Last Saturday, the Rose Bowl was awash with foodies, beer lovers and animal aficionados for this years “Eat, Drink, Vegan” festival, which served thousands of rowdy revelers in the sunny, Pasadena heat.
Over 75 food vendors from all over Southern California converged at the stadium to serve up signature vegan dishes from their menus, while others created dishes specifically for the event. Guests were greeted at the entrance with their very own free 4 oz. taster glass to sample the vast amount of beverages offered.
The VIP area offered beverage samples not available to the general admission festival goers, and Sweet Beats LA had their DJ truck on hand to provide a hip soundtrack to the festivities.
Attendees had a bevy of beverage options from craft beers, ciders, kombuchas and organic coffee to cool off with, including refreshing ciders from Shacksbury Cider company and a black coffee lager from Zona Rosa Brewing Company.
Luke and Amberly Schmuecker, partners of the Vermont-based Shacksbury Cider, sampled out two of their craft drinks to the crowd, their Arlo Cider and their Dry Cider. Schmuecker explained the brewing process while handing out samples.
“The Arlo cider has a blend of apples from vast regions of Spain with apples from Vermont. It’s made with native yeast from the skins of apples and it’s keg conditioned for a super fresh, funky flavor,” Schmuecker said.
“Instead of force-carbonating the keg, what we’re doing is we’re leaving enough sugar in there so as the yeast eats through the sugar and produces carbon dioxide, it’s naturally producing carbonation in the keg.”
Their dry craft cider is a blend of fruit from Vermont and the UK. The dry cider typically has a higher quality fruit blended together and tasted similar to a traditional UK-style cider. The cider has a very light, refreshing taste similar to a dry wine spritzer.
Health-Ade Kombucha was probably the most popular booth for the Kombucha drinkers, giving out samples of their pink lady apple, ginger lemon and super greens fermented tea drink.
As for the black coffee lager, sampled only in the VIP area, the German-style lager was a major hit with attendees. Michael Moreno, President and CEO of Zona Rosa coffee, explained their new brew.
“We’ve been doing organic coffee since 1993 and I like to think the first in the US doing organic coffee that’s only in Latin America,” Moreno said.
Moreno stated that he wanted the beer to be refreshing and clean with hints of their coffee. This was the first showing of the beer to the public and the company hopes to take it to markets and then bottle and sell it in other shops around Pasadena.
“We decided to launch a coffee beer but with a lager instead of stout or porter. It’s got hints of our coffee and Schwartz Beer black lager flavor which is gonna be a bit of a richer roasty flavor, some hints of honey, some hints of chocolate it’s a little different because most of the coffee beers in the industry are mostly porters or stouts so this is kind of a first, or we like to think it is, so we’ll see where it goes from there,” Moreno said.
The longest lines at the festival were inarguably the food lines. The most popular vendors such as Sweetfin Poke, Cafe Gratitude, The Abbots Butcher, Donut Farm, Pomodoro e Basilico and Chickpea and Olive had festival goers standing in line for up to 30-40 minutes to place an order.
Chickpea and Olive in collaboration with Donut Friend featured a mouthwatering fried chicken sandwich, with a sweet glazed donut as the bread. There were limited portions of this sandwich which sold out quickly, to the dismay of many who still craved the sweet treat.
One of the longest lines of the day was for The Abbots Butcher, who served up a delicious BBQ cheeseburger and chorizo tacos.
The festival not only had local attendees, but many out-of-towners came from all over to partake in the gourmet vegan fare.
Austin Texas resident Stephanie Evans was a first time visitor to Eat Drink Vegan, and an accomplished plant-based chef who goes by the name Botanical Eats on Instagram.
“I’ve been vegan since 2012. I grew up eating really crappy foods and my grandma passed away at a relatively young age. I met someone and I learned that food makes a difference so I said okay I’d love to learn more about health in terms of food,” Evans said.
“So I dropped out of college, applied and got into culinary school, and like my whole life changed. I stopped eating fast food and started eating healthier.”
The festival didn’t just feature food and drinks. There were endless vendors selling vegan hair, skin and body products, make-up, clothing and accessories. Crushed Earth Cosmetics was a popular booth offering free samples for customers to try and a three-for-two deal on their vegan, cruelty-free eyeshadows.
Whiskers and Tails, an animal rescue group was on scene hoping to find forever homes for two puppies named Basket and Maxie, while one of their volunteers sat in the shade bottle-feeding two rescued baby raccoons.
Overall, Eat Drink Vegan had everything that the vegan community would want. The only downside was the pricing. General admission tickets sold for $70 and VIP tickets went for $125.
For a festival that also charged upwards of $8-$18 for the food, depending on the vendor, this made it pretty inaccessible for most people, especially those who were new to the concept of veganism and looking to learn more and try the food.
Veganism can be a hard sell for those who have spent their entire lives as meat eaters. If the goal is to encourage more people to go vegan, events such as this might consider trying to be more economically accessible to all.
Perhaps next year, “Eat Drink Vegan” will look for ways to make the festival more open and affordable to all, in order to show the public that being vegan can be an attainable and accessible lifestyle.
Correction: A previous version of this article listed Luke and Amberly Schmuecker, as owners of the Vermont-based Shacksbury Cider. Article has been updated to reflect their proper titles.
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