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Vegan at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, Daly City, Bay Area

Nerd alert!   . . .   For many years, my family has been heavily involved in Renaissance Faires.  At one time or another we have all been participants, actors in shows, interacting with patrons in the streets, and just adding to the ambiance of the fair in our costumes.  It’s pretty common for fair participants to visit and sometimes participate in multiple fairs throughout the year.  For this reason, we tend to know a few people at any given fair in the state.  This is why we made plans to visit the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in Daly City, just south of San Francisco.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair as you may have guessed is a Dickens-era Christmas fair, set in the streets of London.  Not only are there everyday Londoner characters, but you will see many of Charles Dickens’ famous characters roaming the fair as well.  At one point, Eric and I popped into Fezziwig’s Dance Hall to watch some festive dancing and watched Ebenezer Scrooge wander in, wide-eyed, led by the Ghost of Christmas Past.  This was our first visit and our impression was that it was a very family-friendly fair.  We loved seeing little kids everywhere, dressed as chimney sweeps, covered in soot or roaming the streets with a telegraph message.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

As a vegan, when it comes to food at fairs I usually don’t expect more than a few snack options.  I planned ahead by having a full breakfast at the hotel (thanks Homewood Suites, for having soy milk and cereal as well as fruit and tea!) and smuggling in a bag of trail mix and some fruit.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a couple of perfectly yummy vegan options.

I got lunch from the Acropolis Greek Food booth (this is a familiar booth from other fairs) where they have a variety of Greek concoctions.  I ordered a falafel pita with tahini (made from sesame seeds) instead of tzatziki sauce (which is made with yogurt).  It was filling and tasted just how I expected it to taste.  They also offer dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), which are vegan.

Acropolis Falafel Pita, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Eric and I ran into a friend, working at the Bramosia Fine Chocolates & Candies booth.  After chatting for a while, I noticed a small sign in the display saying “Vegan Truffles.”  I exclaimed, “I can’t believe you guys have vegan truffles!”  He then told me that they use coconut milk for the truffles and they actually offer a few candies that fall into the vegan category.  When it comes to desserts, I’m a chocolate person, so I got a vegan chocolate truffle.  They also have a vegan coconut caramel cup and a vegan pear fruit candy as well.  I loved the truffle and went back for another before we left.

Bramosia booth, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Bramosia booth, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Bramosia vegan truffle, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

I didn’t get a chance to try the cinnamon crunch almonds found in multiple locations around the site, but my mom asked how they were made on a previous visit and confirmed that they are vegan.

Overall, I would recommend visiting the fair for a fun, if expensive, holiday activity.  It runs until December 22nd this year.  I read on the website that they heavily discount admission if you arrive after 4pm and I’m confident that you could see quite a lot between then and 7pm.  Now you know that there are some good, relatively affordable vegan options.  Make sure to get a vegan truffle!

Vegan at Falafel Palace, Northridge

Falafel Palace is a little Greek and Middle Eastern restaurant near Cal State Northridge.  I have driven past the place thousands of times over the years and sadly, never stopped in.  However, Eric and I were attending a comedy show on campus (Jo Koy, Natasha Leggero, and Josh Wolf) and arrived early and hungry, so we decided on Falafel Palace.  For those unfamiliar with falafels, they are very filling grilled or fried balls made of chickpeas, parsley, and spices.  I walked in knowing that Falafels and hummus are safe bets, but was thrilled to see a vegan section of the menu.  In fact, the restaurant was so vegan-friendly that they had labels on sauce containers identifying them as non-dairy.

Listed as vegan are the following items:

  • Falafel pita with lettuce, tomato, and tahini (sesame seed sauce)       $6.75
  • Chickpea wrap with falafel, tahini, avocado, lettuce, and tomato       $8.99
  • Garden burger with veggie patty, vegan mayo, lettuco, tomato, and grilled onions       $8.95
  • Vegetarian Gyro with falafel, hummus, tabouli, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and tzatziki       $7.25
  • Falafel Plate with salad, rice, 2 sides, and pita       $9.95
  • Homemade Baklava       $2.25
  • You can also get falafel balls and dolma as sides.

I ordered the chickpea wrap because I had never tried falafel with avocado before plus a small side of hummus and 2 pitas.

I loved the wrap.  It was fresh and warm and the avocado added a great creamy element to the falafel, which often can be heavy and dry.

The hummus was a little on the bland side and slightly thin, but the pita were so soft and warm.  We didn’t need the side, though because we were both full from our respective meals.

Falafel Palace, Northridge | A Vegan in Progress

We will definitely be back.  It’s even close enough to my office that I may be able to squeak in a visit for lunch.

Vegan Recipe – Thug Kitchen Buffalo Falafel Balls

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If you haven’t heard of Thug Kitchen, do yourself a favor and head over to Facebook and like the page, where recipes and healthy eating advice are presented in a really frank and funny way.  Each post is accompanied with a recipe in the caption.

The other day I saw this post for Buffalo Falafel Balls and realized that we had almost all of the ingredients for it and what we didn’t have, I could get at the Sherman Oaks Farmer’s Market that night.  The original recipe can be found here.

Thug Kitchen Buffalo Falafel Balls | A Vegan in Progress

I used the Thug Kitchen recipe, but I wasn’t sure how much cauliflower I would need for 1/3 pound.  I rationalized that a head of cauliflower would weigh about a pound (that could be totally off), so I pulverized 1/3 of a cauliflower head in the food processor.  Then I started to think that this would be way too much cauliflower and had visions of really dry, crumbly falafels, so I held back a little.  This turned out to be a mistake.  I would recommend either following the recipe exactly or adding more and more cauliflower until you reach the desired consistency.  You don’t want it to be too dry and not hold together, but if it’s so wet that it’s sticking to your hands more than forming into balls, it needs more cauliflower.  I ended up letting them cook much longer because mine were so wet.  They were really hard to flip over halfway through without losing their shape and came out much softer and flatter than they should have been, but they still tasted great.  I will be making this again and experimenting with the ratios.

I didn’t have bread crumbs, so I used Corn Flake crumbs, which worked just fine.  I used 1 tsp pizza seasoning and 2 tsp cajun seasoning since I didn’t have any all purpose seasoning and felt that the original measurements seemed like too little seasoning.  Since I didn’t have a lot of time after fighting an hour of traffic to get to Sherman Oaks to go to the Farmer’s Market with my sisters, I didn’t have a lot of time to cook, I ended up using store bought buffalo sauce.  I just made it less hot by mixing one part buffalo sauce and one part vegetable oil.

Buffalo Falafel Balls Pita | A Vegan in Progress

These falafel pitas were delicious and relatively easy to make considering what you get.  Eric liked them a lot as well, but said they didn’t hold up too well after refrigerated overnight.  We will definitely have these again.