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bethlehem vegfestI’m so excited to share this post today! This past weekend I attended Bethlehem Vegfest for the first time. The Lehigh Valley has a very special place in my heart. I started out going to college in that area until I transferred, and for a summer I lived in Bethlehem while doing a production of Godspell. Of course, I wasn’t vegan then. College was a long time ago. I don’t know what the vegan options were during that time in the Bethlehem area, but I gotta tell ya…it’s booming right now! Here are some of my favorite things I saw (and tasted!) while I was there.

The day started out pretty yucky, but thanfully, the worse of the rain had passed. Despite the gray clouds, and the occasional mist of rain that resurfaced, it was a wonderful experience. The first stop…The Cinnamon Snail. I arrived pretty early on right when the festival was supposed to officially start, and of course, there was already a line that had formed for this all-organic, all-vegan lunch truck. I ordered the Thai BBQ Tempeh on gluten free bread and the hubby ordered the weekly special: peking seitan with tamarind plum sauce, 5-spice roasted brussel sprouts, bean sprouts, arugula, and wasabi mayon on a grilled baguette. Yes. Yes, you read that right.photo 2 photo 1 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5After having something savory, it was time to try something sweet. We popped over to Alchemy Creamery, a non-dairy ice cream company based out of Long Island City, and sampled the Chocolate Chai and Salted Peanut Butter. If you follow my blog or any of my social media channels, you know I’m a hopeless chocoholic. But I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy the chocolate chai. Maybe it was the spices, despite the subtlety of them. I’m pretty picky when it comes to what you mix in with my chocolate. But the peanut butter…so yummy! It wasn’t as smooth and luscious as my favorite vegan ice cream (Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss), but it definitely was tasty.photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1) photo 4 (1) photo 5 (1)Once we had some food in our bellies, it was time to listen to a talk by Gene Baur. If you don’t know who Gene Baur is, check him out on Google and social media. He is an activist, best-selling author, and president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, in short. I even purchased his book “Farm Sanctuary” that I’m greatly looking forward to reading. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to meet him or get him to sign my book, but his inspirational talk was good enough for me. Without a microphone or a written speech in hand, Gene talked intelligently and passionately about the plight of animals and workers that are victims of the factory farming system. He dispelled common myths about the vegan diet. And he took the time to do a Q&A session with the group (sitting and standing!) that assembled before him. He spoke with confidence, ease, but also with vigor. I sure do hope I get to tell him some day how much I enjoyed being able to hear him speak.Gene BaurThe inspiration I felt from Gene’s talk must have kickstarted my metabolism because I was ready to try more local eats. We decided to hit up Shankara and try their Buddha Bowl: quinoa and lentils and cabbage with lovely curry sauce and spices, some sort of tomato-y topping and the neatest crunchy lentil toppings, the likes of which I had never experienced. It was warm and comforting and a great option for somewhat dreary weather.Shankara Bethlehem PA photo 3 photo 4Finally, it was time to do a little walking. We strolled throughout the festival listening to the local bands, collecting little samples, and generally just checked out the vendor turnout. There were many more local vegan food vendors and an awesome turnout of vegan organizations. There were also many sustainable living vendors. Truly, there were too many to photograph before my phone battery died. Luckily, I was able to snap some photos of some of the animal rescue organizations that were present, namely Pg Placement Network and Beagle Freedom Project. The beagle I met, I think her name is Nora, had only recently been rescued from a life as a laboratory test subject. She even has the tattoo on the inside of her ear…heartbreaking!photo 1 (2) photo 3 (1) photo 5 (1) photo 4 (1)photo 5 (2) photo 2 (1) photo 4 (2) photoThere were also a fair amount of cooking demos at Bethlehem Vegfest. Two of the demos were given by some of my favorite ladies in the vegan community: Jaime K of “Save the Kales”, one of my favorite YouTube vegan cooking shows and Dianne Wenz of the nutritious food blog Veggiegirl. Dianne is also one of the editors of Chic Vegan. Sign up for the Chic Vegan emails; I love getting their weekly updates, cookbook and product reviews, and recipes!

It’s actually a lot of work for me to go up and introduce myself to people I admire. That’s probably why I wasn’t more aggressive at trying to meet Gene Baur. I’m always thinking, “Why would this person want to meet me? There are so many more amazing and accomplished people in the vegan community.” But I just couldn’t NOT meet Jaime and Dianne; I’d even already made the commitment to saying hello to them via tweet, ha ha! At any rate, both ladies were SO kind and sweet and warm and welcoming! And let me tell you, Jaime gives the BEST hugs! Her bubbly camera personality is just as energetic in person.

Jaime made a series of dishes, and I think what I have below is some sort of fruity gazpacho (I can’t remember the exact name of her dish) and a bite of her raw pizza with arugula and cashew cheese sauce. Dianne made a rockin’ tempeh and broccoli with a peanut sauce (one of my absolute favorites!) which was so good I forgot to snap a pic of my sample!photo 1 (1) photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5

At this point, you would think I was full. But no, I was going to be the heavyweight champion eater of this vegfest. I had come from out-of-state after all. At any rate, after the savory samples from the food demos, I decided it was time for something sweet.

One of my major reasons for coming up to this vegfest was to hit up Vegan Treats. I’ve had their vegan baked goods many times, but I’ve never gone to their actual store front. So…I controlled myself at the vegfest. The hubby and I split a doughnut. A chocolate peanut butter doughnut with a cookie dough crumble. Oh. my. GOOD-ness!photo 1 (4) photo 2 (3)I really only had a few bites. Then I just oggled the vegan foodporn before me on the Vegan Treats tables while choirs of angels were singing somewhere over their tent.photo 1 (3) photo 1 photo 2 (2) photo 2 photo 3 (2) photo 3 photo 4 (2) photo 4 photo 5 (2) photo 5At this point in our day, the tail end of the vegfest was approaching and the being-on-my-feet-all-day feeling started to get to me. I went back over to Jaime’s tent to say one last time how inspiring she is to me, and receive one last bear hug. I also asked for her to recommend a local restaurant within walking distance for us to sit down and have a good meal. She recommended a nearby Malaysian restaurant that was very vegan-friendly. I’d never had Malaysian food, so boom! Decision made.

The place was called Jenny’s Kuali. I had a wonderful tofu, veggie, and rice dish, while the hubby ordered a similar dish but with a curry sauce. It was awesome! I would go back again in a heartbeat.photo 1 (2) photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1) photo 4 (1)And now, dear readers, it’s time for me to tell you about the part where my dreams came true. After dinner, I went to THE Vegan Treats. I came, I saw, I conquered! We bought a bunch of things to take home and eat for later, but also made sure to try the froyo! After all, it’s not like the folks at Vegan Treats can bring their vegan ice cream out into the hot days of the vegfest season. I, being the chocoholic that I am, ordered the brownie batter soft serve, while the hubby order the twist: brownie batter and peanut butter. Swooooon!

To go, we picked up a chocolate cannoli, a death-by-chocolate gluten free cake, a peanut butter cup, a hazelnut brownie, a cinnamon bun, and a sticky bun. The ice cream and the chocolate cake were by far my favorites! I think my hubby’s favorite was the sticky bun.photo 5 (2) photo 1 (1) photo 2 (1) photo 4 (1) photo 3 (1) photo 5 (3) photo 1 photo 2 photo 4 photo 5 photo 3 photo 1 (2) photo 4 (2)As I headed home Sunday morning, suffice it to say I was a definite 3-5 pounds heavier, and happier than I have been in a long time. The turnout of the vegan community in the Lehigh Valley area filled my heart with such hope for the future. I met some of my personal heroes in the “vegan celebrity” world, and I had enough vegan chocolate to last a lifetime. Well…maybe not a lifetime. Just until I work off these 3-5 pounds 😉