Sunday, September 27, 2015

Vegan Beer and Food Festival Wrap-Up

If you thought about attending the L.A. based Vegan Beer and Food Festival's first visit to Portland, Oregon, and didn't, kick yourself squarely in the behind right now, and promise yourself you'll go next year. It was so much fun, and there was so much amazing food, drink, shopping, and music, it really needs to be at the top of every vegan's must-go list. If you're merely veg-curious, this is the festival for you too, because it's all about fun and ridiculously good food that also happens to be vegan. Nothing preachy about it. It's a party, and a darn good one, set in a perfect spot on the Willamette River, next to the new bridge, at Zidell Yards.

Rick and I went early, and if you're crowd sensitive, it would be worth springing for the VIP tickets just so you can cruise in an hour ahead of the rest of the world, and leisurely sample the most popular foods, beers, and ciders without waiting in line. It got crowded later in the day, but the lines were still tolerable for the most part... unless you wanted a Vegan Big Mac from Doomie's Home Cookin'. Then you had to wait.

We didn't try one, but asked several people what they thought of the giant vegan sammy. Responses ranged from, Amazing, to, Not like the "real" one, but really good and I didn't feel like crap after eating it." I know we missed out, but it was just too huge. Maybe if we'd had five other people to share one with... we'll bring a bigger entourage next time!

Also much buzzed-about were the Macaroni and Cheese from Of Roots and Blooms, and the Vegan Chickun and Waffle from Southern Fried Vegan. We did try both of those. I believe in always starting with the Mac and Cheese, because life is short, and if the Big One hits, I want a good vegan cheese sauce in my belly. I was wowed by Of Roots and Blooms version, which was served on a bed of fresh spinach, and topped with crispy kale and coconut bacon. The sauce was rich and creamy and wonderful (and I'm picky because I make a really good one) and the pasta was perfectly cooked and curly, to hold onto generous amounts of cheese in each bite. I loved everything about it.

I have to say, I was skeptical about the Chickun and Waffle, served with maple syrup, and another version of mac and cheese. But you know, there's something sort of magical about the collision of crispy fried-ness, delicate baked-ness, and salty-sweet-ness that happened on this plate. I kind of loved it, kind of feared it. Then I remembered, it was a party. We were not there to eat healthy food. We were there to eat creative, soul satisfying, decadent vegan food. Thankfully, I didn't see a single salad all day. We eat enough lettuce, thank you. Please pass the syrup.

Also of very honorable mention in our day of grazing were the Mother of Dragons Roll from Sushi Love, the exotic Indian spiced popcorn from Masala Pop, and the seriously good, sliceable, meltable, real (vegan) cheeses from Follow Your Heart (oh, that provolone...).

Everywhere I turned, I saw happy people eating great food. I knew I couldn't sample all of it myself, even with Rick's help, so I took pictures of strangers and their food. Next time I think I'll carry around a fork and ask for bites. It was a congenial crowd. I bet a lot of people would let me have a tiny taste.

Cheesecake from It's a Rawsome Life
Portland's own Sizzle Pie, where we actually ended up when we were downtown later that evening, somehow hungry again. It's embarrassing.

The Crab Cake from Victoria Bar looked amazing.

More cheesecake. I think he did not want to share. I don't blame him.
And then, sigh... there was the beer. And the cider. And the kombucha. All available for unlimited tasting in those cute little 4 ounce glasses they gave us. We attempted to divide and conquer, Rick going for the beers while I checked out the ciders. We tried many, we shared sips, we took notes and tried really hard to keep track... We got lost. By the time we were finished, I decided the very first cider I'd tried was my favorite of the day. So my big winner is Reverend Nat's Cider, and Rick split his favorite beer award between Wild Ride Brewing, Base Camp, and Ninkasi. Apparently, beer often has a lower alcohol content than cider, and therefore causes less immediate memory loss. Either that, or it's stronger and eliminates the ability to make decisions. No matter! It's a good thing those glasses were small!

Stuffed and just a wee bit loopy, we decided to get a coffee from the cute VW Coffee Bus, and head to the stage for some LoveBomb Go-Go, a crazy-fun marching band. I know. What?? But more like an intergalactic, burlesque, Rocky Horror sort of marching band than what you might normally think of. Take a group of talented, playful, theatrical musicians, sprinkle some Portland Weirdness on them, and you have the magic of LoveBomb Go-Go.

Information, sponsors, and shopping booths rounded out the entertainment, providing a break in the eating/drinking action, and a chance to get a little education or pick up a cool souvenir. Rick got a great t-shirt from Herbivore Clothing that says, Eat Like You Give a Damn. There was also jewelry, soap, art, and other fun things, and I was happy to see Jeanette Zeis with her adorable vegan-stamped pottery. The brand new Driftwood Magazine was there too, running an event special and a fresh travel and culture perspective on vegan life. (I thought they were giving away copies, so technically I stole one. Yikes!) It's a beautiful publication and I can't wait to dig in! Everybody subscribe please, to support them, and to help me redeem myself!

Photo by Driftwood Magazine
Exhausted and happy, we stopped for dessert-to-go on our way out. Amazingly, Charlie's Brownies had no line at the moment we walked by, so we took it as a sign and swooped in. Charlie and his adorable crew came all the way from Los Angeles (as did several other vendors), and were happy to chat with us about their product. We couldn't decide which flavor to try, so we chose all five. It was the only sensible thing to do. Delicious is not a sufficient word for these rich, moist, inventively flavored brownies. I think the Coconut Bacon is my favorite. Or maybe the Caramel Pecan...

Where's the bacon? On the brownie. Duh.
Our last stop, with an inside tip from a Seattle friend to "try the loaf," was Violet Sweet Shoppe. Resisting the seduction of the cupcakes (my usual weakness), we went for the cute little pumpkin loaf and then waddled off into the sunset with our loot.

Breakfast for the morning after... The pumpkin loaf was moist and wonderful and I wished I'd bought two.
I can't think of a more perfect way for a bunch of vegans and their friends to get together, enjoy the glorious fall weather, and share some spectacular foodie love. Dear Vegan Beer and Food Festival, please come to Portland again next year! I hope we treated you as well as you treated us.

Thanks! xoxoxo

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