IMG_7314 (510x340)

Hello from PDX, everyone! What an unbelievably eventful (and fun) day I’ve had so far, exploring Portland a little and getting to know some of my absolute favorite vegan bloggers. As someone who’s attended a couple of conferences now, I’ll say this: sometimes, you look around the room and realize that the only thing you have in common with everyone else is that you all write blogs. Here at Vida Vegan, we hail from different parts of the country, have different jobs, are different ages, and eat different sorts of vegan diets. But we all share a similar world view, at least in so far as our reverence for animal life and passion for activism goes. It’s a powerful bond, and I’ve so enjoyed experiencing it.

Most of my closest blogging buddies started out by reading healthy living blogs (like Eat Like Me). I got sucked into the food blog world with vegan blogs and vegan bloggers. So this weekend, when I met Jess, Janessa, Bryanna, Colleen, and Isa, it felt like a starstruck homecoming to me.

Add to that meeting JL, whose blog I adore, and for whom I wrote one of my most personally meaningful posts. JL, who writes about body image and self-love, food, fitness, and the variety of life experience, is one of the smartest and sassiest bloggers out there, and you should all check out her “stop chasing skinny” series. She is truly awesome:

IMG_7303 (510x340)

I also got to meet Bianca, who is a former CR guest poster and my favorite southern belle:

IMG_7305 (510x340)

This all happened at the champagne reception last night. There was nut cheese in abundance:

IMG_7307 (340x510)

And, after over eight hours of travel and not much food (I packed badly for these flights) I ate a lot of it:

IMG_7308 (510x340)

There were also vegan cupcakes:

IMG_7306 (510x340)

And this amazing, amazing white chocolate nut butter from the lovely Amber, the chef behind Almost Vegan, who’s got a cool book in the works:

IMG_7312 (510x340)

DSCN2085_2 (510x325)

That’s us with Janessa.

And then, I stumbled on a table manned by the woman who turned it all around: Jenny Brown of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. It was her Thanksliving event, oh so many moons ago, that transformed my veganism from a personal journey—something I was doing solely for me—into a choice I was making for the sake of other living beings (and which I happen to love, too). She was representing the farm with all sorts of good gear:

IMG_7310 (510x340)

IMG_7311 (510x340)

We chatted for a bit about pre-med life, and how strange it feels to leave one career you love (which we both did) for another that feels too urgent to ignore. She’s such an inspiration to me.

As cocktail hour drew to a close, I departed for the next stop in the evening’s lineup of delight: dinner at Portobello with my VegNews family.

IMG_7313 (340x510)

As you all know, writing for VegNews is a big part of my life: I look forward to my “raw done right” columns with such anticipation, and I find that writing the column is an essential creative outlet for me as I move deeper and deeper into a left brain course of study. Beyond that, the VegNews staff really does feel like family: Elizabeth, the magazine’s managing editor, is a good friend:


IMG_7324 (510x340)

And Colleen Holland, the magazine’s associate publisher, is not only a fearless leader, but also a supporter and champion of her writers’ work. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me when she recently let me know that she (and the other staff) are thinking of me in the post-bacc program. And then there’s Laura, columnist extraordinaire, who we all know is my big girl crush.

I’d heard only the most marvelous things about Portobello, our dining spot, but had no idea that we were all to be treated like royalty last night.

IMG_7348 (510x340)

Chef Aaron, who is a marvel, prepared a special seven course tasting menu for us. When I arrived and saw what was in store, I was flabbergasted:

IMG_7316 (510x340)

We began with a champagne toast. One of our servers kindly prepared a non-alcoholic grape juice+soda combo for me, and it was great:

IMG_7320 (340x510)

I also ordered one of the restaurant’s signature “mocktails” (love mocktails!!), which was a mix of cucumber juice, shredded cucumber, mint, lemon, and lemon kombucha. Absolutely amazing. I loved it!

IMG_7330 (340x510)

Our first course was a melon amuse bouche with aged balsamic, which I stupidly forgot to capture on film, But I didn’t miss the second course: a gargouillou of summer fruits and vegetables in the style of Michel Bras. I have no idea what a gargouillou is, or who Michel Bras is, but gosh these were great. The mushrooms and nectarines blew me away! All with a drizzle of oil and some sea salt:

IMG_7328 (510x340)

Next up came our soup course. Three chilled soups: spicy cucumber, tomato consomme, and grape-almond gazpacho:

IMG_7334 (510x340)

Amazing. Amazing! The spicy cucumber wasn’t too spicy, but it was creamy and subtle and delicious. The tomato consomme actually made me like consomme, which I never have before. And the grape almond? Divine. So creative and rich. I cannot wait to try my own in the Vita at home!

Next was our vegan charcuterie plate: beet tartare, cashew cheese, mushroom rillette, and mustard. It was fabulous. My favorite was the tartare, which I also want to create at home now:

IMG_7335 (510x340)

The next course managed to send the entire table of seasoned foodies and tough vegan critics into a state of disbelief, punctuated with groans of pleasure and the occasional declaration of astonishment. It was the potato gnocchi with three sisters and pepper corn vellutata, roast squashes, heirloom peppers, and pole beans, all with a scallion purée.

IMG_7341 (510x340)

People, I don’t even like gnocchi. And this was insane. So good that Elizabeth, seated next to me, actually licked her bowl dry (E, sorry to overshare). It was incredible. At this point, I thought it couldn’t get any better. That was until our next course arrived: the portobello roast with polenta and salsa verde.

IMG_7342 (510x340)

It’s a stuffed portobello with a caper pesto on top, leaning on a chard wrapped bed of white polenta. The polenta was mild and creamy, and the mushroom flavorful. The caper pesto united the dish with tang and texture. A really stunning dish (and presentation).

Finally, as we went into various states of pleasure-induced shock, out came dessert: a lemon cream and strawberry jam tart. Plus, trays upon trays of Italian cookies, truffles, and chocolate. At this point, I was wondering if I’d entered vegan heaven:

IMG_7347 (510x340)

There really are no words to sum up how good this meal was. In my own personal annals of fine dining, this may be the ultimate and unsurpassed highlight. Sure, there are other kinds of meals that rank above or along it: grilling vegetables upstate with Chloe in the summer; big, heaping bowls of raw kale with cheesy red pepper hemp sauce; puts of quinoa and greens and simple drizzles of tamari. Those are the kind of comfort foods that keep me happy, and the memories that intersect with my food. As far as gourmet dining goes, though, this was tops. Period.

But if anything could rival the food, it was the company. I sat across the table from Jasmin Singer, who’s been a hero of mine for a while now. Jasmin is one of the creators of Our Hen House, an interactive and varied animal rights site that features fantastic and creative podcasts. Jasmin is a bold, wry, intelligent, and honest voice in the AR community, and she’s equal parts funny and thoughtful in person. Plus, she’s an NYC gal, and she’s really into her green juice. What more could I ask for in a new friend?

IMG_7319 (510x340)

When Jasmin told me (upon my stammering “I love your site!!!”) that she loves my “work” too, I thought “wait, I have work? What work?” Then I was simply flattered she knew who in the heck I am, especially since I’m new to AR. Jasmin, you made my night.

So did the presence of Allison, who is the cheery, wise, and elegant creator of Allison’s Gourmet:

IMG_7325 (510x340)

I have tasted Allison’s brownies, so I know the woman is a genius chef. But I had no idea she’s also so lovely to chat with. Nice to meet you, Allison!

We thanked the restaurant’s staff for basically granting us all the best meal of our lives:

IMG_7318 (510x340)

And made our way home. In my case, it was back to this cozy hotel room:

IMG_7294 (510x340)

IMG_7295 (510x340)

With my fab view:

IMG_7300 (510x340)

Except it was night when I got home, and straight to bed for me.

Since we discussed some of the challenges and triumphs of eating out post-ED last week, I thought I would throw in my own personal reflection after this sumptuous dinner. In the past, meals and events like this troubled me a lot, not because I actually felt bad about what I’d eaten (though that was sometimes also true), but because people at multi-course meals tend to talk and joke a lot—all in good spirits—about how stuffed they are, how much they’ve eaten, how they need to go running the next day, and so on. For them, it’s all in good fun: for me, these are triggering sentiments, and they used to make me very anxious indeed. Wow, I thought—if people with normal food histories feel like they were gluttonous tonight, how should I be feeling?

Last night, I realized how far I’ve come as an eater when the few odd jokes about being “stuffed” or unable to get up from the table flew by, and I didn’t feel phased at all. I was thrilled with the meal, and felt grateful simply to have experienced something so rare and so good. And in fact, the portions had all been perfect, so that I felt just as full as I wanted to be: no more, no less. Because I felt great, and because I’d enjoyed every bite, the idea that other people might be stuffed meant nothing to me. I went home happy. And this is a new set of feelings, for me, when experiencing a multi-course dinner. Here’s to personal growth.

And now, to bed. The fun continues in the morning!


This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Visit my privacy policy to learn more.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Gena, fabulous meeting your gorgeous self and orgasming and laughing through dinner together. Thank you for your kind comments and your flattering photography. You are gifted! xo

  2. Great videos! It was so much fun to actually hear your voice! Haha! That may sound strange, but I think it gives me a better picture of the person behind all of the wonderful posts. Your answers/advice were great! I’d love to read more about your relationship with fitness from time to time–it’s all part of the balance. Have fun at the rest of the conference ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Great post. I enjoyed your interviews too! The meal at Portobello looks so delicious. I loved your thoughts on eating out post-Ed too. Eating out is something I still struggle with from time to time but completely agree that a special occasion when you’re enjoying yourself with other people and especially when the meal is nourishing and vegan is a whole different story ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I really enjoyed your interview and I am even more inspired to start a blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Just saw your video and wanted to comment again because I loved how you talked about your journey and how you started Choosing Raw. Your blog was actually the one that helped me to realize that I do not have to be all raw, and now I am so much happier and healthier for it! Thank you!

  6. Glad that you are having a good time! Reading your post made me realize that it’s been way too long since I’ve shared a meal with my vegan and raw friends. I love being able to relax and enjoy eating healthy food with them. Scheduling a get together right now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. That dinner looks amazing; I’m quite sure had I been treated to such a repast, I would have partaken of each course. One of the perks of my previous job was that I got to eat out, a lot, at some pretty amazing restaurants, and I almost always ate three full courses. With no regrets, etc. The one thing I will do, if I know I’m going to be eating such a dinner, is to skip breakfast and lunch. So I create a calorie deficit. I am a pretty light day time eater anyway, so we’re talking six hundred calories deferred, not a big deal, and it makes sense if I’m going to be having appetizer, dinner, and desert. It also means by 8 PM I’m really hungry, and I just find the whole dining out experience more enjoyable when I have an appetite. I don’t know if this is a remnant of my ed (an unhealthy practice) or a psychological accommodation. Because, as we’ve discussed, I don’t deal well with “restriction” at all. So I think it’s healthier for me to cut back the day of a big dinner, than to have to do so after the fact. Sure, I could just trust my body, that after a big meal, I’d probably wake up not very hungry and end up recalibrating without any conscious plotting. And it’s true, my appetite ebbs and flows, some days I eat a lot, other days I eat much less, but it’s all a natural cycle (unlike you, I don’t plan my meals, I eat very intuitively), but the reason it works for me to eat this way is that I don’t think about it. Of course, it’s probably healthier to just eat three normal sized meals, so I could go out and skip the appetizer, or eat only half my $48 entree, but how awful! What do you think? Is it really any different from saving up before you buy a new coat versus putting it on a credit card? Isn’t it easier, psychologically, to pay with cash than to have to pay off a debt afterwards. I’m curious which of your lingering ed behaviors you can’t be bothered to overcome because you actually find them useful, even in your current joyful approach to eating.

    • Hmmm, tough question! I’d personally be miserable skipping meals, and for me, that would be very reminiscent indeed of my own ED days (I really can’t skip meals, unless I happen to be flying at the crack of dawn or something, in which case I’m just fine with juice till I can land and eat). I also think that part of my own version of recovery was to not play compensation games: eating a big dinner now and then doesn’t have to mean calorie trades the day of or day after, since (as you say) there are probably days in the month where I eat lightly, and in the end, all is even. I used to be very methodical about compensation for any shift on the more/less spectrum of food, and now I try to remind myself that indulgence can happen without compensatory undereating.

      I guess I’d say that you have to do what works for you in terms of these big dinners. I might eat lightly during the day: lots of smoothies and salads and veggie snacks. I’m of the mind that skipping meals can damage metabolism (though I suspect you might disagree, and you might also make the totally valid point that if you aren’t doing it frequently, it won’t make a difference.) What matters most, so far as I can tell, is that you feel a) freedom to enjoy the bigger meal, b) a sense of effortlessness before and after the meal, rather than anxiety, c) that you protect your health. I think you’re getting a, b, and c out of your method, though my inner nutritionist would certainly tell you not to make a habit of meal skipping.

      As for my ED remnants that I haven’t bothered to excise from my life: I’d say pickiness is a big one. Selectivity and refusal to eat food that’s not up to my taste standards (we’ve talked about this). I’m a little rigid about how I eat: I rarely snack, and I don’t tend to eat a lot of sweets and treats. Some might find me a little regimented, but being an “organized” and methodical eater, which I am, allows me to constantly focus on getting the most out of what I eat, and it just seems to work for me. Certainly the fact that I like to eat meals of even sizes at really regular intervals means that I sometimes cope poorly with spontaneity and travel. But for the most part, even rhythms keep me balanced, and I really like that.

  8. Oh my, I sooo much recognize myself in the part about dining out and everybody starts to talk about how stuffed they are, have to go running tomorrow, etc. I still find it hard to cope with that, even though I have come a long way since I started recovering from my ED. It is, as you write, a trigger and sometimes I just wanna shout at people. I know it’s just a joke for them, but for me, dining out can still be stressful. To many options, to many factors I can’t affect. Do you have (or had) a strategy for those occasion? I have considered to just tell people that those comments make me feel unease, but I don’t wanna ruin their mood – but they are ruining mine. At the same time, I don’t want to have any extra attentions drawn to me, don’t wanna make my company feel like they have to consider every word they say, so it won’t “trigger” me in some kind of way. So tricky. Would love to hear you opinion! ๐Ÿ™‚

    You’re blog has meant so much to me during my ED recover. Thank you so much!

    ๐Ÿ™‚ / Johanna

  9. Great to meet you in person and a super thanks for all that you do and for the shout out here on your blog. You rock !!

  10. Awesome! This is one of the funnest and most inspiring vicarious ‘blogger meetup’ posts I’ve ever read. I feel delighted for you, with a garnish of envy.

    Must have missed something, but what is AR? It sounds like some very cool club membership for which must be highly coveted and exclusive.

    Enjoy the rest of your time!

  11. Haha, a gargouillou is a “liberated marriage of different shapes, colors and tastes!” – http://www.bras.fr/site_blanc/pdf/gargouillou-en.pdf, I am surprised you didn’t know that! Just kidding.
    That meals looks as good as your descriptions of it! I believe you that it was the best meal of your life. And I am doing little jumps of joy for you on your ED recovery moment. That is so great.
    You are really so inspiring, I love your work too!

  12. totally forgot that this was going on this weekend, so happy to hear you are having a great time. I can only imagine the feeling there, so many great people doing great things! Love the videos too ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Gena, it was an honor to meet you this weekend. You are everything (and more) that I imagined you would be: beautiful, crazy smart, sassy, opinionated and generally an all-around kick-ass person. Keep on doing what you’re doing, you’re an inspiration!

  14. Ohhhh, this makes me so very happy — the food, the vegans, the passionate people coming together in one place! Certainly seems like vegan heaven.

  15. What a fun dispatch from the road, Gena!

    There’s much I want to comment on but in the interest of brevity, let me just compliment your impressive – far from awkard – interviewing skills. You handled yourself with such composure and grace and did such a terrific job in articulating your positions. (Pretty dress too!)

    I hope your return travel plans go smoothly. Be safe, Gena!

  16. I’m so happy to have finally met you and I’m so happy that I’m siting next to you RIGHT NOW in the animal rights session! ๐Ÿ™‚


  17. Wow. What a great post and how cool that you got to meet all of these peeps in real life!! Just out of curiousity, are there many guys there? Seems like the vegan blogging world is a lot of women. And so true, about having a common thread. It seems to me that the veganism part overpowers whether someone is a democrat, republican, christian fundamentalist, etc…..Or maybe for me it’s just easier to find that common ground with folks that normally I may never find any common ground. In the midwest we do have a few peeps that aren’t the typical, more liberal types of vegans. Looks like such a blast, and thanks for all the updates!

  18. Awkward? No way! The meal sounds absolutely incredible. Couldn’t be happier for you about feeling so positive after the multi-coursed group dinner. I can imagine it feels quite amazing with every step you take. Such an inspiration, Gena! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I’ve heard such fabulous things about Portobello, but I haven’t been able to make it there yet!! Sounds like it’s been a fabulous time. Janessa & Co. are pretty much awesome.

  20. Love this!!! You’re amazing, Gena. You have poise and grace in front of the camera, FYI! Perhaps sometime when you’re in LA my brother’s film studio can shoot something for your website. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  21. I’m loving all the recaps! You did not look awkward at all on the video. Just happy and glowing. People on my twitter feed mentioned how well spoken you were on the panel, too. Can hardly wait to actually attend next year. Glad you’re enjoying Portland. I just moved down the street from Portobello but haven’t had a chance to try it yet. Thanks for the yummy, detailed review.

  22. Wonderful post and pictures! And loved the videos! Oh I have to go next year! ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Wow, everything looks incredible. The stuffed portobello sounds delicious. As for those comments, I understand. Another thing I used to hate was when anyone around me talked about making a diet plan (even if they had a healthy need to lose a few pounds). I think the problem is that when you’re insecure, you’re always looking outward to other people and comparing yourself, instead of looking inward and deciding what’s right for your own body. If someone else says he/she needs to go on a run the next day, an insecure person would automatically feel the need to beat that person’s aspirations. The fact that you’ve climbed over this mindset is proof of how comfortable you feel with yourself now. It’s a great feeling. I no longer care if anyone around me is on a diet, or feels the need “run off” a meal. I listen to my own body, and it makes me happy to see that you do too! I love when you talk about topics like these. Keep them coming!

  24. Portobello is definitely the best vegan spot in Portland – glad you got to experience it!

  25. Wow, the conference (and the meal) looks absolutely incredible! I think I’d be so starstruck to meet some of my vegan blogger heroes. I’m looking forward to next year! I really appreciate your comments on eating out post-ED. I think I’m starting to get over my fear of eating out, and it’s encouraging to hear your stories!

  26. I thought I would be jealous of all the people at VVC, but really I’m just so proud of and happy for all of you. It sounds like an amazingly compassionate event – for animals and people and such a great environment in which to be. Also, I read a recap of the nutrition panel and it’s great to see you up there with other long-established folks. You do do amazing “work,” Gena! Keep it up and enjoy yourself. You totally deserve it.

  27. This post is all kinds of fabulous, Gena! What an honor. I can only dream of attending such an amazing conference, as an up-and-coming blogger, within the next few years.

    Oh. My. That meal looked HEAVENLY. I was salivating with every photo and accompanied description.

    Your testament to eating out post-ED made my heart swell with joy, and a smile inched its way across my face. You aee so wonderful and inspiring. (:

    Stay lovely,

  28. First, I want to say “I LOVE Portland!”

    Okay, now that that is off my chest, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. You really got me when you mentioned the “I’m stuffed, I need to go running tomorrow!” My personal favorite (NOT), “I ate so much, I’m not going to eat at all tomorrow!” I haven’t thought much about those comments until you just mentioned them. They are pervasive with some of my family members who I often enjoy celebratory meals with. I have always felt very, very uncomfortable at those moments . . . a lot for me to think about right now.

    Have you ever written a post about this phenomenon? Is this something particular to people with EDs? When I think about the people I know who always make these comments, they are potential ED sufferers.

    • Actually, Wendy, I don’t think the people who I’ve noted making these comments are potential ED sufferers. Usually, they’re people who have fairly average relationships with food (in my mind) but in some ways that makes my feelings worse, because I envy that they can say such things without veering into the dangerous zones I’ve so often traveled in. I’ll definitely post more.

      • Gena, I’m just getting to your vida vegan con posts this morning, so forgive the late comment. You may be interested to know that there is no way to express this sentiment, “I’m stuffed,” in Portuguese. I still remember, almost fifteen years ago, when I was still literally learning the language and literally translating, the reaction I got when I first said, “I’m stuffed.” Because the only things that get stuffed are birds and boxes. Then I tried to correct, so I said, “I’m full.” But my Brazilian companion informed me that saying “I’m full”, while not as egregious an error as “I’m stuffed” (which is just risible) borders on vulgar. The only thing you can say is “estou satisfeita,” which means, “I’m satisfied.” There’s no way to express, politely, the concept of “more than satisfied.” Maybe it’s a concept born or affluence? Who knows. But I do try to avoid it now, whatever language I’m speaking.

  29. This meal truly looks like the ultimate vegan fine dining experience – and I am so glad you addressed the triggering language that surrounds others saying they feel stuffed. I had several family members who used to enter into this kind of dialogue after pretty much every holiday meal or celebration meal or even family Sunday lunches, and from age 10 on, it would make me mildly hysterical at worst, or very sad and uncomfortable at best. Reading about it gave me more insight into why that is still particularly uncomfortable today for me.

  30. Gena, it’s such an utter delight to read/feel your joy and contentment with life, and where you are in yours, emanating through this post. Truly inspirational. It’s in the past year or two that I’ve truly been able to feel comfortable with all kinds of eating out and the ways people speak around food when “indulging”. You’re absolutely right that it’s a wonderful milestone to pass and wave farewell to as it disappears behind and you keep moving forward. Here’s to joyful living! xo

    • Yeah, I haven’t much written about how others with basically healthy food stories can trigger us, but it’s actually quite a big deal, no? So glad that you, too, are finding yourself more immune.

  31. What a fabulous post!!

    First, everyone just looks stellar in the photos. I love funky hair, facial piercings and people who can rock a unique sense of style…lovin’ the vibe and looks of everyone and the crowd. How fun!

    “In my own personal annals of fine dining, this may be the ultimate and unsurpassed highlight.”–

    That is a BIG statement b/c you have had access to THE most amazing vegan food over your life…and pretty much have dined and hob-nobbed at some of the country’s premier vegan restaurants (as you have recently posted about too…how you were spoiled after living in NYC with access to such phenomenal restaurants) so yes, big statement. Happy that you got to enjoy such a yummy meal.

    And love the videos..oh it all seems great! I am happy to be watching it all unfold!

  32. That is amazing that you were able to spent the weekend With people That have similar passions and beliefs filled With great food!

  33. Ahh you were so close to my house! I live two blocks from Portobello! I wish I was at Vidacon this weekend, but sadly I’m stuck working. Hope you enjoy my fair Rose City!
    You must check out the vegan “mini mall” on SE 12th and Stark!
    Safe travels!

  34. Wonderful recap, Gena! It was a pleasure to meet you last night, and I really enjoyed your presence on the Nutrition panel this morning.

    Thanks for the shoutout for my PB, too!
    Although, if you’ll allow me to be picky for a quick moment, your link to my blog is incorrect – my URL is actually almostveganchef.com. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m so sad there’s only one day of this conference left! I don’t want to leave this amazing vegan bubble we’re in.

You might also like