The 43rd Annual Conference of the North American Vegetarian Society took place July 5 – 9, 2017 on the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus.
How long does it take to digest 1000 new product samples? Well, from our experience at ecoRDN it takes more than the two days allotted in Baltimore for the 2016 Natural Products Expo East. This was ecoRDN’s first Expo East experience and it was enlightening, inspiring, motivating and at times overwhelming!
Before ecoRDN returned to Pittsburgh from NYC living we made a list of all the many vegan-friendly food hubs to visit upon return to our glorious city and Spak Brothers topped the list. Spak forged a path not many dared back when they first opened their doors. Sure Pittsburgh has seen a vegan-friendly boom over the last five years, but before that boom the vegan scene was practically crickets. There was the dope East End staple Quiet Storm, the Southside Zenith with their epic brunch and all-vegan dessert, however pizza and wings were not yet on the menu. Thus enter the Spak!
ecoRDN first heard about Sweetgrass Grill‘s plant-based brunch offerings after a cool post by We Bike NYC‘s riders who planned a bike & foodie trip from Manhattan to Chappaqua along the S County Trail (with a rest stop in Tarrytown for brunch). With plans already made that weekend ecoRDN was unable to attend and decided to map out an alternative trip on a nearby trail system, The Old Croton Aqueduct, and go on foot instead of bike.
If you’ve ever seen the Palisades loom over the Hudson in the late fall bright afternoon sun you’ve seen a living work of art. That view from the window of a Metro-North train instilled both a sense of reverie and adventure as ecoRDN hit the northern rails toward Kingston, NY with hopes of uncovering an abundance of plant-based foods worthy of their stunning backdrop.
ecoRDN takes the D-Train south to Harlem 125th Street / St Nicholas Avenue.
After misreading the map and going in the wrong direction we discovered St Nicholas Park and some amazing park steps that led to St Nicholas Terrace, exploration for another day! Back on track, we made our way to Seasoned Vegan at 55 St Nicholas Avenue in Harlem. Seasoned Vegan as stated on their website is a family business owned an operated by Mother and Son, Brenda and Aaron Beener.
Chalk & Cheese is an English expression suggesting two things are quite different from one another. There may be a southern expression meaning the same thing but I don’t know what it is. Downtown Nashville and East Nashville are perfectly illustrated examples of this idiom. Nashville’s Broadway is a tourist haven crammed with cowboy boot stores, gift shops and neon honky-tonk bars, whereas East Nashville is both a vessel for overpriced hipster trinkets (representing the crummier side of gentrification) and a soulful, laid back vegan-friendly oasis.
Perhaps to make up for the poor night of sleep, the sun was out in Nashville and most of the previous day’s rain dried. Fought my way into a shower, dressed, coffee drank, then off to Music City Center. No time for breakfast, banking on some good samples at the expo to keep me nourished and sharp for the educational sessions.
Eco RDN touched down at Nashville International Airport earlier than anticipated as we forgot about the one-hour time difference between NY and TN. We followed the signs and made our way to ground transportation, where you can grab an express bus via Nashville MTA for a mere buck seventy! In NYC MTA is currently $2.75 for a one-way commute. The bus took us directly to Music City Center where I was able to check in to FNCE and square away registration in no time. I was pleased to discover that this year’s goodie bag was a small canvas tote rather than the enormous plastic totes of previous years that fell apart after one use. The usual 50lb (obvious exaggeration of weight) spiral bound program book was replaced with a simple four-page handout with the schedule of each day’s sessions printed on it. The Academy also made everything available in virtual format for 2014 FNCE and again this year. Damn it, I forgot my highlighter to mark the must do sessions! After registration we checked into the hostel and made plans for lunch.