FRESH Perspective and RAW Conversation - Vegan Restaurant Owner, Mom & advocate for food education.
The Zen Nights Red Carpet Gala and Block Party was a great success and left me feeling nothing but an affirmation that life is on the right track. Not only did I walk away with a renewed belief in myself and my ability to help others by serving them plant based, whole foods but I found a new voice within me that screamed, “don’t hold back!”.
Sometimes, especially with family members, I hold my tongue and try to let the food do the speaking. But why? People may love to eat our food but it isn’t always enough to truly believe in the power of food to heal the body. How does that saying go? Knowledge is power. Yes. Knowledge is POWER!
We showed up to the Red Carpet Gala dressed to the nines. I wore my prom dress from high school (yes it still fits!) which gave me a chance to give it a good night. Compared to the night 14 years ago in high school – I’ll spare you the details details. The dress was the only thing special about that night and I think you get the point.
Jason Wyrick, Author of the Vegan Mexico Cookbook and Owner of The Vegan Taste Food Delivery Service company, was serving up some really yummy smelling food and I couldn’t wait to eat it!
We met Jason for the first time when we did our Cauliflower Buffalo Wings food demo at the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival this year; a man with an inspiring story, tasty food and a friendly staff. We sat in our chairs enjoying a Mushroom Ceviche and Walnut Pate with tortilla chips, a Spicy Jackfruit Taco and a heavenly peanut butter ball of some sort (so good I had to go back and ask for seconds). Green was also there but ran out of food before I could get to them. Even though I was super bummed, I did get to try their delicious Chocolate Chocolate Mini Cupcake that they were passing out right before the movie.
Will Tucker, Vegan Body Builder, Personal Trainer and Owner of Will Tucker Fitness took the stage to kick off the event. Introducing his lovely wife Nadia Khalighi, coordinator of the Zen Nights events and owner of Zen Comfort. There were many familular faces in the audience. Most of them our customers and dedicated members of the community and I was so honored to be sitting next to everyone one of them taking part in this event.
Eating You Alive was an amazing documentary. It didn’t focus on extensive facts like most food documentaries do, instead it was an array of amazing and tear jerking stories from all over the nation that all had one thing in common: a plant based vegan diet healed them. Every story – from Lupas to Cancer to people told their inherited genes were to blame – were all met with a new beginning. Every person was off their medication within three months of radically changing what they were putting into their bodies and within a year, they were on their way to reversing the diseases they thought they would have to live with for the rest of their life. Everyone one of them survived when they were told they would die. And so many of them, just like me, wanted to spread the message about the injustas we are all living and the unexplainable wonders that plants can do for you.
The lights flickered on and we were then introduced to three of the amazing people in the movie who had so much more to say about where their paths were leading them. Among them were Husband and Wife team Brook Goldner, MD and Thomas Tadlock who founded Smoothie SHRED, a 28-day free smoothie and workout challenge to get you on track to loosing weight and healing the body with a Plant Based lifestyle. We were also introduced to Milan Ross of Full Flavor Vegan, a company dedicated to educating the public about the wonders of a Plant Based, Vegan Lifestyle.
To wrap up the event, the newly founded Just Start Here Team consisting of Will Tucker, Jason Wyrick and Dr. Amish Shah, a local doctor certified in emergency and sports medicine, talked of their coming together to form a team where people could go to start transitioning to a Whole Foods, Plant Based Vegan Lifestyle. It was the perfect combination of support; body builder, chef and Dr. I felt so privileged to be there to see the start of something wonderful being put together and I just can’t wait to see where it will take Arizona’s expanding Vegan community.
We topped off the night with some conversation and a free sample hummus bowl from the Hummus Express Food Truck. Their “sample” was very generous; the size of a meal and so delicious! Perfect end to the night because I was still hungry!
The next was the Zen Nights Block Party and it seemed to be a hit event as well, despite soaring desert temperatures. I did brave the heat and venture downtown with the kids.
I call six o’clock witching hour because if the kids’ aren’t in the bath and on their way to story time, it could easily be a disaster. Of course my first stop was The Cutting Board’s tent to make sure everyone had what they needed and check out the food and setup. Sean was cooking away in his cast iron skillet and serving up a mini version of our delicious Enchiladas and Homestead Cinnamon Rolls which went within the hour! They were the hit of the night!
We browsed the rest of the tents, my son scouting for samples and of course and landed at Fluffy Vegans tent to try their amazing new dried pineapple. I absolutely love their dried fruit. I have tried to so hard to get my fruit crunchy like owners Kimberly and Casey do but they have it figured out! Of course we bought a bag (oil free, sugar free snacks? yes, please!). Next we found ourselves standing in front of some sort of wonderful fan-blowing-water contraption and in the company of Roman, the young boy who founded Paws’itively Tasty Treats and made all of the Whole Food, Vegan dog treats that were handed out in the VIP bags at the Red Carpet gala. He was a smart, young boy who seemed to be growing in popularity and trying to balance his new business adventure with his busy school life. I loved that my son was standing by my side and listening to me talk to this boy who was just a little older than him and already so motivated and devoted to a good cause.
We got another Hummus Bowl at the Hummus Express Food truck and some Sweet Potato Fries at a tent, who’s business I’d never seen before and can’t remember. Usually I’m collecting everyone’s business cards but with one starving kid (mad that his sweet potato fry order still wasn’t ready after 30 minuets) and the other who didn’t want to stay in my arms but couldn’t walk yet, it was proving difficult to stay. So I quickly grabbed an ice cold Chai Latte at Volstead and a kiss from my husband, who was cheffn’ it up and looking so handsome in his black button up chef coat. Then I headed home to do the quickest bedtime routine I could muster.
The Zen Nights events were a success and so much fun. I now have a number of new resources to add to my website (let’s see how fast I get that done, ha!) and I can’t wait to see what is in store for future Zen Nights events!
A HUGE thank you to all of our staff at The Cutting Board! Without your love and passion for what we do (and your willingness to brave the heat to sell our food) we would never be so successful. And to Nadia Khalighi for making this whole thing happen! If you missed The Cutting Board last month at the Zen Nights event, no worries! Come see us on Friday, July 29th for the more of our Homestead Cinnamon Rolls!
I don’t know why but my heart is drawn to Mesa. We bought our house in Mesa, we got married down the street and when we opened our Café, Mesa was calling to us. Although Mesa is a huge city, we felt it was a town in need of a food culture and healthier options.
To this day (ten years since we moved into our home) you will still find very few upscale sit down restaurants. Merely corporate drive-through chains, liquor stores and little hole-in-the-wall Mexican Café’s. I love Mexican food and it’s probably really good, authentic Mexican food, but certainly not Vegan. We are lucky to have a Sprout’s grocery store nearby but on those days when cooking just seems a bit over the edge of an already overwhelming day, nutritious and healthy food would be a least a 15-20 minute drive away. And you can be sure I won’t be cramming two kids in a 120-degree car to run in somewhere for food. Even food delivery services won’t touch this zip code.
When Sean and I first started The Cutting Board, we knew it had to be more than a restaurant. Of the many things we wanted it to be, at it’s core, it had to be a place to build a community.
We knew somewhere out there were like-minded business and individuals with the same values and products. We wanted more options. We wanted to build something better for our children. Not just a town of convenience and quick service. I’ve learned these luxuries tend to rob people of their culture, of diversity and kindness and most importantly, their ability to be open-minded.
I am proud to say that not only have Sean and I been able to connect with a community of people I was beginning to think didn’t exist in Mesa, but I am also seeing small and wonderful momentum building for the Plant Based, Vegetarian and Vegan community. Never have I met so many passionate, caring individuals with intentions bigger than themselves; amazing people and now wonderful customers and friends. (Stay tuned for my Amazing People blog series where I will be posting interviews with some of these said amazing people.)
This past month I was so excited to discover that Zen Nights, a gathering that originated in Gilbert, was moving to Downtown Mesa! Zen Nights is a family friendly gathering of vendors selling Plant Based foods and Cruelty Free products. Think Farmer’s Market but everything is Vegan!
Zen Night’s is operated and put together by Nadia Khalighi, owner of Zen Comfort and wife of Plant Based and Vegan Body Builder, Will Tucker. She is a woman full nurture and warm smiles and her number one goal with this event is so much at the heart of what I have been wanting all these years; bringing the Vegan community together.
I was particularly excited to hear that she would be partnering with Volstead Public House and The Famous Nile Theater in Downtown Mesa to host these events. The venue seems so fitting and gives so much life to an area of Mesa that I have always had high hopes for.
Volstead has become such a big part of our lives since we discovered it over a year ago but I have known the space much longer. I remember sitting in it with my colleagues in college for our Photographic Exhibition course. The walls were barren, the floor was dirty and a musty smell was prevalent. It was an empty, dreary space trying to come alive as an art gallery and my friend was showing her work there. It then turned into a coffee shop a few years later, which had decent coffee but the vibes just weren’t there. Finally we got wind of a Vegan coffee shop opening in the space and we couldn’t be more excited!
Volstead has brought not only good coffee and a creative, comfort food approach to a simple sandwich menu but a strong sense of what I have been yearning for in Downtown Mesa: character. We have come to know the ladies running it and it has become one of our favorite spots to get some coffee or a delicious scone and watch the kid’s faces light up as the light rails speed by outside the big open windows.
I attended the last Zen Nights on a “girls night out” with my daughter while brother was at a sleepover with Grandma for the night. That is what I called it but it was more like seeing a drive through movie that you couldn’t really give your full attention to.
Baby girl was sick; it was past her bedtime and all she wanted was to be crawling around getting her hands on everything she could. So I treated myself to a chocolate scone and a chai tea from Volstead, drooled over all the food and products I didn’t get because I didn’t want to carry it all while holding an eight month old strapped to my chest and stopped to have quick conversations with people I knew.
What is even more exciting is this months Zen Nights Block Party Event – happening this Friday and it’s FREE! It’s a biggie and I’m even more excited to see what the outcome is and what it brings to the table for the Vegan community. This month they be closing down the intersection of Main and McDonald and will be kicking off the Just Start Here Health and Wellness Campaign.
The campaign is to challenge all the residents and resturants of Mesa to go plant based for the month of July. The Just Start Here team consists of Dr Amish Shah, Chef Jason Wyrick and Fitness Expert Will Tucker and they will be a go-to resource for plant based recipes, tips, motivation and support to help you succeed during the challenge. Best of all it’s free to attend! Don’t forget to stop by the The Cutting Board’s tent! We will be there to represent and will be serving up an amazing dinner of Enchiladas, as well as our new and vastly growing selection of our Homestead Cinnamon Rolls!
It gets better! The night before Zen Nights they will also be hosting a special red carpet screening of “Eating you Alive”. It’s a documentary about curing chronic disease with a whole food plant based diet and afterwards a special presentation and Q&A session with the Just Start Here team. Don’t forget to buy your tickets, they will not be selling them at the door!
It’s a red carpet event, which means… fancy dress, all Plant Based, Vegan appetizers, like-minded company and a much needed and overdue night on the town for the husband and I.
It looks as though it’s time for my once-a-year blog post. Although, that ‘s a lie considering my last blog post was two years ago! So … I’ve been telling myself every night for the last two years that I’m going to start writing again.It really only feels like it’s been a couple weeks! Yet, so much of my life is different.
I am now a mother to another beautiful little human. A little girl of eight months who has already given me so many unforgettable moments; smiles that make me overcome with happiness, laughter that makes the room brighter and my heart full and already so smart, sometimes I forget she’s still so little. Her personality is the epitome of her middle name. She is Joy.
What I am cherishing most of all, is the beautiful connection she has with her Brother and Father. I watch in amazement as she leaves my side to cry for Dad to pick her up. Or when she joins the two of them in a wrestling match on the living room floor with no fear. She gives them smiles that belong to them and no one else.
I often look at her and think, “I’m so glad you’re here.” Our family has always felt complete but now, she exists and I couldn’t imagine it without her.
My Son is in love with his little sister. He wants to help with everything and he loves having a new playmate. Their bond is already so strong. She’ll follows him around the house like a puppy and watch everything he does. His favorite thing to do is to pretend I can’t see him and then he’ll sneak around the house and get her to follow him. When I catch them huddled behind the couch he’ll laugh and say, “you didn’t see me Mom.”
“Oh, I always see you.”
“With the eyes in the back of your head?”
“That’s right.” We both smile and then he spends the next half hour asking all kinds of questions about how the “eyes” work.
So I’ll just jump right in with saying that as much as I am in love with my little girl, the transition from one to two kids was and has been very difficult for me. I was caught by surprise with how I felt.
I remember coming home from the hospital and hugging my Son. His body felt so heavy and big. A “big” I’d never felt before. He was the Baby up until just a few short hours ago. My heart felt heavy and in the following months it seems I would forget so many of the moments when he was a Baby and what it was like to rock his small little body to sleep at night or feel his small hand in mine. It has brought so many tears to my eyes. It feels like losing someone.
One morning I woke up and he was already awake and sitting at the counter with a glass of soymilk and a bowl full of almonds. Immediately I thought of the chair he had to climb up on to get into the cupboard and how he could have fallen, or the fact that he was up before me making his own “breakfast” when I should have been doing that for him and not trying to sneak in just one more hour of sleep before the baby work up. Then he looked at me with his big blue eyes full of pride and accomplishment. He was so happy to have done it all by himself. Part of me screamed, “Mom fail!” The other part of me was so excited to see him so proud of himself.
There have been so many bittersweet filled moments. The balancing act … or should I say, acrobatic show you must star in with more than one kid is a whole new journey into Motherhood/Parenthood then I feel like I started out on.
I have had many nights full of tears. Asking myself hard questions and feeling like a complete failure as a Mother. Wishing I could take back the bad moments or any hurt I might have caused while throwing a toddler sized temper tantrum; hangry, sleep deprived and sometimes just longing for adult companionship.
I have good days too. Good days where I relish in the sweet moments of, “I can’t believe these two beautiful humans are my children.” Where I’m calm and strong for them in the way I want to be. Where there is only love and kindness. Where I am their teacher and playmate. Where I am present, listening and learning.
My road through Motherhood is the first experience in my life that has made me take a long look at myself. Specifically my reactions and the way I express myself. I’ve asked questions I’ve never asked myself before. Hard questions. Everyday is a journey to be the person I really want to be and these two are reminding me of that goal and it’s importance.
These two little people are learning everything from me right now. That is a lot of pressure! Being on journey and being aware that you are affecting another one can cause some sleepless nights.
I want my children to be kind and honorable people. I want them to be happy and learn to make the decisions they need to make in life when they get older with thoughtfulness and kindness. I want them to be calm souls with opinions based on worldly knowledge. I want them to have everything but know what is more important than having everything you want. I want them to be nourished and know why it’s important to take care of your body and your mind. And most of all I want them to respect and cherish the relationships they have and the people and animals they interact with in the world.
It makes so much sense that this is the path I’m on. If this is what I want for my children, this is the person I have to be.