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Last weekend John and I drove to New York City with some friends to check out the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival and explore more of the local vegan restaurant and bakery scene. We visited NYC in April 2010 but didn’t get close to trying all of the popular vegan spots.

Last Sunday we woke up early and headed to Veg Fest where we spent the day talking to all of the lovely food and drink vendors, listening to presentations by vegan superstars, and chatting with other vegans.

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We knew there would be lots of food samples at Veg Fest so we decided to have a light breakfast. I enjoyed an Odwalla Vanilla Almond Protein smoothie and a cup of So Delicious Coconut Milk yogourt. These two products aren’t available in Canada so they’re always a special treat for me.

The Cinnamon Snail Food Truck

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We arrived at Veg Fest around 9:00 a.m., an hour before the doors opened. We had a chance to meet the folks from the New Jersey Cinnamon Snail.

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We wanted to save our appetite for the food samples that were waiting for us inside so we passed on the chance to order from this epic vegan food truck (sad face!). Luckily, we got to see Cinnamon Snail’s vegan donuts up close. The people who were standing in front of us in line had these sugary delights for breakfast.

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By 11:00 a.m. Veg Fest was packed! We had to squeeze our way through the crowd to meet all of the vendors and sample their goods. I heard that about 5000 people came and went during the course of the day and some people had to stand in line for three hours. It’s a good thing we are early birds!

Cheese & Marshmallows

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The Chicago Soydairy table was an exciting stop for us because their products are hard to come by in Canada. At their booth we tried some pizza with Teese, their new Breaded Mozzarella Teese Sticks (so good!), Dandies marshmallows and melted Teese on corn chips. It’s no surprise these products are a big hit, they’re all delicious!

credit: flickr smiteme

credit: flickr smiteme

The Dandies weren’t the only vegan marshmallows at the festival. We also had a chance to sample some products from Sweet and Sara and take home a box of her cinnamon pecan marshmallows to enjoy later. I was so overcome with joy when I saw the samples that I forgot to take a picture. Oops!

The Cookies

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There were quite a few vegan cookies at the festival. We tried some of the new (to us) cookies from Mary’s Gone Crackers and really liked these healthy, gluten free treats.

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Liz Lovely was also sampling some large, yummy cookies, with flavors like Snickerdoodle and German Chocolate Cake.

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At the Purely Elizabeth booth, they had both cookie mixes and granola. Their cookie samples knocked my socks off. The chocolate chip flavour is the best!

The Chocolate

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There was no shortage of chocolate at the NYC Veg Fest! We picked up some Rescue Chocolate bars and bon bons. We swooned over their selection of festive Easter candy, which included vegan cream-filled eggs and dark chocolate bunnies. It’s been so long since I’ve had good vegan Easter candy. This was an exciting discovery!

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I tried some amazing raw chocolate from Gnosis Chocolate. They have a whole line of bars that combine raw cacao with super fruits, medicinal herbs, aromatics, nuts and more. I love raw chocolate because it tastes great and has so many naturally good properties. Gnosis also sells chocolate truffles, cacao nibs, trail mix, spreads, body care products and raw super foods.

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I spent a fair amount of time sampling the goodies from Organic Nectars. I really liked their raw chocolate, my favorite flavours being the golden white chocolate and nut “milk” chocolate. They had some tasty cashew-based gelato too. I tried the hazelnut and pistachio and liked them both. I learned Organic Nectars also has a line of agave sweeteners and dessert sauces, and sells palm sugar and goji berries. So much raw goodness!

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Sol Vitality was another raw chocolate maker that caught my eye. I only had a chance to taste test their raw chocolate, but also saw some yummy looking cookies made with spelt flour. This is another chocolate artisan to watch out for.

The Ice Cream

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Coconut Bliss was at the festival sampling their beloved coconut ice cream. I was so looking forward to trying their new flavors (lunaberry swirl, chocolate walnut brownie, ginger cookie and mocha maca crunch) but sadly they didn’t make it to the show. That’s OK though because I had a chance to try the cherry amaretto for the first time!

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The Raw Ice Cream Company had several raw ice cream options to try. I tried their vanilla and chocolate flavour and both were super good. They do a great job of showing there really doesn’t have to be a compromise in flavour or texture when it comes to raw ice cream.

The Snacks

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I’ve come across Peeled Snacks from time to time online, but never had a chance to try them for myself. I finally sunk my teeth into these dried fruit snacks and was totally impressed with their flavour and freshness. You know how some dried fruit can seem old and too hard…well that’s not the case with Peeled Snacks. They use so many tasty fruits to make great flavour combinations!

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The Simply Bar table had lots of samples and I had a chance to try their peanut butter chocolate bar. You can’t go wrong with this flavour pairing! I was excited to learn these bars are packed with protein and low in calories.

The Local Goods

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Wild Flour Baking Co was sampling some of their cupcakes, muffins and cookies. I tried a mini cherry pomegranate cupcake and it was delightful!

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Food Swings had some awesome looking skull cake creations!

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We tried some of The Regal Vegan‘s Faux Gras dip and really liked this toasted walnut and lentil pate.

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Rick’s Picks was sampling a variety of pickled veggies, including interesting varieties like pickled paprika okra, which they’ve cleverly named smokra.

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The ladies from Goodie Girl Sweets were sampling their killer Popped-Culture, crunchy clusters of popcorn rolled in caramel and mixed with pretzels, dried apples and a dash of sea salt. This was one of the most exciting discoveries of the day!

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We met the guys from Bad Ass Organics and tried their raw slaws. The spicy slaw really had a nice kick to it. They also had raw k’chup and hot sauce. I was super excited to learn of this product line because I’ve never seen raw ketchup or hot sauce sold in stores anywhere.

The Drinks

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Bad Ass Organics was also showcasing their colourful line of kombucha.

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Kombucha Brooklyn was sampling thier komboucha and selling kits that make it easy for you to brew at home. I picked up my own kit and will be sure to write about our komboucha making experience in the coming months. I’m super excited to get started. This is something John and I have been talking about doing for a long time.

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At the festival I had a chance to try PALO Mamajuana for the first time. PALO is a herbal tea supplement that gives you an energy boost that’s caffeine free. It tastes great too!

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Honest Tea had their new Cocoa Nova flavours at the show. I tried the mint cacao. The flavours really came through and I found it had just the right amount of sweetness. Drinking chocolate…I like it!

Beyond Sushi

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After all the samples, we still had some appetite for lunch. It was an easy choice. Esprit Events, a professional kosher caterer, was there promoting Beyond Sushi, their new line of vegan sushi. This was the most beautiful, creative and tasty sushi I’ve ever had. After sampling just one, we wanted much, much more. John and I each bought their 10 piece bento box, which came with little tubes of spicy wasabi, miso and “mayo” sauce.

The Speakers

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Before I sign off, I have to say that the talks from vegan experts were also one of the highlights of Veg Fest. We watched presentations by Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House, Kathy Stevens from Catskill Animal Sanctuary and Terry Hope Romero, author of Viva Vegan. They were all very inspirational.

It was a crazy, awesome day at Veg Fest NYC. Lucky for me, I’ll have the chance to attend another Vegetarian Festival soon when Ottawa’s National Capital Vegetarian Association hosts their third Veg Fest on May 1, 2011.