Today I will take a tiny break from my regularly scheduled recipe blogging to report on the first ever Los Angeles Vegan Street Fair, that took place yesterday March 1st, 2015. This event was highly anticipated because it had free admission and promised small bites for sale from all the different vegan and veg-friendly restaurants in the LA area. This is super exciting because the other two large vegan events in Los Angeles (Vegan Beer and Food Fest and Vegan Octoberfest) are largely beer-centric and have much larger servings of food. This means you have to choose wisely because food from just one or two vendors will fill you right up. So the unique appeal of the Vegan Street Fair was the small bites and low prices.
My two girlfriends and I went on a gorgeous hike in the Griffith Park mountain trails ahead of time, to feel fully justified in stuffing our faces at the fair. It was the most beautiful sunny day!
So back to the Vegan Street Fair. We were probably the luckiest people in the whole fair when it came to parking, because someone was pulling out of a spot right when we got in. I talked to others who looked for a spot for over an hour. The festival used a ticket system, so you had to buy a pack of tickets and use those to buy food (to eliminate vendors making change and swiping cards, this was supposed to make everything go faster.) Well the line for the tickets was like 400 people long and took about an hour. So yeah, that REALLY sucked. Then after you get your tickets, you have to pick a vendor you want food from and wait in that line for about an hour. 10,000 people RSVP’d on facebook and I would say there were more like 12,000 who showed up, AND, this all took place on one city block. Suffice to say, it was so crowded you couldn’t walk.
Look at all those tents, do you see definitive lines of people for each one? Nope, because to be brutally honest, this event was a cluster fuck. And yet, every single tent did have a 50-something person line. You were just damned trying to find the last person in each one to stand behind. The first line we stood in for maybe 40 minutes and when we got up to the window, they were out of the item we wanted- a sweet potato shepherd’s pie. So, we got the only other item on the menu, which was a sort of curry chicken salad with red cabbage and wheat berries I believe from The Rabbit Hole .
It doesn’t look like much, but this was truly delicious, I was so surprised by how good it was. I think there was rye in the wheat berries? It really blew me away.
Then things got bonkers. We went to stand in like for some falafel wraps from Ihsan’s Falafel. I really wanted this because I hadn’t eaten all day other than that little bite of salad above, and these looked like pretty heft portions. So we get in line and wait. And suddenly it starts raining. And then, it started hailing! Huge pea-sized ice balls pelting us from above and there was nothing we could do because we were in such a thick crowd, we couldn’t walk or move toward shelter- we could barely hold onto each other. Plus, we didn’t want to lose our precious place in line. So we just stood there and laughed and got pelted and shuffled forward, dreaming of falafel. We get up to the window after 40 or so minutes only to find that we had never actually been in a line. There was ANOTHER line, coming from the other direction, and they were juuuuuust more assertive enough than us to stand their ground and claim their line as the true line. So we gave up on falafel, so sad.
Next, we decided on Plant Food For People tacos. Now this taco spot is actually a few blocks from my house and I eat there all the time, but my friends hadn’t tried it and their line looked pretty well defined. So we got in line and waited for…drumroll please…. 2 hours!!!!!!! Oh my gosh I can’t explain how crowded this place was. While we were in line, we took turns going off to the less popular vendors and trying to snag some snacks to tamper our line-waiting-related insanity. The Whole Foods tent was nearby and had only about 20 people waiting, so I managed to grab us a few things:
This fried tofu was pretty good but I probably wouldn’t have personally chosen it to be the showcase item I’d want to represent my company at a festival, you know if I was the king of Whole Foods. I mean it’s just a chunk of tofu! The most important thing was that it was piping hot, and that definitely made me happy as we shivered in line. The next two items…well…check them out:
Here you have a ‘creme brulee’, but the rain caused their blow torch to stop working so it was just really a vanilla custard.
And here you have some ‘Toona Salad’ with some hideous crackers. Really Whole Foods? That looks totally disgusting. I hear it was good, but for real, that looks so nasty. And that cardboard thing could be 4 times smaller, so wasteful. I was baffled by these last two items. Baffled I tell you.
Finally though, after our two hour wait and a couple confrontations with some aspiring line cutters, we got the goods, the Plant Food For People Tacos:
These jackfruit tacos are what I am constantly trying to replicate with my jackfruit taco recipes, but mine will never be as good as these, these are the best tacos EVER. The rain had died down a bit at this time and these tacos revived our spirits, and finally quelled our horribly gnawing hunger. They were a life saver.
While eating our tacos we tried to get some donuts from the renowned Donut Friend, but alas, they ran out of donuts when we only had 3 people in front of us to go. So sad. We did however get this lovely chocolate peanut butter cup from Bramble Bakeshop:
I must say this was a very unassuming looking chocolate cup, but it was actually fantastic, It had a crispy banana chip inside and that salty toasted coconut on top was delicious. We also grabbed some great brownies from Charlie’s Brownies, that you would never guess were gluten free and vegan, they were lovely. We got salted caramel brownies and these yummy s’mores brownies.
We had bought $40 worth of tickets each but after about 3 and half hours, we were really burnt out and ready to go home. We were really forlorn that we still had so many unspent tickets, but the problem was, it was just too hard to spend them. All the vendors were running out of food and we were SO SO COLD that we couldn’t bear to stand in line for another hour for one more tiny morsel.
So you might take away from this post that overall I thought this event was a huge disaster :D. I know some people probably thought so. Especially if you read the comments on the event’s facebook page, oooooooh boy some grumpy-pants commenters are pretty darn whiney about it. But here’s the way I look at it: Over 10,000 people showed up to a jam-packed event, they braved a pretty intense and long hail storm, and stood in lines for hours and hours, all for the chance to try some small bites of vegan food. That is a pretty spectacular thing if you ask me! It is so heartening to see this movement gaining so much momentum, such that a vegan event was bursting at the seams! People had vegan t-shirts on, people were smiling, everyone was making friends and sharing their joy for a cruelty-free lifestyle. I even met 2 people that I follow on instagram who I didn’t even know in real life until yesterday. Despite all the flaws and trials of this event, it really made my heart swell with pride for our compassionate group of animal lovers and health nuts. My friends and I agree, we had a pretty fun adventure at the Vegan Street Fair. And I will be there again next year!