NYCVFF 2012: The Recap!
March 4, 2012


OK I’ll admit it: when I woke up yesterday morning, I wasn’t in the mood to speak at the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival. I was groggy and tired from a long week of school and a delayed Megabus ride. I didn’t feel like cutting my workout short. I didn’t feel like venturing out in the rain. I didn’t feel like being a glowy, upbeat, radiant spokesperson for the power of vegan and raw food. Instead, I felt like putting my dirty hair in a ponytail, keeping my yoga pants on all day, and reading a book. But I was scheduled to speak at 11 am, and so, with heavy feet and an umbrella at my side, I ventured down to 18th street.

Thinks started to look up as I hit the entrance of the festival, and immediately ran into my friend Matt, who was scheduled to speak a few hours after me, and had kindly arrived in time for my talk, along with his Mom! It was great to chat for a little while as we made our way inside, where I was immediately greeted with a sea of delicious vegan treats and beloved vendors. That was the moment when this sleepy blogger started to perk up.

As I arrived, the lovely Rebecca of Yummy Plants was speaking about her experience as a professional skater who improved performance through plant based diet. Rebecca’s website and community is a great starting point for those who are cautiously exploring vegan diets! I had about fifteen minutes before I had to hit the stage, so I wandered over to the Vegan Cuts booth, in order to visit two of my favorite people: Jill and John.



These two are so inspiring. Not only did they begin Vegan Cuts—which is essentially a Groupon-esque site featuring exclusively vegan companies—while they were also holding down other jobs, but now they’ve expanded it to be a vegan marketplace online. I am so excited about this new development, and will be keeping you all posted on raw and vegan deals that I think you’ll like! Jill is now working on the site full time, and she is literally bursting with excitement and inspiration and passion about this new chapter of her life. You can see it in her smile! And check out their tricked-out booth:


Most of these goodies will be available soon through the marketplace, so stay tuned!

I also caught up with the Sacha Vida folks. This is a DC-based company that sells nutrient-rich Sacha Inchi seeds and oil. Look forward to some upcoming collaborative posts with them!


When I glanced at my watch, I realized I was supposed to be up on stage in two minutes. Oopsie. I scurried over to the speakers’ area, where the kind emcee intro’ed me. As usual, I didn’t really have an agenda or speech committed to memory: I’ve learned from past speaking engagements that you have to get a sense of what the audience wants before you can choose a particular focus, so I try to keep my talks really casual and interactive. My broad topic of the day was how to approach raw foods with an eye on practicality and science, rather than zealotry or perfectionism—the very thing I try to write about every day here at CR! And it seemed to go over really well. A few audience question highlights for you:

How do you make cashew cheese? I can’t get it right.

To this I immediately responded: “have you been using a Vitamix?” The answer, as I suspected, was “yes.” I find that cashew cheese in the Vita is tough to get right, unless you’re making a ton of volume and have the patience to plunge, plunge, and plunge some more with your plunger attachment. Even then, you need a lot of liquid to get it moving, and what you end up with is cashew cheese sauce, or ricotta at best. I highly recommend a food processor for nut cheeses, which will allow you to create a thicker consistency!!

I don’t always feel full after I eat raw foods. What should I do?

Add some cooked beans or grains! 1 cup of either or a mix of both can make an enormous difference in terms of satiety, and it will also boost the protein and/or complex carbs in your meal—both crucial for energy. Plus, you’ll still be eating an enormous plate of raw vegetables, and reaping all of the benefits thereto.

I’m allergic to tree nuts. How can I enjoy a raw diet?

Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are suitable replacements in almost all recipes that call for tree nuts. Additionally, try using young coconut in place of cashews, as it offers a similar creaminess. If you can’t have any seeds or coconut in addition to tree nuts, try focusing on avocado and/or white beans insome of the recipes that call for nuts.

I can’t eat grains. What are some grain-free breakfasts that you recommend?

Chia seed puddings, raw breads/crackers with nut butter and fruit, and smoothies are my favorite grain free breakfast options.

What are your top tips for better digestion?

  1. Adopt a vegan diet.
  2. Focus on getting a high portion of raw vegetables and fruits.
  3. Try to strike a balance between soluble and insoluble fiber.
  4. Don’t chug water with your meals; sip water with meals, and drink more plentiful amounts 30 minutes before and after.
  5. Chew your food thoroughly.
  6. Explore an acidophilus+bifidus supplement (vegan, of course).

Great talk! The audience seemed to enjoy it, and many lingered around after for post-presentation questions. Before I knew it, my buddy Brendan took the stage:


I’ve seen Brendan speak many times now, and he’s always very inspiring. He talks about how he found a whole-foods, plant-based diet, and he gives really useful tips for maintaining that diet healthily. One important thing Brendan always points out is that his first attempt to be vegan was a flop: he was tired, hungry, and he performed badly at track. What he realized was that his diet was low in iron, B-12, and essential fatty acids; when he increased those nutrients, he thrived. Many vegans experiment with the diet, hit a snag, and abandon it, assuming that veganism is inherently flawed, when in fact the issue was simply that they needed to tweak their approach. Brendan’s story is a perfect example of how much it pays off when you take the time to examine how you might approach veganism differently!

After this, I decided to escape outside for a little while for some lunch and fresh air. The food at the event was delicious, but I wasn’t really in the mood for a plate of vegan marshmellow and chocolate samples for lunch. Before I left, I ran into Sally and Kaitlyn. After many months of tweets and correspondence and comments, it was such a pleasure to say hi! Here’s a cute one of Kaitlyn and I:


I was worried about getting back into the building, but as luck would have it, I literally bumped into Dr. Michael Greger (the hardest working man in nutrition science). He generously offered to lend me his speaker’s armband (somehow I’d forgotten to get one for myself). Thanks Dr. Greger!

With the armband fastened firmly around my wrist, I ventured out into the sunlight for a quick stroll through the Union Square Farmer’s market, which brought back memories of my old life at 19 Union Square West, FSG’s old location:


Then I stopped at Chop’t for a giant, green salad.


It’s not as good as Sweet Green, but it ain’t bad! I got a mixture of romaine, spinach, broccoli, carrots, garbanzos, avocado, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes, topped with a lemon/olive oil drizzle and a hint of sea salt. I also stopped by what used to be The Pump—now called Dig Infor a sorely needed green juice. I LOVE the green juice at this establishment: much like the “essential greens” at Juice Generation, it’s sweet enough, but still tastes more green than fruity. The cucumber, parsley, and kale are all very detectable!


I got back just in time to hear Dr. Greger’s fun, informative presentation. He’s a very positive, engaging speaker! And unlike other vegan doctors I’ve seen, he doesn’t pummel his audience with guilt about their less stellar eating habits, or start cataloging their potential food addictions. He simply presents facts, all with a humorous tone.

As all this was going on, JL texted me to say she had arrived. Yes! Without wasting a moment, I raced over to the Sweet and Sara marshmallow booth (yum):


And proceeded to fling my arms around JL’s neck.

JL and I love each other. We lurve each other. There is no limit to our shared silliness and laughter when we hang out. Observe:




We quickly found a corner to sit in and gossip and catch up, as I ate my salad creation:


And we shared our news. Before I knew it, it was time to hear Matt speak!


Matt is incredible. I mean it. In the last few years, this guy took 100 minutes off his marathon time to qualify for (and run) Boston, and eventually ran a 50-mile ultramarathon. He’s planning on running a 100 miler next summer, and in the meantime, he’s also a Dad, and he was until recently a calculus professor. Oh, and did I mention he’s vegan?

Matt’s main message is that he isn’t an elite athlete, and his running endurance isn’t an innate “gift.” As he says, “I’m a regular guy who just kept working until I achieved what I set out to do, and it ended up being something pretty incredible my most people’s standards (including mine).” And that’s the lesson he tries to share when he speaks publicly. Matt offers really accessible, realistic tips for budding athletes, empowers his audience to take the vegan plunge, and also has a lot of useful stuff to say about sharing one’s passions through social media, video, and blogging. I am always proud to see him speak!

By the end of Matt’s presentation, I was fading fast. It was time to head home for a nap. I bid adieu to JL and made my way out of the building. But not before catching a quick Vitamix demo!


Always a party.

In all, I’m so glad that I mustered up my energy to experience the NYCVFF! It was a wonderful day, and I’m so glad I got to see Matt, Brendan, JL, Jill and John, my friend Dasha, my friend Cassie, my friend Craig, and the awesome One Green Planet team, who were tweeting up a storm. Thanks to everyone at the festival for having me come and speak, and I look forward to 2013!

And I look forward to seeing all of you back here tomorrow, when I’ll be writing from New Orleans. I’m overdue for some time with the bestie!


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  1. What a cool post. Sounds like an amazing (though exhausting) day – would love to meet many of those you spoke about, especially Brendan!

  2. Hi Gena – thanks so much for speaking at the NYC veg festival. I really enjoyed hearing your balanced approach to healthy eating, and your great tips! I asked you a question around including more crunch & texture in raw food recipes, and I’m going to try your dehydrated carrot crackers this w/end. 🙂

  3. Ah the Big Easy… I’m also heading out that way next week… but I’m assuming you’ll be back to the bacca-grind by then. Enjoy a vegan beignet for me.

  4. SOUNDS FABULOUS! i love matt, JL, brendan, but im sure you were just as inspirational if not more.
    i wonder if any of them will be at expowest next weekend speaking…hmm…

  5. So much information that I don’t know where to start. Thank you for all of your hard work an innovative ideas. Great post and keep up the good work.

  6. i really like the poster for nycvff! cute! is that green lemonade i spy? sometimes i force myself to do stuff when i just don’t feel like it and i ALWAYS thank myself later. i’m glad you had a great experience and caught up with some friends! spring break for you? def time to recharge i’m sure 🙂 have a blast in NOLA!

  7. it must be great to hear all those inspirational speakers (including u) talk about raw foodism! i think i need to get events like that started in europe! we are far behind u guys in the us! looks great

  8. looks like such a fun time! wish i could go to all the vegfests across the country. glad you perked up in time for your talk. i’m sure it went great.

  9. It was so great seeing you speak at the Veg Fest. Just days before I had decided to do something about my overall crappy feeling body/mind-wise. Although vegan for years, I have been getting caught up in the whole “I’m too busy, just got out of a bad relationship, I’m cooking for one, raw food is too hard, I’m hungry I need to eat now” lifestyle. I was bloated, groggy, not sleeping, headaches all day every day and feeling weak. In an attempt to recover my body and listen to it’s needs I began a cleanse. Something I used to do every 6 months and haven’t for a long time now. I immediately felt better as the bloat and grogginess started to lift. During the couple of day preceding the festival, I had rid my fridge of most processed stuff and stocked up on fresh foods. I was determined to do this. I’ve always thought being raw would be WAY too complicated and, I admit, going into the festival I still was feeling that way. I had decided that I would be MOSTLY raw and still indulge every now and then. Plus, didn’t want to give up cooked grains and beans. I had seen your blog the day before and began pouring through it. Hearing you speak further solidified my choice. (So much so, that I bought a Vitamix on my way out lol) I can do this. Thanks to your blog as a guide and books that were recommended during the day, I am now looking forward to my newly improved lifestyle, the relief it will bring me from my ailments and renewed health. Thank you so much for giving me the boost I needed.

    • Gracious!! I can’t imagine a kinder compliment, or a more courage-boosting response to my public speaking 🙂 thanks so much. Good luck eating clean and fresh!

  10. Sounds like a lot of fun. I make cashew cheese in my cheap-o blender and have never had a problem, but as Ela pointed out, I go for a soft cheese. I often feel that breakfast is the most challenging time of the day if I’m not in the mood for a green smoothie or some chia pudding. I just made a couple of variations of raw english muffins though and they turned out great! I used your sunflower seed butter recipe on them. Yum! Mmmm That green juice looks great! I’m doing my first ever juice fat in a week, over spring break. Do you have any experience with juice fasting?

  11. I don’t know how you find the time to fit in everything you do! Study, blogging, life – you’re amazing, what a great post… I WISH we had something like this over here in Aussie, what an inspiring bunch of people to listen to 🙂

  12. Looks awesome! I have been to the Union Square Farmer’s Market, so amazing to see such a thing in the middle of New York. Reading your posts about the city always make me smile 🙂 It’s my favorite place to visit, thanks Gena! Looks like a super day, even if it did start a little rough!

  13. Nothing better than a whole day surrounded by vegan goodness to stuff in one’s face! I had a blast as well! Sad that you missed the Sea Shepherd table where I was most of the afternoon, but we didn’t have any samples (obviously) so I guess people just floated on by. It was lovely to meet you after Matt’s talk.

    • I actually had walked by while (I think) you were watching Matt — I came into his talk a bit late! You guys did a great job.

  14. So glad you had a fun time at VegFest…you’re a natural on stage and it was great to see you smiling up there! Have a wonderful trip to NOLA….will look forward to the recap 🙂

  15. Well, what a trooper you are!
    Sounds like such a blast–I wish I could have been at your presentation.

    Interesting–I’ve had no problem making cashew cheese in the vita–but I guess I’ve always been going for a cream cheese-type texture–I’ve never tried to make a firm cheese. I do use two cups-worth and plunge a whole lot. 😉

    Love your honesty and clarity as ever–and the pics!

  16. I caught a glimpse of you 2ish, but you were in the midst of a conversation so didn’t want to interrupt and say, “hi!” It was definitely a very successful festival. Good work to all volunteers, speakers, organizers, and attendees!

  17. Girl, it was so good to see you! Each time we see each other we pick right up from where we left off. I adore you and am looking forward to some orneriness in the next few months! 🙂

    I was too focused on socializing to hit the workshops — thanks for your recap!

  18. Love that you started this post explaining how you just plain weren’t in the mood! This arena of vegan/raw cooking gives the impression that we are *always* peppy and ‘ready to go’. We’re vegan, yes, but also human!!

    AND, so glad you posted a pic and some info about Jill from Vegan Cuts. I have had some correspondence with her past few weeks and she is so lovely and so deserving of attention for her business.

    Finally, what gorgeous photos of you! If this was your ‘off’ day, you must be blinding with your glow on ‘good’ days.

    now, grab a book and nap. 😀

    • Jill is such a gem! So passionate and brave, and she exudes compassion and care and respect for animals with every word. I am really impressed by her.

      It’s so nice to be able to let loose honestly on one’s blog about the messy moments, isn’t it?

  19. Your post just reminds me how badly I cannot wait to go to NYC in April! Thanks to your blog I have an extensive list of places I want to dine at and visit! I am so glad I don’t have to go into NYC blindly without any clue where to go!:)

  20. Gena this post is so full….wow…

    Use a food proc not a Vita for cashew cheese – good tip.

    I love a good Vita demo, too. Always fun to see.

    And you and all the ladies all look gorgeous. Such a fun day for you! Thanks for recapping it all..WOW!

  21. Oh wow that looks like so much fun! I’m actually glad to hear about the nut cheeses since I just got a vitamix and I have been wanting to make a nut cheese. Now I know that a food processor will be better, thanks for sharing that! I ate at Candle 79 for the first time a few weeks ago and had the live raw enchiladas. Absolutely amazing. I wish we had more vegan restaurants like that in Philly!

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