Wilderness Festival

I have never been particularly into festivals or camping, but when I recently got the opportunity to work at Wilderness Festival from August 3 – 6, I knew I absolutely had to take it.

Wilderness is a festival for ‘Nomads and gastronomes. Rockers and roamers. Drifters and dreamers. The reclusive, the wise, the weird and the wild.’ Held in the beautiful Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, it has something that appeals to pretty much everyone: a host of workshops (from paddleboard yoga, tai chi and calligraphy to the more eccentric taxidermy, ‘pimp your pineapple’ and hunter gatherer cookery classes), talks and debates, theater, live music, and an almost overwhelming array of food stalls to chose from – many of which provide healthy and/or plant-based options. (I’ll leave you to guess which of these factors held the largest attraction for me 😉 )

Despite working throughout the festival (I was there to support one of the food brands), I was able to soak up the incredible atmosphere and general good vibes. It was wonderful eating my early morning bowls of granola and nut butter in the warming rays of the sun, watching the white tents in ‘The Sanctuary’, and the yogis and interpretive dancers (I think that’s what they were doing?!) come to life. I also enjoyed going for walks in the scenic ‘wilderness’ and soaking up the peace of nature (luckily without bumping into the ‘dance your naked truth’ participants), away from the business of London.

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Outside of our shifts, my lovely friend Amy and I made the most of our free time by exploring the stalls and tents throughout the festival. We also attended a fabulous free workshop by The Cutlery Commission on spoon engraving. We had fun punching letters into a metal plate with hammers until we were ‘ready’ [not really] to personalize our own vintage spoons. The result is these two items of customized cutlery, whose wonky engraving in no way detracts from the pride we feel in having created them 😉

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As to the food, we were spoiled for choice and had real difficulties in deciding where to go when we weren’t having (delicious!) food on shift.

The highlights were, without a doubt:

Club Mexicana

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The Beer-Battered To-Fish with pickled cabbage, salsa verde, pickled chilies and sour cream (all vegan) on soft, dark corn tacos was an absolute dream! It was unlike anything I’d had before – the perfect kind of vegan ‘junk food’ that didn’t leave you feeling gross, but nourished and satisfied. I also got to try some of the incredible (!) BBQ pulled jackfruit burrito, which Amy went for and kindly offered me some of. It’s put jackfruit back in my good books, after a horrendous encounter with a pulled jackfruit burger a while ago.

Verdict: a must-try! (for info on where to find them in London click here).

 

Vurger

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Now, this was not a new one for me, as I first had a Vurger at Balance Festival (see my review here), and again at the Pillbox Kitchen in Bethnal Green. Surely the fact that I went for this again, amidst so many new options, speaks for its utter irresistibility!! I went for the MLT again (baked mushroom and borlotti bean patty topped with a sundried tomato, basil and walnut pesto, with vegan cheese and in the best burger bun) and it truly was the most soul-satisfying experience!! Amy was just as satisfied with her Auburger (chipotle smokey Aubergine, red onion and a chickpea patty topped with cumin mayo and pickled cabbage – and extra avo 😉 ).The only disappointment was that they weren’t serving the Truffle Mac n Cheese at the festival – as I’m super intrigued by this.

Definitely check these guys out, see where they pop up next, and keep your eyes peeled for a permanent location in London!

 

Bad Brownie

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(Featured here with the peanut butter brownie our friend Lauren went for. And yes – not the best quality picture!)

Amy and I were both craving something sweet in the evenings and, on the hunt for something to satisfy our cravings, we stumbled across Bad Brownie. While not a plant-based company, they do sell a vegan (and gluten-free) salted caramel brownie, which we could not resist. The brownie was wonderfully rich, with a pleasantly fudgy texture (nothing worse than a dry brownie).

Speaking of vegan brownies, however, I can’t not mention the brownie I had today, because it absolutely blew the Bad Brownie one out of the water! After arriving at King’s Cross St Pancras from a short trip to Lille, I had to make a cheeky stop at Vx (a little vegan shop on Caledonian Rd with treats and – so I’d heard – the best vegan brownies). The salted caramel brownie I had from there was honestly insane. Richer, fudgier, gooier than the Bad Brownie one – and probably the unhealthiest thing I’ve eaten since going plant-based! Oh my… But, I assure you, I didn’t feel even the slightest inkling of guilt as it was just so incredibly delicious – the sweetness wonderfully complemented by little kicks of saltiness. Another must-visit!

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(The salted caramel brownie from Vx) 

The big disappointment for me was the açai bowl by Boa Vida Açai. I was genuinely shocked by how little I was able to enjoy it, as it was like eating tasteless slush. Harsh words, and I wish it had been otherwise, but that’s all I can say about that.

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To conclude on my time at Wilderness: It was an intense immersion into a truly weird and wonderful world, with amazing people, incredible food, stunning nature – all of which more than made up for the bipolar weather, the disappointing açai, and the cold, mostly sleepless nights in the tent. (Special shoutout to the best tent-buddy ever – wouldn’t have made it without you Amy 😀 😉 )

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Balance Festival

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Today I was back at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane for another great wellbeing event – reminiscent of Fare Healthy, but with its own awesome vibe. While I had an amazing time at Fare Healthy back in February, I learned a few things that I am pleased to say I implemented at Balance Festival: 1) less talks, more food sampling, and 2) not just sampling, but also buying!

This way I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on some awesome brands, rushing from one talk to the next. The talk I did attend – on brain health and diet by Kimberley Wilson (who proved she is not only great at baking cakes!) – was incredibly interesting. Nothing that I hadn’t somehow come across before, but it was good to hear it all in context, with the emphasis on what’s truly important. (Which, in case you’re wondering, is: omega 3s, lots of fruit and veg – especially leafy greens – nuts, seeds, beans, vitamin D, polyphenols; and did you know: eating berries boosts brain function 90 minutes after consumption! Definitely will keep that in mind for Friday’s exam – might make some energy balls using the Arctic Power Berries I got 😉 )

To keep this post as short and sweet as I can, considering my ability to babble on forever about these kinds of things, I will share with you the two stand out food brands that I came across, and two of my favorite products I sampled.

Stand Out Food Brands

Escape & Bake

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This newly launched gluten-, refined sugar- and dairy-free treats business garnered lots of “ooohs” and “aaahs” by the people gathering around, and it’s no surprise why. There was a truly divine array of desserts, from millionaire peanut butter bars and donuts to red velvet layer cake and an incredibly indulgent looking raspberry chocolate tart. Everything looked an absolute dream. I was literally in a state of distress trying to make a decision! I ended up getting a Raw Snickers Bar (unadulterated bliss) and a Raw Chocolate Peanut & Almond Butter Brownie (can’t wait to have that tomorrow!!). They are selling these two treats as well as some others online. Definitely keep on eye on this brand!

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The Vurger Co

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This was honestly the best burger of my (not just plant-based!) life. I wasn’t planning on having one, as I tend to avoid mushrooms and onion, but I couldn’t resist a bite of my friend’s burger, and was so smitten that I had to get one of my own. (Nevermind the fact that I’d just had a raw snickers bar and wasn’t even hungry). I had the “MLT” Vurger, with walnut pesto, rocket, sundried tomatoes and vegan cheese. Every bite was packed with amazing flavor, and the bun was a dream. I know they also do a truffle mac & cheese (also fully plant-based), which I’m dying to try. Definitely check out where they pop up next – their food is too good to miss!

Favorite Products Sampled

Mindful Bites nut butter – I was really taken by the Almond & Maca and the Hazelnut & Berries nut butter. Especially the hazelnut one, as it was not only delicious, but also truly unique – something that I think is hard in a nut butter nowadays. These nut butters are proper “treat” nut butters, for a slightly more special nutty occasion than your every day quick spoon-in-the-jar fix. The only reason I didn’t buy any is that I have already quite a few nut and seed butters open, to state it mildly, and they are a bit pricey. Definitely on my list of treats though!

Pollen & Grace – I sampled their Sweet Potato & Peanut Butter Flapjack as well as the Raw Cacao Protein Bar and was in raptures! I didn’t get any this time around, as the shelf life is not too long (a good thing, as they’re not full of junky preservatives!), and I felt like I’d bought quite a few things already, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for these in future at Planet Organic. They were super tasty and full of goodness! A fabulous, nourishing treat. (Note: the sweet potato ones are plant-based,  but not vegan, as they contain some honey).

Short and sweet? Definitely sweet for me – so many awesome food memories 😀 But as always, these events are about so much more than just the food. It’s the people you share the food with, the people whose eyes light up with yours at the wonderful things you taste and discover, the people who inspire you and those vital ones who will tell you if your mouth is covered in chocolate.

Hope you enjoyed reading, and if you happen to be going to Balance tomorrow, do check out some of these brands!

xoxo