer, and washed it all down with Margo’s Bark root beer. I was surprised to learn that Margo’s Bark donates 100 percent of its proceeds to help shelter dogs and that it can easily be found in almost any Whole Foods.
With nearly 800 people in attendance, it was a little tricky to find a seat. Luckily I found a comfortable rock at the edge of the pond that lent a perfect view of the podium where Lorri Houston, founder of Animal Acres and pioneer of the farm sanctuary movement, thanked the crowd on behalf of the animals. “It takes a vegan village to put on a compassionate cuisine festival,” she said. All of the events' proceeds went to help Animal Acres continue to provide a safe haven for animals rescued from the abuses of the food production industry.
I took a Sunday tour at Animal Acres during the summer and saw for myself how much sweat goes into caring for the cows, goats, chickens, turkeys, and pigs that live there. As fate would have it, a stray puppy (now named Sunny) found by Animal Acres’ friend and blogger Philip Steir had been brought to the sanctuary the morning of my visit, and I left that day with a new four-legged friend. Thanks to Philip and Animal Acres, Sunny brightens up our home from his spot on the end of the couch. I ran into Lorri and Philip at the Follow Your Heart booth and caught them up to date on all of Sunny’s puppy antics.
Before heading out I debated the night’s culinary highlights. Seabirds Truck had me going back for more of their Beer Battered Avocado Tacos, a crispy avocado wedge topped with cabbage and a tequila-jalapeno sauce. But I equally enjoyed a slice of Da Vinci’s Delight ‘Artsy Artichoke’ vegan quiche. It was clearly a tie.
I left the event full of good food, positive energy, and a whole list of new vegan hot spots to add to my dining repertoire.
—Sarah J. Montoro, guest blogger