Well, friends, we’ve finally reached the end. The final installment of this year’s Do Gooder Gift Guide. It’s been swell sharing these squeaky clean companies with you and yours, refreshing your memory or newly introducing you to the best of the best in compassionate consumerism.
Today’s gift guide, the last in a series of seven, features NYC-centric companies and two organizations that are near and dear to my heart. Regarding the former, that doesn’t necessarily mean out-of-towners cannot benefit from perusing this list, but by and large it takes a trip to The City That Never Sleeps to truly appreciate the special people, products and services I’m recommending here. (Though Daphne Cheng of Vérité Catering will cater your wedding, no matter where you reside, and Cornelia Guest’s cookies can be shipped all over.) Regarding the orgs, scroll to the end to learn how you can help support farm animals as well as endangered moon bears, respectively. These two groups depend on generous people like you to continue their life-saving work.
Founded by a passionate chef with the brilliance and audacity to challenge the status quo of plant-based cuisine, Vérité Catering offers an amazing alternative to ordinary dining. The culinary talent behind the operation? None other than Daphne Cheng, a professionally trained whiz in the kitchen who is not only driven but also divine. This young woman, with credentials from the Natural Gourmet Institute, among other esteemed places, makes a mean meal. I would know, as I’ve enjoyed a number of her dishes, from simple passed apps (think mini cupcakes) to exquisite sit-down dinners (think thyme-roasted polenta with sautéed water spinach and kohlrabi in creamy corn béchamel). Yep, the girl’s got skills and has been hired all over town. Uptown, downtown, East Side, West Side. And, as mentioned in the intro, out of town, too. Got a wedding coming up? Consider Cheng and her trusty crew. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
Beyond the yum, Vérité Catering has a special place in its heart for organizations supporting animal welfare, sustainability, slow food or eating disorder prevention. Thus, Cheng offers reduced rates to qualifying nonprofits and, in special cases, in-kind donations. How sweet is that? How many catering companies do you know who operate that way? Heck, how many companies, period?
There’s more magnificent moves being made over at Vérité Catering, which you can learn about here, because I think it’s time I outlined the special Do Gooder deals Cheng is offering through this guide, exclusively for you.
In addition to catering events and special soirees, Cheng also offers cooking lessons. Mention Nell and receive a special rate on a two-and-a-half-hour cooking lesson for two: $120, down from $235 a pop. And, she serves multiple course private dinners, usually at the price point of $325 per couple, but by dropping my name she’ll drop it to $150 for a five-course meal, including wine. Questions? Concerns? Reservation requests? She’s got all the answers, so call or email her anytime.
Vérité Catering, 917.410.0295,
Taste truth. Peruse the Vérité site here.
TWISTED BLISS YOGA
There’s no better yogi in New York than Rachel Durga Page of Twisted Bliss Yoga. I know because I’ve been attending her group classes at Prana Power Yoga in Union Square fairly regularly for the past few months. And by fairly regularly, I mean 0-3 times a week. It varies. But not on account of her awesomeness, skills and direction, patience and peaceful demeanor. Duh. If I miss a session, it’s due to circumstances outside my control, as I’d far rather be sweating it out in downward dog on my JadeYoga Harmony mat than sitting hunched over my laptop.
Anyway, Page began studying yoga over a decade ago. In 2001, upon her return from the Peace Corps in Africa, she immediately began taking classes at the local YMCA, enrolling in as many as her busy schedule would allow. Inspired to share her newfound knowledge with others, this led Page to quit her 9-to-5 and dedicate herself completely to the study and practice of yoga. This same dedication and commitment shines through still today.
Page has completed three 200-hour trainings and is certified by Yoga Alliance in both Hatha Yoga and Integral Yoga (Basic and Intermediate). In 2006, Rachel studied Nuad Bo-Rarn traditional northern Thai massage in Thailand and earned advanced and accredited certification. She also earned certification in traditional Thai foot reflexology. So, she’s pretty well versed in all things body-positive. She’s also a staunch vegan, supporting peace for all beings. She embraces different backgrounds, dietary or otherwise, and accommodates every experience level.
My favorite thing about her instruction, as compared to other instructors I’ve practiced with, is her closing words at the end of every session; “May the entire universe be filled with peace and joy, love and light. The light within me bows to the light within you. Namaste.” I just love that. After a productive and restorative practice, nothing soothes more than those kind and gentle words, and a refreshing spritz of lavender water.
Page offers a number of services, and readers of this blog will receive a reduced rate on her private lessons. When you reach out to make an appointment, simply mention BLISS and receive 30% off an hour-long solo lesson. That’s $150 brought down to $105, a savings of $45.
Contact Rachel Durga Page at and 757.651.4923. Get blissfully twisted!
“The milk without the moo.” Yes, that’s their slogan, and yes I’m obsessed. Don’t get me started on the ridiculousness that is dairy and the calcium myth that accompanies it. To say nothing of the fact that human consumption of it deprives newborn calves of having any. Grr. Let’s not go there right now. Instead, focus on the delicious, refreshing drink that is OMilk. Those not in New York, I’m sorry. I feel for you. Buy boxed almond milk as a substitute? (Anything is better than…well, you know what.)
A healthful and totally natural way of getting your liquid fix, OMilk focuses on the notion of om while also offering a nod to nostalgia. That’s right, the dynamic duo based in Brooklyn delivers directly to your door. Like the good ol’ days when the milkman used to pull up and leave glass jugs of the stuff on folks’ front porches. Only this twosome, a married couple actually, attempts to make the experience more personal, opting not to drop and drive, but rather stop-and-chat, if you’re up to it. Got a doorman? Great. But you can also rest assured that Julie and her beaux would be equally pleased being buzzed up to shoot the breeze for a few. I had the pleasure of meeting this lovely lady, twice in fact. First when she brought me my complimentary “press” samples, and then again when I went back for more, so-to-speak, ordering their absurdly scrumptious Eggnog Cashew Milk Mixer and Chocolate Candy Cane Almond Milk. I was stocking up for a holiday party the following evening and knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t share the protein-packed wonder that is OMilk.
Whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, hip to the healthier fats nuts provide (versus dairy milk, which promotes tumor growth and leeches calcium from bones) or just think almond and cashew milks are yummier than cow’s milk, OMilk is the evident answer. Perhaps you’re allergic to soy or hate hemp, find rice milk too akin to skim or detest supporting companies such as Silk, which are owned by Dean Foods. Whatever your reasoning for experimenting with OMilk, it makes sense, because this stuff kicks butt.
Flavor-wise, there’s the Cashew Classic and Organic Almond. And, as alluded to above, they offer seasonal flavors, too. The Chocolate Candy Cane Almond Milk is basically what it sounds like: heaven. Made with mint and homemade dark chocolate syrup, it’s smooth and addicting. I like to drink it chilled, but some may wish to warm it up. The Eggnog Cashew Milk Mixer is essentially filtered cashew milk with a hint of kick. It’s really luxurious and velvety. Just add bourbon, whiskey or rum and you have an instantly impressive eggnog cocktail.
Onto the nitty gritty: OMilk offers home delivery on weekdays for a $5 fee and requires a minimum order of $20. E-mail orders to . Additional info here.
What are you waiting for? Go nuts with this stuff! Click here.
CAFÉ TERRI NYC
Now, if there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s food. But, hey, aren’t we all? It’s part of every single day and the cornerstone of every social gathering known to man. Unfortunately, man’s feast too often centers upon the carcasses and secretions of other creatures. But this need not be so.
On 23rd between 5th and 6th sits Café Terri NYC. Not flashy or trendy, just fantastic food, plain and simple. Their reasonably-priced menu contains more than a few things I’m currently obsessed with; the Buffalo “Chicken” Sandwich and the Chickpea “Tuna” Melt, for starters. Not to mention the Butterfinger Shake. Pinch me, I must be dreaming. Obviously, vegan food can travel straight to your hips, too, if you let it. (Though with far less cholesterol and fewer heart-hurting ingredients. Still, a gym visit wouldn’t hurt.)
With that said, beyond Terri’s mouth-watering menu, they also offer fresh juices and, even more exciting, a thoughtfully tailored juice cleanse. A specially crafted regimen that can kick anyone’s butt back into gear. Vegans and non-vegans alike are adopting occasional cleanses as the natural, nutrient-rich way to either lose weight or just feel great. The benefits of cleanses are innumerable, but, perhaps most significantly, it’s a detox that refreshes your entire temple. Consuming fruits and vegetables is excellent; but consuming them in liquid form saves energy digesting and allows other repairs to be tended to while vitamins and minerals enter the bloodstream pretty much immediately.
I myself enjoyed a three-day Terri Juice Cleanse following the Thanksgiving holiday, and it was not only tasty, but also satisfying. Three days is a breeze and I’d have happily gone longer. My favorite among the six flavors? The last drink of the day: whole strawberries, freshly squeezed lemons, whole mint and maple syrup. Yum.
What’s great about Terri as compared to other companies offering juice cleanses is that their price point is affordable, while still offering the same exact payoff. At $155 for three days of six juices each (18 in total), it’s simply a steal. I dare you New Yorkers to comparison shop.
E-mail Terri today to inquire about a three-day juice cleanse for you or a friend, possibly both. (.) New Years is just around the corner. What’s your resolution? If it’s anything akin to the majority of folks’ out there, this detox fits right into your January 1st regimen.
Café Terri NYC, 60 West 23rd Street, 212.647.8810
ROBIN EVANS SKINCARE
Robin Evans is a dream. She’s sweet and gentle, funny and smart. This woman knows what the heck she’s doing. Best of all, every time I leave her studio (which is pristinely chic) I feel rejuvenated, face fresh and eyebrows in order.
A bit of background: Evans has been in the skin care industry since 1991. She is an accomplished Aesthetician sought out by savvy clients (such as myself) for her expert brow shaping and results-oriented facials, as well as by top magazine editors for quotes and tips on health and beauty (the press she’s gotten is pretty impressive).
Evans is certified by dermatologists, master aestheticians and nutritionists, and strongly believes in bringing together skin health with internal health. She combines organic based facials and cutting-edge clinical treatments with a whole body nutritional approach, giving clients both immediate and long lasting results, and an overall sense of well being. Which is fitting for this gift guide, as it’s all about maintaining a peaceful and painful-free lifestyle.
Evans is passionate about the health of her clients and the environment. She uses natural and paraben-free skincare products, biodegradable cleaning supplies, bamboo linens and recycled and refurbished furniture. All of the products she uses are cruelty-free and vegan, too, so patrons can feel confident they’re not only getting the best of the best for their face, but also being pampered without trampling the lives of others. Win-win.
Robin Evans Skincare is located at a small loft in a beautiful, historic building in SoHo, with a combination of minimalist and charming European decor, glorious high ceilings and lots of natural light. I personally like the adjustable dimmers in each room, which are wonderful to dial down when unwinding on the contour chairs after a luxurious treatment.
Facials range from $95 to $135, though the Age Less Facial is $275. Brows are $65 for a new client. With all that said, peruse her suite of services and price points here, and receive 20% off by mentioning Pomp when you make an appointment.
Evans is available Wednesday through Saturday. Studio hours are by appointment only. Additional details available here.
Robin Evans Skincare, 611 Broadway (between Bleecker and Houston), Suite 709, 212.677.6114,
CORNELIA GUEST COOKIES
Daughter of American fashion icon CZ Guest and polo champion Winston Frederick Churchill Guest, Cornelia Guest isn’t the first name that springs to mind when picturing vegan advocacy. But she should be. This Manhattan socialite has come a long way since her fur rocking days and, to prove it, for her birthday recently she donated all of her furs to help keep homeless people warm during the winter. Hand-in-hand with this, Guest also got naked, because she’d rather be bare than wear fur. More on that here.
Like most children, Guest grew up around animals and always adored her dogs and horses. Nowadays, she doesn’t see a difference between species. A dog is no more sacred than a doe, a horse no more sacred than a chicken, and so on and so forth. Guest now aligns herself with PETA and the Humane Society, backing both their respective efforts to uncover the ugly underside of the world’s food, fashion, entertainment and experimentation. She even participates in intellectual public discussions, defending PETA’s tactics at an extreme marketing panel held at the 92Y TriBeCa earlier this month, alongside PETA SVP Dan Matthews.
In using her celebrity status for good-doing, embarking on this angelic course has also seen Guest break into business enterprises that openly promote her philanthropic and compassionate recalibration. Think handbags and baked goods. I discussed the former in the women’s gift guide, but the latter have yet to be praised. First off, these chocolate chip cookies are awesome. I don’t know what it is, but those little dollops are just delicious. They are modestly-sized, pop-able pieces of heaven. With a hint of coconut and the ideal amount of crumble-meets-melt-in-your-mouth, these cookies take the (vegan) cake, as I like to say. And they can be shipped anywhere.
Oh, and a percentage of the sales of Cornelia Guest Cookies goes to the Humane Society of New York. Cookies with a conscience. What could be better?
Interested in giving these yummy guys a try? Wish to gift a few? Click here to learn more and e-mail your orders to .
As anyone who knows me knows, Farm Sanctuary holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been making donations to them ever since I was a little girl and, upon moving to New York City, I immediately took up participating in their annual Walk for Farm Animals. (Which, by the way, happens to take place nationwide, so by all means get in on the activism action.) I am proud to say that this year I was the fourth highest fundraiser in all of New York City.
Maybe this holiday, instead of or in addition to material things, consider spreading peace on Earth and goodwill towards all: adopt a farm animal.
The holiday season is a time to convey compassion and do good deeds. There is probably no better way to show a loved one just how much you care than by giving them a gift sponsorship of one of Farm Sanctuary’s animal ambassadors.
Animal ambassadors like Blitzen, who was one day old when he was discarded as “trash” at a stockyard auction. At 37 pounds, he was the smallest, most adorable calf anyone at Farm Sanctuary had ever seen – but deemed worthless by the industry that produced him. Luckily, Farm Sanctuary’s Emergency Rescue Team was there to rescue him. Now safe at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter, he is growing into a charismatic adolescent and will warm the heart of your gift recipient. To learn more about Blitzen, click here.
To adopt Blitzen or another animal ambassador, click here. Doing so supports Farm Sanctuary’s tireless efforts to provide sanctuary for abused and abandoned farm animals.
If an intangible animal adoption is not so much for you or the folks on your list, please consider picking up a few promotional items from their online shop. They’ve got tees, tote bags, books and dog treats, among myriad other things. Every dollar counts, so spend liberally.
Prove how huge your heart is by buying here.
The world’s gone brilliant green with awareness of environmental issues, and with the transformation have come many fun and useful eco-friendly holiday gift items that help to save the planet. But what about the animals? International animal welfare nonprofit Animals Asia gives holiday revelers the chance to brighten the season for endangered moon bears who have been rescued from bear bile farms.
As many as 15,000 bears, mostly endangered moon bears, are farmed for their bile in Asia. The bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine, despite the availability of over 54 inexpensive herbal and synthetic alternatives. In China, the bears can spend more than 30 years in tiny cages and are milked regularly for their bile through crude catheters or permanently open holes in their abdomens. Umm…not awesome. : (
Animals Asia aims to bring the barbaric practice of bear farming and the bile trade to an end and rescues bears from bile farms through agreements with both the Chinese and Vietnamese governments. Rescued bears are brought to Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Centers – placid sanctuaries in China and Vietnam where they may live out the rest of their lives in peace and safety. Now, that’s more like it.
Those who purchase holiday gifts that benefit the bears (from fruity ice blocks to gallbladder surgery) will receive a special card with a picture and information about how their generosity has enriched the lives of the bears – cards may be gifted to others in place of a conventional present. Individuals may also sponsor a bear or befriend a bear.
And, for the shopper with something more traditional in mind for their human companions, Animals Asia offers physical gifts, including plush toys for little ones, hoodies, pendants and a calendar featuring stunning photography of Animal Asia’s resident bears, the proceeds of which benefit the organization’s work.
All items are available for purchase here.
♥ ♥ ♥
People will never stop shopping or give up giving. And why should they have to? If you’ve got the budget, spend on. But, as I opined in an earlier section of the series, put your money where your morals are and invest in the ethical.
Most of us strive to be decent people, but how wholly good can we be if we perpetually spend money on products that test on animals? Or contain ingredients derived from sentient species? Or pollute our air and water? There’s always more we can do to help the planet, improve our health (both mentally and physically) and express kindness towards, rather than instill fear in, our fellow Earth dwellers. A cow is no more meant for exploitation than…well, you get the idea. Apply this analogy to any other group facing oppression on a grand scale. Over the decades, there have been a number of them. Take your pick.
Now, we may not all see eye-to-eye, but I’ll continue trying to appeal to hearts and minds everywhere, that a dog is no more sacred than a duck, a person’s taste for flesh no more significant than the life and livelihood of an animal, and so on and so forth. I implore individuals to make minor sacrifices to curb the even more egregious sacrifices carried out every single second so that we can consume poultry, pork and beef and wear leather, wool and, I shutter to type it, fur.
I wasn’t always vegan. I wasn’t always vegetarian. I’m from Wisconsin, the dairy state, and I loved my cheddar cheese. But, despite my taste buds and upbringing, instead of looking away, I bore witness to the atrocities happening behind closed doors yet right under our noses. You can make a change. You can have an impact. You can save the world.
Please, make the connection and shop responsibly.