Pittsburgh: where vegans get not one, but THREE festivals

Pittsburgh’s 8th Vegan Festival was yesterday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills.

When I first moved to Pittsburgh a few months ago, I assumed they didn’t have any VegFests. After all, Philadelphia is a larger (and more veg-friendly) city, and it just held its first VegFest 2 years ago.

But as it turns out, we get 3 festivals a year!

Amy “Amethyst” Cottrill, of Amethyst’s Pittsburgh Bellydance, hosts the Pittsburgh Vegan Festival twice a year in North Hills. (She told me she’d like to move it closer to the city in the future.) Additionally, Justice for Animals hosts the Pittsburgh VegFest every summer. The latter just won “Best Food Festival” from Pittsburgh City Paper, which is amazing in a city known for Primanti Bros.

Before we could go to yesterday’s festival, we had to stop at the Bloomfield Market for ice cream from Sugar Spell Scoops, Pittsburgh’s very own all-vegan ice cream company. Its flavors of the day were peanut butter cup and pumpkin pie. We got a scoop of each topped with purple sugar and gummy worms. (My boyfriend was excited about the vegan gummy worms.) The peanut butter cup had a rich peanut butter flavor with actual peanut butter cup pieces in it. The pumpkin pie had a great balance of pumpkin flavor and spices. Both flavors were deliciously creamy.

Vegan ice cream from Sugar Spell Scoops

Sugar Spell Scoops doesn’t have a store front, but does regular pop-up events at Naturally Soergel’s in Wexford. And keep your eyes peeled—you may be able to find its pints in stores soon, too.

After our super healthy breakfast of ice cream (don’t worry, we also bought a bunch of produce for the week), we drove up into the beautiful North Hills for the Vegan Festival. I finally got to meet some of the folks doing amazing work in and around Pittsburgh. I chatted with two wonderful Mercy for Animals volunteers about how they stay active in the city. I talked to a volunteer with Hope Haven, a farm animal sanctuary located in North Hills. And I finally got to meet The Vegan Goddess, who was my first-ever vegan Facebook friend in Pittsburgh, and bought some of her goodies!

Vegan baked goods

We bought several treats to take home. From left to right in the above picture:

  • Lavender lime cookie, peanut butter balls, apple cider donut holes, and chai cupcake from The Vegan Goddess
  • Bourbon apple hand pie and blueberry lime cupcake from Sweet Alchemy
  • Samoa cookie from Onion Maiden

Of course, we also ate plenty of food at the festival. We started out with mac & cheese and seitan wings from Midnight Munchies. Unfortunately, the mac was mushy and the wings were bitter, chewy, and cold. (Luckily Pittsburgh has plenty of other options for delicious seitan wings.)

Then we visited Onion Maiden’s stand. We got nachos topped with lentil chili, cashew cheese, and jalapeños. We also got a Punkin Eddie. I’m in love with Onion Maiden’s Eddies: they’re moist, spongy, and perfectly sweet. Onion Maiden doesn’t have a storefront, so you can only find them at pop-up events like this one. I’d love to see a food truck from them!

Vegan nachos from Onion Maiden

Vegan twinkie from Onion Maiden

Piccadilly Yogurt, an organic frozen yogurt shop with vegan options, was also at the festival. It had Kitchenaid stand mixers set up making micro-batch ice cream with liquid nitrogen.

Making ice cream with liquid nitrogen

We got a scoop of apple cinnamon and a scoop of chai. It was alright, but more icy than creamy and the flavors were pretty watered down. Nothing close to the awesome Sugar Spell Scoops that started our day!

Piccadilly vegan ice cream

All in all, the Pittsburgh Vegan Festival was pretty great, but there’s definitely room for improvement. The venue made things awkward, because vendors were spread out across several rooms. Some rooms were super crowded and impossible to travel through, while others were completely empty. Additionally, the signage wasn’t very clear, so it was hard to tell where everything was. As a result, we completely missed the vegan gingerbread house competition, which I realized after we got home.

As far as the entertainment went, I think this is the first vegan festival I’ve been to that didn’t have any cooking demos or veg-related presentations. The event description on Facebook mentioned there would be cooking demos, but I didn’t see any scheduled. There was, however, Zumba, belly dance, and yoga.

All that being said, I definitely plan on going again the next time this festival rolls around. I’m always happy to support more vegan options and events!


I wrote this post as part of VeganMoFo 2016. For more information, visit www.veganmofo.com. You can also follow along via my Instagram feed (@louzilla394).

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One thought on “Pittsburgh: where vegans get not one, but THREE festivals

  1. That peanut butter ice cream with peanut butter cup pieces sounds amazing! And you’re definitely lucky to have so many Vegfests, they’re such a great opportunity to try new foods and learn about new companies.

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