As much as I love food and a good festival, I was a little leery of attending the New York City Vegetarian Food Festival (@nycvegfoodfest) this past weekend. While there aren’t many vegetables that I don’t like, I am an omnivore, so I thought that my experience would be short and one-note. Boy, was I wrong.
Founders Sarah Gross and Nira Paliwoda really outdid themselves this year, adding a second floor to the mix at the Metropolitan Pavilion. The excitement was palatable. Vegetarians and vegans came prepared to talk and listen, sample and buy and celebrate a healthy green lifestyle.
It was a family affair, as children were invited and entertained at the Kumquat Kids Area. Even a couple of dogs showing up weren’t a surprise for the animal-loving set. Everyone was hungry for food and for information. There was plenty of it.
When I walked in, I decided to let my palate be the judge before anything else. My first bite was from Nuttin’ Ordinary (@nuttinordinary), a raw vegan cheese spread made out of cashews. Both the original and the spicy varieties were flavorful, creamy and delicious. Made from cashews?! I would add that to a “cheese” plate. No one would know the difference, but I will disclose in case of a nut allergy.
I made my way to the back of the room and began to smell something familiar—meaty if you will. It was the good people of Viana. Leave it to the Germans to develop organic, plant-based, vegan, tubular meat products. I tried a couple of their varieties like the Picnicker, the bratwurst (of course) and their delicious Greek gyro. They had a ton of other products too, all worth trying.
Viana was only outdone by Stonewall’s Jerquee from, of all places, Beef Country USA, Texas! Their assortment of vegan-vegetarian, soy-based jerky included original, pepperoni, pastrami, country bacon, teriyaki and BBQ beef. It’s not the same texture as jerky of course, but the flavor was on the money.
En route to satisfying my sweet tooth, I got to take in some of the non-food vendors like Moo Shoes (@mooshoes_nyc) providing leather-alternative accessories. I also listened to one of the many speakers at the Banana Stage. Author Ellen Jaffe Jones shared her experiences of eating vegan in a non-vegan household, a great topic for today’s world.
My sweet happy ending came from the good people of Alchemy Creamery (@alchemycreamery), DF Mavens (@dfmavens) and Sorbabes (@gourmetsorbet) for some awesome vegan, dairy-free cold desserts in the land. I loved Alchemy’s strawberries and cream and their push pop presentation. DF Mavens’ pistachio cardamom took me to another world while the lovely ladies of Sorbabes had me at peanut with banana and dark chocolate. They also generously offered the short ingredient list to their pistachio flavor—organic pistachios, water and sea salt caramel sauce. I never meant the words “simply delicious” more.
I strolled out of the Vegetarian Food Festival with a shot of Chai Mookie’s (@chaimookie) surprisingly spicy chai tea and a smile in my stomach. I’m not quite ready for a fully vegetarian-vegan lifestyle yet. My mostly plant-based diet and meatless moments will do, but the experience gave me great food for thought.
Thank you for a healthy, fun and informational time. See you next year!
Happy green eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl or on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.