Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Baltimore Vegfest, 2013 = Raw Challenge Fail


As you know, I committed to following Brad’s Raw Challenge for this month until…I realized…the 3rd Annual Baltimore Vegfest was on Saturday! I have been to every single one so far and I love just supporting this event and watching it as it grows. I also love the fact it gives me an excuse to travel to Maryland!  

We had arrived just in time to grab our goodie bags filled with, well, vegan goodies! Veggie Bouillans, gluten-free onion crackers by Mary’s Gone Crackers, AloDrink, samples of Lush and Parma and oooh a Twilight candy bar by Go Max Go! Lots of yummy goodies!


Then we set out to explore. After a glance, I was surprised to see that the Vegfest had seemed to have shrunk. Maybe it was the location which seemed a bit more spacious? Or maybe there really were less vendors this time around. Whatever it was, it definitely didn’t prevent it from being enjoyable, especially with the beautiful weather! 

*UPDATE* This year has been the largest yet for the Baltimore Vegfest! With over 2,000 people and 12 more vendors than last year, my eyes were clearly mistaken. It's so exciting to hear that this event is growing!




First stop were a few samples from Dandies and Tofurkey. Vegan junk food at its best. Dandies makes some amazing marshmallows that resemble the real thing in both texture and taste. They melt down well too. I’ve used them to make vegan rice krispy treats and s’mores. So good! The Tofurkey was good as well, but in all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of meat substitutes.


Five minutes in and we come across this cutie. If I didn’t live in an apartment I would have immediately adopted and brought home this beauty. McKitty was so sweet and friendly. I literally fell in love but knew I just couldn’t take him. He was being fostered by AARF, Animals Allie Rescues. I’m pretty positive he found a new home that day! This is a great org who looks for people to either foster or adopt pets, so if you’re looking for a new animal to love, please check them out and adapt first! 








As we continued our journey I was immediately stopped by a scent I recognized way to well: Barbecue  - and not just ANY barbecue, Land of Kush barbecue. If you have never heard of Land of Kush then you are seriously missing out on some of the absolute best vegan soul food around. From collards, to mac n’ cheese to barbecue soy ribs, your plate will look just as good as, if not better, your mama’s plate when dining at Nani’s house. I kid you not…I know I said I’m not a meat sub fan, and I’m not, but Land of Kush has some barbecue that is hard to resist. The smell alone is mouth watering. Plus, you know it’s good when your non-vegan mom and husband BOTH ask for it.  So for them, I took some to go. 






Next stop was Mira’s Homemade Granola. I only got to try one flavor, Double Nut, but I recognized the main ingredient, buckwheat. For some reason, I have grown to dislike buckwheat – not sure why truthfully. However, the granola can’t be judged by my dislikes. In my opinion, it was still flavorful and full of crunch. They are raw which is a super plus and a great product to introduce to the growing community of raw foodists. 


Looking for more raw goodies I came across a lady selling...what is that? Yes, JUICE! Raw, freshly made JUICE! Finally I scored! The lady who owns the company, Jukai Juice, along with her sweet son greeted us and offered us two flavors: The Hulk with kale, pineapple, green apple, lemon and ginger or the Honey Pi with Honeydew Orange Pineapple Lemon and Ginger. Of course, I opted for the Hulk since greens ALWAYS come first. :) The taste was phenomenal! Sweet, citrusy and very refreshing. I didn’t realize I had drank it all before it was too late. I could have gone for more but I knew I didn't need to. 




And then there were donuts…kale donuts that is. With a gluten-free option. By A, B, C Vegan. If you’re a bit skeptical, don’t feel bad because so was I. However, when we tasted them we have to say they weren’t all that bad. We ended up trying a gluten-free glazed baked donut. While it was grainy as most gluten-free baked goods are, it was also moist – a plus. Not sure if the moisture came from the baking or from the glaze, but it was moist. The glaze was a bit too sweet for me, but it worked well with the cake donut. All in all, a good recipe AND a unique one at that. Who would have thought of adding Kale to a donut!?

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And then there were truffles….oh creamy chocolaty truffles. These I had to literally walk away from because I could have eaten myself out of Vegfest stuffed with chocolate truffles. Truffles by Emily sold four different vegan flavors: Duke of Earl, Pistachio Pomegranate, Coconut Almond and Lavender. We opted for the Pistachio Pom to split as we attempted to save room for our trip to a vegan restaurant. The truffle literally made me roll my eyes back and say OMG. The texture was super smooth and creamy which was well complimented by the crunchy, salty pistachios. The flavor was simply sweet, a bit salty, nutty with a hint of tangy fruit from the pomegranate. Now, I could be bias seeing as I am a major truffle lover, but these truffles were very well balanced in both texture and flavor. A must try if you can!


We did stop by a few vendors and took a few extra pic... 


Since Vegfest literally took us, oh, I think an hour!? We decided to head out to explore Roots Market and Great Sage. While my friend had been to both places once, I have not so I was beyond excited to finally be able to visit this fabulous shopping center. 


Roots Market is an organic grocery located in Clarksville, MD. It is like a Whole Foods, but in my opinion, better! It carries only the best products! Look at all the goodies I grabbed! I am particularly excited about my purchase of cacao butter for only 12.99. A steal! 


After we browsed through the store, filling up on food samples, we finally decided to take a seat and enjoy a light lunch at the GreatSage

As I stated, I have never been before, but I follow the Great Sage’s Facebook Page and gawk and drool daily at their photos of their latest and greatest menu items. I was thrilled to finally be able to try something on their menu. First, we ordered drinks, a Ginger Mojito for me. It was bit sweet, but still quite tasty. It was a very well blend between alcohol and brew.

I was even more thrilled to discover they offered two raw dishes: Beet Ravioli and Chocolate Crepes. Of course, we ordered BOTH and shared.

First up, the Beet Ravioli: “marinated beet slices filled with sunflower-cashew cheese, topped with basil pesto and a micro green salad”.  The beets were tender enough to cut, yet still had a slight bite to it. They had a very light, earthy flavor which I can only guess can be thanked to the marinating process. Smart idea to draw out some of that strong earthiness red beets seem to always have when consumed raw. The “cheese” inside was full of flavor, but a bit chunky and tasted more like a pate than a ravioli cheese.  Something smoother, creamier and lighter in flavor may have given the dish the ravioliness we were looking for. The pesto was light and added a nice addition in terms of pleasing every part of the palate. All in all, the dish was full of flavor and beautifully presented.


Then came the chocolate crepes, “chewy crepes filled with a coconut vanilla ‘crème’ topped with a raw chocolate fudge sauce.  At first bite we were both a bit thrown off by the chewy texture of the crepes. Clearly we didn’t read the description! It wasn’t a bad thing at all, just a shock. We had never had raw crepes before and only knew crepes by their non-raw counterparts which are thin, light and only slightly chewy. These crepes were smooth, thick and had quite a chewy bite to them. At first I thought maybe thinner will work, but anything thinner may not have held it’s shape and THAT would have killed presentation. I do have to admit though, they had a dense, cake-like texture that I didn't expect, but very much appreciated for being a raw crepe.  


As for taste, slightly sweet and very chocolaty which worked very well with the sweet, thick, fluffy coconut vanilla ‘crème’. The crème was near perfection in both consistency and taste. I immediately identified the coconut and my friend mentioned a hint of banana. It was seriously finger lickable, which I did not do although I really, really wanted to. The raw fudge sauce was familiar – a possible blend of coconut oil, cacao powder and agave which made it very saucy, with a strong cocoa flavor. It’s a great compliment to the dish for anyone looking to add a bit more sweetness to every bite. I didn’t try it with the mint, which I should have. Overall, a rich, decadent raw dessert that exceeded my expectations. Now let’s get that raw crème stuffed into some strawberries and drizzled with chocolate or mixed in with a berry salad. Yumm!

Between the beautiful weather, supporting my locals at Vegfest, browsing Roots like a kid in a candy shop and enjoying some impressive raw dishes at Great Sage, I have to say my Saturday was VERY well spent. I couldn’t have asked for a better day!

*Beth*