Salt Lake City offers a diversity of vegan restaurants. If you ever wondered what a vegan eats, the SLC VegFest would give you some ideas. The 3rd annual SLC VegFest organized by the Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) was held at Salt Lake City Main Library Plaza on Saturday, September 8. The event offered a kids’ area, live music, beer garden, cooking demonstration, a film showing, and expert speakers.
Vegan Panini’s, gyros, crepes, ice cream, pastries and much more was available to purchase from food trucks, bakeries and local restaurants. It was a great opportunity to try many different options all in one place.
The event is attended by thousands of people each year, and continues to grow. Many people are interested in learning more about vegan diets, whether for ethical reasons, environmental concerns, or for improving one’s health.
A Vegan Kids Panel featuring children ranging in age from 5 to 17 responded to questions about being vegan and how they handle different situations when eating at school, attending birthday parties, social events, and while traveling. They also shared their experiences when celebrating holidays, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. They offered tips about prepping food for the week, and easy food to take on the go. One of the panelists stated that a friend asked her if she just ate grass. Although none of the children ate grass, they did share what their favorite foods were, and several stated that they enjoyed preparing food at home themselves.
Whether you prefer American classics, Italian, Mexican, or Asian dishes, Salt Lake City has many vegan options for dining out. UARC has a free SLC Veg Dining Guide which can be found at many local businesses, or can be downloaded from their website. Their Dining Guide identifies restaurants that are entirely vegan, vegetarian and those are who UARC partners (providing special offers or discounts to UARC members).
It was the common interest for the love of chocolate that brought an eclectic group of a dozen people ranging from Millennials to Baby Boomers together in a small room on the second floor of the store where hand crafted chocolate is made and sold. AJ Wentworth, founder of the Chocolate Conspiracy explained the journey of chocolate from bean-to-bar, punctuated with samplings of a variety of chocolates from around the world throughout the evening. The flavor of chocolate can vary based on origin, cacao content, if/how the bean is roasted and how the bean is ground and mixed. The chocolate could have fruity, nutty, earthy, or smoky flavors. The flavors unfold and change on your tongue. The tasting experience involves paying attention to the texture, flavor and the finishing- or how it lingers in your mouth.
Wentworth explained the name, Chocolate Conspiracy, came to him as he was making a career transition. Trained in Holistic Health Counseling, his interests gradually evolved towards a love of raw cacao beans. When naming his new business, he thought of the Latin origin of the word “conspire” means “to breathe together”, or to do as one. The Chocolate Conspiracy opened its doors in 2009. They do not roast the beans in order to preserve the antioxidants, minerals and nutrients.
Chocolate does grow on trees! Cacao beans come from the fruit (pods) of the cacao trees. The pods need to be hand-harvested one at a time, because the pods do not fall off the tree. After removing and opening up the pods, the cacao beans are fermented. The beans are then dried before shipping to chocolate manufacturers. In the manufacturing process, the beans are typically roasted. The outer shell is removed and the cacao nibs are sorted according to size in a process called “winnowing”. The nibs are put through a grinding process until it forms a liquid. Blending in other flavors or ingredients take place before pouring into molds.
Utah currently has nine artisanal chocolate makers. Wentworth stated that the dry, arid climate and elevation in Utah is ideal for making chocolate. Bean-to-bar makers source cacao from farmers from across the globe, and create their chocolate from scratch in small batches. A chocolatier makes confectioneries from premade chocolate.
The Conspiracy Chocolate bars can be found in local retail stores, farmer’s markets and purchased on-line. www.eatchocolateconspiracy.com