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The 2012 NYC Vegetarian Food Festival Was a Smash!

My weekend at the New York City Vegetarian Food Festival marked my first visit to a vegetarian food festival and I had no idea what I was getting myself into! Between all of the attendees, vendors, events and food, food, food I’m still digesting (pun!) everything. I shared my top five from day one and am back to recap the rest of the week.

Speaking with NYCVFF volunteer Michelle Rosas I got a sense of just how much this event means to people. I met Michelle at the entrance to the Mercy for Animals stage, which for the first time in two days wasn’t pouring out into the festival with a standing room only crowd. Volunteering for the second year she spoke of the incredible energy of the event and how she can’t even bring herself to take a break, though volunteers are supposed to work in shifts. And when asked about her hopes  for next year Michelle exclaimed, “Oh my god, if we could have Friday, Saturday and Sunday!”

Peanut Butter and Jelly Co. Monkey on the One Green Planet stage
Peanut Butter and Jelly Co. Monkey on the One Green Planet stage

A three day event doesn’t seem far fetched when you consider this year the event nearly doubled the size of the event space and people still stood in a massive line for much of the first day waiting to get in. By mid afternoon on the second day the line outside had died down, but inside was still fairly crowded and if you wanted to get samples from the Vegan Bodega table or sip on a Lizzmonade you’d better be patient.

While at the festival I ran into Patrick Kwan, New York State Director of the Human Society of the United States. He was impressed by the plethora of vendors pointing out that though he’s been vegan for 16 years, he’d never heard of some of the vendors tabling today and noted, “Even the New York Times is here! It can only get bigger and better.”

I caught attendee Bianca Lynn as she was looking over the list of speaker and cooking demonstrations going on at the fest on Sunday. While it was hard not to be distracted by the amazingly delicious Teese nacho cheese samples (their samples were so delicious, they sold out the first day!) at the nearby table, she told me a little about her experience coming to the festival as a pescatarian. For Bianca, someone who is curious about a vegan diet, the festival offered an informative way to learn more about nutrition and in particular how woman can get the necessary calcium as they age.

Yoli Ouiya and Ayinde HowellYoli Ouiya and Ayinde Howell on the OGP stage

Two ladies holding down their respective tables at the festival I was happy to speak with were Marisa Miller Wolfson director of Vegucated and Sara of Sweet & Sara. Getting a minute with either of them was a challenge among the endless crowds — not that they were complaining! Both mentioned loving events like this where they can meet vegans, especially Sara who as a manufacturer of vegan goods doesn’t usually get to meet with those who love her marshmallow treats saying,  “It’s humbling that people want to take pictures with me!” Marisa’s movie screened Saturday night and she said it was so nice to meet people who had seen her movie before and were attending the screening at NYCVFF to support someone whose dad had gone vegan after watching the film and a nine year old who now wants to screen the film for his friends.

Simply Bar
The Simply Bar Booth

In a conversation with three local vegans, which essentially turned into a round table about the best vegan mac and cheese, I got a comparison of this years festival to last. While everyone was excited by the bigger space and better organization this year, these three wanted to see more representation from local vegan restaurants like Foodswings of Brooklyn and the Cinnamon Snail truck of New Jersey and New York. Another hot topic was the absence of I Eat Grass table who got the vote for best mac and cheese last year but sadly was absent this year.

One Green Planet was the official media sponsor of this year’s fest with our own stage and we ran a very successful social media campaign that generated a storm of photos in real-time, including this shot of sushi by Beyond Sushi. The Gallery currently has 400 + photos and counting! For recipes from some of the vendors at the festival, click here.

Vegan Sushi
Vegan Sushi by Beyond Sushi

Some of the highlights from my second include the RAW Slaw and Condiments by  BAO (Bad Ass Organics) including a RAW mango hot sauce which was superb.  They also make Kombucha and Mike Schwartz who owns BAO offers a fermentation class at the Institute of Culinary Arts which looks uber-interesting. Another fantastic discovery from the NYCVFF was the Saratoga Peanut Butter Company’s decadent Trifecta, a dark chocolate almond butter with dried cherries.

The outreach potential of vegetarian food festivals can’t be underestimated either. I spoke with a volunteer at the Mercy for Animals film where clips of Farm to Fridge were viewed on three computers. After watching the video one viewer, a rapper who goes by the name Zubris (@Zubrisraps), said he’d be switching to a vegan diet. When I tweeted at him to see how it was going he responded, “I’m eating #vegan curry I just made from scratch…so yeah, its official : ) A vegan rapper…”.

If you missed the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival this year, definitely mark your calendars for next year. We hope to see you then!

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