Well & Tasty 2019 Recap
by HANNAH CHEW, KRISTY LIN
From artisanal cashew cheese and cauliflower puffs, to electrolyte-filled coconut water and dairy-free yogurt, last week’s Well & Tasty: A Total Foodie Fair was the grand finale of our Plants + People celebrations. In honor of the recent launch of our print magazine–a special issue dedicated to all things plants–Total Wellness collaborated with Veg Bruins to host UCLA’s first ever vegan food market. Eight booths lined the perimeter of the iconic Wilson Plaza, bustling with over 500 students, faculty, and staff. We invited big names in the plant-based foods industry, as well as prominent student groups like CalFresh Initiative, E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity, and the Hunger Project at UCLA who share our mission of building a healthier, more sustainable world. Keen fair-goers arrived early to receive a free “Plants + People” tote bag filled with Total Wellness magazines and stickers, coupons and snacks from generous sponsors. Many of them also came on an empty stomach to prepare themselves for the long-awaited feast. And we shamelessly did so as well. In return, here are our favorite highlights from the Foodie Fair.
I don’t mean to call myself a cheese connoisseur, but I can tell you that I love cheese so much that when I went to Paris a few years ago, I ate a block of cheese from the local market every day. Thus, you can imagine my sheer excitement when I saw the mouth-watering display of cheese wheels and spreads from Miyoko’s! However, I will admit that I was skeptical when I initially heard about their vegan cheese. How could something traditionally made from cow’s milk be made with plants?
But I was absolutely dumbfounded. After my first bite, my preconceived notions about vegan cheese all vanished. Made with organic plant ingredients such as cashews and other legumes, Miyoko’s cheeses flawlessly mimic the taste and texture of “real cheese”, minus the cruelty to animals and harmful environmental effects. Of the featured products, I especially loved the Biergarten Garlic Chive Roadhouse Cheese Spread paired with pretzel crisps. Despite being 100% vegan, it is rich, thick, and creamy, just like any other cheese that I have tasted in my lifetime. And remind you, I am quite the cheese connoisseur.
So, at your next potluck, make sure to bring Miyoko’s cheeses and serve them up with veggies, warm bread or crackers! You will definitely fool your friends into thinking that the cheeses are made from animal dairy!
Having been an avid yogurt enthusiast since I was little, I found it very difficult to give up this dairy item when I decided to transition to a more plant-based diet last year.I have tried numerous plant-based yogurts and kefirs (made from soy, almond, cashew, and coconut milk, just to name a few) but to no avail. Every product that I have tried lacks that quintessential richness and creaminess I loved and missed so much. Consequently, I had little expectations before trying Califia Farms’ Probiotic Dairy-Free Yogurt (Super Berry). But I was in awe when I took my first sip.
“Wait, are you sure this is vegan?” Before I could fully organize my thoughts into words, I let those very words slip out of my mouth. Luckily, the brand ambassador for Califia Farms was not offended by my question and responded with a very passionate “YES!” instead. This product has the perfect flavor and consistency, and is truly the best non-dairy yogurt that I have ever tasted. Made from a unique blend of almond, oat, and coconut yogurts, this creamy beverage is jam-packed with gut-healthy bacteria. I have always liked Califia Farms’ almond milk, but this dairy-free yogurt struck gold for me. This drink will surely become a staple in my future apartment.
Born and raised in the 626 area (Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley), I was immediately reminded of home when Little Jasmine brought out their healthy Asian snacks. One of my favorites was their plant-based Fruit Jelly Candy. Made from real fruit juice and natural sugars, each bite-sized candy strikes a delightful balance between sweetness and tanginess. It is safe to say that the Blueberry/Cranberry flavor is the most popular choice among our Total Wellness staff.
Little Jasmine also shared their vegan biscuits, which come in diverse flavors such as pumpkin seed, oatmeal raisin and cranberry, and more! I particularly enjoyed the Oatmeal Raisin and Cranberry Biscuits, which remind me of classic shortbread. The addition of oats and dried fruits also delivers the perfect amount of tartness and gives the otherwise smooth cookie a more nuanced texture. However, what is most impressive about Little Jasmine’s biscuits is the fact that they are able to retain the creaminess and buttery taste of a traditional shortbread cookie without using any dairy! Not to mention, these delicious bites are free of hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors, and preservatives, boasting a short and clean ingredients list. Therefore, it is clear that Little Jasmine is transparent to its consumers and does not hide behind a long list of ingredients that are virtually impossible to pronounce or interpret for the average person. Simply amazing!
Brussel Sprouts. Beets. Cauliflower. Turmeric. Wild Mushroom. Asparagus. Moringa (what even is this?). These plants are probably the last foods you would think of transforming into a snack. Yet somehow, Vegan Rob’s managed to do it.
I sampled almost everything at their booth: the Mushroom Kettle Chips, Beet Puffs, Moringa Puffs, and the Brussel Sprout Puffs. And I kid you not, these were some of the best crisps I have ever tasted. To be fair, I was never a potato chip fanatic growing up, but the seasoning on the Wild Mushroom Kettle Chips is absolutely bewildering. The umami flavor is complex, but not overwhelming. Best of all, this product contains only four ingredients: potatoes, sunflower oil, wild mushroom powder, and sea salt.
I also surprisingly enjoyed the Moringa Puffs (Moringa, also known as drumstick tree, is a popular superfood in Asian cuisine that boasts an incredible nutrient profile, including high levels of protein, vitamins and minerals.) They are light and crispy, and also have a distinct sweetness to them. What I love the most about Vegan Rob’s puffs and all their products, for that matter, is that they are made with minimal, natural, plant-based ingredients, all while maintaining (and even surpassing, I would argue) the taste and texture of regular crisps!
Dairy-free? Gluten-free? Nut-free? I did not know what to expect from these perfectly golden discs, but after my first bite of a Ginger Snap Cookie, I was hooked.
Boasting a wide range of flavors like cinnamon, chocolate chip, brownie, and ginger, Lucy’s cookies are dangerously good. Despite not using dairy, Lucy’s is somehow able to recreate the sweet, rich taste and mouthfeel of butter in their cookies, all while using plant-based ingredients. In fact, I was surprised to see obscure plant names such as “garbanzo, potato starch, tapioca, sorghum and fava” on the ingredients list! Plants are in everything!
There is nothing that embodies the bliss of a tropical vacation quite like coconuts do. And Vita Coco’s Pressed Coconut Water is no exception. It is made from pure coconut water with flakes of coconut flesh inside, giving the drink an additional boost of tropical flavor. Not to mention, there is something about having real coconut pulp that makes the overall experience more exciting.
At the Foodie Fair, Vita Coco also showcased their four flavors of Sparkling Coconut Water–a healthy alternative to sugary sodas for those who enjoy carbonated beverages. They also introduced their new energy drink brand, Runa, which offers an organic beverage made with naturally sourced caffeine from the guayusa plant. Vita Coco has an impressive array of coconut products, so you are sure to find the perfect one to match your lifestyle and taste preferences!
More photos from Well & Tasty are found on our Facebook page. See you again next year!