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NYC Vegetarian Food Festival: The Intro

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This past Sunday April 3rd, I attended the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival. This was the first annual event. It was held at the Altman Building in Chelsea, from 10am to 6pm. The food festival was organized by Sarah Gross, founder of Rescue
Chocolate
and Nira Paliwoda, an event planner and foodie. The purpose of the festival was to celebrate cruelty-free food and promote the wide variety of plant-based foods and products available out there.

I was very excited about the event. Even though I’m not a vegetarian/vegan, I enjoy eating a mostly vegetarian diet! I’m also a fan of vegan dishes and treats. Since I’m lactose intolerant, the non-dairy options works great for me.

I peeked at the list of vendors posted on the website an they all look interesting. I made sure I had a light breakfast in the morning, so that I would be ready to sample all the foods they had to offer.

I showed up around 11am and I was stunned by the crowd. There was already a huge line that went all the way down the block. Luckily, I had purchased a discounted VIP ticket earlier from LivingSocial. General admission was free, but the VIP ticket gives you priority admission to the festival and a gift bag with products, coupons and info from companies, like Manhattan Tribal, Crunch Fitness, Manna Bread, Splitz Snacks, and WholeSoy & Co, to name a few. To me, the $20 I paid for this $50 VIP ticket was totally worth it.

I made my way to the registration table, checked in, and received my generous gift bag. The place was packed. I was excited and a bit overwhelmed at the same time. Where should I go first? All the lines to the tables are so long. There’s so many people. I decided to take skim through the program and work my way around the festival. My strategy for exploring the festival was to visit every table, one row at a time.

The vendors included vegan and vegetarian food companies, health food stores, restaurants, and catering companies as well. There were lots of sweets. Cupcakes and cookies were scatter everywhere, from Sweet Cheeks to Wild Flour Baking Co to Decadent Vegan Treats. Vegan marshmallows were a major hit as well. Sweet & Sara offered generous samples of their varieties of gourmet vegan marshmallows and treats. There were a number of chocolate vendors, with their raw, organic, exquisite chocolates. And how can I forget to mention ice cream? The Raw Ice Cream Company sold their organic ice cream that’s made out of raw ingredients and also free of refined sugar. Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss had their coconut milk based ice cream, while Organic Nectar sold their Cashewtopia ice cream made from a raw, organic cashews, sweetened with agave syrup. On the savory side, mac and cheese was quite a popular dish. A number of restaurants showcased their vegan interpretation of the classic macaroni and cheese, including the Brooklyn-based Foodswings and I Eat Grass catering. I’ll go into more detail about all the foods I tasted at the festival and all the goodies I purchased as well, in my upcoming posts.

In addition to the food samples and sales, there were also speakers and events happening on the “Apple” stage and the “Banana” stage. This included cooking demonstrations, speakers talking about nutrition, and panel discussions. It was a little too crowded, hot, and noisy for me to find a spot and watch the events, but I did catch a glimpse of a few food demos – Beyond Sushi Executive Chef Guy Vaknin and Sushi Chef Borgil Tsoomonz of Esprit Events demoed and discussed their organic, vegetarian sushi. Culinary instructor, author, recipe developer and pastry chef Fran Costigan talked about developing recipes for her delicious, rich, and moist vegan pastries and cakes. Amie Valpone HHC, AADP, talked about clean eating – making healthy choices that are nutritious and enjoyable. She shared some of her favorite gluten-free products and talked about gluten-free eating as well.

I caught a glimpse of the belly dancing performance by Manhattan Tribal, NYC’s first
American Tribal Style Belly Dance company. It was quite awesome! This was followed by a musical performance by artist and songwriter Maya Solovéy too. There was also a Vegan Cupcake Eating Contest Sponsored by Sweet Cheeks Vegan Bakery, and a Vegan Doughnut Eating Contest Sponsored by Dun-Well Doughnuts. I’m a big fan of cupcakes and doughnuts, but I can’t imagine how it would feel like to chowing down large quantities of them. I totally missed the spectacles. I wonder how those went down.

Although the festival was a bit too crowded (more like extremely crowded), it was a great experience and I got to discover so many new vegan/vegetarian products and restaurants. I was lucky that I had purchased a VIP ticket beforehand. I overheard that some people ended up waiting 2.5 to 3 hours just to get in, and many others turned away. Damn, if I didn’t have a ticket, I don’t know if I would have had the patience to wait that long. During the whole time, the line to get in went down the block, around the corner, and some more. I guess the organizers underestimated the turnout. The event space was definitely too small to handle the capacity. Even inside the venue, there were moments when no one was able to get by or move any where. The tables were overcrowded with people waiting for food samples, looking at products, and chatting with the vendors – all happening at the same time. It got really warm and stuffy, real quick. I stepped outdoors a few times for a breather and also sat around in the open space on the lower level.

Parked right outside the venue was the Cinnamon Snail, a Vegan Organic food truck. They must have been a life saver for the people that were waiting to get in/ couldn’t get in. There was also a long line for the truck, but compared to the other line… this one was nothing. I didn’t order anything from the truck, but I saw some of sandwiches that people were ordering and eating. They looked delicious! The items on their menu were quite impressive as well. Like most other mobile eats, they can be found on Twitter: @VeganLunchTruck and on Facebook. I found out that they are usually in Hoboken, NJ. But…

Great news for NYC peeps! The Cinnamon Snail truck will be at the Hells Kitchen Flea Market gourmet Food Truck Bazaar this coming Sunday April 10th, along with a few other mobile eats. Maybe I’ll go check them out there!

More about the food festival:

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