Next Month’s First-Ever Vegetarian Food Fest For Locavores, Flexitarians, Vegans or Anybody Who Wants to Eat Less Meat

Photo by New York City Vegetarian Food Festival

These days food fests for feasting on everything from oysters to pickles are so ubiquitous you might be surprised to learn that until now, non meat-eating New Yorkers haven’t had any fetes to call their own. Cue the first annual New York Vegetarian Food Festival on April 3. Founded by Sarah Gross (a vegan for 12 years who runs a vegan chocolate company) and Nira Paliwoda (a pescetarian who works in entertainment event management), the fest will include panels, cooking demos and new products from mock meats to fermented foods.

Still the Festival’s focus is on healthful living whether you are a locavore, a flexitarian or a vegan, say the founders. In fact eating less meat is these days a goal not just for vegetarians but for a growing number of omnivores who may want to replace some of the protein in their diet with plants because they are concerned about their health, their carbon footprint, and the high cost of the meat that might match their morals.

Liz Neumark, CEO of Great Performances, one of Manhattan’s foremost catering companies and the only with their own organic farm (shown above and recently profiled in this magazine) says that there’s definitely a shift in eating more vegetables and less beef, pork and chicken at her events. “There are more examples of full blown high-end galas where the main course is fish,” she says. “Within the last two to three years, at black tie dinners for non-profits no one would think of serving branzino, but in the last fall, over half a dozen galas served fish as their mains.”

Neumark observes that it happens at two ends of the spectrum: The twenty-somethings that are concerned about good food practices and how what they eat affects the earth, and on the other end the baby boomers, who are watching their health.

Paliwoda learned more about the meat-free lifestyle when she met Gross, who owns Rescue Chocolates, a vegan chocolate company with a charitable bent. Each year Gross and fellow plant eaters make annual trips to The Boston Vegetarian Food Festival. A Manhattan version, says Gross of that veggie fest, was “long overdue.”

Beyond products, demos and samples from local veggie-friendly restaurants, non-profits such as PETA and The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, a statewide nonprofit, will be on hand to discuss what they do and why. There’ll also be the decadent chocolate and brown sugar cookies from Liz Lovely, a Vermont bakery. “One bite of that and you’ll be like, ‘vegan isn’t that bad,’” insists Gross. In fact the festival seeks to debunk the myth that non-dairy confections are less tantalizing than the real deal, starting with a doughnut and cupcake-eating contest, sponsored by Dun-Well Doughnuts and Sweet Cheeks Vegan Bakery.

It’s ultimately a little more educated eating, rather than total lifestyle change – at least at first – that’s the goal of the festival,” says Gross: “If they can incorporate just a little bit of new food in their diet, and because of this, eat a little less meat or animal products, then the festival will be a success.”

Published in Edible Manhattan:

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