Bucks County has its very own Vegan Taste Tester and she's saved us Time & Money shopping for our Favorite Things...Vegan Things! :)
What if you could save time, money and get to know some of the coolest new (and old) vegan products simply by following a local Instagram account? Thanks to The Vegan Taste Tester, it's possible. Well, at least we can say we've definitely saved time and learned of quite a few new foods because of The Vegan Taste Tester. Thanks to this account, we've been able to skip aimless grocery trips and avoid the folly of picking up too many products in the same category at once on more than one occasion.
After months of enjoying her recipes, product reviews and more, we finally caught up with Lindsay, founder and creator of The Vegan Taste Tester to hear more. Check out our 20-ish questions with The Vegan Taste Tester below - favorite ice creams are mentioned - wink wink! (and give Lindsay a follow on Instagram. You won't be sorry you did.)
AN INTERVIEW WITH LINDSAY, FOUNDER OF THE VEGAN TASTE TESTER
How would you describe The Vegan Taste Tester?
I describe the Vegan Taste Tester as a place people can go to get real and honest reviews and realistic recipes- I am sure some have noticed, I am not the most "professional" with my reviews. Nor do I review the healthiest of products. I want to show people that veganism has a wide range of things to eat from healthy to junk food and that it is fun as well. I have great range I think of ages that follow me- quite a bit of college students to older adults. A lot of my followers are also Philly based as well.
What made you want to get started when it comes to posting your reviews?
It was actually last year in January when the product "Just Egg" had recently came out, and I tried it. I was like, "People need to know how good this is." So, that is when I started The Vegan Taste Tester.
When did you get started / how long have you been doing this?
Fun fact is that I actually had a vegan Instagram in 2015-2016. I didn't post reviews though, just meal ideas and desserts I would make. I started The Vegan Taste Tester in January 2019. Over this past year or so I feel as though I have evolved in the products I review as well as now I post recipes and things to eat at restaurants.
Obviously Vegan Taste Tester posts reviews of vegan products specifically. Is there a turning point or event that made you want to consider switching your own purchases to vegan?
I wouldn't say there was a specific turning point in making the decision to switch all of my purchases over to vegan, but back in 2015 I used to watch vegan Youtubers like Kalel (not vegan anymore, but she was my favorite) and product reviews all the time. I have a chronic stomach condition and can't really eat any meat or dairy in general- so those videos would help me find things to eat. It all took off from there. And the most important thing to me was that I could be even one tiny part of stopping animal cruelty.
What misconceptions or fears do you think people might have about trying some of these new foods?
Simply, I think people believe vegan food will taste really bad. Yes, sometimes it could taste different than what especially non-vegans are used to- but a huge majority of the time it does not taste bad- or, it tastes pretty much exactly like the non-vegan version. Something that is "different" can make people skeptical as well.
How do you usually learn about a new product / how do you decide which new products to try? What is your process like?
I tend to see on Instagram actually a bunch of new products. I love VegNews- great source for new products. I get so excited when I see something new come out, especially if it is from a brand I love. Basically, if I see a product I want to try, I do my best to find it. Usually, I find other products then that look very interesting too along the way.
What would be your advice for someone just starting out and trying to improve their shopping list to make their kitchen more vegan or vegan-friendly?
I would tackle it step by step. Changing up your entire kitchen from non-vegan to fully vegan can be a bit of a shock to the system sometimes. Some people can handle it, but most can't, and that's fine. I would start off simply with milk. Get rid of all your cow's milk and switch to unsweetened soy for savory and oat or almond for sweet. I would also add on a vegan meat to try- I would start off with a Gardein chicken product.
If you had to choose, what are the top products that you would recommend someone tries first when newly trying out vegan items at the grocery store? (of course allergies permitting etc!)
I would recommend a few staples- Gardein meatless products, Ben & Jerry's vegan ice cream, Impossible/Beyond Meat burgers, and Amy's frozen meals-the vegan ones. As well as non-dairy milk and yogurts. Kite Hill, So Delicious and Chobani make great ones. Honestly, starting off I wouldn't recommend cheese. Vegan cheese I find can be a bit of an acquired taste you have to accustom yourself to. If you want to try it, try making a grilled cheese with Chao cheese. I know these options are not the healthiest- but they'll show you vegan food can taste great. I also very much recommend experimenting with soups and smoothies. Pinterest has many great recipes.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in and around the Bucks County area?
I absolutely love Sprig & Vine in New Hope and Luhv Bistro in Hatboro. Harvest Season Bar and Grill in Newtown has some great vegan options. In terms of on the go I love a good rice and veggie bowl from Chipotle. Oishi in Newtown has great vegetable sushi.
What improvements have you seen in Bucks County Area grocery stores or restaurants in the last year if any?
I have seen many improvements. More and more restaurants are adding vegan options to their menus. Stores are getting tons more vegan food in their aisles. Sometimes you have to really look for it or even ask- but it's definitely getting there. Vegan food is becoming much more accessible.
What improvements would you still like to see made in Bucks County area restaurants and stores?
Everyone loves getting ice cream, especially in the summer. Unfortunately, myself and many others cannot partake because there are barely any vegan ice cream options. I would encourage each ice cream shop to add in at least one vegan flavor. It would do wonders, I promise.
We would imagine you get a lot of feedback and questions when it comes to the items you post. What is one of your favorite (or favorite kind of) question or piece of feedback that you've received?
I love it when people ask me how I can use a certain product in a recipe, or when they suggest other products similar to it or from the same brand. I want people to ask me as many questions about vegan food as they want- I am always happy to help.
Do you like to meal plan or put together meals on the fly?
A bit of both. Honestly, most of the time I'll start out making something and then it turns into something completely different most of the time. I tend to mess up recipes a lot- but create something new. But there are plenty of posts on my Instagram where I followed an exact recipe. In terms of how I eat during the day, it's usually always on the fly.
What are your personal favorite go-to resources or blogs etc and who are they helpful for?
As I mentioned before, I think VegNews is great. Honestly, so many people that I follow are a great source for finding new products, reviews, and recipes. I will say, Bucks County Vegan has been a wonderful source for me! (BCV: Thank you!! We really appreciate this!)
What do you think is one of the main obstacles people face when making purchasing changes? is there any advice you can offer them based on your experience?
The cost, for sure. It's just a fact that vegan food is overall more expensive. You'll see ice cream on my Instagram that costs 6 dollars a pint. When it comes to every day vegan shopping, go for the basics. Grains, lots of vegetables, pasta, fruit, tofu, etc...and sure, buy those things I suggest as well- but those aren't necessarily your every day items. I more so intend for my posts to be treats. But you can get so much flavor with simplicity as well.
Are there any specific stores you would recommend on or offline to locals wanting to try more vegan foods?
I love Organnons in Wrightstown. Also, of course, Trader Joes, Wegman's, and Whole Foods. But you would be surprised at how much you can find at Giant. There are tons of vegan options. I once went to the Giant in New Hope and found SO many vegan items. In terms of online, Thrive Market is a great site.
What positives have you personally experienced through this journey into trying all of these new foods / products?
My eyes have been opened so wide to all of the options there are in terms of vegan food. One may think vegan food is limiting- but it is truly not. For every non-vegan thing you can't eat, there is a new vegan food you can. On this journey I have found so many new restaurants as well, especially in Philly. It really does change how you want to eat and amps up your creativity when cooking.
What grocery item or brand have you been most pleasantly surprised by lately?
I've been really pleased with Ben & Jerry's- they are creating more and more vegan ice cream flavors. I cannot wait to get my hands on the new flavors made with sunflower butter. Also Gardein- I know they're planning on launching more products and they have, I think the new breakfast bowls are delicious. In terms of a specific product, I just tried these bars from the Good Pop- they were cookies & cream flavor, and amazing.
What is the plan for Vegan Taste Tester in the future? How can people follow and support your work?
I just want to keep on posting more and more products- new, and older. I really would like to start posting more recipes as well. A plan for myself is to also travel more and post the food from the different places I try. I would like to also post more vegan alcohol and cocktails. There is so much I want to do. There are so many possibilities for The Vegan Taste Tester.
Imagine knowing exactly what you're looking for when you go out to the grocery store for a new item or treat. Pretty cool, right? The Vegan Taste Tester has taken away plenty of guesswork for us this way! You can follow the work of The Vegan Taste Tester on Instagram! (Well worth it!)
Uno Pizzeria & Grill, known by some simply as Uno or Uno's is a national chain inspired by Chicago, a city known as the birth place of deep dish pizza. This chain, whose salads for years even included meat and cheese now offers vegan (yes, fully plant-based or pure vegetarian - no animal product) options!
Last week (as of October 2019) the chain announced the new vegan options on their menu as a part of their 'Love All Feed All' initiative. "At Uno's everyone is special" the new menu publicity reads. While the new menu isn't fully vegan (It also features other new dishes for those with allergies as well as for those who eat meat just as before), we are excited to see the new vegan options.
Vegan labels are now right on the menu. Furthermore, the chain even defines vegan on their menu and explains what it means! - "Does not include animal meat or dairy, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs or honey." The new menu changes are not only available locally but have also been rolled out throughout each of Uno's locations nationwide. Uno locations in Bucks County include Doylestown (Warrington) and Neshaminy (Bensalem). In nearby Philadelphia you can find a location in Conshohocken and Bucks County residents can choose to visit Uno in nearby Hamilton, NJ as well.
Uno's new vegan options include 2 salads, 3 entrees and 14 veggie pizza toppings (all in this case coincidentally healthy veggies.. no plant based pepperoni just yet...) The entrees available are vegan veggie pizza (also called vegan garden pizza), vegan cheese pizza (with Daiya cheese), and the Beyond Burger. Given that the new vegan veggie pizza includes more healthy veggies (and less fat) we think many non-vegans will spring for this dine-out option too in an effort to stay healthier and get in more nutrients. Hey, maybe the new menu labels will even inspire visitors to Google more about why people choose vegan.
[Note that the vegan veggie (garden) pizza is not deep dish and we do hear that if you want deep dish you'll have to call your local restaurant ahead and request using your own discretion. Also, missing from the vegan options notably is dessert, which we really hope is soon to follow. A vegan brownie or chocolate cake if you're listening UNO.. all so easily made vegan! Let's do this! Many of us do not mind paying a slight additional cost while we wait for supply to heighten with demand and decrease cost.]
Even those not following a vegan diet seem excited by the new vegan inclusive menu changes. The changes make the restaurant more viable for families who have vegan family members they'd like to be able to dine with at the restaurant. The new vegan items are also viable for those participating in meatless Mondays and as we know, the Beyond Burger is well loved by vegans and non-vegans alike.
Local Bucks County vegan organizations like Vegans of Yardley are now planning special outings to try the new pizza! We can certainly see why. Some local pizzerias in Bucks will add vegan cheese if you bring it in or you can bring your own to use cold to top your sauce-only pizza (In keeping it vegan just be sure the restaurant's pizza crust and sauce do not have dairy or butter added). Still, vegan options when it comes to pizza in Bucks are still scant. While many vegans prefer cheeses other than Daiya, the new updates to vegan menu are a welcome are a very welcome surprise and we support it! Who will be next? Pizza Hut has added vegan cheese options in UK and Australia but not the US.
A spokesperson for Uno reached out to us and said "We are excited about this new menu we hope you'll try it!" Last week, animal rights group PETA messaged all of their national text subscribers regarding the new menu additions as well asking that animal lovers support these positive changes.
Did you know?
Not satisfied with the options at Uno or want to make your own Chicago style pizza economically at home? ...perhaps a Deep dish pizza with homemade cashew cheese, Yum! We can see it now. Guess what.. you may have to travel a little while or make a special trip but you can actually take cooking classes from Uno on how to make your own Uno-style deep dish pizza. Unfortunately these classes are not available vegan as of yet, but you could theoretically call ahead to request special class accommodations or apply the style to your very own ingredients at home. The closest class location to Bucks County is Washington DC.
See you in the comments?
Will you be trying and supporting the new options at Uno? Let us know in the comments below. Comments help us increase our search result status and reach!
Why order Vegan? Learn more here.
BUCKS COUNTY Vegan
Exploring & sharing delicious veg' friendly foods in & around Bucks County PA. 🌱Bucks County Pennsylvania is centrally located between Philadelphia & NYC. ☕️Follow us on Instagram @buckscountyvegan. Twitter @BucksVegan.