June 20, 2011
Yesterday I attended the first ever Madison Vegan Fest, and it was a great success. In fact, the organizers were very surprised at the astounding turnout. I volunteered to take some photos, and when I arrived around noon, I was pretty overwhelmed by the packed venue and the difficulty of getting near the vendors and samples. I knew something was up when I had to park four blocks away, but was still taken aback by the huge crowd. One of the organizers told me they'd had to turn away vendors due to space constraints, and next year's fest will definitely move to larger quarters.
I'd say Madison has come a long way as a vegan-friendly city over the past 10 years. Madison's vegan-friendliness can seem hidden to the casual visitor; for example, there are only a few explicitly vegetarian/vegan businesses. There's exactly one vegan/vegetarian restaurant, one coffee house, one food cart, etc. I've never had trouble dining in restaurants here since there are so many establishments that offer vegan-friendly menu choices, but to the uninitiated, it can appear limited. The biggest change I'm seeing is the establishment of a larger vegan community presence. The strong veg meetup group is one example of the growing vegan community. And new businesses selling vegan goods, like a regular bakery (check out the menu at Bloom) that also offers vegan and gluten-free delights, are another. I think it's pretty great that an event like Vegan Fest has finally happened in Mad City!
In addition to taking photos, I also sampled some of the food offerings.
Tex Tubb's Taco Palace was sampling chili and homemade chips, and handing out vegan take-out menus from Monty's blue Plate Diner, which is owned by the same group of restaurateurs. Monty's has always been vegan-friendly, but I'd never seen those menus before. Now, in addition to the regular menu, Monty's has gluten-free and vegan menus. Way to go, Monty's! Tex Tubb's is newly vegan friendly.
I tasted some incredible chocolate from Chocolate Inspirations, but unfortunately it went right into my mouth, bypassing the camera lens. It was being handed out by the woman pictured above, who said I was tasting English toffee and chocolate peanut butter. This stuff made my eyebrows lift in appreciative surprise. Fabulous!
Chocolate Inspirations table
I also tried these spectacular cookies from the Whole Foods table. I don't know if they are from the WF bakery or are a packaged brand.
Speaking of bakeries, I tasted samples of vegan, gluten-free cake from Bloom, mentioned above. Although served as little cake squares at Vegan Fest, these are usually in cupcake form at the bakery. They were remarkable — so delicate and light. When I asked how they were able to create such a light and delicious gluten-free product, I was told the secret ingredient was magic. With cake this wonderful, how could I not believe it? In addition to always having vegan and gluten-free cake available, Bloom will create fabulous cakes for special occasions.
Honest Tea samples
Vegan Fest participants taking an Honest Tea break
What would a vegan festival be without Seattle's Field Roast? I felt right at home sampling several different varieties of Field Roast sausages, my favorite being the apple-sage.
A chiropractic check at Vegan Fest
I had my first taste of Sheese, and maybe I just don't like cheese anymore, but it wasn't something I'd choose to eat with a cracker. The spreadable kind in the container tasted pretty good, though. I'd eat that!
Happy Vegan Fest participants.
Filling out a raffle ticket at the Arbonne table
The good people from Alliance for Animals
A table hosted by Monkey Bar Gym
In addition to the sampling and service tables, there were also several food vendors selling delicious vegan food. Plus the event had a full roster of notable speakers including Kelly Peloza, Jasmin Singer, Mariann Sullivan, Terry Hope Romero and others.
So, after I got home, I still had two unopened samples in my bag, just begging to be consumed. You know I never eat junk food like potato chips, right? You don't either, I'm sure. But these were baked chips — so low in fat as to be practically diet food. (Though not exactly diet food.) Yeah. If I'm going to eat chips in the near future, I sure hope these are the ones because they were the best chips I've ever tasted, except for being too salty. But everything tastes too salty to me so I just have to compromise sometimes.
V-dog, and I gave it to my sweet, old dog, who's been turning her nose up at just about everything, lately. She liked it!
Listen to a podcast by Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer from Our Hen House about their Madison experience as visitors to the city and speakers at Mad City Vegan Fest.