I, along with the rest of my state, love festivals and I don’t even care what we are celebrating…beer, music, food or even my small little town!  This past weekend, we attended the Richmond Vegetarian Festival for the second year in a row.  Since I didn’t have this blog at this time last year, I’ll share some photos from 2016 as well!  It’s been such a great experience to learn more about activism, shop for clever t-shirts that have started to overrun my wardrobe, and learn how in the world some of these chefs can make vegan replicas of our favorite meals.  Did you know you can make nacho cheese sauce from potatoes and carrots?!  It’s amazing by the way.

ACTIVISM

There are lots of places to get information about activism especially at a Vegetarian/Vegan Food Festival.  In the real world (away from like minded people at festivals like this), I’ve had some good experiences and some not so good experiences when people ask why I don’t eat meat and I explain that I’m on a journey to becoming vegan.  I choose to not speak about my lifestyle choice unless someone shows an interest in it or asks specific questions.  I’m happy to share anything that I’ve learned, but I’ve realized very quickly that most people just don’t want to hear it.  For me personally, I can’t unlearn what I’ve read or seen.  It’s a no brainer for me.

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls,

everyone would be a vegetarian.”

Paul McCartney

There were many opportunities that I decided to indulge in at the festival like more reading material, recipes, lists of local Richmond restaurants that offer veg-friendly options and, of course, buttons, stickers, and t-shirts!  The t-shirts are the best conversation starter in my experiences.  I tend to choose funny t-shirts that get people wondering and eventually a stranger will comment on it and get the conversation started.  Some of my favorite brands are Herbivore, Compassion, Beet X Beet, and Vegetaryn. Below are some of the photos from Veg Fest in 2016 and 2017.

Veal crates used to keep calves from moving.
Chicken crates used in egg production which cause pain for the ones that live while day old male chicks are killed since the egg industry deems them useless.
Recipes, RVA Restaurant Guides, Coupons, and Stickers
PETA van in 2016 – I’m living proof you really can live without chicken wings.
Shirts are from Herbivore and Compassion

 

Now, onto everyone’s favorite part – THE FOOD!

We have been blown away by the food creations we have tried in their vegan form especially since my husband has a more current palate of meat flavors.  It’s just a memory for me now, so he’s a much better critic for people looking to transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.  I love cooking in general and some of these recipes just blow my mind on how people can recreate foods like fried chicken, but VEGAN!  It’s really so easy in our time to be a vegetarian or vegan with all the ready to eat options becoming more readily available each day.

In 2016, the festival was in July due to a storm damage in the park and, man, was it hot!  So hot that we actually only purchased food from one vendor booth and stopped at a juice cart on three separate occasions because it was just too hot to eat food.  The experience was still good, but I wish we could have eaten so much more!  In 2017, we were able to try a few more vendors and I have reviewed them below.

2016

Mean Bird – This was the BIG HIT of 2016 for us.  Mean Bird started as just a local food truck in the local RVA scene selling at local breweries, but recently opened a brick and mortar location in 2017.  They are not exclusively vegan, but cater to all people.  Not to fear – everything is clearly labeled as vegan on their menu so there’s no guessing.  It can be hard to tell in my case if something is meat or not.  There have been several times that I’ve had my husband taste something to make sure before I would eat it!  This is one of those cases.  I chose the Vegan Fried Chicken Slider with Fried Green Tomatoes and my husband ordered the Veggie Bird two piece meal with fries.  Both options were delicious and I can’t wait to visit their new location in the future.

Ginger Juice – Ginger Juice is a local RVA company that offers cold pressed juices, smoothies, acai bowls, and toast with avocado, of course! I drink cold pressed juice regularly and drink it more often in the summer months.  When the temperature rises, I don’t really want to eat a lot of hot food and I imagine a lot of you are the same way.  This is the perfect solution.  The main difference between regular juice and cold pressed juice is the juice presser itself.  The traditional juicer creates heat while it is juicing which causes nutrients to be lost.  With cold pressed juice, you lose nothing!  On a hot day in July, this was the perfect option for us.  Giving (Mix of beet, pear, apple, lime and ginger) was my favorite juice of the day!

2017

821 Cafe – This was a new find for us this year and we are so glad we did!  We ordered the Vegan Chicken Philly Cheese Steak.  This was the winner of the day for us!  The bread was fantastic and the sandwich was loaded!  It included vegan chicken, creamy nacho cheese sauce, lettuce, tomato, and vegan mayonnaise.  The restaurant is located in the Carytown area of Richmond and I don’t know how we’ve missed it after frequenting that part of town fairly often when we lived in RVA.  The only thing we regret is not trying everything they had at the booth!

 

GWARbar – We actually tried this booth in 2016 and 2017.  GWAR is a metal band from RVA that got connected to the restaurant world to provide a very accommodating vegan friendly menu in downtown Richmond.  They have created the perfect match for me – metal music and food!  They have several vegan items on the menu including Cauliflower or Artichoke Nuggets with vegan Ranch, Seitan Wangs, Hail Seitan sandwich and even a vegan WHOPPER!  I really enjoyed their cauliflower wings last year so we gave them a go again this year.  They weren’t as fresh as last year, but I would still recommend giving the restaurant a try.

 

Veg-Ta-Bowl Foods – We tried several of their samples including the Vegan Carolina Style BBQ Chixen, Cheezy Mac Sauce, and Moroccan Mixed Vegetables.  The Moroccan Mixed Vegetables and Cheezy Mac Sauce were good, but we had to have more of that Carolina BBQ!  We purchased an 8 oz. container to bring home for dinner this week.  My favorite type of BBQ before was always North Carolina style – lots of vinegar and mustard!  This product checked all of my wish list tastes and textures.  I have been amazed how well BBQ products have been created and they continue to be one of my favorite vegan meat alternatives – no matter what brand.  We saw the smaller Veg-Ta-Bowl Foods booth giving out samples first, so we decided to try their Cheezy Mac at their fresh food booth since we already bought the Carolina BBQ to take home.  I wasn’t a fan of this.  Cheese is the #1 reason most vegetarians aren’t vegan and there is a reason why.  Cheese is so hard to recreate.  The pasta texture was even a turnoff for me as it reminded me of gluten free pasta.  No offense, but I love gluten! Below is a picture of the delicious Vegan Carolina Style BBQ Chixen that we had for dinner this week.

Alternative Baking Company, Inc. – We actually won this product by pledging to complete the Meatless Monday Challenge – not to hard for us!  I was really hoping to win some V-Dog treats, a line of vegan dog treats, for Brodie.  I still won a cookie though and Will got some awesome Tofurkey coupons which will be used for sure!  We were not big fans of this product.  The company’s mission is to make the dairy and meat industries obsolete – what a great goal!  The cookies are readily available in several main stream stores and I’ve even seen them in Starbucks.  They were very dense for our taste.  I also thought it tasted like a hint of pumpkin.

Bye y’all!