Vegan events: The Underbelly, Vegan Village and Vegan Food Fair

vegan affogato

I feel like this blog has come full-circle. Back in 2008, I decided to start writing about Auckland’s vegan food scene after noticing that animal-free options seemed to be disappearing from café menus around town. I recounted in this blog’s very first post the story of going to a vegetarian festival and barely finding anything vegan – even the tofu pie had cheese in it!

All these years later, I still can’t fathom why you’d combine tofu with cheese, but I’m much more able to laugh off those bizarre lacto-ovo concoctions. In large part that’s because I’m not so hungry: vegan food is everywhere in Auckland, it’s getting more common to find already-vegan options on café menus rather than having to negotiate something special, and we have our own events now. Three new regular vegan food events have started in the last month. All three launch events were bustling with vegan and vegan-curious crowds, eager to try everything.

The photo above is just one of many that capture this no-more-tofu-and-cheese-pies moment in Auckland history: it’s a vegan affogato, made with Kokako cold brew on chocolate coconut soft serve icecream, topped with chocolate shell and ground coffee beans. From Minty B, a vegan icecream caravan that appears at events and around town.

 

the vegan village

The first of these three events: Vegan Village. Hosted as part of New Lynn Night Market, Vegan Village is running a series of vegan evenings on the last Thursday of each month. Vegan food stalls – 15 of them for the first event – take over half of the night market, while some of the regular omni stalls also offer vegan options.

The launch event was packed, and most of the vendors sold out of food, doing their best to serve long lines of hungry vegans. Facebook discussion afterwards claimed that even the vegan-friendly takeaway place across the road, Mexicali Fresh, had trouble keeping up with the crowd of event-goers who arrived too late to wait in line.

Food on offer included Ethiopian food (from a non-vegan vendor), Indonesian “beef” renang sliders, satay “chicken” and nasi goreng (from Nusantara Indonesian Tea Café), pastries (from Tart Bakery), amazing almond-based cheese (from Jana’s), soft serve (from Minty B) and coconut gelato (from Lalele Organic).

Vegan Village is a three-month pilot. The second event, Vegan Village #2 is coming up this Thursday April 28th, from 5-9. It’s at New Lynn Night Market, 45 Totara Avenue, New Lynn. If you’re visiting, arrive early to avoid disappointment.

More about Vegan Village: Radio NZ made a short audio documentary at the first event, and Western Leader interviewed organisers, Shasha & TeRata.

 

vegan food fair

Second: Vegan Food Fair. This was a proper mainstream-style food festival, held at ASB Showgrounds, with more than 50 vendors, massive crowds (an estimated 6,000 attendees), children’s entertainment, free samples and everything.

Like the Vegan Village, vegan demand outstripped supply and some of the vendors were starting to sell out of food by mid-day. We arrived reasonably early and ate well; some of my favourite things were the aforementioned vegan affogato, white chocolate and fig cake (from The Nourishing Baker), tempeh phish & ficken satay (from Nusantara), feijoa raspberry cake (from The Nutty Spoon), single-serve dumplings (from Mr Shankly’s) and raspberry cake (from La Petite Noix).

Following the success of the first event, Vegan Food Fair will be reappearing on 6 November 2016, to celebrate World Vegan Day. They promise more space next time, and even more food.

More about Vegan Food Fair: a Radio New Zealand interview with the organisers.

 

the underbelly

And thirdly: The Underbelly. A much smaller affair with more of a punk DIY vibe, The Underbelly took over the back room at K Road’s Whammy Bar for an evening to make vegan meals in the same space where little shows & Auckland Zinefest side events & activist community meetings have happened at other times.

The first Underbelly was Nusantara and Mr Shankly’s cooking side by side. I had vegan fried chicken and a big bowl of wedges before leaving full & satisfied; if I’d stuck around there was a punk festival happening in Whammy’s other two rooms later that evening.

The Underbelly and friends is happening on Sunday 1 May (as part of the Open Streets K Rd event). It promises to be bigger and better than last time – keep an eye on the Facebook event for announcements about who’s appearing and what they’ll be making.

 

tea & crisps

One common denominator across these events is Nusantara Indonesian Tea Café: Shasha was one of the organisers behind Vegan Village and The Underbelly, and served food at all three. I posted about Shasha’s successful Kickstarter fundraiser last year. Since then, it’s been exciting to see her business grow and the connections she’s made with other owners of new vegan businesses. Keep an eye on her Facebook page for news about her latest plans.

And if you’re not following me on Instagram, check that out too for more pictures of these events and all my latest discoveries.

Another sign of changing times since I first started blogging here: I can’t keep up with eating all the vegan options I learn about, let alone writing about them. But I’m also no longer the only person regularly sharing local vegan options online. For a few more places to find news, follow #aucklandvegan on Instagram for other people’s posts, the Auckland Vegans group on Facebook, The Vegan Society, and A Guide to Vegan‘s supermarket discoveries.

What are your favourite ways of finding vegan food in Auckland? Let me know in the comments section.

More fancy desserts: Miann

Berry & chocolate sorbet

Miann is a new dessert restaurant started by Brian Campbell, the brains behind Britomart’s Milse and popup business Sweet Cuisine.

Based on encounters with the chef’s previous work, I’m guessing that there are probably a few cabinet treats and adaptable menu items that would be suitable for vegans, but currently there’s just one labelled thing on its patisserie menu: raspberry and chocolate sorbet on a stick. It’s lovely: tart & rich, the perfect size, beautifully presented.

Miann is downtown, at 57 Fort Street. It’s open every day: Monday to Wednesday 10am–10pm, Thursday & Friday 10am–11pm, Saturday noon–11pm, and Sunday noon-10pm.

Coconut soft serve from Minty B Ice Creamery

Vegan cost serve

The last couple of years have seen a burst of growth in vegan market stalls, popups and street food options around the city. Another one to know about is Minty B Ice Creamery, a vendor of soft-serve icecream and sorbet, which is all gluten free as well as vegan.

I tried Minty B’s soft serve for the first time today: a cup of creamy vanilla coconut soft serve, swirled with black doris plum sorbet. It was lovely, and I’m excited to track them down again for Pineapple & Mango Sorbet, salted caramel popcorn sauce or whatever they make next.

 

Minty B Icecreamery

Minty B is served from a restored mint-green 1970’s caravan. It’s often parked at 1 Queen Street in the CBD, but I found it outside Little Bird in Kingsland. Keep an eye on their Facebook or Instagram pages to find out where the caravan will be next, or to hire it for your own event.

Summer treats: Kapiti whipped sorbet

Blood orange & cranberry sorbet.

Here is a new vegan thing you can find at supermarkets and dairies across the city: two of the three new flavours of Kapiti whipped sorbet.

These are quite special: the sorbet is light, creamy and smooth. The blood orange & cranberry, and peach & melon sorbet sticks are vegan, while the pear & feijoa one isn’t.

Vinyl has moved in with Ralph’s

Vinyl is back

Two things to tell you about Dominion Road brunch favourite Vinyl coffee shop:

 

Vegan nachos     Curly fries

1. Last year, they opened a second business. Ralph’s Bar and Eatery is located at 225B Dominion Road (entrance on Walter’s Road, just before Bulk Food Savings). It serves a vegan-friendly bar menu including burgers, patatas bravas, curly fries, deep-fried pickles with vegan chipotle mayo, and occasional nachos.

Ralph’s is open late Monday to Saturday, and until 6pm on Sunday.

 

Vegan breakfast burrito     breakfast of zeus

2. And from the beginning of this year, Vinyl has moved in with Ralph’s! It has the same kinds of things on its menu (including Breakfast of Zeus, tofu breakfast burrito, curly fries) & the same friendly staff, but more seating space (including an outdoor courtyard) and the potential to stay for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Vinyl at Ralph’s is open 7 days, from 7am weekdays and 8am weekends.

New café: Major Sprout

cacao granola

Last November, the owners of Dear Jervois opened a second café in the central city. Major Sprout is in Graham Street, just up the hill from Victoria Park.

Like Dear Jervois’, the menu at Major Sprout has a few vegan or veganisable options. Its coffee is excellent, its smoothie selection is entirely vegan, and its cabinet includes Raw Kitchen cakes by the slice.

My breakfast this morning was cacao granola, an indulgent pudding-like plate of crunchy gluten-free granola served with chocolate coconut yoghurt, nuts, dates and three different berries.

I also had a Peanut Buttercup smoothie, which was a nutty, caramelly mix of banana, Fix and Fogg peanut butter, cacao powder, medjool dates & almond milk.

 

peanut buttercup smoothie

Major Sprout is at 21 Graham Street in the city. It’s open Mon-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat 8am-4pm, and closed Sunday.

Cherry chocolate icecream from CO YO

Cherry choc icecream

If your freezer’s not already full of Little Island coconut icecream, Nice Blocks, Kohu Road sorbet, Smoozes, bc frozen cashew yoghurt & the various other vegan-friendly frozen desserts that are spoiling us for choice these days, here’s another:

Coconut icecream from Australian company CO YO, better known for its coconut yoghurt. I’ve only tried one flavour so far, but I keep buying it as it’s quite special: Cherry Choc. It’s not especially chocolatey (benefitting from the addition of extra cacao nibs or chopped dark chocolate on top), but it’s beautifully creamy, full of cherry flavour and studded with whole frozen fruit.

Other flavours I haven’t tried yet include Acai Berry & Blueberry, Cacao, Mango & Lime, Pina Colada, Tamarind & Sticky Date, and Vanilla & Nutmeg.

 

Cherry Choc

Places that stock CO YO products in Auckland (but might not specifically have this icecream) include:

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