The best part of the weekend was the people! I saw my friends from Vegan in Brighton and Alien on Toast (their blog names are so descriptive!), some other mighty fine PPKers, and new blogger friends I admire from Hasta la Vegan and Tea and Sympatico. Jojo spoke to a pretty large crowd about vegan travel, and despite my best efforts to catch her eye and make her laugh, she did a great job! I also caught a little of Brendan Brazier's talk about using nutrition to reduce stress. Audience members were furiously taking notes during his entire presentation, with their eyes wide and bulging like the crazy alien dog at the end of "Ghostbusters", so I assume he is now some sort of cult leader and/or too much Vega.
I also loved that there was a smoothie truck! SoulJuices made me a wonderful carrot, ginger, apple, spinach juice for £4, which is kind of pricey but I guess that's London. The man who made it asked me my juice preferences (strong on the ginger, &c), which I appreciated. The truck also sold a delicious special smoothie of wheatgrass, spinach, mango, apple, and peach, which was insanely thick and smooth. And you couldn't tell from it that wheatgrass is gross.
Cocoa Feliz had the most beautiful table I've ever seen in a warehouse full of stalls. You could tell by how carefully they laid out every single chocolate that they cared about their product enough to devote real time and effort to its sale. The same cannot be said for many others. Anyway, the chocolate from Cocoa Feliz is awesome. They have crazy interesting flavors like cardamom & coffee and juniper & bay, and well as standards like peanut butter and mint fondant. They all come in dark, milky, or white options. I love that they provide all three types of each! It's so nice! The chocolates were absolutely delicious.
Nakd bars did a great job as well. They had tons of samples, including new flavors like Christmas pudding (kind of weird). Even better, they had a fantastic 18 bars for £8 deal going on. This is the kind of basic fest behavior that other companies with similar products could learn from! We'll get there.
Another fantastic vendor was Goody Goody Stuff, makers of the most wonderful vegan gummies! The company's representatives were so friendly and helpful, and they had bowls out of some of their wonderful gummies. They also were kind enough to share other products with me, and they were all fantastic! The summer peaches have a great flavor, but I actually liked the sour fruit salad the best. I usually hate sour things, but these are a little more sweet than sour, and it just works so well. And the texture is a little stronger, which I like. It's hard to get the texture right without gelatin, but these are the closest I've had so far. I also loved the Koala gummy bears. Gummy bears are one of my favorite food groups, so I was so happy to find these. I'm so happy to be in a land of delicious vegan gummies.
I don't have pictures because MASS CROWD but Sheese did a fantastic job! It made me really like the company and the cheeses. I was never a cheese person, but I could see myself buying Sheese.
Ananda Foods was selling several products (I didn't see any discernible discount though, boo), mostly with their marshmallow stuff, including their incredible Round Up! Waggon Wheels. They are like Mallomars of my youth but with even more marshmallow. And they're vegan! I'm such a fan. They did a giveaway for a giant (and I mean giant, like 15 inch diameter??) waggon wheel (I'm pretty sure it's waggon with two g's which I don't like) and I lost. I am still distraught. If you see a giant vegan marshmallow cookie sandwich covered in chocolate for sale elsewhere, please get one for me k thx.
The always great Ms. Cupcake sold out on both days super quickly! So impressive!
Aside from food, I loved the dishware from Magpie. How pretty is it?
Unfortunately, a lot of the caterers made food that did a disservice to the glory of so much vegan food. It was bland, tasteless, weird, not worth it. Boooo! There is so much delicious vegan food (that even I can make!) so there are no excuses.
First, unfortunately, was the much-anticipated food at Rupert Street's truck. I have been looking forward to them for months, but this experience was disappointing. The corn tamale on a bed of grains and vegetables was so bland that it was like eating weird air.
I guess I was wrong to assume that tamales be filled with something? But this corn tamale was just a cylinder of corn masa. Like...it was all breading. There was no filling. Isn't that weird??
So...I don't know how people could eat this on the street. It was a cold cilantro-laden soup, and the 'pop's were little fried cups full of...air. It was so weird. VegFest caterers sponsored by weird air? I don't know how people eat this without just breaking the fry cups into the soup and then eating it with a spoon. So weird, so disappointing.
I was also super excited to try The Honest Carrot. I think I've had one of their famous 'roast' balls (above, right) long ago, and it was yummy and super healthy. I tried another one this time (the superfood roast ball) as well as the leek, squash, and butter bean mini pie. Honestly, I think this kind of food needs refrigeration or something. The pie crust was insanely soggy to the point where most of it looked and felt like injera. It was not delicious. The inside was pretty tasty but how do you eat a pie filling when the crust is inedible?? The superfood roast had a weird raw broccoli and cranberry taste, but it was better at home where I nuked it. Sigh.
The next super sad table belonged to Fry's Vegetarian. I'm sure most of us love their products, but they do not know how to present at a festival. They had 20% off their products, which is definitely awesome, but the table was just their products' boxes, sitting there, doing nothing, no singing, no dancing. Like, who is going to be lured into buying something you can't taste or even see? They had the saddest little sample trays as well, just a few cubes of the weirder meats as far as I could tell. Paltry showing for such a large company.
What makes the following stuff ugly and not bad? Well, for starters, most of the products were actually delicious. Most of the companies are ones that I adore. What makes this ugly is the kind of interaction I had with them during VegFest. It hurts me that our encounters weren't as great as their products, or as great as I had hoped. Some people, man.
First up, well let's just start with the one that broke my heart the most. Vega.
I actually said to my friend Sarah, "Don't let me leave without buying a bunch of Vega stuff!" I love Vega products, but it's so expensive to buy in the UK. I was excited to buy some where there would be some sort of discount and where shipping wouldn't be an issue. However, despite setting this reminder, I left on purpose without buying any. Why? Because the people (mostly the man) working the booth were super rude and uninterested in helping customers. I asked about the new bars that I had heard about (there weren't any samples on Sunday so I was asking to make sure I got the right product), and he barely registered that he had heard me. His response? Walking away. There were no other potential customers around me, so that wasn't the reason. And I'm a pretty damn polite person, so that wasn't it. On Saturday too, when I passed by and asked about the products available and the discount (barely noticeable), this man was just as curmudgeonly and awful, so exhaustion from the weekend isn't an excuse. I don't really know why Vega, such a successful company, sent this man to deal with customers, but that was stupid. I walked away pissed, confused, and empty-handed. One or two awful reps won't put me off Vega for good, but I'm happy using my Sunwarrior powders at the moment, thank you very much.
My real gripe is that it is such a superb waste of money for what you get. That brownie I got? For £2.50, I expected a regular sized brownie. Definitely not as big as the enormous donut (for the same price) from BFVB, but something at least visible. Nope. I watched as the guy carefully cut a tablespoon-sized piece for me, placed it carefully in a box, and handed it to me like it was made of gold, as my friend nearly pissed herself in disbelief. Rip. Off.
I of course don't want to leave on that vomitous note, so here are a few of my absolute favorite images from VegFest. Overall, it was a wonderful time, and the shitty aspects at least made it interesting.