In that oh-so-flattering fluorescent lighting inside the convention center.
This past Saturday, September 19, I had the pleasure of attending my first ever NW VegFest. Yay! VegFest is an annual celebration of all things veg*n, with sponsors, speakers, cooking demos, tutorials, information, and LOTS of food. Free food.
And this party just keeps on growing. The 2009 conference was held at the Portland Convention Center – a testament to it’s popularity and progress. After a frantic late start (maybe I was too excited . . . ), I found the event, got myself paid for ($4), and got oriented, with just enough time to make it to my first lecture.
It was a perfect way to start the day – a discussion of raw food nutrition with Vesanto Melina. Melina is the author of the ‘vegan bible’, the incomparable Becoming Vegan. And now she’s just finished penning her latest work, The Raw Food Revolution Diet, which is all about – you guessed it – Raw Food and health.
Melina is a registered dietitian and health expert, and I appreciated her realistic approach to vegan and raw nutrition. I never felt like she was trying to sell an idea, or like she was cherry-picking data to fit her agenda. She highlighted the pros but was also quick to point out the flaws. It was clear that optimal health, and not ideology, was her primary motivation. I highly recommend her work, especially Becoming Vegan, to anyone interested in veg*nism and nutrition.
After the talk we were ready for the main floor. It was CRAZY. People everywhere, delicious smells everywhere, laughter everywhere, literature everywhere – and VEGANS EVERYWHERE!!! (yeah, there were some vegetarians there too of course) Here’s just a portion of the products that were represented:
Artisana Organic Nut Butter
Bishop’s Best Raw Vegan Gelato
Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods (local)
Cuisine Mentor Spice Blends (local)
Dandies Vegan Marshmallows
Dave’s Killer Bread (local)
Earthly Gourmet (local)
Equal Exchange coffees, teas, chocolates and snacks
Field Roast Grain Meat Co.
Genesis Organic Juices
GoodBelly Probiotic Fruit Drink
Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Frozen Desserts
Living Harvest (local)
Missionary Chocolates (local)
Oregon Dukkah (local)
Toby’s Tofu Dips & Spreads
Turtle Island Foods Tofurky, Tempeh, Etc.
Turtle Mountain’s Purely Decadent, So Delicious, and It’s Soy Delicious
Vega Smoothie Supplements
Wild Alice Bars
Wilderness Poets Hemp Nut Butters (local)
. . . and that’s not even to mention the vendors like Food Fight! Grocery, the clothiers like Herbivore, and the restaurant representatives like Sweetpea Baking Co and Blossoming Lotus (they have soft serve!)
Proudly representing Herbivore, Food Fight!, and vegan cupcakes everywhere.
So as you can imagine, it was pretty overwhelming. I methodically sampled every offering, and there were some definite stand-outs. The best meat analogue was the soy-free wheat-based Field Roast. They were sampling their meatloaf, which was hands down delicious. And after my husband and I got to chatting with them, they were kind enough to send us home with a package of lentil deli slices. Score!
My favorite ice cream was Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss. It is so good, so rich and creamy. But the ‘best new product’ award goes to Turtle Mountain, for their So Delicious coconut milk, coconut milk yogurt, and especially the coconut milk kefir. Keep it up guys, this stuff is great!
But the real stars were a few of the local vendors. For example, Missionary Chocolates fed me perhaps the tastiest truffles I’ve ever tried. The meyer lemon chocolate was an amazing explosion of citrus deliciousness, and the salted caramel fudge . . . well there are just no words to describe. Hopefully they’ll be coming soon to a market near you!
My other top pick was Cuisine Mentor Spice Blends, and this time you’re in luck because these guys retail online. I love ethnic food, and these are easily the most authentic, flavorful spice blends I’ve ever tasted. I highly suggest the African Piri-Piri and the Indian Tandoori. Recipes included – you won’t regret it!
All in all, I had an amazing time at VegFest. I ran into a bunch of friends, ate a bunch of great food, learned a lot, bought a few books (that will inspire work on this site!), and most importantly, connected with my community. There’s nothing like a little gathering to renew your sense of hope and empowerment. Well, community gathering . . . and ice cream sammiches!!!