The New York Times Business Section Features By Nieves Body Care

‘By Nieves’ provides handcrafted natural skin care products straight from the countryside of Northern California. Nieves recently sent me a much-needed, replenishing stock right to Berlin.

Nieves Rathbun is one peach of a gal. A sweet-as-nectar friend who I first met in the San Francisco Bay Area, Nieves is the founder of a natural skin care company–By Nieves–which was today featured in The New York Times. Her products are, incidentally, 100-percent animal-friendly and formulated with ingredients as pure as the driven snow.

I love By Nieve’s ‘Face Fix’ mask.

When I still lived in California, I was lucky enough to spend time working in Nieves’ production laboratory, as well as helping develop marketing and PR materials for her company. I’m so thrilled for her continued successes and swear by her products so much that I receive regular deliveries all the way to my new home here in Berlin.

By Nieves is really just that good.

There’s also talk of Veganz–Berlin’s adorable, all-vegan grocery store–beginning to carry her products right here in Germany. Until that fine day, all of you Europeans can easily find her stuff online, as she happily ships abroad. Using her products is as if you’re  taking a walk through a wild California meadow, hiking in the deep Redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest, and taking a dip in the cold waters of the Lost Coast–all at once! Which is to say, heaven.

Congratulations, Nieves! Ich bin sehr stolz auf dich! And, everybody, please read this fantastic NYTimes article featuring her human-scale, ethics-centered small business below.

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A Start-Up Dares to Leave the Bay Area and Venture Into the Wild

By Jessica Bruder

Last summer, Nieves Rathbun — the owner of By Nieves, a natural skin care company with a loyal following in the San Francisco Bay Area — decided to uproot her family in search of greener pastures. Her destination was Petrolia, a remote hamlet of 300 people on California’s rugged Lost Coast. “It’s not the edge of the world, but you can see it from here,” her late father-in-law used to say.

Like many parents, she and her husband, a musician, dreamed for years of raising their child far from the urban grind. The trick? Ms. Rathbun is also raising a four-year-old business. She is determined to see it grow and support her family. To make that happen, she will need to maintain strong customer loyalty in the urban area she left behind.

In April, Ms. Rathbun re-established her production and shipping facilities in an airy, 400-square-foot office with sweeping, pastoral views. To hold costs down and keep the family tight, her husband built the new headquarters into the side of an old barn on his 89-year-old mother’s Petrolia homestead.

Employees: Four part-time employees in Petrolia; one part-timer in Oakland. Ms. Rathbun hopes her company eventually will employ four to 20 people full time and diversify the economy in her adopted community, where employment opportunities are scarce outside of Humboldt County’s famous marijuana trade. “I have a fantasy of it becoming worker-owned,” she added.

Location: Petrolia.

Founder: Ms. Rathbun has been in the natural products industry for two decades. She managed the flagship store for V’tae Parfum & Body Care in Nevada City, Calif., and later worked at Zia Natural Skincare in San Francisco.

Her decision to start her own company, she believes, was influenced in part by an iconoclastic childhood: born to a draft-dodger father and a Dutch mother in the Canary Islands, Ms. Rathbun’s family roamed Europe, then traveled around the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, with stops in hippie communes in the Siskiyou and Marble Mountains. In one episode, her father hitched their belongings to a pair of donkeys and set a course for South America. (They never quite made it.)

Pitch: “My extended tagline is ‘Handmade natural body care made with super natural ingredients, sassy sincerity and apothecary style,’” she said. “My other tagline is, ‘everything good, nothing bad.’”

Traction: By Nieves’s five products are distributed to 50 independent stores, mostly in the Bay Area but also in Brooklyn, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and points in between. They are sold at craft fairs and online, through the company’s own Web site and in Internet boutiques like BeautyhabitEcomomand Beklina. (Ms. Rathbun has also signed a vendor agreement withBeautySage, a new online retailer founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz, which plans to start selling her products next month.) By Nieves was named “Best Local Skincare” by SF Weekly in 2010.

“I may be shooting myself in the foot with this, but I’m committed to working with independent spas and boutiques,” she said. “You’re not going to find my stuff in Whole Foods. For me it’s a branding choice, also. If it goes into a place like that, it just loses its impact. The skin care display is packed; it’s eight feet high and 16 feet wide. I like it so much better when my stuff is in Atomic Garden — it’s a lovely independent boutique and mine is the only skin care.”

Revenue: Sales have been doubling annually and totaled $100,000 in 2011. She hopes to continue apace and top $200,000 in 2012.

Financing: Bootstrapped. “I meet other small- or medium-sized business owners, and they’re like, ‘I can hook you up with investors,’ but I don’t want to get hooked up with investors,” she said. “I would be trading away my independence, the ability to make my own business decisions if I had to be answering to just the bottom line, rather than my moral inclinations.”

Marketing: “Word of mouth, to me, is gold,” Ms. Rathbun said. A part-time public relations staffer responds to sample requests from blogs and magazines. Otherwise, her strategy is mostly reactive; she’s skeptical of ventures that focus heavily on advertising. “I think a lot of companies spend too much money on marketing when they could treat their employees better,” she said. “I kind of like it when I hear that a company doesn’t do advertising. It’s one of those things I’m grappling with right now: Do I try to take advantage of that machine?”

Competition: The market for natural personal care products is vast and growing. In 2011, global sales hit $26.3 billion, up nearly 11 percent over the year before, according to the research firm Kline & Company. The domestic market is dominated by heavyweights like Aveeno, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, and Burt’s Bees, which was bought by Clorox in 2007; whether their products have actually remained “natural” is a point of contention among industry watchers. But Ms. Rathbun isn’t interested in going head-to-head with the big brands. “There’s plenty of room in the market for lots of little companies,” she said. “There’s a real freedom in being smallish.”

Challenge: Making the move work. “The thing I’m nervous about is that I don’t know how much being in Oakland influenced the business,” she said. “I know I can talk about the business better than anyone. I don’t yet know what the opportunity cost is that I’m going to pay.” So far, her clients seem to be responding well; she sent them all letters and received a “warm and wonderful send-off,” Ms. Rathbun said. “So many people have a dream of maybe moving to the country someday.”

New York Times Publishes ‘(Vegan) Brunch Options Abound in East Berlin’

I first published this for The New York Times ‘In Transit’ section. 

Photo Credit: Roland Anton Laub
Photo Credit: Roland Anton Laub

Germany’s traditional gastronomic portfolio is as meat-centric as they come, but Berlin’s contemporary food-culture has started shrugging off its carnivorous past in favor of, well, plants. An enduring bohemian spirit and newfound cosmopolitanism have cultivated fertile culinary ground for the city’s emergence as the continent’s vegetarian capital. Here, cruelty-free cuisine holds special sway for weekend brunchgoers — in Berlin, where you dine for Sunday morning das Frühstuck carries as much social import as where you partied on Saturday night. Three East Berlin establishments offering vegan brunch options rise to the occasion.

Kopps, a new kid on the block in the much-hyped Mitte district, is an upscale dining spot specializing in plant-based versions of historic Deutschland dishes. The head chef Björn Moschinski’s innovative re-creations include Veganer Hackepeter (sans minced pork) and Kräuterbutter (with coconut oil instead of cow’s milk). His kitchen emphasizes quality, regional produce sourced from small farmers in nearby Brandenberg. (Brunch buffet served Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 10.90 euros ($14.25).)

Café Morgenrot is a last-stand workers’ collective in the now gentrified Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, where the current proliferation of designer baby strollers rivals that of Park Slope in Brooklyn. Morgenrot, however, holds true to East Berlin’s socialist roots — with bric-a-brac décor, radical politics, a weekly feminist knitting circle, and a mostly-vegan weekend brunch where patrons pay according to a sliding-scale system. (Brunch buffet served Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9 euros sliding scale.)

Ohlàlà Tartes Shop, nestled on an unassuming street in punk-inflected Friedrichshain, features enlightened vegan interpretations of classical French fare — from crêpes and quiche, to pain au chocolat and pain perdu. The mauve-painted cafe is the creation of the Parisian ex-pat and burlesque dancer Clarissa Orsani, who constructed Ohlàlà’s spacious open kitchen with her own two hands. (Brunch buffet served Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; seating unlikely without reservation.)

Contributing Columnist Helly Parsons Dishes on ‘Tanzanian Beans’

Helly Parsons hails from New Zealand, that sweet Pacific landmass where the climes are perennially warm and the culture laid-back and loving. She and I first met at the Unlike City & Travel Guide headquarters in Berlin, where Helly works as a marketer and I am an editor. When she first told me about Tanzanian Beans, a plant-based meal with a Kiwi twist, I knew that this golden gal was onto something special–so I invited her to share the love. Take it away, Helly!

Tanzanian Beans

I’m quite proud of New Zealand’s culinary culture. As a small, green country, we’re never far from the farm and fields and we pride ourselves on local and seasonal produce.The country’s food identity is very much an ethnic mash-up. As well as our Maori heritage, we’ve assimilated onto the table edible offerings from Asia, the Mediterranean and the Pacific Rim. It’s the British influence, however that is the strongest, and in New Zealand, it’s meat-based meals that reign.

As a predominantly carnivorous nation, my naïve first impressions of vegetarian and vegan cuisine lead me to believe a few lettuce leaves garnished with cherry tomatoes was as good as it got. Fortunately, my curiosity and years of exploration have uncovered a wealth of delicious and exciting plant-based eats. My absolute favorite vegetarian dish is called Tanzanian Beans. Brimming with flavor, it’s an exotic potato and bean combo accented with citrus & spices. Delish!

The ingredients.
The preparation.
The eats!

Tanzanian Beans

What you need:

  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli or 1 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1 cup dried coconut
  • 2 cups of cooked or canned beans (2 or 3 varieties with mixed color is good- black eyed
  • peas, kidney beans, white beans etc)
  • 1 cup parboiled potatoes diced (approx. 2 potatoes)
  • ½ cup of diced parboiled carrots (approx. half a carrot)
  • Juice of half a lemon or lime
  • Oil

What you do:

  • Pour a few glugs of oil into a pan.
  • Add garlic, onion and chili. Sauté for a few minutes, then add remaining herbs and spices.
  • Add coconut and stir.
  • Add beans, potatoes and carrots.
  • Mix well to coat the veggies and allow to simmer for 5-10 mins.
  • Pair with green veggies or chapatti and complement with a dollop of coconut cream.

New York’s Candle 79 Mixologist Kyle Bullen’s Exclusive Eating with Abs Autumnal Cocktail

New York-based Kyle Bullen transitioned from his career as a male model into his current role as a lead mixologist in the fine-dining sector. His passion for and commitment to animal advocacy first lead him to Millenium Restaurant in San Francisco–the most-upscale vegan eatery on the West Coast–and then to New York’s über-posh Candle 79 in Manhattan, where he fashions artisanal cocktail recipes and manages the bar. He’s super-handsome, has a heart of gold, and helped edit the just-published Candle 79 Cookbook. Below, he concocts a special autumnal cocktail using Eating with Abs’ favorite purveyor of organic, eco-friendly spirits–Puro Verde Tequila. Take it away, Kyle–it’s a true honor to have you contribute!

I get excited when autumn rolls around. I love working with flavors of summer, but my enthusiasm is far more aroused when I see the rising towers of pumpkins, apples, pomegranates, and other fall favorites along the street-side farmers’ markets of New York City. The colors and flavors this time of year take me back to gatherings with my family in Ohio, childhood trips to the apple orchard for fresh cider, and walks through colorful forests with my father, the trees showering us with falling leaves.

The name of this year’s Autumnal Cocktail at Candle 79, Mexican Apple doesn’t quite transport you to Ohio, but having spent several years living in San Francisco amongst a true melting pot of people in my early 20s, I’ve come to appreciate the integration of flavors inspired by a medley of cultural and culinary traditions.

My gift of feeling and thinking in flavors is the life source of my drinks. When I create a cocktail, I start with one base flavor in mind. For the ‘Mexican Apple’ it was Puro Verde’s Reposado Tequila. It has a clean, fresh taste that I knew would pair well with one of the most classic seasonal libations, hard apple cider. My favorite apple brew, Doc’s Draft, is locally made with New York State apples, a natural choice, with a crisp, dry flavor.

Kyle in-action this Thanksgiving at Candle 79

After selecting these two dominate tastes, the rest is about layering and weaving other interesting flavorful notes to create an exciting dance on the tongue. Finally, bitters ties this cocktail together seamlessly on the palate. And so the Mexican Apple was born and found its home on this year’s Candle 79 Thanksgiving Libations menu.

Only subtly sweet, the Mexican Apple is a refreshing cocktail with balanced fall flavors, delicate enough for a meal, but equally delightful sipped on its own!

Mexican Apple Cocktail Recipe

  • Glassware: 12 oz. rocks glass
  • 1 ½ oz. Puro Verde Organic Reposado Tequila
  • ¾ oz. Pomegranate concentrate
  • ¾ oz. Vanilla bean infused agave simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Bar Keep Apple Pie bitters
  • 2 ½ oz. Dry hard apple cider
  • Ice
  • Apple wheel Garnish

Instructions: Add all ingredients over ice and stir. Garnish with an apple wheel.

To make the vanilla bean agave simple syrup, mix equal parts water and agave with vanilla bean. You may substitute a dash of vanilla extract with the bean. If you cannot find pomegranate concentrate, use juice. To balance the sweetness of juice, you may wish to use slightly less agave nectar. If you cannot find Bar Keep Bitters, use one dash of the classic, Angostura Aromatic Bitters. In my recipe, I use Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider.

Can a Vegan Woman Love a Meat-Eating Man?

He’s smart and strong, beautiful and brave, kind-hearted and…carnivorous.

At the dawn of a relationship, any faux pas is sufficient grounds for termination – far better to wield a blunt axe than be blinded by short-lived charms. Certain obvious criteria warrant immediate demotion from maybe-boyfriend to totally-not-lustable such as: ignorant homophobic, racist, or sexist slip-ups; failure to exhibit kindness and humanity to baristas, waiters, and people otherwise employed in the service industry; too-liberal use of ‘emoticons’ in emails, gratuitous text messages, or other similar demands on your time and patience all come to mind. Not to be too specific.

But what if the fellow is smart and strong, beautiful and brave, and an all-around incredible, kind-hearted individual? It’s this juncture of clear, mutual attraction where questions of ethics and their long-term implications make dating a stickier, less cut-and-dried issue altogether. Namely, can a principled vegan woman find it within herself to fall for a meat-eating man? Marinate on that a minute.

Let’s say you unequivocally believe that meat is murder. Now, imagine somehow reconciling that firm, clear conviction with a well-mannered, scintillating conversationalist with whom you’re on a date with at a new French restaurant who, along with a tastefully-selected bottle of Bordeaux, just ordered the foie gras starter and veal main.

As a no-turning-back vegetarian since my teenage years, I’ve never taken a long-term lover whose moral and philosophical compass regarding animal rights and welfare didn’t approximate my own. Were any of these shy and smiling boys so inclined from the outset of our relationship? No, absolutely not. But they were uniformly intelligent, curious creatures with the good sense to reexamine their ethical presuppositions and accordingly recalibrate their practical, day-to-day affairs to reflect an evolving value system.

My mission to change the hearts and minds of carnivores one-guy-at-a-time? Accomplished. Well, perhaps not quite. After breaking up, all but one, lone ex-boyfriend shortly, summarily abandoned his conscientious ways in favor of fried chicken. Gross. Hey, what better way to work out some breakup angst than to stick a fork in it? Revenge, for some, may be a dish best served medium-rare.

Older-and-wiser is perhaps the surest and truest of clichés. Age endows us (or should endow us) with the willingness to hold a magnifying glass to our  own shortcomings, frankly examining how we all can be selfish and small, prideful and petty.

This is easier said than done. In the lofty words of essayist Brillat Savarin: “There can be no warm, rich home-life anywhere else if it does not exist at the table; and in the same way there can be no enduring family happiness, no real marriage, if  a man and woman cannot open themselves generously and without suspicion one to the other over a shared bowl of soup as well as a shared caress.”

Food, from an arugula plant photosynthesizing the sun’s energy, to the farm worker who harvests the leaves, to the intimacy of a couple collaborating in the kitchen to prepare a lavish green salad, is greater than a preference for taste. Its preparation and consumption is a radical, sensual act encompassing everything from environmental sustainability to immigrant labor rights. This is to say nothing of animal welfare.

As much as a man’s virtues and joie de vivre might make my heart sing, I simply cannot conceive of spending my life – much less creating a family – with someone who chooses to overlook the implications of his morning bacon and eggs.

Love isn’t the exclusive domain of romantic partnership. Love is a choice about how you will show up in the world. Love drives my opposition to the death-penalty in America; it governs my decision to ride a bicycle rather than drive a car; and it motivates me to extend equal consideration of interest to animals. I am an animal. I am also an animal who doesn’t eat other animals.

Female animal seeks male animal who doesn’t eat animals. (Must also possess athletic build, international sensibility, and fulfilling career that makes him happy.)

Worst personal ad of all time? Maybe. Or it’s honest and realistic: the foundation of a sustainable relationship based on a commitment to common values.

A man and woman who can companionably, conscientiously dine together – not to mention cook, host festive dinner parties for friends, and indulge in regular postprandial love-making – stay together. As Brillat Savarin said, “Happiness at the table leads to happiness in bed.” And, with that, Guten appetit.

First published in EcoSalon on Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Image by Bolshakov.

Eating Animals | Free-Range Bull Shit

Step your mind into a crowded elevator, an elevator so crowded you cannot turn around without bumping into (and aggravating) your neighbor. The elevator is so crowded you are often held aloft. This is a kind of blessing, as the slanted floor is made of wire, which cuts into your feet. After some time, those in the elevator will lose their ability to work in the interest of the group. Some will become violent; others will go mad. A few, deprived of food and hope, will become cannibalistic.

There is no respite, no relief. No elevator repairman is coming. The doors will open once, at the end of your life, for your journey to the only place worse.

Bullshit

  1. The shit of a bull
  2. Misleading or false language and statements, such as:

Free-Range

Applied to meat, eggs, dairy, and every now and then even fish (tuna on the range?), the free-range label is bullshit. It should provide no more peace of mind than “all-natural,” “fresh,” or “magical.”

To be considered free-range, chickens raised for meat must have “access to the outdoors,” which, if you take those words literally, means nothing. (Imagine a shed containing thirty thousand chickens, with a small door at one end that opens to a five-by-five dirt patch—-and the door is closed all but occasionally.)

The USDA doesn’t even have a definition of free-range for laying hens and instead relies on producer testimonials to support the accuracy of these claims. Very often, the eggs of factory-farmed chickens—-chickens packed against one another in vast barren barns—-are labeled free-range. (“Cage-free” is regulated but means no more or less than what it says—-they are literally not in cages.) One can reliably assume that most “free-range” (or “cage-free”) laying hens are debeaked, drugged, and cruelly slaughtered once “spent.” I could keep a flock of hens under my sink and call them free-range.

The typical cage for egg-laying hens allows each sixty-seven square inches of floor space–about the size of a sheet of printer paper. Such cages are stacked up to eighteen tiers high, in windowless sheds.

Broiler Chickens

Not all chickens have to endure battery cages. In this way, it could be said that broilers—-chickens that become meat (as opposed to layers, chickens that lay eggs)—-are lucky: they tend to get close to a single square foot of space. If you aren’t a farmer, what I’ve just written probably confuses you. You probably thought that chickens were chickens. But for the past half century, there have actually been two kinds of chickens—-broilers and layers—-each with distinct genetics. We call them both chickens, but they have starkly different bodies and metabolisms, engineered for different “functions.” Layers make eggs. (Their output has more than doubled since the 1930s.) Broilers make flesh. (In the same period, they have been engineered to grow more than twice as large in less than half the time. Chickens once had a life expectancy of fifteen to twenty years, but the modern broiler is typically killed around six weeks. Their daily growth rate has increased roughly 400-percent.)

This raises all kinds of bizarre questions—-questions that before I learned about our two types of chickens, I’d never had reason to ask—-like, What happens to all of the male offspring of layers? If man hasn’t designed them for meat, and nature clearly hasn’t designed them to lay eggs, what function do they serve?

They serve no function. Which is why all male layers—-half of all the layer chickens born in the United States, more than 250-million chicks a year—-are destroyed.

Destroyed? That seems like a word worth knowing about. Most male layers are destroyed by being sucked through a series of pipes onto an electrified plate. Other layer chicks are destroyed in other ways, and it’s impossible to call those animals more or less fortunate. Some are tossed into large plastic containers. The weak are trampled to the bottom, where they suffocate slowly. The strong suffocate slowly at the top. Others are sent fully conscious through macerators (picture a wood chipper filled with chicks). Cruel? Depends on your definition of cruelty.

Is it anthropomorphism to try to imagine yourself into a farmed animal’s cage? Is it anthropodenial not to?

Text Adapted and Reprinted from Eating Animals by Johnathan Safren Foer; Image by Aleutia

Yum! Compost good enough to eat… | Columnist Rachel Znerold

Hello, my lovelies! I can’t help but repeat like a broken record how freaking in love I am with contributor Rachel Znerold. A bonafide blond bombshell, she’s got mad style and substance–receiving commissions for her hand-crafted, upcycled fashion and gorgeous canvasses (including a kick-ass diptych of my angelic sister and handsome brother-in-law as the subjects).

Beauty and inspiration often reveal themselves in the most unexpected places. Today, my kitchen compost bucket was stunning, bursting with luscious colors, and it simply stopped me in my tracks. Its contents were from a special housewarming dinner at my month-long residency at Eldorado Springs Art Center. I cooked a super-yummy quinoa-kale mélange, prepared with gorgeous organic produce from the Alfalfa’s Market. (Seriously the best bulk section in all of Boulder, Colorado–loves it!) Maybe I was influenced by the overriding artsy-vibe here, but when I glanced over at my kitchen compost bucket, I had no choice but to drop everything and commence with a full-on photoshoot.

Its contents?

  • Top of a red bell pepper, which I sautéed with 2 big cloves of garlic and  Alfalfa’s organic bulk olive oil.
  • Ends of a red kale bunch, which I gently tossed with a splash of tamari and sprinkle of nutritional yeast.
  • Teeny bit of red and black quinoa–er, I spilled some on the counter while mixing together together the red bell pepper, garlic, kale and quinoa.
  • Remains of a fuschia poeny that my friend Joy brought me as a welcoming gift. Although the petals had all fallen off, the color was still amazing!

YUM. That compost looks good enough to eat.