When I landed in O’hare on October 10th you could feel the anticipation for Veganmainia in the air. I took the El to meet my good friend Becky at one of those crazy 5 way intersections that they have in Chicago to confuse the hell out of everybody. After searching for a couple blocks I could tell we were hot on the trail.
As we approached the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse the air was palpable with excitement for the celebration, finally we saw the big banner and knew we were about to be at the vegan event of 2009.The idea of veganmania was to celebrate Chicago’s vegan scene by having lots of free food from area businesses, a fashion gallery, an art gallery, speakers, and different activist groups all in one place. We got there a little late so a lot of the free food was gone but I did get to try cookies from the Chicago Diner (crunchy), chili with Match Meats (unfortunately burned but has potential), Chocolates from Cru Cacao (healthy tasting), 5 different cheeses from Ste Martaen cheeses (they had olive!!!) and some collards from Soul Veg ( mmm, southern). I also got some lemon lime lip balm that I love from Ethically Engineered. It was funny because every single booth that we went to mentioned that their product was vegan. In fact in the big hall you could hear the word “vegan” over and over in the general murmer.They also had musicians and dancers and I learned how vegans rock Chicago,It was a lot of fun and we laughed a lot, next year I want to volunteer to do their sound and my friend Becky wants to make baked goods! After sampling a lot of food but not having a whole meal we decided to drive across town to go to the actual Soul Vegetarian East. It is an entirely vegan restaurant that has an emphasis in soul food. We couldn’t decide what to order because everything sounded really good. First we got the tofu bites with barbecue sauce which were a meal in themselves. In a word; succulent. I have never had tofu that was so crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, it was delicious. The barbecue sauce was really good too.For my entre I got corn on the cob (you have to eat corn in Illinois) and the Southern Seitan BBQ sandwich. There was also another BBQ sandwich but this one was promised to be on a whimsical roll. My roll wasn’t very whimsical but it was an awesome sandwich. There was peanut butter in the sauce! I will have to try that. When we first arrived we decided we were going to eat light so we could get dessert but it turned out we couldn’t control ourselves in front of all that protein and we went home stuffed. I loved the restaurant, everyone seemed so relaxed and though it took forever to get our check it was one of those places where you don’t mind whiling away the hours. We went into a food coma and missed my friend’s art opening but then we made it to my other friend’s 30th birthday party. We got him a balloon that played “rapper’s delight” when you hit it! Look how happy he is!Happy Birthday Borgia! I love you Chicago, I’ll be back when it isn’t so cold that I am worried my eyes will freeze in their sockets.