Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bethlehem Vegfest 6: Sweaty Highlights

Another year, another Bethlehem Vegfest! If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that this is a favorite- not only for its proximity to Vegan Treats, but because it's free, dog-friendly, and open to the public. The safe space of a vegan festival that caters predominantly to vegans is alluring, but charging admittance keeps out non-vegans- particularly when it's an exorbitant sum. If the point is to create new vegans (it is!), what better way than to woo them with a free invitation to our exemplary and celebratory festivities? But, I digress.

 

We always begin our BethVegFest adventure at Vegan Treats. Sure, they have a tremendous booth at the fest, but that's kind of for tourists; we like to go straight to the source.

Vegan Treats old fashioned glazed donut, monkey bread, chicken & waffles donut, strawberry cheesecake softserve

Then it's off to the fest. They alternate between holding it in late August and early September; I think we can all agree that henceforth mid-September is the way to go because August is JUST TOO DAMN HOT. Thankfully, this year the organizers put tents over the tables/chairs in the food court area to offer a much appreciated reprieve from the relentless sunshine.

too damn hot

saving the day with orange coconut Mompops

Per usual, we met some wonderful, open-minded, curious non-vegans at the fest- mostly over lunch. Because it's a neutral setting with a built-in topic of conversation, it's always a good chance to informally chat about the truths and myths of veganism.

Franklin Hill Vineyards sangria spritzer for VM

Of course, the Bethlehem Vegfest wouldn't be what it is without me having an argument with someone (2 at BVF #5!). This time, it was with a clueless vendor inexplicably selling expensive pottery that was "beautiful because it's from Spain." First of all, I'll never understand why these types of vendors choose to vend at vegfests. The pottery is, most likely, accidentally vegan at best. So, what do these kinds of wares have to do with a vegfest? As far as non-food items go, people want messagewear, vegan clothing and accessories, cruelty-free beauty products- you know, things that aren't usually vegan by default. But that wasn't my beef.

While we were looking at the pottery she explained that the ridges in the center were a grating feature and proceeded to demonstrate with an ugly hunk of provolone animal cheese. Because VM has repeatedly implored me to work on my finesse, I diplomatically informed her that a block of cheese was an interesting choice at a vegan fest. She hesitated, then shrugged and said, "But not everyone is vegan."

BUT THIS IS A VEGAN FESTIVAL.

Her posturing became very defensive and I was unsure how I was going to proceed when a voice a few feet from me stated with equal neutrality, "Perhaps you should leave that out of your vegfest demonstrations." I looked up to see another disappointed vegan (as evidenced by her shirt) and breathed a sigh of relief and solidarity. The vendor then trivialized, "I didn't realize cheese was so upsetting!" We all walked away and heard her laughing, telling the next attendees passing her booth how "angry" vegans were mad at her just for having cheese. I did not hear their response. Why? Because I was storming over to the organizer table to defer to the professionals. It turns out, not surprisingly, that each vendor is provided with copious amount of information and guidelines for the fest, so there was absolutely no excuse for the presence of the cheese or, frankly, her attitude. They went over to speak with her and the next time we passed the cheese was missing from the table.

For the record, it's not so much that vegans can't bear to be in the presence of animal products. Let's face it, we all live in the real world where we're surrounded by non-vegans eating, wearing, and otherwise using animals in a manner we wouldn't consider. But to participate in a VegFest with such little respect for the cause is an absolute affront.

Moving on.

Vegan Treats speculoos cookie

The vendors and organizations were a little sparse this year, but there seemed to be more food options than ever. Granted, this is always the busiest section of the fest, but without much else to do, it was hard to find a reason to stick around until you became hungry enough to eat again.

The Taza Truck Egyptian kushari

To be fair, the intense heat didn't help matters either.

MomPops strawberry lemonade popsicle


The Cinnamon Snail crushed it again with the longest line; I admit I couldn't brave it in the oppressive heat. Vegan Shop-Up fave Freakin Vegans came in second. It seemed as though the other vendors catered to the overflow, of which there was plenty. As for desserts: Vegan Treats and MomsPops were the clear winners.

Freakin' Vegan buffalo wrap, mac & cheese, and empanadas

Rumor has it that there could be a revamp in the works for future BFVs and I find that prospect rather exciting; they've definitely had some ups and downs over the years. The huge turnout always confirms that there is significant interest in this event and that's the biggest piece of the puzzle. I'd gladly offer input if anyone is interested; this great event definitely has the potential to be amazing.

Monday, August 15, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Nocciolata Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread (think vegan nutella)

When the folks at Rigoni di Asiago offered to send me a jar of their *NEW* Nocciolata Dairy Free Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread (certified vegan) to sample, of course I jumped at the opportunity. Who among us hasn't been dreaming of a vegan alternative to the non-vegan (yet beloved) nutella?


But, in the short time before I actually received it, I talked myself down from the excitement. I convinced myself that it would probably be a subpar excuse for the decadent staple and readied myself for the disappointment.

When the jar arrived, I was impressed by how much it looked like it belonged in a gourmet shop (ahem, Riverdel), but still I didn't have high hopes. Veganizing nutella AND making it organic, non-GMO seemed like too tall an order, so didn't open it- let alone smell or taste it.


Big mistake. HUGE! Read on, my friends.

A few days later I baked up a dozen of my go-to chocolate cupcakes, the toasted coconut cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I waited until they were completely cooled before first snipping the seal on the jar of Nocciolata and only then did I realize what I'd been missing. Based on scent and sight alone, I was instantly aware that if I'd opened the jar upon arrival, I could have made quick work of it with only a spoon. Rich, dense, and creamy; I knew it was going to be fantastic before I even tasted it.


But fantastic is an understatement. While part of me felt that simple cupcakes weren't fancy enough for this high-quality spread, I still knew it would make an exquisite "icing," so I persevered. It was a phenomenal call.

 

From the company, "Made with organic ingredients completely free of GMO's, preservatives, colors, additives, or artificial sweeteners, Rigoni di Asiago's Nocciolata Dairy Free Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread combines hazelnuts, cocoa and cocoa butter, natural vanilla extract, and raw cane sugar for a chocolate-hazelnut spread with undeniably superior flavor. Nocciolata Dairy Free is like a vegan, organic, better-for-you Nutella, made with environmentally-responsible cold-pressed sunflower oil. It also contains far less sugar than other brands and is free from hydrogenated fats!"


So, good news/bad news:
Bad news first: Nocciolata Dairy Free Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread is so new that it's not yet available for purchase. Soon, though! only currently available at Whole Foods Markets and will be coming soon to Amazon.com!
Good news: In the meantime, YOU CAN WIN A JAR RIGHT HERE!

 

CONTEST TIME:
Believe it or not, I was able to generously ice 12 cupcakes with half of one jar. So, I need suggestions for how to maximize my enjoyment of the 2nd half of the jar. This is where you come in.
  • Kindly leave a comment below telling me how you'd like to enjoy Nocciolata and the mastermind behind my favorite idea wins a jar of their very own to devour. 
  • All entries must be received by August 31st @ 11:59pm EST. 
  • Please be sure that your email is accessible via your comment sign-in, or simply include it in your comment so the company can be in touch to send you your jar.
Winner will be announced early September; good luck!