Archive | January, 2011

Explore the World of Chocolate

31 Jan

When most people think of Valentines day, the first thing that comes to mind are heart-shaped boxes full of chocolate. This year, indulge yourself (and your Valentine) by attending the Global Cocoa Project’s bi-coastal chocolate-tasting fundraiser: Explore the World of Chocolate.Vintage Irving near New York’s Union Square will be hosting the event on Saturday, February 12th from 1-4 pm. You’ll get the opportunity to taste the incredible range of flavors found in bars and bon bons created by premium makers and chocolatiers like Amano, Bonnat, Valhrona, Cacao Prieto, Alter Eco, Kallari, El Ceibo, Pacari, Taza, Green & Black’s, XOCO, Roni Sue, Tcho, MOJO and Madecasse – all of whom cultivate working relationships with growers from whom they source their cocoa.

The Global Cocoa Project is a high-impact poverty alleviation project whose goals are to significantly improve the lives of cocoa farmers worldwide through the supply of equipment and basic needs. The secondary goal is to educate Americans about the realities of the cocoa industry and leverage the power of knowledgeable, concerned consumers to help make cocoa growing a profitable and sustainable occupation for farmers. Shana Dressler, the founder of the Global Cocoa Project, states, “When I found out from Tom Neuhaus (founder of Project Hope & Fairness) how poor cocoa farmers are I thought, ‘Cocoa is the raw material of my favorite food. This isn’t right. What can I do about this?’ This event is one of several ways to create awareness around the issues facing cocoa farmers around the world and especially in West Africa where the farmers are among the poorest. By buying chocolate from chocolate companies that have built their businesses using ethical principles and value chains that support farmers, a consumer actually contributes in the most profound way to the sustainability of not only a company worth supporting, but also the farmers. While many consumers are aware of fair trade coffee, tea and possibly sugar, many don’t realize that chocolate is also ethically sourced by a number of great chocolate companies. As far as poverty alleviation goes, there is definitely a place for philanthropy, but more and more I see the long term solutions being made through social enterprise.”

Proceeds from the event will be going to Project Hope & Fairness, a 501c3 organization that supports West African cocoa farmers who live below the poverty level, working in dire conditions without basic needs such as scales, access to clean water and transportation.

As a trusted third-party provider of Fair Trade certification for cocoa and more than 100 other product categories, Fair Trade USA is a lead sponsor of the event. “We applaud the leadership of the Global Cocoa Project to rally ethical businesses in an effort to educate consumers about the known injustices found in the cocoa industry and the solutions that are available. Through our partnership with the Global Cocoa Project, we hope to grow the demand for socially and environmentally sustainable cocoa, ultimately benefiting the lives of thousands of cocoa farmers and their families around the world,” said Cate Baril, Director of Business Development, Fair Trade USA.

If you’re like me, you may be wondering if you’ll even be able to tell the difference between so many different chocolates. Before meeting Shana myself, I was under the impression that there were only a few different types ranging from dark to light, with maybe some nuts thrown in for good measure. However, after sitting down at a table with her and tasting a small chili chocolate wedge, followed by a dark chocolate square from Madagascar, it became very clear that there is in fact a big difference, and it’s delicious.

So, you’re officially invited to discover distinctive regional cocoa bean flavors, while experiencing an equally important taste of how it feels to change the lives of those who grow them. You’ll also be able to wash it all down with coffee, tea, and wines from Vintage Irving. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Valentine’s afternoon than that! You can buy tickets for $30 by clicking here (2 for $55!), and a small number will also be available at the door for $40; last year’s event drew a crowd of over 350 people, so you should purchase now before they’re all gone.

Event Sponsors



Charity Poker Night

30 Jan

Put on your best poker face and head over to Vanderbilt Avenue’s Branded Saloon on Wednesday nights for a round of Texas Hold ‘Em for charity, benefiting many of Brooklyn’s awesome non-profit organizations. The games begin at 8pm (beginners round at 7pm, registration at 7:30) with a $15 buy-in. Proceeds from February 2nd, February 23rd and March 16 will all go to ioby, and the winnings will be divided among the following projects on which are (not coincidentally) very close to the Branded Saloon:

Gardening with Tiny Tots Summer Program at Hattie Carthan
Sustainable Flatbush Church Ave Communal Garden Compost Project
Eating Healthy in Bed-Stuy
2nd Avenue Community Garden

Wednesday’s are the best nights to play poker, so lasso up some friends and get yourselves to Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

-ioby connects donors and volunteers to environmental projects in their neighborhoods to inspire new environmental knowledge and action in New York City.-

Send A.H. Dance Company to China

27 Jan

A few days ago I was contacted about the A.H. Dance Company– to take a look at what they were doing to promote and support independent contemporary artists and companies in New York and worldwide. At first I was a bit confused; I don’t know much about the performing arts beyond what I’ve seen in mainstream in performances and movies. However, after reading about what they’re trying to do on their Kickstarter campaign page, I was definitely interested in learning more about the company’s most recent creation, the Chameleon Project, and how they’re using dance and performance to explore the concept of global nomads.

A.H. Dance Company is a dance company in the NY area, and is led by Director Alaine Handa: a dancer, choreographer, and Third Culture Kid (TCK) who conceived of the Chameleon Project during her senior year at UCLA. Third Culture Kids are people who have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside their parents’ culture; Alaine fits this mold perfectly, having lived in Indonesia, Singapore, Los Angeles, and New York. For this reason, when she discovered that her “global nomadic tendencies” had a name, she knew she had to create a dance piece and documentary film based on this theory of global citizens. I was able to talk one on one with Alaine and truly learned a lot about what it means to be a cross culture kid. Read on:

What is Chameleon?

Chameleon is a multi-disciplinary arts presentation about global citizens who have been exposed to several cultures in their developmental years. Exploring the notions of home, cultural identity and relationships through dance with film, spoken word, theater, and photography.

How did Chameleon come about?

Alaine Handa was born in Singapore, had a childhood in Indonesia, adolescence in Singapore, went to college in Southern California and has been based in New York City for the past 5 years. She was used to saying good bye to friends every year, making new ones, seeing old friends in foreign countries while traveling, and shifting in between cultures. When she discovered there was a book and a term, Third Culture Kids*, that described her, her parents and friends, thus began her creative process into conceptualizing this experience of ‘growing up everywhere’ but belonging to ‘nowhere’.

Who is Chameleon?

The team is an amalgamation of a variety of artists, which speaks to the Chameleon Projects mission perfectly: dancers, photographers, jewelry designers, musicians, actors/actresses, playwrights, filmmakers, visual artists, and regular non-artist Third Culture Kids. These collaborators and performers have lived all over the world, from Tokyo to California, Belgium to Burma and almost everywhere in between. They’ve performed all over the New York City area, and at the Meridian International Children’s Festival and Capital Fringe Festival in Washington D.C.

What is Alaine’s goal for Chameleon?

“To provide a space for open dialogue about global citizenship between colleagues, artists, collaborators, students, and the general public. It is my hope that involving the community in performance, workshop, and discussion about the experience of third culture kids we can work towards a more peaceful world.”

What is the Chameleon Kickstarter Campaign raising money for?

The U.S.-based comtemporary dance company wants to take their show on the road and hold temporary residency at the Utahloy International School in China for one week. While there, they will host a series of workshops incorporating interpretive dance, movement and theatre focusing on the experience and exploration of the TCK concept, what it means to be a TCK, and how these emotions can be expressed through the Arts.

Why the Utahloy International School?

Utahloy International School Guangzhou is committed to excellence in education. It strives to fulfill the unique potential of students by addressing their social, emotional, intellectual and physical needs in a supportive learning environment that prepares them for life in a multi-cultural world as a global citizen. It now offers an international education from K-12 for more than 700 expatriate students who represent over 40 nationalities. The teaching staff comprises well-qualified teachers, recruited from: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S.A. It is the perfect venue for Chameleon to share their performances depicting the experiences of global citizens.

I really enjoyed learning more about this concept of third culture kids, and thinking about their experiences as global citizens, moving from one country to the next. At one point in my life I had dreams of traveling the world: put my roots down somewhere new and completely immerse myself in a different culture and become a member of a community outside what I called home. I thought of it as a glamorous lifestyle, and never actually considered what it would be like to of never made the emotional connections to family and friends that I have now. The Chameleon Project, and Alaine herself, are exploring these lost connections or even those that never began, and expressing them through dance;  it’s progressive, taking on sociological contexts and turning them into performance pieces, bridging race, religion, and social standing.

To learn more about the Chameleon Project, visit their Kickstarter page and see what they hope to do in China this February. If you’d like more information about the project and A.H. Dance Company, you can contact Alaine Handa at . Their next performances will take place on February 3rd and 5th at the Cool New York Dance Festival.

*To find out more about Third Culture Kids, please check out David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken’s book Third Culture Kids available at major bookstores worldwide. Also check out

“Do Some Good While Doing Some Bad”

10 Jan

I just came across a post on one of my favorite booze blogs, NY Barfly, and wanted to pass on to my G&G readers. In contrast to the events that I typically post here or even have myself, that allow people to attend and have a good time while giving back, NY Barfly has found a site that lets you give back without leaving the comfort of your own home:

“…what if you can’t make it out of the house (or, if you really, really want to stay in and watch that Jersey Shore marathon that’s playing)? Our friends over at have the solution – they’ve rounded up a selection of hooches that give back. For example, Death’s Door distillery donates a portion of their proceeds to local environmental groups (in addition to using local and organic ingredients to make their labels).” -NY Barfly

To see the full list of world-saving spirits, click here. Don’t forget to cheers to charity!