June 20, 2011

Mad City Vegan Fest

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.


  1. We thought about going to this & almost did, so I'm glad to see a bit about how it was. Maybe next year. :)

    It's so great that a lot of people showed up. Madison has become a lot more vegan friendly. I wish it was closer to us!

  2. Yay for the V-Dog - something she will eat!!!

    Those cookies, by the way, came from the Whole Foods table.... I have no idea who made them!

    Thanks for the wonderful photos. I know it was a madhouse in there, but you got right in with that lens!

  3. Vegan Flower,
    Next year will be a bigger and better festival in a larger space. I hope I'm in Madison when it takes place.

    She did eat the sample, and I wish I had a few more. I'm leery of buying a big bag only to discover she's changed her mind like with the current bag of food, and all of the cans. I wonder if it's sold in Madison. You have to buy two bags online.

    Thanks for the correction. I also learned (from Dave) that the chili and chips were from Tex Tubb's.

  4. That's so awesome the festival was so well received! It makes parking and getting around that much harder but still it's good to see people are interested. :-)

  5. It looks like it was a fun event! I was tempted to make the drive to Madison for it, but it would have been a lot of driving for one day. I've never visited the city before, and I'd like to go when I have more time to explore. Were you able to catch any of the demonstrations? It would have been cool to see Terry Hope Romero's.

    That's interesting to know that you weren't that into Sheese. I've never tried it, but some people are really into it.

    I'm glad the event was such a success! It always speaks well of the growth of veganism when these kinds of events are so popular.

  6. Wow this all looks so delicious!! And it's great to see pics too of my family and of you! (my mom e-mailed me some.) I miss the old North Farm food fairs. If I'd been in Madison I'd definitely have attended this. Glad to hear it was such a success!

  7. So cool that there was such a good turnout! Watch out world, veganism is catching on...because it's awesome!

    I've tried the Sheese cheeses too, and the only one that I consider buying from time to time is the Blue Cheeze variety...it's not bad cut into small cubes and added to salads...they sell it at Sidecar.

    So glad the fest was a success!

  8. Oh, and I meant to add too: Buffy is such a sweetheart..you can see it in her eyes!

  9. This looks like fun! NYC has been vegan friendly for a fairly long time but we recently had a Vegetarian Food Festival which was (apparently) packed! They had to turn people away! Exciting that this was all-vegan though. And you're right - I always end up eating crappier food when it's free, despite never really enjoying it. Live and never learn, I guess ;)

  10. wish I could have been there! times are changing. it used to be near impossible for gluten-free and vegan worlds to collide into one cookie.

    my dogs like v-dog too.

    chris would love those chips, he's a chip guy and i like that these are healthier so maybe i'll get him some.

  11. Looks goods, but maybe a bit too brown for me... not enough fresh fruit and veggies (I need colour!).
    What do you think?


  12. Andrea, I left about 11:30 - so sorry to have missed you at the Fest!

  13. BTW, I now want to try to emulate the Ste. Martaen cheese. my first attempt was tasty but wrong texture. I'll keep trying!

  14. Chow Vegan,
    I think everyone was surprised by the turnout!

    You should definitely come to Madison when you have more time so you can explore the city. I love it here and will feel very sad when it's time to return to Seattle.

    Maybe the Sheese would be better melted. It reminds me of the texture and taste of Velveeta. Bleh.

    This was nothing like the old NF events, so don't feel too bad about missing it. I think it has real potential to grow, so maybe by the time you come back to live or visit, it will be even better. Nice to hear from you!

    Last time I was at Sidecar Doh said they weren't carrying Sheese anymore. Or am I wrong about that.

    Buffy is a sweetheart and it's very hard to watch her having difficulties.

  15. Foodfeud,
    I read about the NYC fest and it sounded crazy. Madison is a dot on the map compared to NYC, and our event was crowded, but nothing like that!

    I have to say that I enjoyed all the "crap" I ate except maybe the Sheese. :D

    You probably could have tasted most of the samples! And about the chips — "healthy" might be a stretch, but they sure tasted good.

    Fresh fruits and veggies are always best. I think they would have been easier to find at the food demo by Terry Hope Romero, or at the food vendors' booths. Sorry I didn't get photos of those.

    Oh no. We should have tried to coordinate our times.

    I didn't try the Ste. Martaen cheese — you'll have to tell me more about it, and share your recipe when you've got it figured out.

  16. One of these days I hope to make it to one of these....How fun!!! I would have had to sample everything!
    I'm so glad your cute little baby liked her treat. :o)

  17. Wow--I am impressed! I had no idea that Madison had a vegan festival...that is so cool!


  18. Michelle,
    One of the fun things about the festival was that I COULD sample everything because it was a vegan event. In Seattle, I have to read ingredient labels.

    This was Madison's first vegan festival, but it looks like it will become an annual event, so you can come next year!

  19. So fun! Jealous, as always when people get to attend veggie events. I love it when I hear that these events are crowded and will have to be made bigger next year. Such great news! I don't think I liked Sheese when I tried it, either. I do eat corn chips with nachos, etc., but the only time I eat potato chips is when I'm at a function, and it's literally the only thing I can eat. So I'll have five or so to tide me over. And I actually love them so it's best I stay away. Those look good!

  20. Yet another packed Vegfest like ours here in NYC; yay!

    Even though you're such a fastidious blogger, I'm glad to see that, when someone hands you chocolate, your first instinct is still to eat not to photog ;-)

    Loved the photo of your beautiful girl, btw.

  21. Sounds like such a great event! The photos really reminded me of our Veg Fair here in Toronto in September. And what crowds! Glad that the pup enjoyed her V-dog samples, too. :D

  22. I am glad to hear that Madison is such a vegan friendly city!

  23. Jenny,
    Ah, the functional potato chip — so delicious and so unhealthy. I I tend to only eat potato chips when they are provided by others, but not necessarily because there's nothing else to eat. :)

    Packed, but not exactly like the one in NYC. There were no lines to get in, and the venue was probably the size of a speck of dust compared to the NYC location. But still, it was heartening to see so many people eager to attend a vegan festival.

    The thought of photographing the chocolate never occurred to me until well after it was swallowed — then I photographed the woman who was handing it out, instead.

    The organizers are already planning a bigger and better festival for next year, now that they know people will actually come. :)

  24. At the risk of being redundant, I must echo all the other comments that expressed joy at the incredible turnout and great success of Madison's Vegan Fest! That's wonderful! It sure looked like great fun, and very tasty too! I especially love the idea of magic cake. :-)

    Sweet Buffy, I'm glad she enjoyed her V-Dog! Our dogs like it too. Is she managing to stay comfy in the summer weather? Give her some lovin's from me!

  25. Sounds like a great day out Andrea.

  26. Wow, what an incredible event! Those cookies especially look amazing, I wish I could get them around here.

    And very cool about the V-dog sample, I've been curious about the brand for years. I really want to feed it to my dog, but she has quite a sensitive stomach and can't handle changes in her food... Maybe some day though, if I were to slowly incorporate it...

  27. Laloofa,
    Summer weather? I know we had some, but can't quite remember it. :) It's been chilly and damp — makes me feel like I'm still in Seattle.

    Buffy has about a two-day approval of any particular food. My kitchen looks like a pet food store. She will eat home-cooked food and the vet said to give her whatever she'll eat, minus those foods that dogs shouldn't have. Buffy is 19.


    I'm sure the cookies couldn't compare to your baked goods.:)

    My other dog had sensitive digestion, too, and the only thing he could eat was ID from the vet. Buffy, on the other hand, can eat anything, though lately none of the dog foods interest her for more than a day or two. I bought her some V-dog, and she's not that into it since she had the sample. We'll see if she'll eat it. She likes the vegan food I cook her, and gobbled up some socca with broccoli.

  28. Gauri Radha गौरी राधा6/26/11, 1:34 PM

    Looks like a fun event!!

  29. Gauri,
    It was especially fun to see so many people come to a vegan event.


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