NYC Vegetarian Food Festival
Until fairly recently, the words "vegetarian" and "cuisine" didn't really belong next to each other in a sentence uttered by mainstream America. In days past, vegetarianism was the realm of bland "mock duck," rubbery soy cheese on whole wheat pizza, under seasoned vegetable chili, sticky seitan and substitutes of all kinds. The surge in popularity of Green Markets, seasonal, locavore eating, and also ethnic foods from cultures that have embraced vegetarianism for centuries (South Indian cuisine, some Chinese cooking, etc) has enhanced the reputation of the vegetable, and chefs like Amanda Cohen (Dirt Candy) who serve nothing but creatively prepared, tasty vegetables, and vegan bakers like Erin McKenna (Babycakes) and her expanding vegan cupcake empire prove that vegetarians and vegans don't have to sacrifice taste for their veggie choices. And if the crowds at Sunday's NY Vegetarian Food Festival were anything to judge by the word is out, vegetarianism has turned a new page.
The line at the festival stretched from the Altman Building all the way to Seventh Ave and snaked up and around to 19th Street. These were BBQ festival level lines, folks! Some people reported waiting over three hours for a chance to get inside to sample and buy vegetarian food and condiments from over 60 vendors. "The company in line has been good, so the time passes more quickly," one patient attendee said. "We're happy people, I guess," said another.
Some highlights of the festival for us? The absolutely delicious vegan empanadas from the V-Spot Restaurant, the eye-candy vegan sushi from Beyond Sushi, a cheese-less mac-n-"cheese" from FoodSwings, and the miraculously creamy and dreamy (and vegan) ice cream from the Raw Ice Cream Company. We learned that the secret to fantastic, non-soy vegan ice cream is coconut, cashews and cocoa butter. And the guys from Kombucha Brooklyn gave us a little tutorial on the fermenting process for tea that results in kombucha, which they explained has similarly healthful properties to the live cultures in yogurt - "but like yogurt on steroids, we're really proud of our product." The results were so refreshing we took home a growler and felt pretty good about it. —Gabi Porter