With no animal-based products in sight, people wandered the grounds of the Rose Bowl in sunny Pasadena, California on Saturday, June 22, 2019, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to sample many of the creative, plant-based culinary creations. The festival highlighted some heavy-hitting eateries in the plant-based community, including Donut Friend, Cena Vegan, Slutty Vegan, Sage Vegan Bistro, Monty’s, Temple of Seitan, and many more. Celebrity chefs captivated the crowds at the culinary stage, while people across the grounds waited in lines, glasses in hand, waiting for beer, wine, kombucha, tea, coffee, and craft soda samples, all of which were included with festival entry.
Upon entering the gates of the Eat Drink Vegan Festival, we were impressed by the immediate row of plant-based vendors, who sold cruelty-free clothing, cosmetics, and vegan nutritional products. We sampled a matcha-flavored protein powder, applied some reef-safe chemical-free sunscreen to protect ourselves from the intense heat, snacked on raw vegan superfood bars, hydrated with additive-free coconut water, and grabbed some free swag, of course!
One of our favorite moments at the festival came when we got to watch chef Roy Choi showcase the assembly and creation of all the elements that comprise his vegan burrito. Featured on his famed Kogi food truck’s menu, the burrito includes a kimchi slaw, gochujang (Korean chili paste) marinated tofu, hash browns, and a vegan salsa verde (green salsa). While Choi is not a vegan, he advocated the importance of utilizing fresh ingredients whenever possible. All of his sauces and marinades have always been all plant-based, and while pan-roasting his garlic he said, “The plant-based journey is different for every person, and experimenting with freshness is what matters.” We were lucky enough to talk to Choi for a brief moment after his culinary stage performance. He stressed the importance of making food at home and finding the fresh flavors that make your taste buds happy.
Our gut health became stronger as the day progressed because we must have sampled about 15 different kombuchas and a variety of teas. We sunk our teeth into a mushroom-topped slice of pizza from Triple Beam Pizza, and it was light, earthy, and full of richness. The plant-based al pastor tacos from Cena Vegan opened up a portal into another flavorful dimension of Mexican cooking, and the almond milk macadamia latte from Go Get Em Tiger gave us a little afternoon pick-me-up.
For anyone interested in testing the waters of the plant-based lifestyle, this festival was the perfect entry point. Many of the vendors sold meat substitutes that included vegan burger patties, fried chick-un, and other foods that are commonly in a meat-centric diet. The downside to this is that these culinary creations are not healthy. A lot of bread, grains, and vegetable oil was used and there weren’t a lot of vegetables on the plates that we saw; granted, we didn’t see every single dish. A non-vegan could be intrigued by these food options, but this festival is the unhealthy side of veganism that people can indulge in once in a great while. Maintaining a vegan diet solely comprised of these foods would not be beneficial for overall bodily health, let alone the digestive system. In fact, eating those foods all the time would lead to weight gain and other health complications that come with obesity. Focus on freshness, not processed, soy-based, fake meat products if you want to be a vegan.
Photo Credit: Eat Drink Vegan