Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vegetarian Summerfest

I just returned from the 37th annual Vegetarian Summerfest held at the lush University of Pittsburgh campus in Johnstown, PA.  The event is sponsored by the North American Vegetarian Society, one of the country's oldest vegetarian education organizations. I've been dreaming of visiting this magical world for the past 14 years, and I'm glad I finally did.

For those looking for the latest news, trends, nutrition information, and culinary delights in the realm of vegetarianism, this is the place to get it all.  Highlights for me included introductory remarks by George Eisman, RD on the basic foundation of plant-based nutrition.

Compassionate Cooks founder Colleen Patrick Goudreau followed with an inspiring talk called "How to Be a Joyful Vegan in a Non-Vegan World."  And she truly practices what she preaches (not that she was preaching... this was inspiring).

The always passionate yet sweet Jenny Brown told her personal journey of becoming vegan and later founding Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary with her husband Doug Abrams.  She was so compelling it felt as if she was having a friendly chat with her audience, and it was so comfortable that I completely forgot to snap a photo.  (but please check out the website - it's such a great organization)

The next day I enjoyed two fabulous cooking demonstrations, one by vegan dessert expert, Fran Costigan, and the other by raw chef extraordinaire, Chad Sarno.  I've been a fan of Fran's Great Good Desserts Naturally which I found in a used bookstore and was one of the first vegan cookbooks I ever bought for over ten years.  It was great seeing her create her famous Chocolate Layer Cake to Live for, among many other delectable recipes.

As great as this was, I was floored by the afternoon's presentation by Chad Sarno.  He was well-organized, efficient, informative, passionate, and entertaining all at the same time.  I particularly appreciated him disclosing his childhood addiction to tater tots and Hershey's Quick, having formerly been a fluffernutter addict myself.

In under 2 hours, he managed to pull off a 4-course menu of some of the most beautiful and delicious raw food I've ever experienced.  If you are fortunate enough to be traveling to London or Istanbul, be sure to visit Saf, the raw food restaurant he helped create.

As if this wasn't enough, a veritable parade of vegan superstars followed:  Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neil Barnard (who was inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame), Dr. Michael Greger, Will Tuttle, Rae Sikora, Julieanna Hever, James Leveck, Rynn Berry, Michael Weber... and so many more I was unable to attend due to schedule conflicts.

A special shout-out goes to Maribeth Abrams, board member of NAVAS, who emcee'd much of the event and made sure everything ran smoothly.  I can't imagine all the work that went into coordinating this massive event, and I hope all those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes are treating themselves to some compassionate relaxation today!  

 The always entertaining and informative Dr. Michael Greger

More Chocolate Decadence by Fran Costigan

Chef Sarno's Watermelon Tots (background) and Beet Ravioli 
with Cashew "Ricotta," Pickled Apricots, and Microgreens

Raw Chile Relleno with Jalapeno "Cheese," Shaved Pear and 
Pea Shoot Salad, Red Mole and Green Cilantro Sauce

(I'm in love with) Chef Chad Sarno

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