Monday, August 12, 2013

Veggie Fest! Naperville, Illinois 2013...

Veggie Fest Entrance

This weekend was the annual Vegetarian Festival in Naperville, Illinois, a two day event full of good eats, cool speakers, great demo’s, holistic health advice, free massages, free meditation lessons, activism, and so much more. Veggie Fest has been taking place during the second week of August for the past eight years, and I’ve been in attendance for the past four. It seems crazy to think that I’ve been going to this festival for four years and I’ve never once posted about it. I know the first year I didn’t post about it because that was before my time as a blogger, and before I was even a vegetarian let alone a vegan. The second year I was so excited to get out there and enjoy all the great eats in my first year of vegetarianism that I forgot my camera at home. Last year I did in fact bring my camera though I neglected to take many pictures and then once I got home updating about it totally slipped my mind. This year however I was a great blogger, I brought the camera and made sure to take a lot of pictures.

Live Music - Folk, Reggae, Spanish,
It's always a great mix of bands

Veggie Fest for me is the premier summer event, and I love it. Everything about it excites me and soothes my soul. I always end up talking to cool people, and learning new things. I love hanging around the activist booths and talking to other long-time and newbie vegans. It’s great to be in a big group of like minded people who are supportive. Being around so many cool vegans inspires me, and rekindles that fire inside that often dulls when there isn’t enough vegan stimulation around. That’s not to say that the non-vegans in my life aren’t supportive or inspirational, they are, just in a different way. The realities of the non-vegan world can be harsh, and sometimes it can be hard to deal with the constant meat-pushing culture all around you, that when you show up at veggie fest it’s like you’ve crossed into some magical oasis where nothing can hurt you, or bother you, and everything is uplifting. It’s always a great day for my husband and I.

Awesome Licence Plate in the parking lot

We decided to go on Sunday, which was the second day of the event. It opened at 11am, and we got there at 10 minutes to, but by the time we got our car parked and walked over to the grounds of the Science of Spirituality Center where the fest is held each year the gates were opened and we were ushered in. We started by registering. Then we headed off in search of what great vegan fun we could have. We were suppose to meet our friends J & L but they were running late so we decided to loop around. One of our first stops was the Book Publishing Company's tent, which is one of my favorite tents at Veggie Fest. I took a good long look at all the books on offer but really my eyes were only set on one. “Cookin’ Crunk” by Bianca Phillips. I have been reading Bianca’s blog Vegan Crunk  since shortly after I went vegan. It was one of the first blogs I happened to stumble across and I immediately loved it. She has a fun and easy style of writing that I appreciate and a real down-home, down to earth personality which I really like. Plus she always gives you the scoop on cool new vegan products and cool new vegan cook books. Since I always read the Veggie Fest Schedule online in advance I knew she was going to be at Veggie Fest this year doing a demo and I was uber excited about that. Her cook book has been sitting on my amazon wish list since it was published but I just hadn’t gotten around to buying it yet. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so, since I was hoping to get to chat with her and have her sign the book after her demo.

Empanada's and Guac

After buying the book my husband and I wandered into the food court where we promptly became excited for all that was on offer. Since Veggie Fest is a Vegetarian Festival not all of the food is vegan or vegan-friendly. Some years have been more vegan then others. The first two years we went were a bit low on vegan options, but last year was better, and I have to say that I think this year was the best yet. We started off by getting some empanada’s with guacamole and salsa. These were good, though I’ve made better at home. We followed the empanada’s up with a slice of vegan pizza! We were so excited to finally see Vegan pizza at veggie fest. Normally they only have vegetarian pizza and it’s always loaded with dairy cheese. This year they had a vegan slice with vegan sausage and it was super yummy! After that we took a quick circle around the grounds getting a preliminary look at the various tents, and then it was time to check out the first cool demo of the afternoon.

Sausage and 'Cheese' Pizza 

I was interested and excited to see Jennifer Cornbleet author of “Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2" do a chef demo. It was also the perfect time to get out of the sun as the weather had started heating up!  The demo was good and ran about thirty-five minutes or so. Jennifer had a great personality and really made raw food seem quick and easy. Her recipes all sound wonderful and she really takes some of the mystery out of raw food. For the demo she made a Raw Chocolate Mousse Tart with a Pecan crust. It was very simple and came together quickly, it was also delicious! The secret ingredient was avocado - as is the case with many raw mousses - and it was fantastic. I don’t buy raw cook books terribly often because I find many of them to be too fussy and involved, but after watching Jennifer’s demo I think I’ll definitely have to pick up a copy of the revised - and newly republished - edition of her book.

Jennifer Cornbleet during her Demo 

It was sometime during Jennifer’s demo that our friends J & L finally arrived. It was good to see them as I actually haven’t seen them since Christmas. Spoken with them on the phone and via social media of course but actually see them in the physical world? Yeah it’s been a while. So we chatted for a few minutes then took in the circuit, making our way back over to the food court. My husband ended up getting the vegan masala dosa from Art of Dosa, and I got a vegan corn dog. The corn dog was just okay, the dog part was delicious and tasted as good as I remember any traditional hot dog tasting. The Okay part was the corn batter. It wasn’t as crisp or flavorful as I would have liked, but then perhaps I wasn’t thrilled with it because I never liked regular corn dogs? Who knows. I always say I’m going to get one and then I never do, so this year I made sure to finally go for it.

Miyoko Schinner at her Demo 

After that it was time for the next demo, and this one I was super excited for. Miyoko Schinner of “Artisan Vegan Cheese” Fame. I saw her demo at Chicago Vegan Mania last year - yes I know I never posted about it and I’m sorry! - and she was fantastic, unfortunately at that time I didn’t have a copy of her book nor did I have the time to stick around and chat with her after her demo was over. Mania was well manic! I got her book a coupe of weeks after Vegan Mania and since I’ve made seven or eight cheese recipes from it that I have absolutely loved and adored. She really brings a whole new level to vegan cheese and her’s are seriously the best I’ve ever had. Much better then even the best store-bought vegan cheese. So I packed up my copy of “Artisan Vegan Cheese” from home with the intention of having her sign it after the demo.

Guy in an awesome carrot costume!

Her demo by the way was great. She is so full of life and energy. She radiates what it means to be a joyful vegan and she’s funny! I loved watching her, and even when things didn’t go exactly right - the stove heated to quickly and gave her a bit of trouble - she still kept her cool and rolled with it. She said that she’s more of a ‘throw a bit of this and a bit of that in’ kind of cook, and I can definitely identify with that. That’s really my style too, having to jot down everything I put into a recipe can be so tedious but it must be done if you want others to create it with the same luck as you. So for her demo she did a lox flavored cream cheese that she served on a bagels. I’ve never had lox before so I don’t know what that tastes like, but it reminded me of a seafood dip from my childhood. It was delicious! Next up she made a sun-dried tomato and basil cream cheese also served on a bagel and it was amazing! Lastly she made fresh mozzarella that she served in a panzanella salad. This too was fantastic. I loved that all these recipes were quick and easy, and they really re-inspired me to pick up “Artisan Vegan Cheese” again and make some stuff.

Great bumper sticker on  that cool car with the vegan
Licence plate. Love stuff like this! 

So after the demo was over, I went over to where she was signing the books and brought out my copy of “Artisan Vegan Cheese” the book signing line was quite long and so I didn’t want to take up too much of her time. I just told her how much I loved the book, how I’d made many cheeses from it and how even my husband loved the recipes I’d made from the book, which is saying something since he’s never been a cheese lover - vegan or otherwise. Miyoko was super nice, and friendly and I walked away feeling really good.

Corn Dog

After Miyoko’s demo we met back up with J & L who told us they were bailing on Veggie Fest. We’d hardly spent any time with them yet as they didn’t attend any of the demo’s with us, so that was a bit of a disappointment. They said it was too hot, and too crowded, and so we said our goodbyes and parted ways. I like being at veggie fest with friends, because I love the group experience, but it was no less fun with just my husband and I.

Delicious and Refreshing Frozen Soy Cappuccino 

After J & L left we walked around some more and checked out various booths. We went over to Mercy For animals, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and Vegan Mania tables. We went back to the Book Publishing Company’s table and then back to the Food Court where we sampled products by Earth Balance, Cobra Corn, Tasty Bites and other great stuff that I can’t exactly recall now. Then we wetted our whistles with some Frozen Soy Cappuccino’s! Which were super delicious and hit the spot!

Then it was time to head back over to the demo tents to watch Bianca Phillips! This is the demo I was the most excited about. She’s been around doing demo’s at different vegetarian and vegan festivals all year, and I get to read about all the cool things she makes on her blog so I was really curious to see which recipe from “Cookin’ Crunk” she was going to make. She ended up making the Creole Sausages which were really delicious. Now I’m a bit picky about my seitan, and since she prepared the sausages in advance they were cold when served which I would normally not like, but the flavor of them was really fantastic. I know they’ll be really great grilled or fried, and they had a fantastic texture. I also really loved that they were made with white beans as well as gluten flour. I think the beans gives them a much milder flavor then the kinds of seitan sausages that are made solely with gluten.

Bianca Phillips during her demo
Check out that cute 'Cookin' Crunk' Apron

Though Bianca’s demo was quite short I enjoyed it! She’s as easy going and funny in person as she is on her blog, and you really get a sense of her passion for cooking good comforting food. After her demo my husband and I walked over to where she was going to sign books. I was second in line and since the line wasn’t too busy yet I was able to talk to her for more then 5 seconds, which was super cool. She’s really sweet, and friendly and I walked away feeling pretty happy about my new signed copy of ‘Crunk’

It was around that time that my husband’s mom showed up with his cousin C. Neither of whom are vegan or even vegetarian - though C was vegetarian for a time. - His mom had decided to drop by and check the festival out this year to see what it was all about and she thought C might like to come along. It was nice to have them there and it was cool to take them around and show them the different things going on, and see them enjoying the food. Back in the food court my husband and I couldn’t refuse a plate of delicious sushi. Originally I wasn’t going to get any because I’ve had it before and it’s typically the same. Teriyaki shiitake mushroom maki. It’s good, but doesn’t blow my socks off. This year however they really gave their sushi a new look, and it had way more flavor. C bought some and when I saw her plate I couldn’t not try it, it just looked to good to be true.

Look at that amazing sushi! 

After we packed away the delicious sushi we shared some of my husband’s mom’s fries, and watermelon, grabbed some lemonades, and capped the food festivities off by each enjoying a slice of Pineapple Upside down cake. The fries, cake lemonade and watermelon I forgot to photograph but trust me when I say they were all good.

Once we were stuffed to the bursting point we did a few more circles of the grounds, and headed into the meditation tent to learn how to meditate on our inner light. This was my husband’s idea which surprised me because usually it’s me suggesting stuff like this. Originally I had no interest in meditating at that moment but he was going so I decided to go too. It was a fun experience, and peaceful. The meditation was guided by a lovely Austrian woman, and I felt so at east that I was ready to fall asleep. As for seeing my inner light, well I’m not 100% sure. I often see light when I close my eyes, so I don’t know if this is just a strange thing about me, or if I’m always able to see my ‘inner light’ perhaps I should meditate on it some more.

Crowd in the Food Court

After that it was time to head out. We ended up leaving around quarter past five which is the earliest we’ve ever left Veggie Fest. Normally we hang around till it closes down and listen to the music and dance, but with J & L gone, no more room in our bellies to eat, no more demo’s to watch, and having already looked over everything more then once it was time to head out. Leaving Veggie Fest is always sad, but as it turned out we left just in time, because about twenty or so minutes after we headed out it began pissing rain.

I can’t wait until next year’s Veggie Fest, but until then I have the Toronto Vegetarian Festival to look forward to - if there are any Toronto area vegetarians or vegans going, let me know maybe we can meet up! - and Chicago Vegan Mania just a few weeks after. It’s gonna be end to the year!

If you couldn't make it this year I hope you come out next year.
Veggie Fest is held Annually in Naperville the second week of August.
On the grounds of the Science and Spirituality Meditation Center.
4S 175 Naperville-Wheaton Road


  1. Looked like fun! Food looked AWESOME!!!! Have to say love the guy in the carrot costume...nice to see him in the spirit of things!!!

  2. Glad you had such a great time. Funny, I was at both Miyoko and Bianca's demos that day too. Maybe we'll overlap at VeganMania as well :-)

  3. Wow, how crazy that we were both in the same place at the same time TWICE! I'll definitely be at Vegan Mania this year, can't wait! We should meet up =)