Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The (first ever, NYC) Vegan Bake-Off

I was on the fence about attending the first ever NYC Vegan Bake-Off; vegan food events tend to be a little too full-body-contact-sport for my taste.  But, a friend convinced me go and I'm thrilled that I did.

The event was held at The Bell House.

It was a much larger space than I had originally anticipated.  There was a large room in the front with a full bar:

Another larger event space in the back with its own bar...and chandeliers; this is where the Bake-Off took place.

I was initially concerned when I realized that there was no seating set up for the event.  It's not that I have to eat while reclined, but I was concerned that without the decorum forced by the Veggie Conquest model of "tasters" remaining seated while being served the participants' entries, it could easily turn into an NYC Vegetarian Food Fest-scale madhouse.  Little did I know that the organizers were well on top of it.  And, speaking of Veggie Conquest, I managed to snap a shot of the masterful creator/coordinator herself with those at the helm of The Vegan Bake-Off.

Jessica, Rob, Chris

Now let's get to the grub!  The wide space was set up so that the 20 baking participants were lined up facing the room.  I was stunned at how beautifully everything was presented and the excitement in the room was simmering to a boil.

In the center of the sweets' tables there was a table set up with plenty of plates, napkins, and forks.  Rob did an excellent job of conveying to the crowd that both time and samples were aplenty, and offered direction as to how the flow of obtaining said samples was to commence. Although seemingly impossible, it worked without incident!  Nary an elbow was thrown.

The crowd moved at such a pleasant, leisurely pace, in fact, that there was even time to snap a few (often blurry) photos as I collected my tastes and tried to impart my appreciation to the participants for all of their efforts.

 My plate after visiting the first ten contestants:

Ok, I admit I may have started nibbling while on line to collect the second half of the entries.

Thanks, Dayna!

great job, Janet!!!

Minus a couple of already ingested sweets (for those of you counting!), my haul:

While the lack of cumbersome tables and chairs in the event space initially lent itself to more mingling, it ultimately prohibited too much discussion outside your own group.  Since it wasn't very comfortable to stand, balance, and discuss the entries, friends and I wound up sitting at a table in the front room in order to best facilitate a serious (and fun) conversation about the entries.  Much like at supper clubs and Veggie Conquest, the communal tables are a big part of the event because it fosters gathering; they'd be great at this event as well.

Prior to the event I was surprised that so many people could be heard and overheard lamenting the supposedly daunting task of ingesting so many sweets at once.  I scoffed openly at the absurdity, dubbing them lightweights.  And then something unheard of happened: I hit my wall.  I have no explanation for this, other than to say that many of the desserts were different in flavor and combination than I usually gravitate towards, so perhaps the mixture of tastes did me in.

and then I gave up

When I say that the desserts were not necessarily the type included in my regular repertoire, I should note that my choices for award were mostly out of my comfort zone!

Shhh! (in no particular order)

Yes, you are reading that right.  This fruit eschewing, chocolate and ice cream lover chose the following:

The sticky orange Lady marmalade tea cake was one of the first things I tasted while online for the second half of my collection of samples.

Compared to some of the other more fancifully decorated entries, the tea cakes looked relatively unassuming.  But the taste, texture, and pure fluffiness of the cake was phenomenal.  I'm a chocolate girl all the way, but I could have eaten an entire sheet cake of this.

Trio of fruit sorbet: grapefruit, honeydew, and cantaloupe.  I admit it; what I initially found most appealing about the sorbets was the blue cup.  When I passed the Rescue Chocolate table, the woman running it exclaimed excitedly at the inclusion of a cold dessert and I almost gave it to her.  But something told me to give it a try, and it was terrific: the cantaloupe was spot on, the honeydew superbly refreshing.  Surprisingly, it was the tart grapefruit that really got my attention.  All together, it was win-win-win.

Maybe I was channeling VM's tastebuds for this one, but the raspberry hazelnut brownies were impeccably decorated and understatedly yummy.

All told, there were 6 prizes awarded: 3 peoples' choice and  3 judges' choice.  The judges?  Sarah Gross of Rescue Chocolate and the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, Comedian Myq Kaplan, and Adam Sobel of The Cinnamon Snail.

 As it turned out, none of my choices won!

The winners were all visibly thrilled, none more so than Girlfriend in a Sugar Coma, the creator of the speculoos cookie sandwiches.  These looked to me like macarons, but tasted like snickerdoodle cookie sandwiches.  She definitely deserved extra credit for affixing her name to each paper!

Did I also mention that I was a winner?  Yep; and I didn't even have to bake anything.  There was a raffle and yours truly was the recipient of the prize package: the cookbook Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Choscarelli:

and an assortment of FIVE Rescue Chocolate bars!

For any of you that were there, you might have noticed that I was supremely excited.  Who wouldn't be when each number called out corresponded to those on your ticket?  Almost makes up for the giant Snoopy I never won at the Long Island square dances of my youth...

It was really great to see so many people I don't get to see nearly often enough, as well as to meet plenty of new.  The bottom line is: if you missed this event, keep your eye out for the next one.  If the inaugural Bake-Off could be this fun, well-attended, and impressively organized, I can't wait to see what's next.


  1. "a friend convinced me go" ... what a shame that said friend did not go! Everything looks amazing! Kind of wish I had been able to go. But if you couldn't handle all the sweets, no chance this light weight would have been able to. But it would have been nice to see you hit your wall.

  2. I am shocked at your top 3 choices all containing fruit! Who are you?? Or were you just too chocolated out from the tart earlier?

    And congrats on your win! That's a pretty major prize, considering the cost of those rescue chocolate bars. Glad you at least got some chocolate to take home

  3. Go Nepie- after all my big talk, when I admitted to hitting the wall, Jessica looked across Ariela and Demetrius at me WITH DISGUST.

    PecanSanj- I really don't know what to say. My behavior is totally inexcusable, I know! Let's go back and have another tart! Or three?

  4. "too full-body-contact-sport" is exactly the way I feel about these sorts of things. While I'm glad that was not the case, I almost wish you had lied... Now I'm bummed I missed it! The Bell House is a great space - I've only been there for shows but I know they do food events every so often. Hopefully more like this!
    Looks like you gave the plate of treats a valiant effort. I salute you.

  5. I appreciate the congratulations, foodeud; I fear I will never live down the shame! Next time ;-)

  6. I appreciate the congratulations, foodeud; I fear I will never live down the shame! Next time ;-)

  7. The things you New Yorkers have to endure — sheesh — so many fab baked vegan treats that you couldn't consume them all. It's so, so sad. Maybe you could build yourself up for next time. :) I'd come along to help out if I lived closer. I hope someday I can eat at the cinnamon snail, let along attend a vegan bake-off. Any chance Adam is thinking of expanding to Seattle?

  8. [ Smiles ] Most informative!

  9. [ Smiles ] Lovely!


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