Vida Vegan Con: An Epic Recap


It’s hard to believe that an entire week has gone by since I returned from my whirlwind trip to Portland and last weekend’s epic Vida Vegan Con. I’ve got an equally epic Raw Cookie Dough recipe to share tomorrow, but I couldn’t let another day go by without sharing the experience with y’all! Come to think of it, the effect was very much like eating cookie dough–all weekend long!

Although the conference unofficially began on Thursday evening, I arrived a bit late to the party (due to a previously booked cooking class here in town). I got there just in time for the final afternoon session on Friday, a little jet-lagged and spent from the anxiety of a 10-hour trip that included not one, but two flights (admittedly not my best moments). But the anxiety dissipated the moment I entered the Portland Museum and the overwhelming welcome from the VVC staffers!

Following an anti-candida diet, even at the maintenance stage, means that I overlooked some of the incredible fare at the conference. But there was still LOADS of great food to consume! I didn’t take any chances, however, and packed plenty of my own travel comestibles, including my favorite Simply Bars, raw nuts and seeds, kale chips, and my favorite Coconut Brittle:

Anti Candida Coconut Brittle on

[Perfect travel snack!]

In the end, it seemed that for me, it was really all about the people. One of the first bloggers I encountered was Susan Voisin of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. Like so many of you, I’ve been reading Susan’s blog for ages, and was just so impressed with how down-to-earth, warm, and welcoming she was.

I floated through the Friday afternoon session (or was it the three-hour time change playing with my brain?), a bit overcome by how many familiar faces I saw, for the first time, in person (amazing, isn’t it, how we bloggers can recognize each other from those tiny avatars next to our comments?).


[Dreena, Tess, me and Nava]

First up, I was thrilled to bump into my buddy Tess Masters, aka The Blender Girl, of Healthy Blender Recipes. Tess is a force of nature and one of the most generous, entertaining and hilarious people I know. After squeals and big hugs, we quickly caught up and went to check out the main hall and sessions. I also had the opportunity to finally meet a couple of prolific, best-selling cookbook authors (both of whom I’ve reviewed before on this site) that I’ve admired for a long time: Dreena Burton and Nava Atlas. It felt like greeting old friends! I loved chatting with both of them, and only wish I’d had more time to sit and talk.

That evening, Andrea Nakayama, my host for the weekend, took me to the legendary Prasad yoga studio-slash-restaurant for dinner. Andrea and I had met briefly before in New York and have taught several online courses together, but had never really spent any quality in-person time. Despite my general travel anxiety, this felt like coming home: Andrea’s house is cozy, relaxed and welcoming, and I reveled in her company.  After dinner, we took a little tour of downtown Portland and browsed through Powells while gabbing like high schoolers about relationships, juicing, raw foods, colonics and what we’ve been reading lately. It was true Girl Time, and I lapped it up!

Prasad Dinner on

[The Urban Bowl at Prasad–or what was left of it by the time I remembered to snap a pic!]

Saturday was my only full day at the conference. More squeals as I met up with other bloggers I’d known only via blogs and emails up to that point:

Vida Vegan Con on

[Moi, with dear Hannah and first-time meeting with Chef Amber Shea, whose latest book, Practically Raw Desserts, I’ve been enjoying lately!]

What a treat to run into Angela again after having met her a couple of years ago here in the Toronto area. Yes, she’s just as sweet, funny and beautiful in person as she is on her blog! And meeting Andrea for the first time after exchanging emails and blog comments for almost 5 years was a huge highlight for me, too (and I can’t believe we never got that photo, Andrea!!).

Vida Vegan Con recap on

I practically jumped across a table to finally hug Amey, one of the conference hostesses and the incredibly talented writer and illustrator behind Vegan Eats and Treats. So sorry I didn’t get a photo! I also met (far too) briefly with Hannah, Julie, Ashlee, Jill, Ginny, Dianne, Lisa, Nicole, KristinaSharon, Sayward . . . and sorry I never got close enough to say hello to Joni Marie, Cadry, Marika, Carrie, Jasmin and Mariann, Kittee, Bianca. . . and so many more.

Here’s a group hug with some of my very favorite bloggers:

Vida Vegan Con Bloggers on

[Me with Heather Nauta, Christy Morgan, Dreena Burton, JL Fields, Gena Hamshaw and Tess Masters]

A favorite conference session was Fran Costigan‘s on how to prepare for and deliver a flawless recipe demo. Fran also has a new book coming out in October, called Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious. I can’t wait!

The panel on “Privacy Lines and Oversharing,” about how much of one’s personal life to share on the blog, was also educational and inspiring, and one of the most memorable:

Vida Vegan Con Panel on

[Susan Voisin, Dreena Burton and Joanna Vaught]

I know, food photos are sorely lacking in this post! Truth be told, I was so engaged with all the amazing folks at the conference that I barely remembered to snap a pic of my eats.  But take my word for it, there was great vegan food aplenty–even for this gluten-free, sugar-free gal! Portland’s reputation as vegan food heaven is entirely justified.

I did remember this quick photo from dinner on Saturday at a fabulous resto called Ya Hala that serves Lebanese fare.  Oh, my goodness gracious, was it fantabulous!! Here’s a dish of stuffed eggplant I enjoyed while chatting it up with Annelies, Tess, Dreena, and Kim Lutz of Welcoming Kitchen:


Then, before I knew it, it was Sunday morning and it was time to return to the airport! (Note to self: next time, ensure that the stay at your destination is actually longer than the time you spend traveling).

I barely had time to enjoy the incredible breakfast buffet (chia pudding to die for! coconut yogurt! tofu scramble!!) and wave at a few more bloggers before hightailing it to make my flight. A final highlight, though, was meeting Brian, The Sexy Vegan, for the first time and being interviewed for his podcast. While he was (of course) the consummate professional while interviewing, his manner belied how incredibly HILARIOUS the man is in his videos and posts. You MUST check them out! And take a peek at his latest book here.

Vida Vegan Con on

[In the presence of sexiness (and understated hilarity!)! Loved chatting with The Sexy Vegan.]

And then–poof!–it was time to go.  I said my reluctant goodbye to Andrea and tearfully headed to the airport:

Andrea Nakayama and Ricki Heller on

[Saying goodbye to my “Sister from another Mister,” Andrea]

All in all, it was an incredible, memorable experience. It’s true that blogging can forge strong and long-lasting relationships even between people who live across the globe from each other, or never meet in person. But having the opportunity to talk with so many of those bloggers face to face was truly magical.

Thank you to the talented organizers of Vida Vegan Con, Janessa, Michele and Jess, and to everyone else who made this a unique and exhilarating event overall. I’m looking forward to the next one already. Only next time, I think I’ll stay a little longer. 😉

© Ricki Heller

[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]

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  1. Awesome recap! Makes me wish I was there all over again. So great finally meeting you in person!

  2. Wow never realized that Dreena was so tall. Thanks Rikki!!

  3. What a beautifully done re-cap, Ricki! I loved seeing the photos of you and so many others and hearing some of the details. So jealous you got to meet some of my faves, like Kristina, Tess, and Kim, too. 😉 Your comment on spending more time at the spot you’re visiting than time spent on travel resonated though. I think it will a pretty even match this weekend when I travel to Ontario for the Canadian Celiac Association conference, but it will be so worth it to finally meet you, see Maggie again, and meet my online friend of 10 years Katie, in person, too. 🙂


    • Thanks, Shirley! Yes, I think you’re going about the same distance in the opposite direction, right? 😉 We will make it worth your while–ha ha!! And I know the conference will appreciate your being here and sharing your knowledge and insight. Can’t wait to see you! xoxo

  4. So wonderful to finally meet you, as well!

    P.S. I did receive your email, and will try my best to write you back before I leave the country later this week! 🙂

  5. It was a treat to finally meet you, Ricki, and attend a session together, but alas, no photo to document it! I’m horribly photo-shy and will never suggest being in a photo. I’d much rather be behind the camera, but after seeing all the photos, I think next time I’ll be more photo-friendly. 🙂 Great recap, and I think I’ll put Ya Hala on my list for my next visit to Portlandia.

    • I know, I feel awful that we never got that photo! I guess this just means we’ll have to meet up somewhere else, too. 😉

  6. Don’t you wish you could just zip back there again… for a day?! I sure do. I didn’t take in enough samples, lol! SUCH a fun time, I’m missing everyone. xo

    • Yes, I really felt like I was there for such a short time! I would have loved at least one more day to meet everyone, take in all the amazing vegan restaurants in Portland, attend more sessions. . . etc! 🙂 xo

  7. Ricki, what a great recap. You hung out with some beautiful and talented folks alright! Loved hearing about Portland. It was home for me for 10 years. I miss it so much! xoLexie

    • Wow, Lexie, how lucky are you to have lived there? What a great city!! And yes, those bloggers just amaze and inspire me! 🙂

  8. Oh my, what an incredible amount of traveling you had to endure. I think a pamper day at a Spa is in order 😉

    Many thanks for putting together this epic recap of the event. For the peops who couldn’t make it to the event this is very interesting. I have a much better idea of it now (read: I really want to go next year – I don’t even dare to think about flights and logistics yet though!)

    Happy recovering x

    • Thanks, Sandra! I honestly don’t think it would have been as onerous for a “regular” traveler, but as someone who hates flying, that’s always the worst part. 😉 Spa. . . well, maybe. 😀

  9. OMG, one of my biggest regrets from the weekend is not saying hi to you!! I was a few chairs down from you in a workshop (forget which one). And I really had to pee! So I ran out as soon as it let out, and that’s when I realized, crap, I missed my chance to say hi to Ricki!! 🙁 So sorry. My bladder is to blame!

    • Bianca, I noticed you there, too, and didn’t get up fast enough! I’m so sorry we didn’t get to meet, FINALLY!! But next time. 🙂

  10. It was so nice meeting you, Ricki! I wish there had been more time to chat!

    • You, too, Dianne! Seems that’s my refrain from this conference–so little time with everyone I met! I do have to plan a longer stay next time!! 😀

  11. Annelies says:

    Great recap Ricki!

  12. it was SO GOOD to finally meet you, Ricki! I have been wishing we were all still sitting around in the ballroom, eating good food and visiting! 🙂

  13. Thanks for sharing your awesome adventures in Portland and Vida Vegan Con, Ricki! I am utterly envious of you. I have promised myself that I am going to attend in 2014! I hope you post more about it.

  14. Wow, you covered a lot in your short amount of time in Portland and at the conference! I’m sorry I missed Prasad! Everyone is raving about it! But I’m even more sorry that we were never able to chat! I saw you from afar in one of my classes, but I figured it would have been frowned upon to call out to you while the presenters were talking. 🙂 Hopefully we will meet up at the next VVC if not before!

    • Cadry, I know how you feel! There were so many people I saw from afar that I wanted to connect with and didn’t have the chance! But I think once you get the bug for these events, you tend to go to more. . .so we will definitely meet up at some point!

  15. Though my heart still pangs not to have seen you “properly” at VVC, I’m glad we got in a few smiles, cuddles, and happy sentences! I can’t wait for our summer dinner upon my return. Sending love, dear heart. xo

    • Sounds like a good plan! And we’ll always have Toronto. . . (couldn’t resist). 😉 Hope you are enjoying your whirlwind travels, and can’t wait to see you later on! 🙂 xo

  16. Hi Ricki,

    Wow! What a fun time!! I see one of my favorites there…Chef Amber Shea. I would love to meet her one day in person. She is such an inspiration to me. I really enjoyed all the pictures and learning about new bloggers. How fun!

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂


    • Yes, it was SO much fun! Amber was lovely, with such a calm energy about her. . . wish I could have spent more time talking! Glad you enjoyed! 🙂

  17. LOVED your recap of VVC2013. It is ALWAYS wonderful to see you and hang with all of our wonderful friends. How much fun was that dinner? LOVED it. Thankyou for the lovely mention and kind words. Love you so much. Talk to you this week. xxx

  18. Ricki! Thank you for this fantastic recap! I couldn’t believe that last we’d met was in – or about 2000 at the GRCC Training weekend for Pro Chefs. A lot has changed for both of us, since vegan is taking over the world!! I just loved seeing you and loved Vida Con!!

    Thank you for your kind mention of my class too.

    Let me know if you are coming to NYC!


    • Thanks so much, Fran! It was SO great to finally get a chance to chat with you (I think I never even got close at the Vegan Awakening event!). Loved meeting you, and loved your presentation. And since I am totally besotted with NYC, chances are I will be there a lot sooner this time!! 😀

  19. Wow, so many pictures of vegan legends – including you!

    • You are far too kind, Alisa! I was like a groupie with those women!! So thrilled to meet them all. What an experience! 🙂

  20. another aamazing vvc recap makes me wish i was there:)

  21. great to hear about vida vegan on – I recognise many of these names and wish I had time to get acquainted with more – glad you had such a great time and it was worth the travel time

  22. Although it was all too brief, I’m just happy I could see you again, and steal away a hug! 🙂

    • Hannah, I totally agree! I felt as if I barely got to sit down before I had to leave again. But so glad that we saw each other, however short it was. I think we need another little getaway to NYC so we can all meet up again! 😉


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