From favorite restaurant, bakery, and chocolate to online store, website, and city, read on to discover the best of vegetarian in 2008. Also included are our editors' picks—that's right, the VN team spent the last 365 days scouring, sleuthing, and searching for all things new and fabulous in the wonderful world of veg, and we can't wait to dish. Here's to the waiting being over, here's to all the amazing people who make living a veg life easy, interesting, and delicious, and here's to the most-anticipated feature of the year!
The Readers' Picks
Favorite Vegetarian Restaurant: Millennium Restaurant
Favorite Bakery: BabyCakes NYC
Favorite Non-Dairy Milk: Silk
Favorite Vegan Cookie: Newman's Own Organics
Favorite Vegan Chocolate: Endangered Species
Favorite Non-Dairy Ice Cream: Purely Decadent
Favorite Vegan Wine: Yellow Tail
Favorite Tofu: Nasoya
Favorite Faux Meat Company: Morningstar Farms
Favorite Faux Cheese: Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet
Favorite Hot Beverage: Tazo
Favorite Vegan Dog Food: Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula
Favorite Supplement: Trader Joe's
Favorite Online Vegan Store: Vegan Essentials
Favorite Vegan Storefront: MooShoes
Favorite Shampoo: Aveda
Favorite Make-Up: Bare Escentuals
Favorite Body Care: Kiss My Face
Favorite Veg-Friendly City: New York City
Favorite VegNews-Sponsored Event: Green Festivals
Favorite Animal Sanctuary: Farm Sanctuary
Favorite Vegan Celebrity: Natalie Portman
Favorite Vegan Musician: Shania Twain
Favorite Cookbook Author: Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
Favorite Vegan Athlete: Tony Gonzalez
Favorite Non-Profit: The Humane Society of the United States
Favorite Veg Website: happycow.net
Favorite Veg Blog: veganyumyum.com
Favorite Veg Forum: happycow.net
Favorite Issue: The Best of Everything Issue
Favorite Column: I Can't Believe It's Vegan!
Favorite Café VegNews Meal: Cookbook Week: Veganomicon
Favorite Press Pass Adventure: Hyperdrive Big Apple Weekend
The Editors' Picks
Person of the Year: Rory Freedman
Ever consider that, by reading a diet book, thousands of people would choose vegetarianism? Well, in the last year—thanks to one activist in particular—all of these things actually happened. Rory Freedman—writer, activist, media darling, and meat-free icon—works non-stop to make the veg lifestyle appeal to the masses, and this year, they got the message.
Company of the Year: Chicago Soydairy
By introducing Teese—the company's dairy-free cheese that quickly garnered big-time buzz in the blogosphere—redesigning its website, and coming out with even more flavors of the already-popular Temptation ice cream, Chicago Soydairy is not only removing the barriers, but also redefining the accessibility of the veg lifestyle.
Product of the Year: Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheese
Here at VN, we test all kinds of new products, and by far, this one left the most lasting impression. Tangy, rich, and utterly decadent, the cheeses—made from cashew, hemp, and macadamia nuts—are easily the most exciting new products to grace our fridges this year. Whatever flavor launches next, we'll be ready for it, crackers in one hand, wine glasses in the other.
Book of the Year: Quantum Wellness
Beneath this mainstream hardcover is a vegan manifesto that encourages readers to consider the animals before tucking in to a plate loaded with dead ones. Kathy Freston's Quantum Wellness served a 10-week stint on The New York Times bestseller list and has sold 210,000 copies, which can only be described as phenomenal in the world of vegan book sales.
Event of the Year: NYC's Veggie Pride Parade
The brainchild of The VivaVegie Society's Pamela Rice (with a nudge from Paris, which has hosted its own Veggie Pride Parade since 2001), the march through the city's meatpacking district attracted a costumed crowd of 600 and almost as many media mentions. Look for a second helping in 2009.
Restaurant of the Year: Veggie Grill
In the eating-out ether, nestled between fine dining and fast food, lies an intriguing category that, until recently, wasn't on most vegetarians' radar: fast-casual. With the expanding Southern California Veggie Grill empire, that's about to change. Delectable menu items include the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' sandwich and Sweetheart Fries with chipotle dipping sauce.
Non-Profit of the Year: Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
In 2004, Jenny Brown and her husband Doug Abel accepted their first rescued chickens at the newly minted Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, and today care for a menagerie of 140 former food-production animals. "Woodstock has a hip vibe," says Dan Piraro, a Woodstock board member. "Our aim is for the sanctuary to be a place where culture, compassion, natural beauty, and communion with our fellow creatures come together."
Trend of the Year: Veg Athletes
In 2007, Atlanta Hawks guard Salim Stoudamire came out of the (vegan) pantry, followed by Kansas City Chiefs all-star tight-end Tony Gonzalez. Next, it was two baseball players—Milwaukee Brewers all-star first baseman Prince Fielder and Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Pat Neshek—who both declared for the vegan fantasy league before the 2008 season. We're still waiting for the first vegan ice hockey player. Sports fans know the mantra: Wait 'til next year!
Veg City Taking Over the World: Portland
This year, no metropolis has earned more bragging rights for its plant-based prowess than the über veg-friendly Portland, Oregon. Savor for a moment the sheer magnitude of this meat-free paradise: the world?s first vegan shopping mall, all-you-can-eat brunch at the Sweetpea Baking Company, cruelty-free cocktails at Bye and Bye, and cookies 'n' cream shakes at Sip's milk-free milkshake cart.
Dessert Epicenter of the Planet: NYC
Life is sweeter than ever in New York City. From root-beer-float cupcakes, chocolate-dipped s'mores, and pecan sticky buns, to towering peanut-butter-bomb cakes, brownie-topped cheesecakes, and frosting shots, New Yorkers take their vegan desserts very seriously.
Cookbook of the Year: Great Chefs Cook Vegan
Beginning with a great idea and adding a pinch of self-confidence and a dash of bravado, author Linda Long coaxed the world's master chefs—men and women accustomed to shucking oysters, boiling lobsters, and searing duck livers—into the vegan realm. How? By getting them to agree, in Great Chefs Cook Vegan, that food is as much about preparation and presentation as it is about taste.
Buzz of the Year: Prop 2
Coupled with nationally broadcast undercover footage of diseased and abusive factory-farm and slaughterhouse conditions, Prop. 2 has garnered unprecedented attention to the abuses of the animal-agriculture industry. The measure, which goes into effect on January 1, 2015, prohibits three egregious farming practices regularly implemented at farms throughout California: gestation crates, battery cages, and veal crates.
Ethical Style Icons: Chloé Jo Berman & Joshua Katcher
He's a trend-setting vegan who grew up eating brisket, liver, and eggs, and she's a foxy girl-about-town/animal activist who was raised in a progressive kosher household and recently went naked in protest of fur. If you don't know the dichotomous duo by name, you will soon, because these two Big Apple-based purveyors of animal-loving-hipster cool are about to blow up—in all the right ways.
Comeback of the Year: Sarah Kramer
After a three-year hiatus to star in "The Vagina Monologues" and run the family tattoo parlor, beloved vegan cookbook queen Sarah Kramer is making her comeback. Her newly released food and travel manifesto, Vegan à Go-Go!, will surely bring devotees to their knees: Kramer's lovable personality, to-die-for recipes, and campy, retro-style photography ooze from the adorable pocket-sized book.
Euro Import of the Year: Maoz Vegetarian
With a brand-new location in NYC, East Coasters have broadened their fast-food repertoire with Maoz' mouthwatering, nourishing alternative to bean burritos and veggie burgers, loading their regular or whole-wheat pitas with all-you-can-pile-on vegan salad bar toppings and sauces. Stay tuned for new locations set to open in Florida and DC before the decade's up, followed by Boston, LA, and San Francisco.
Political Move of the Year: Kucinich's Call to Impeach Bush
Formulating a refined list of the countless ways the American populace has been betrayed, former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 specific articles of impeachment to Congress on June 9 of this year including manufacturing a case for the Iraq war, imprisoning children, rampant and unwarranted surveillance in violation of the fourth amendment, and negligent management of Hurricane Katrina.
Year of Fancy Footwear
Up until now, very few companies have offered animal-friendly footwear that is not either of the unethically chic-and-cheap or responsible-and-drab varieties. Just this year, Gina Ferraraccio launched her understated, modern, and environmentally responsible vegan company Cri de Coeur, Natalie Portman introduced her brand-new line for Té Casan, and Bourgeois Boheme's recently developed men's line joined the ranks of high-end, animal-friendly standbys like NeuAura, Georgette, and Rina Shah.
Best Vegan Infiltration of the Mainstream: Veg Advantage
What do New York University, Disney World, Yahoo, and AOL have in common? Veganism! That's right, they're all integrating vegan cuisine into their menus with the help of Veg Advantage, a food-brokering service that demonstrates veg food's potential to mainstream clients by providing onsite cooking demos and consultations.
Year of the Dog
Bow WOW! With dogged determination, the canine corner of the retail market made some serious leaps and bounds in 2008. You might have noticed a sub-economy of luxury dog salons; an all-you-can-eat buffet of vegan kibble options; grooming products fit for kings of the human variety; high-tech toys made with recycled, eco-friendly materials; and countless new books on pet-food politics, nutrition, and emotional wellbeing.
Best Media Makeover: The New York Times
Maybe you remember last year, when we were somewhat displeased with the portrayal of vegetarianism by The New York Times. This year, we're happy to report that the Times, they are a' changin'. Beginning in January with Mark Bittman's incisive "Rethinking the Meat Guzzler," coverage of veg issues has been prevalent in the high-profile daily and, most importantly, positive.
Year of the Coconut
This year, coconut is taking the dairy-free world by storm, and we couldn't be happier. Turtle Mountain is taking over the sweet side of the spectrum with new lines of coconut-based yogurts and ice creams, and Coconut Bliss is matching them bite for icy-cold bite with its crazy-tasty frozen desserts. Meanwhile, a certain maker of popular faux-meat products is about to go live with a coconut-curry tempeh that we had the pleasure of taste-testing, and man, are you in for a treat!