“It was good, but there’s a Playdough aftertaste.”
That comical reaction (to what was likely a meat or cheese substitute) was the best thing I overheard at the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival.
This two-day event showcased a diverse array of the city’s vegetarian and vegan vendors from 11AM-6PM on Saturday, March 1st and Sunday, March 2nd. The Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea housed two floors of tasty bites and three different stages (dubbed Apple, Banana, and Pear) upon which various speakers led relevant discussions. Topics ranged from healthy living to treatment of animals, and talks were ongoing all day.
A maze of tables on the first floor featured dozens of free samples as well as larger plates or products available for purchase. I indulged in a delicious $10 crepe lined with pesto and packed with veggies from Le Crepe Cest Si Bon and bought a few small packages of seasoned nuts (like spicy pistachios, yum!) from Organic Living Superfoods. The large room was packed with a mix of families, couples young and old, and groups of friends, all carrying bright green giveaway bags filled with a handful of freebies.
There were several chips, sauces, and cashew cheese spreads for sampling. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought the nut cheeses I tasted were in fact made of dairy! I found myself very impressed and pleasantly surprised by much of what I ate. Gardein’s “mandarin crispy chick’n” made of soy and veggies was a definite standout–I even bought a few packages of it in the frozen aisle at Fairway a few days later. Other popular vendors included Earth Balance, Beyond Sushi, and One Lucky Duck.
As a picky vegetarian, this festival certainly opened my eyes to the broad selection of meat alternatives at my disposal in NYC. I previously shied away from such products for an unwarranted fear of their ingredients, but the green movement is growing exponentially, producing dozens of meatless foods that are truly delicious. The event’s principal sponsor, the U.S. Veg Corp, is planning a “Better Booze Festival” that I’m very much looking forward to. It seems healthy living advocates will continue to take the city by storm!