A Weekend in NYC, Part 1: The NYC Vegetarian Food Festival
by Ali Seiter
This weekend, U.S. VegCorp hosted the third annual New York City Vegetarian Food Festival at the Metropolitan Pavilion in the Chelsea neighborhood. After enviously listening to Erin Red recount her delightful experiences at last year’s festival on a past episode of her podcast, I rushed online to discover the dates of the 2013 event and vowed to attend. Luckily, my parents decided to rent an apartment in NYC from mid-February until the end of April, providing me with a convenient home base in the city and practically begging me to take advantage of all the vegan goodies and happenings NYC has to offer; frankly, the universe would have admonished me had I not patronized the veg fest this year.
Numerous reliable vegan sources stressed the value of purchasing a VIP ticket for the festival in order to avoid the up-to-four-hour-long line for entry into the venue. Indeed, my decision to heed their advice and shell out the most well-spent $30 of my life on a Sunday VIP ticket proved quite prudent—I bounded through the building’s glass doors, displayed my ticket to a smiling woman who awarded me with a specially market wristband, and threw myself into the torrent of enthused veg*n/veg-curious attendees, eager vendors, tantalizing noms, and cruelty-free fashions, eliciting a couple resentful glares, I’m sure, from those still standing outside in line.
Arriving at the festival around my lunchtime, I first paid a visit to the renowned vegan food truck The Cinnamon Snail, whose selection of baked goods rivals any of a traditional brick-and-mortar bakery (can you say lavender-pear turnovers, passionfruit-glazed donuts, and strawberry cheese danishes?). Unfortunately, none of these mouthwatering creations bore a gluten-free (or sugar-free, for that matter) label, but I certainly contented myself by ordering a Raw Goji Berry Bar to accompany my Fiery Southeast Asian Salad of kale, homemade kimchi, sliced fresh jalapenos, curried peanuts, and chili oil. Both vittles satisfied my tastebuds immensely—the goji bar harbored a mysterious coconutty-cashew flavor while the salad excited the palate with its fresh spiciness (though it did feature a tad too much chili oil for my liking).
After enjoying a lovely lunch, I began making my rounds about the festival. Immediately upon entering, I spotted the ice cream counter of DF Mavens—a coconut-based frozen treat free of gluten, soy, and (in the case of some flavors) sugar about which I had heard at the recent Ivy League Vegan Conference. The company has not yet launched their products into stores, but to give you a sneak peek, some of their tantalizing flavors include Sicilian Hazelnut Truffle, New Orleans Salted Praline, Alphonso Mango, and Peanut Butter Fudge Mash. Wowza.
Oodles of jewelry-makers and clothing-crafters showcased their wares, including the well-known vegan t-shirt company Compassion Co., a woman who creates gorgeously unique bracelets out of dehydrated fruits and vegetables at Wired Up Creations, the rebellious Portland-based outfitter of Herbivore Clothing Company (positively thrilled to meet her, I basically fawned over owner Michelle Schwegmann, who has gained plenty of fame in my book thanks to Our Hen House), and an independent jeweler with no company name of which to speak but who provided lovely graphic pendants. An independent screen-printer stood next to the DF Mavens booth and enthusiastically demonstrated the screen-printing process at my confession that I’ve long yearned to learn how to screen-print.
The festivals’ bounty of cosmetics included allegedly intensely healing face creams and serums derived from broccoli sprouts, as well as deliciously fragrant soaps from Fanciful Fox and Metropolis Soap Company
Of course, the festival couldn’t deem itself a food festival without an inordinate amount of yummies rampant throughout the convention hall. Though I didn’t snap a picture of every single food booth, I’ll provide you with a sampling:
Certainly my favorite aspect of the entire festival comprised of schmoozing with prominent vegan activists, bloggers, and authors whom I’ve long admired. Though I didn’t snap any photos with them, I also met the bloggers (Sharon and Dianne, respectively) behind Big City Vegan and VeggieGirl, two quite successful blogs in whose footsteps I hope to follow.
Of course, standby animal rights organizations like PETA, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and Sea Shepherd also made appearances at the festival, along with eastern farm animal sanctuaries like Woodstock and Catskill. I had the pleasure of meeting two immensely friendly COK volunteers who welcomed me with open arms when I informed them of my summer internship with the organization—further proof that the animal rights movement attracts the most generous, all-around wonderful human beings.
To round out my festival experience, I indulged myself in adding yet another vegan cookbook to my collection: the Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen by Talya Lutzker. I haven’t yet had a chance to thoroughly examine the book’s recipes, but cannot wait to learn of the doshas and how to eat in order to best balance inner energy—like yoga and eating all rolled into one! From my quick flip through the book (which has sat on my Amazon Wishlist for quite some time now), all of the recipes feature only wholesome, unprocessed ingredients and include a host of raw, sugar-free desserts. My Ferry housemates will surely taste at least a couple of goodies inspired by this book!
After spending over three hours chatting, sampling, and handing out homemade Farmers Market Vegan business cards, I had thoroughly exhausted myself and decided to trek back uptown to my parents’ apartment before catching my train home to Vassar. Witnessing such a successful outpouring of vegans and omnivores alike (2,000 people attended the festival on Saturday alone) fostered within me such hope for a shifting mainstream consciousness toward a more compassionate, deliberate, conscious, and healthful lifestyle. The innovative products featured at the festival also aided in proving that leading a vegan lifestyle by no means entails sacrificing the joy of delicious food, chic fashion, and effective skin care. I fully intend to attend many more events similar to this one, with the third annual Veggie Pride Parade on Sunday, March 24th as the most upcoming one.
Stay tuned for a post detailing my meals at Candle Cafe West and Blossom on the Saturday before the festival (yes, I’m posting out of chronological order, but I wanted to recap the festival before recounting my fabulous meals).
Until next time, Ali.