A celebration for World Vegan Day was held in Melbourne on Sunday at the Abbottsford Convent, home of one of Melbourne’s famous vegetarian restaurants – Lentil as Anything.
I have a lot to say about the event but will stick to food related highlights for now and have my little rant later.
As we entered the event, Lentil as Anything was buzzing and rightfully so – their food has been well worth the trip every time I’ve visited. If you haven’t been there before, I highly recommend it!
There was interviews happening and show bags being handed out; none of which I seemed to have the patience for at the time. It was hot and I was hungry – and when I get hungry, I get a little crazy.
One of the first things I spotted was a Lord of the Fries banner which instantly brightened me up… Then I realised it was *just* a sponsorship banner and I wasn’t going to be getting any fries. Drat.
I decided to wander into the first building which had a variety of stalls in it. I was quickly drawn to some free chocolate samples – a table that was seemingly being mauled by women with sharp elbows. Ok, I’m totally exaggerating. But if those kind of women had been there, that’s what they would have been doing. Heck, I would have joined in and probably wouldn’t have been shy about stomping on some toes! Anyway, I managed to butt in and introduce myself and get a photo with the lovely people from Conscious Chocolate.
Can you tell how freakin’ hot it was in there by the look on my shiny, red face?
I bought two blocks of their chocolate. They’re not big blocks (45g, more like the size of a regular chocolate bar) and they’re $5 a pop, but OH MY LORD, they are unbelievably delicious! The samples were pretty soft which I assumed was a result of the temperature in there but after getting them home and refrigerating them for 24 hours, I ate some more and it turns out that it’s supposed to be soft and fudgy and delicious in my belly. What impressed me even more about this stuff is that when I ate it, I didn’t actually pick it as being raw chocolate. Honestly. Raw chocolate is often hard and bitter (in my experience) but this was soft and smooth and VERY more-ish. I’m a serious chocolate lover and self proclaimed chocolate snob – and this stuff won me over before I even knew anything about it.
Also – how freakin’ cute is the squirrel on the packaging?
The next lot of samples I found were stuffed into a corner and thus, Mr. AA & I didn’t have to fight anyone to get to them! Gluten free goodies – yay! this was Saf Patisserie‘s stall. According to their flyer, their specialty is allergy free delights. They make vegan, gluten free, nut free and raw sweets. (OK, the raw stuff is “coming soon” – a good sign. They’re keeping up with health food trends!)
For gluten free brownies, they were pretty good! In fact, I wouldn’t have picked them as being gluten free at all. There was quite a few things in their case, all desserts. I opted for a slice of rocky road, as it’s been YEARS since I had the stuff!
I was never much of a rocky road eater even before being vegan and I’ve always thought marshmallows were pretty disgusting – but that’s probably because I’d only ever eaten the cheap, nasty, gelatine laden marshmallows you get at the supermarket that are kinda chewy and a little powdery on the outside. (Sorry, tangent.) Anyway… Inside these was this beautiful, aerated, cloudy, fluffy goodness that I almost couldn’t believe! The ratio of chocolate to marshmallow to pistachios and other goodies in there was just PERFECT. I saved this for the day after I got home and ate it in a matter of seconds… And was pretty tempted to scoff Mr. AA’s slice, too. I behaved though; his piece is still in the fridge.
Next I dropped past the Vegan Online stall – they’re an online grocery store with just about everything and REALLY reasonable postage rates. I’ve ordered from them before and the experience was totally hassle free! Kym and her daughter Kelly were SO lovely. I scored a photo with them as well but am too embarrassed about how much more red my face was by that stage, so I’m not going to post it! (Yep, I’m that vain, haha.)
After leaving that building I was well and truly ready for some real food and something to drink. I contemplated the hot food area… It was a little odd. There was a smoothie stand where you had to ride a bike to power the blender to make your smoothie. Great in theory but honestly guys, I went there to stuff myself silly, not to exercise! Also, I make smoothies almost every morning for breakfast, so I found this rather unexciting.
A lot of the options were heavily processed food. There was a stand of Asian food that just screamed FRIED and MOCK MEAT which was a huge turn off… There was pizzas and calzones… I was actually starting to feel a little panicked at this stage because all I wanted was a fricken salad. We ended up making a quick decision to stop at the Indian Belly stand, which wasn’t too crowded/anxiety inducing.
Mr. AA & I grabbed a $3 samosa each. I’m not fond of anything deep fried because it generally will cause a serious belly ache for me, but these weren’t too greasy and because they were so big, they were more stuffing than pastry. They were perfectly spiced (with some kick but not enough to make my nose run) and a nice lemony flavour to balance it out.
We were also talked into trying the Bombay style sammies which were the perfect, cooling complement to the samosas. The only thing that REALLY disappointed me about these was that they were made with white bread. I hardly ever eat white bread and would choose wholegrain over it ANY day; that aside though, these were pretty excellent. They had cucumber, tomato, chutney and some other tangy good things in there. Sorry – I was too busy stuffing it in my face to dissect it and actually check what was inside it. Hahah. It was really refreshing though!
After having recharged with a bite to eat, I decided to explore the second building. I didn’t pick up any samples here but I took a couple of photos. I desperately tried to say hello to Karen from Radical Rabbit, Anikee from Radical Grocery & Jeremy from Vegan Perfection on more than one occassion but all of their stalls were pretty busy and I got bored with waiting in lines!
My final hoorah was to visit a sweet tooth’s wet dream and top off my day with a serious sugar overdose. I’d been looking forward to bringing home some Mister Nice Guy‘s vegan cupcakes ALL WEEK. Unfortunately they didn’t have any peppermint patty flavoured cupcakes with them (they’re my favourite and the only flavour I’d tried before this occassion), so I made a dramatic sad face, then asked the girl for “one of each please!”.
I took the box out onto the grass and sampled half of ONE cupcake, then took the rest home to sample over the next few days.
The flavours I scored, from left to right.
Jem: This one was REALLY tasty and I suspect that the frosting actually had real strawberries in it, which I thought was impressive! It didn’t have that foul, predictable, strawberry essence smell about it. It was really down to earth and unpretentious.
Count Chocula: I can’t argue with a chocolate cupcake. It’s just not polite. I loved this one.
Cherry B-Bomb (gluten free): The cupcake was perfect and I never would have picked it as gluten free. I loved the cherry on top. The icing was great flavour-wise, but texture-wise it was a little grainy… Though not grainy enough to stop me from eating it – I’d definitely have this flavour again!
Betty White: This one was so gorgeous/well presented! I loved the flavours, but the coconut flakes were a little chewy for me.
Lazy Way Lane: I’m actually guessing this flavour from the menu on their website. It looks like it’s this one, but I’m sure the one I was eating had a lime tang to it?? The cupcake was a little more dense than the others but still delicious. The tang *made* it for me.
French Toast: This was, hands down, my favourite out of all six. It was sweet but not sickly. The spices were subtle but noticable. It was seriously one of the most perfect cupcakes I’ve ever had in my life. I’m going to be having wet dreams about this one.
OK! So that’s all the important stuff re-capped with accompanying photographs. Now time for my overall thoughts of the event.
Raw-food wise, most of what I saw was dessert based. This frustrated me. I get that it’s easier to convert people to raw food with sweets (as opposed to green smoothies) and they’re a lot easier to sell to people as a special product than leafy greens, but I don’t think the category was fairly represented. In addition to the numerous dessert stands, there was a huge stand of Loving Earth products – which are great for a beginner, but they’re fairly pricey and with a bit of know-how and a dehydrator, you could make their special products at home. (I’m not trying to be nasty in ANY way, I’m just very realistic and practical when it comes to this stuff. Sorry guys.)
There was a lot of different animal welfare/rights stands spread across the place. At first I was pretty weary and thinking that the stalls were pointless and “preaching to the converted” but as Mr. AA pointed out, most of the people there probably weren’t even vegan so it would have been a good way to spread the word about their causes and get more people on board. Thankfully none of them were pushy and in your face about it – they were all very relaxed and friendly. I did not ONCE feel like I had to run away because someone was shoving flyers in my face. It just wasn’t that kind of environment and I’m really grateful for it.
As far as savoury foods go, you can tell I didn’t want to touch them with a ten foot pole. This is where I confess to you that I’m a total food prude. I try really hard to have a wholefoods diet and avoid as much processed food as possible. In this situation I was confronted with just about everything pre-packaged (bar some nut butters and a handful of other things) being processed. Vegan cheese, jelly crystals, marshmallow mix, various condiments… It was a wee bit of a nightmare. That, however, is my cross to bear. It’s clear to me that not every vegan eats the way I do and each to their own, right?
There was food demonstrations that I didn’t quite get to and a speed dating area that was advertising a “cuddle party” from 3.30pm-5pm. I don’t know what a cuddle party is exactly, but I was definitely going to stay away from it. Sounds to me like a creepy excuse to feel up strangers. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!
In regards to the event itself, I commend the organisers and think they did a great job of putting it together. There was a good mix of stands – food, animal rights, beauty products, shoes & bags and then other things that I wouldn’t even know how to categorise like lawyers for animals and cruelty free superannuation. I only discovered a few new things that I hadn’t heard of before; and the familliar faces made me feel a little less intimidated.
In future, I think the event would benefit from being a little more spread out, with some form of cooling/air circulation available in the buildings. I also think that, while I *LOVE* Lentil as Anything, having the event at the Abbottsford convent is really impractical in regards to parking, crowds etc. I wouldn’t mind seeing it set up as a weekend event outside of Melbourne. Whether it’s on a property where people can camp if they like or a town with lots of accommodation… Or even just a place that’s easily accessible as a “day trip” for people from Melbourne. Maybe when it’s a bigger event, it could be moved closer to central Victoria 😉