EVENT PREVIEW: NYC Vegetarian Food Festival 2014 – March 1-2 [NYC]

NYC Vegetarian Food Festival

photo credit: NYC Vegetarian Food Festival

Hey healthy-eaters: The fourth annual NYC Vegetarian Food Festival is nearly here! Set to take the city by storm March 1-2, 2014, this cruelty-free fest promises to enrich your body, mind, and spirit, and deliver food so delicious you meat-lovers may forget there’s nary an animal product in sight. So whether you fancy yourself herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore, get your tickets now and get ready to have your mind – and tastebuds – blown away.

Since its incarnation in 2011, the Festival has grown so popular that organizers expanded the event from 1 day to an entire weekend filled with edible and entertaining attractions. From 11am – 6pm on both Saturday and Sunday, attendees will get to sample treats and products from vegan vendors, attend presentations given by restaurant owners, chefs, cardiologists and world-class athletes, and even laugh along with Comedy Central comedian (and hilarious vegan), Myq Kaplan. Bonus: each ticket gives you 2 free entries into the raffle that benefits this year’s chosen charity, The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food.

Festival highlights include a presentation from author Ellen Jaffe Jones entitled “Managing a Vegan Diet on a Shoestring,” which focuses on dispelling the myth that a plant-based diet is just for the wealthy; Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby, chef/owners of the critically-acclaimed Philadelphia restaurant Vedge, providing recipes and stories from their innovative kitchen; and participation from NYC vegetarian darlings One Lucky Duck, Terri NYC, and Alchemy Creamery.

In a press release from the organizers, Festival co-founder Sarah Gross invites everyone to join the party: “Don’t let the name mislead you,” she says. “This Festival is for non-vegetarians and vegetarians alike. If you’re interested in good food, new products, health and wellness, or simply looking for something entertaining (and educational) for both you and your kids, this is a must-attend event!”

Gross was kind enough to answer a few questions for us here at The Couch Sessions, and she offers up her Festival recommendations, gives advice to any wary meat-lovers, and shares her favorite spots for cruelty-free feasting in NYC:

This festival is now in its fourth year – what are some of the stand-out successes you’ve had since the first run in 2011? What have been some of your biggest challenges?

Our biggest success has been the receptiveness of the public. People have voted with their feet and their time to give us over-capacity crowds. After the first year, we decided to expand from a 1-day to a 2-day format, and we’ve kept it that way. This year we’re expanding upwards to another floor in the Metropolitan Pavilion! And the crowds presented our biggest challenge as well. That first year, people complained that they waited in line for hours to get in, and then many never actually were able to get in. We hated that. So it became a top priority for us to move people in quickly and efficiently.

What are you really looking forward to this year? What are some can’t-miss events and/or vendors for guests?

I’m super excited by our world-class speakers. We have 2 ivy-league-trained cardiologists who will be singing the praises of a vegan diet for optimal health. We have the star vegan chefs who run the super-cool vegan restaurant in Philadelphia, called Vedge. and we have more than 100 vendors of vegan foods and clothing and home products. I think I’ll be most excited to sample the wares of vegan cheese makers Nuttin’ Ordinary and The Gardener Cheese Company.

Beyonce made headlines in December for adopting a 22-day vegan diet, which some people may look at as a quick way to lose weight. What advice would you give to people who really want to make a lifestyle change, and are interested in a plant-based diet for the long-haul?

Go gradually and go at your own pace. You’ll find out it’s not about sacrifice and giving up foods that you love. It’s more about discovering new, delicious foods that you’ve never tried before, and about feeling more energetic, and about the serenity that comes from being more in tune with the other animals with whom we share this planet.

What would you say to those of us who do eat meat, but are interested in attending the festival?

Come hungry! Our vendors will be offering up samples of their most delicious and innovative top-sellers. In most cases you might not even realize you’re eating vegan–you’ll only recognize that your taste buds are euphoric! You will also have the chance to learn some amazing cooking techniques, do craft activities with the kids, enter a raffle to benefit a non-profit group that is working to get schools to offer healthy lunches, and laugh your head off during Myq Kaplan’s stand-up comedy routine.

Where do you like to eat and drink in the city? What are your favorite spots for great meals that are also free of animal products?

Candle 79 is my favorite upscale vegan restaurant. I’m also a big fan of John’s of 12 Street, S’nice, and Caravan of Dreams.

The event is just a week and half away, so make sure you get your tickets now! You’ll be rewarded for your advance purchase: online sales are $30 for each day ($50 for passes for both delicious days), and $40 at the door ($60 for weekend passes). We’ll see you there!