Since school has ended, I’ve focused on a few things (aside from work itself):
1) Rebuilding my social/personal life
2) Enjoying the city that I actually live in
3) Offseason training and working on my speed/keeping fit
Speaking a little more in detail on #2, one of the things that I sorely missed were the summer outdoor festivals that would occur in the city. There are a lot of them that occur in Philly, and school commitments in the past would keep me away. Recently when I was at the Broad Street Run Expo, I had seen a few adverts for an upcoming vegetarian fest, the first of its kind in Philly. It was surprising to me because Philly – as the home of the cheesesteak – to me was a very unfriendly city to health food, let alone vegetarian food. Philly cuisine tends towards gastropub grub, except a little less exciting (Philly pretzels, water ice, cheesesteaks). And I’m not big at all on Italian food, admittedly I find it quite bland, though I’m sure the top Italian restaurants will find a way to satisfy even the most discerning palettes out there.
Lately though, this has been changing and when I had initially heard about PhillyVegFest I got very excited. An outdoor festival for people like me. I was not going to miss this as it was very shocking to me that this could actually happen in Philly. I set the time aside, and took the bus over to Headhouse Square, the area where it was all going down.
Headhouse Square was packed. This had drawn quite a crowd.
My first stop was the Mom’s Organic Market stand, a business based in DC and the Baltimore area. I hope someday they come to Philly. Adjacent to that was the Whole Foods stand, which was serving its Jamacian Jerk Beyond Meat dish. I’d never heard of the Beyond Meat brand but I sank my teeth into it and I have to say it was pretty solid. I got several coupons too, pricewise checking it out later, it actually isn’t too horribly expensive at all. Even at Whole Foods. Shocking.
There were other stands where I could also take in free samples and dishes; there were several mom-and-pops hawking their goods, edible or not. Vegan scrapple was being sold for $2 a serving though for some strange reason I passed up on this. It still looked legit as people who were eating it were raving about it.
I decided to take an Italian veggie cheesesteak from Miss Rachel’s Pantry, located on Passyunk Ave. On the side was a pineapple marinara dip. Solid. I wish I could make stuff like this.
The mayo stand was awesome too, though I preferred the chipotle kind as a dip. Although cage free eggs are a bit expensive, so naturally this is one of those products I wouldn’t be able to afford on a regular basis.
Harvest Grill is an upscale restaurant off UPenn’s campus. I sampled some of their hummus and it was quite good.
As an endurance runner, I was thrilled to see VegaBars up for grabs. They actually do taste good too!
The SoomFoods sesame tahini was amazing, especially the chocolate tahini. I don’t like Nutella because it is too sugary, but this is a fantastic substitute.
Finally guayusa tea. I’d never heard of this tea, unusual for a heavy tea drinker. But my family hails from South Asia and so I’m accustomed to Ceylon tea. According to Runa (runa.org), guayusa is a South American tea as defined on its webpage:
An Amazonian super-leaf that balances caffeine with an abundance of polyphenol antioxidants, providing you a clean and steady energy to make you feel “Runa” – fully alive.”
I took a few samples from the Mom’s Organic Market stand. I have since sampled them all, and I have to say, I love it. I liked the cinnamon lemongrass and the ginger citrus kinds.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this event. And even though I went alone, I had great conversation with other people who were also discovering new brands and new products. I also hung around and listened in on some of the cooking lessons they were trying to teach to a sitting audience. Overall I had a great time and most importantly I learnt a lot; the Humane League of Philadelphia did a bang-up job of getting these vendors together for a great event. I’m sure hoping that they have this next year and if I’m still in Philly, I’ll definitely keep an eye out.
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