Seattle Vegfest 2013!

31 Mar

I wait very patiently every year for this special weekend in March: the weekend of Seattle Vegfest! My friends, dear sister, and I have been making the ambitious day trip to Seattle every year now for about the last 5 years, where we leave Vancouver very early in the morning on empty stomachs, anticipating the gustorary pleasures that lie ahead – those in the form of food, food and more copious and excessive varieties of food.

Seattle Vegfest is an annual 2 day vegetarian food extravaganza, put on by the good volunteers at the Vegetarians of Washington, where thousands of people pay $8 each to be able to sample up to 500 veggie food samples for the whole day. The event also features a line-up of cooking demonstrations and professionals speaking on  a variety of health-related topics. Plus, we must not forget the fantastic selection of discounted veggie/eco/health-related books offered up in the literary section by the Book Publishing Company, which is always one of the highlights of the festival for me. (cheap cookbooks!)

Melissa checks out the book section. Books!

Melissa checks out the book section. Books!

So, wait a second – 500 food samples, you say? Yes, I do say! At least that’s what the Veg of Wa’s website always boasts, and this year, in fact, we saw advertisements of 700 food samples being touted. I’m not sure how they could pack in ANY more food into the Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall than they usually have. It is a very large hall, lined table-to-table from front-to-back and side-to-side, and  it is always completely packed with people (certainly not all vegetarians) who are all clamouring to try out a bevy of crackers, non-dairy cheeses, cooked instant meals, vegan donuts, beverages, chocolate, non-dairy ice creams, and all the faux meats you could ever want to taste in the space of a few hours (or a whole day, if you desire breakfast, lunch and dinner for $8 total).

Most of the tables are staffed with Veg of Wa volunteers, but many of them also are manned (and womanned) by representatives from the food companies. At this festival, you’ll see food products that are local to the Seattle (NorthWest) area, which you cannot get in Canada, and you’ll also find many national brands as well, many of which are also not sold in Canada (yet), or are but at much more expensive prices than what you’ll find in the States. So it’s a fun way to discover a variety of different packaged foods that you may not otherwise come across in your herbivorous (or omnivourous) existence. Call it a treasure hunt if you will.

I must note as well that this is NOT a vegan fair. Many of the foods contain animal products (ie. honey and dairy), so it’s essential to ask the volunteers/vendors about that if you don’t want to consume any of that yucky stuff. I wished they had signage prominently displayed to indicate whether the samples were vegan or not, but they don’t, so consumer beware!

In addition to the main purpose of the festival, which I designate to be the visiting of table to table to stuff your face with the various proferred samples as you like (that means: be discerning! You’re obviously not going to have enough room in your stomach to eat everything there), there are also many free packaged samples to be had, which you can simply dump into your paper goodie bag to take home for later.

Not to mention that the Vegetarians of Washington offer a pretty amazing “membership” deal as well, where for only $22, you get a large grocery bag stuffed with… yes, groceries, plus a subscription to Vegetarian Times magazine, plus many coupons for restaurants in Seattle, plus a consultation with a registered dietician! It is well worth the cost if you have an interest in any of those items, and a brilliant marketing plan to acquire a solid member base by the Veg of Wa non-profit organization.

Here are some of the products I enjoyed seeing and tasting on my foray around the giant room at Seattle Vegfest:

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Field Roast – My favorite! Someone is getting their hands on some hotdogs there.

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I love the Alive & Radiant kale chip (etc.) products, and I just wish these were easily and cheaply available in Canada. I got a $1 off coupon at Vegfest and then bought a bag of “cheezy nacho” kale chips later on from Whole Foods.

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My sister is loving these brand new (at least to us) Earth Balance White Cheddar Puffs here. Both she and Melissa purchased several bags later on, although they just look really junky to me – but hey, they’re vegan!

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Coconut Bliss ice cream is the best!! So many different flavours to choose from, and so creamy. There is NO reason to be consuming bovine secretions when you have these wonderful options to choose from!

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And here we have Parma! So simple, yet so good. It’s a “parmesan cheese” substitute, but basically is just ground walnuts mixed with nutritional yeast, and they have the cayenne and garlic/herb flavoured ones as well. I have all 3 in my fridge and love to use it sprinkled on popcorn.

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My friend Lesley Fox, from the Vancouver-based organization Fur Bearer Defenders, was at Vegfest again this year, to do her good work in spreading the message for the animals.

Finally, I wanted to write about the one talk that we stayed for to see. Normally, we’ll get to Vegfest first thing in the morning at 10am, make our rounds in the room and stuff our faces, and then we’re out of there by 1pm, when it is getting super crowded. This year, however, there was one lecture  that I really wanted to see, and that was a talk on Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner, who has written a wonderful  book by the same name, which I have really been loving these days. (watch for a review on it in the future!)

Prior to the lecture, I saw her standing by the book section, so I grabbed Melissa, who is also interested in making non-dairy cheeses, and we went to meet her and grill her with questions concerning sprouting grains and navigating stinky probiotics. She was a delight to speak with and signed my book for me, which I had brought to Vegfest. It was awesome to get to have a private session with her to expand upon the information she has already conveyed in her book on the art of making non-dairy cheeses, the most special skill required for which, she says, is… patience.

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Miyoko gives her presentation. I love her!

Shortly after, we attended her talk at Vegfest. Miyoko is no wallflower and exuded her dynamic personality to the audience while she relayed to us her humourous life story on how she immigrated to Canada from Japan at a young age and thus began her love affair with dairy cheese. I think a lot of us in the room could relate to that loyal love (read: addiction) to cheese that has been cultivated from a young age in our society for many of us. To make her super interesting talk even better, she even handed out a plate of of samples of her cheeses (about 5 different ones) with crackers, which were totally insane. (that means toothsome!) I bet she sold a lot of books after this talk and actually this was the highlight of the 2013 Seattle Vegfest for me!

After Vegfest, I already had a headache from having been awake since 3am, but it was time to truck on, as we had grocery shopping to do and dinner to acquire and consume. Looking forward to Seattle Vegfest 2014!

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2 Responses to “Seattle Vegfest 2013!”

  1. Denise April 1, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Alison, you should be getting paid for all this amazing advertising you do. I always enjoy this trip. I ate by far the most samples from Dave’s Killer Bread, which seems to have about 2 dozen varieties. I, too, enjoyed Miyoko’s talk, and have – in the past few days – made her rejuvelac (essential cheese ingredient) and homemade yogurt (another cheese ingredient), and am in the process of making cashew sour cream for this Wednesday’s Mexican enchilada day. Then soon on to Camembert, smoked provolone, and emmentaler.

    • Alison April 1, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

      I have “chevre” and swiss cheese culturing in my living room right now! I didn’t even notice Dave’s Killer Bread. That’s the great thing about Vegfest – that you can pick and choose whatever you like the best (and you still leave there stuffed).

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