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Almost Vegan in Minneapolis: 2012 edition

July 10, 2012

Psst…hey, all you wedding-watchers! This is the topic you’ve probably been waiting for: click here to read my newest Rose Pedals Vegan Weddings post in which I discuss finding gluten-free vegan catering!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming (Juicy July, that is) to bring you this post about Matt’s and my long weekend in Minneapolis. As I said previously, Matt and I were in MN to attend CONvergence again. It’s basically a humongous 4-day geekfest. Matt goes for the gaming aspect; I go for the general nerdery.

Minneapolis is only a 6-to-7 hour drive north of Kansas City, but I packed plenty of precut Champagne mangos…

…and homemade energy bars for the trip.

When we woke up in MN on Thursday morning, the first thing we did was to hit up the Whole Foods in Edina to stock up on snacks for the weekend. We always make sure to get a hotel room with a mini fridge!

I even brought my Tribest travel blender so we could make green smoothies.

I won’t talk to you much about the conference itself – check out the website for more details – but suffice it to say, when 5,000 nerds and geeks (and gamers, goths, cyberpunks, steampunks, gypsies, pirates, cosplayers…) take over a hotel and spend a whole weekend drinking and carousing, madness ensues.

And we were ready!

There’s free food at the con 24 hours a day – and lots of it – but even though much of it is junky, CONvergence is actually really great about providing vegan and gluten-free options. There’s always soymilk and soy creamer available at their all-day-and-night free coffee bar, for example.
We frequently hit up the Rice Room for steamed brown rice with GF tamari, sriracha, and white and black sesame seeds.

Connie’s Space Lounge had free vegan ice cream shakes every night.

The ConSuite always had fresh fruit on hand, and sometimes baby carrots appeared (at which point I would stash a few packs in my purse and head straight for the Peanut Butter & Jelly Room to eat them with a big scoop of PB).

The Soup Room also provided vegan soups aplenty all day/night long, like this veggie chili.

With that much free food at our fingertips (and in our hotel fridge), we only went out to eat for one meal, but I just had to go to Ecopolitan again!
Matt started with an Apple Pie Smoothie while I sipped a Coconut Supreme shake.

Matt ate the Chili Cheese Burrito (all-vegan and mostly-raw) for his meal…

…and I had the most epic and delicious raw Taco Salad I’ve ever seen or tasted.

We also managed to meet up with my friend Alissa of Punk Rawk Labs!

Alissa is a fellow raw chef, Matthew Kenney Academy grad, and master cheese artisan. She even brought me a wheel of Punk Rawk Labs raw vegan smoked macadamia cheese to try.

Whoa, guys. WHOA. This stuff is incredible! As you may know, I am not a cheese person, generally speaking (even vegan cheese), but I found myself noshing on it at 2am with [more] baby carrots. I polished it off in just 2 days. Alissa, you’re amazing!

It was an excellent weekend, indeed.

Oh yeah, and today’s my birthday.

71 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2012 9:23 am

    Amber, does that cheese taste overly ‘cheese-y’? I DETEST dairy cheese, vegan cheese kind of scares me, but I’ve always wondered about raw nut cheese. I do enjoy pizza, and I like the occasional boat of nachos and cheese at a ballgame, but that’s it for me. Keep it FAR AWAY from my sandwiches, hahaha. And forget wine and cheese tastings for me. In Paris last year, I just drank the wine and let everyone else have the stinky cheese and sausages. So I just wondered if the nut cheese actually TASTES like cheese, or if its akin to raw cheesecakes. I also DETEST cheesecake in their original, dairy form, but after I started making raw cheesecakes at the old job, I fell in love with them. They didn’t taste like cream cheese but had all the wonderful creamy texture that cream cheese provides in a cheesecake or any other dessert.

    • July 10, 2012 9:29 am

      Trish, I’ve never met anyone that hates cheese as much as I do (though it sounds like you’re a candidate, hehe!), and I waited years to try raw cheese, cuz I was “afraid” of it too, and…it’s different, and MUCH better! It’s very akin to your raw cheesecake comparison. Dairy cheese has got nothin’ on raw nut cheeses! I highly suggest trying the Mexican Cheddar Cheese in Practically Raw as your first nut cheese – it’s SOSOSO good! Either that or order some of Alissa’s Punk Rawk Labs cheese. πŸ™‚

      • July 10, 2012 9:34 am

        I don’t know…
        We might be a tight race here in the ‘Hater of Cheeses’. πŸ™‚ When I say I enjoy pizza…there better not be anything other than a mozzarella or parm on there, and it had better be cooked to a crisp.
        Thanks for the info. So cheddar cheese from the cookbook–will look for this one. I’ve always seen your photos of all the yummy tex-mex style food and potatoes with ‘cheese’ sauce, and it always looks delicious, I say to myself I’d had to order the cheese on the side so I don’t ruin my food. Going to open my mind here and maybe just dive in, face first…into the raw nut cheese. (okay…probably bad analogy/visual there…lol…)
        Thanks xx

      • July 10, 2012 9:35 am

        Oh, and I see today is your birthday! Happy birthday…,do something fun and crazy. Mine is in a few weeks as well…Aug. 2nd. Perhaps we will have to celebrate late together when I we make our move downtown. πŸ˜‰

      • July 10, 2012 9:36 am

        See, for most of my life, I wouldn’t eat pizza unless it was cheeseless, and if it wasn’t, I’d peel the cheese off before eating it. πŸ™‚ I was totally born to be vegan…
        Oh yes – try the Nacho Cheese Sauce in Practically Raw too! It’s a snap to make (more so than the fermented cheeses) and it’s heavenly on just about ANYTHING.

  2. July 10, 2012 9:24 am

    Oh wow, what fun. That cheese looks delicious – I’m going to have to track some down. Congratulations on finding a caterer – the food pictured looked amazing. Happy Birthday!

  3. July 10, 2012 9:24 am

    Happy Birthday, Amber!!!

  4. Devona permalink
    July 10, 2012 9:25 am

    Happy Birthday! Love your blog!

  5. July 10, 2012 9:27 am

    Happy birthday and thank you for your amazing blog!

  6. suzi permalink
    July 10, 2012 9:31 am

    Looks like alot of delicious celebrating to me!! Keep it up and thanks for sharing. And of course have a super HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMBER!! i really want to call you Abner, but i won’t : P

  7. July 10, 2012 9:45 am

    Happy Birthday – long time reader, first time poster. Love the blog!

  8. July 10, 2012 9:52 am

    Wow what a stress reliever finding out how diverse the food options were–so awesome!! And that cheeeeeeese!!! I need to get my hands on some:)


  9. Tara permalink
    July 10, 2012 9:56 am

    Happy Birthday, Amber! Hope it was great : ) That cheese looks amazing! Cheese was the hardest part of going vegan for me. (I feel so much better without it, though!)

    • July 10, 2012 9:57 am

      Well, I’ve only been up for a couple hours, so I can’t say yet πŸ˜‰
      I know I’m in the minority in hating cheese! But luckily for you cheese lovers, nowadays there are so many vegan options. And the raw nut cheeses are even better!

  10. July 10, 2012 10:10 am

    Looks like you had fun! Happy Birthday!

  11. July 10, 2012 10:15 am

    That’s pretty cool that the con offers some vegan options. I am a nerd of the non-gaming variety, so I hold out for the New York Comic Con and it’s much more mainstream. I have to pack a lunch or hit up a nearby Subway. Boooo! Vegan nerds unite, Matt!! He’s lucky that A) you’re willing to go with him, and B) you supplement his gaming stamina with your awesome vegan/raw chef-ness.
    Yes, I just made up a new word. Chef-ness.

    • July 10, 2012 10:26 am

      I’m not a gamer either (at ALL…srsly), so when we first went last year, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it. But I did! There’s more than enough general nerdery there to interest and satisfy me πŸ˜‰ Highlights this year were the TARDIS tea party, the lecture on the chemical structure of alcohol and various drugs, the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire panels, the Zombie Tiki Bar, and the slew of other unique party rooms. There’s also the Masquerade costume contest, several lounges and ballrooms with great music and dancing, geeky arts and crafts, a movie room, comedy, karaoke, steampunk fashion expo…etc. Plenty for us non-gamers to enjoy!
      That said, we’ve heard a LOT about Comic Con…but I think I/we might find it simply too big and overwhelming!

  12. July 10, 2012 10:40 am

    Happy Birthday Amber! Hope you are feeling well. Looks like you guys had fun at the conference! Thanks for sharing your experience! Oh and P.S. I just ordered some bottle from Shatto Milk (they are so nice). Can’t wait to put my homemade ‘Yummy’ almond milk in them!! : )

  13. July 10, 2012 10:55 am

    aw happy birthday! sounds like an amazing conference! with great eats too!! and that taco salad — holy cow! yummo!!

  14. July 10, 2012 11:51 am

    Happy birthday, Amber!

    The conference looks *awesome*! I can’t believe they have so many vegan options.

  15. July 10, 2012 11:53 am

    I grew up in Mpls and went to college there! Sounds like a great time and trip and if there’s ever a good time of year to be in MN, right now is it!

  16. July 10, 2012 12:22 pm

    Happy Birthday!!! That taco salad and coconut shake look insanely delicious!

  17. July 10, 2012 12:28 pm

    So great to eat so healthy! But, how about the earth? SO much plastic!! Not healthy for you and definitely not for the earth. Remember recycled plastic still at one time came from petroleum products and the process uses so much water!

    Thanks for your wonderful blog!

    • July 10, 2012 1:27 pm

      I know, Judi, but I wasn’t in charge of this conference! We shared and/or reused plates and bowls when possible, but that’s just how events like this are set up. Everyone needs to let go of the world’s problems and have a little selfish, laissez-faire fun sometimes. I know I do. πŸ™‚

  18. July 10, 2012 1:17 pm

    OMG, there was a Peanut Butter & Jelly Room!! Holy shit. And I would tear that punk rawk cheese up. I’ll have to check out how to order some…..I’m a huge vegan cheese whore.

  19. Kadee permalink
    July 10, 2012 2:42 pm

    Happy Birthday! Hope you are feeling better!

  20. Sonja Myers permalink
    July 10, 2012 2:48 pm

    Happy Birthday Amber. You looked GREAT on your photos and the pictures of food you’ve enjoyed made me instantly hungry. Glad to hear you and Matt enjoyed yourselves.

  21. July 10, 2012 3:06 pm

    Happy birthday! That con sounds awesome!

  22. July 10, 2012 3:31 pm

    Happy birthday!
    Looks like you had an awesome time!
    love the eats πŸ™‚

  23. July 10, 2012 4:50 pm

    Happy Birthday! The convention sounds like a blast. I can’t believe they had an entire room dedicated to PB & J… ha

  24. July 10, 2012 7:00 pm

    Happy Birthday, Amber! Glad that you enjoyed yourself at the geekfest! Your meals look delicious. What fun!! πŸ™‚

  25. July 10, 2012 7:01 pm

    Happy Birthday, Amber! Glad you had a great time on your geekfest adventure πŸ™‚

    • July 10, 2012 7:02 pm

      Thank ya!

    • July 10, 2012 7:03 pm

      Oops…. double post! Sorry!! I’m Carol. I didn’t think the first post worked. I haven’t used WordPress in forever, so I had to reset my password… and voila… double post! Sorry, again!

  26. July 10, 2012 7:17 pm

    I cannot WAIT to taste everything at your wedding! So happy you found someone to cater–that photo made my mouth water! And your gifted cheese greatly intrigues me….

    Also, bon anniversaire!

    • July 10, 2012 8:20 pm

      I think you will loooove our wedding menu. I’ll share some secret details with you soon πŸ˜‰ You’d also adore the PRL cheese!

  27. July 10, 2012 8:15 pm

    cool to finally meet you. thanks for the props! i love your book!! i’m turning on some minneapolitans to it. gotta try the vanilla kale chips! πŸ™‚

  28. Angie @ The Fitness Apple permalink
    July 10, 2012 9:25 pm

    Happy birthday it’s my bf’s today to! The space lounge looks like fun! Glad u had fun!

  29. July 11, 2012 9:49 pm

    HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Hope it was a great one! I DEFINITELY miss living in Minneapolis-glad you enjoyed it!

  30. July 12, 2012 5:43 am

    Oh dear holy monkey, I get to eat that catering. ME I DO ME. Over here, me.

    Also, I can’t even cope with the food at this extravaganza! Never have I been to a conference (okay, generally only work or PhD conferences) where there are even vegan options, except a token salad. I can’t even cope.

    Also, if the food was available 24 hours, does that mean the CONvergence itself went 24 hours a day?

    • July 12, 2012 10:27 am

      You know what the beautiful thing is? You WILL be eating it. !!!

      That is exactly what it means! Seriously ALL day and night. The dance parties lasted till 5am (at least). The theatre ran movies all through the night. There was 2:30am karaoke every night, and 6am mimosa parties by the pool every morning. It’s CRAZY!
      Come with us next year πŸ˜‰

      • July 13, 2012 12:56 am

        Karaoke and vegan sundaes and food all night? HECK YEAH.

  31. July 12, 2012 8:50 pm

    It is mouth watering treat for sure, i ma vegetarian myself but would try Vegan food one day without doubt……

  32. July 14, 2012 8:51 am

    Looks like a fun time. Love that pic of you and Alissa together. Happy belated b-day!

    • July 14, 2012 10:29 am

      We actually mentioned you! I said I’d been reading your reviews praising her cheeses and it had been making my mouth water. πŸ™‚

  33. August 4, 2012 11:26 am

    OH, I missed your birthday. Happy belated! I think I would eat that cheese in one sitting. Looks so good. And I must get one of those blenders. Do you think it would be something my kids could use on their own? You know, now that I’m thinking…I don’t know why I never let the kids make their own smoothies. Would it be easier for them to use this or my Blend-tec?

    • August 4, 2012 12:36 pm

      I think the Tribest blender would be great for kids! Easier to use than a Vita or Blendtec. It’s a Magic-Bullet-style “pulse” blender, so all you do to run it is press down on the canister. Kinda fun πŸ™‚

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