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!)
Most know that when they consume a vegan meal they can help save the life of an animal and depending on the meal, also get lots of nutrients from plant sources and veggies. What many may not realize however is that there are often other less obvious benefits to the local economy and community when consumers support and encourage vegan businesses in their towns.
The benefits below are not all unique to vegan businesses only. However, many vegan businesses are uniquely committed to missions that lend themselves to these benefits. Let's take a look!
Reasons to Support Vegan & Very Vegan-Friendly Businesses in your Town
Reason 1 - Vegan businesses often fill hard-to-fill vacant spots.
Vegan businesses, while receiving more and more attention in the mainstream are still at this point 'niche businesses.' What does this mean for the towns and neighborhoods they reside within? It means that suddenly the area becomes a destination to visit for an all new demographic. People will often go out of their way and drive anywhere from 1-2 hours to frequent their favorite vegan or very vegan-friendly restaurant. This makes it possible for these kinds of restaurants to maintain a reasonable flow of traffic and maintain longevity (often in off-the-beaten path brick & mortar spots that would otherwise remain high-turnover or vacant due to lack of traffic and exposure). A great example of such a spot is the world famous Vegan Treats Bakery located on an inconspicuous side street in Bethlehem, PA. Bucks County itself also has several off-the-beaten path vegan-friendly restaurants that have celebrated anniversaries within their space that well outnumber the mainstream businesses that occupied the spot before them. Want to bring visitors into your town and receive a quick infusion into the local economy? Encourage a vegan business to open on your street or in your area.
Reason 2 - These businesses often have small, local business owners.
This one is somewhat obvious! While corporate chains make up a large portion of eatery options in the general sector, vegan businesses are often grass roots local operations. This means that a lot of what they do directly benefits the local community and economy. These are restaurants making your city, town, or county thrive even more! To check out a list of Bucks County's vegan and very vegan-friendly restaurants (most of which are locally and family-owned), check out our go-to favorites directory here.
Reason 3 - Many vegan restaurants utilize and promote local, in-season produce.
Let's talk about local produce and local produce farmers. Many decades ago before mass long-distance transit of goods was widely available, local communities had expertise on how to make the best use out of the vegetables and grains that were grown in their area during the growing seasons. They knew what to buy and make when, what veggies to pair with other veggies, and how to make the most out of everything. In doing so, they also supported their own local economies and produce farmers by buying local. Today, we don't always buy local because we don't quite know what's fresh at the moment, where to get it, or how to use it! Many vegan and vegetarian restaurants (along with other specially focused restaurants), have a great penchant for helping us with that. Examples in Bucks? Sprig & Vine in New Hope often makes amazing use of local and seasonal produce on their menu often. They provide not only an amazing place to eat but also great culinary inspiration. Just outside of Bucks County we have Lady & the Shallot educating an entire area on how to stay full and healthy incorporating local veggies right from the Trenton Farmer's Market!
Reason 4 - Many vegan restaurant chefs are experts at helping and showing the community how to get more veggies in their diet (whether community members are vegan or not).
Vegetable eating is making quite the comeback. After decades of popularized processed foods and other non-vegetable rich meal trends, the 2000's brought us a resurgence in interest in healthy bodies and getting back to nature. Vegetables are an age old essential for staying healthy and getting your nutrients. The only trouble is, if you grew up knowing only how to cook corn, meat and potatoes, you may have some chef's block (like writer's block) when it comes to figuring out how to tastefully incorporate a larger variety of vegetables into your daily meals. Vegan restaurants are a shoo-in for helping entire towns out with this! Not only can they help us get more vegetables through their often plant-rich menu items, they can also show us by example and inspire us as to how to do so at home. Many flavor combinations and proper spicing mixes to compliment veggies are observed via visits to vegan restaurants. Many of these restaurants employ plant-based chefs who are experts at these things. Some even offer cooking classes locally, many promoting and educating for healthier, more well-nourished communities. Right here in Bucks County for example, plant-based cooking classes are offered via Saucy's Kitchen and Dinner Service.
Whether you are vegan or simply can appreciate a vegan product or meal occasionally, you can help to infuse your local community with life, energy, and economic benefits when you support or encourage a local vegan or plant-based business. A thriving, healthy, and thoughtful local economy is a positive effect we can all love!
Is Thanksgiving possible without animal products? Absolutely! ..and this year a number of restaurants in and around Bucks County, Pennsylvania are proving it. For the first time ever Bucks County has not only a few but a multitude of options to choose from when it comes to bringing ready-to-go plant-based items to your table this year. Thank goodness for Thanksgiving 2019! In fact, everything sounds so delicious, you may have a hard time choosing! For your convenience the restaurants below are offering awesome Thanksgiving items for pick-up:
* Article header photo credit: www.forksoverknives.com
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.