The Rotunda was the perfect venue for Philly's first vegan macaroni-and-cheese competition, "The Philly MAC-Down - Best Vegan Mac & Cheese in the City," if only because a lot of us walked out of there more rotund than when we came in. Nine contestants offered attendees singular takes on vegan macaroni and cheese, along with a bonus helping from Miss Rachel's Pantry, and both the quality and the variety were remarkable.
When the judges had tried all of them and deliberated very deliberately, the champion was LJ Steinig, known to social-media vegans as VeganliciousLJ, who said she had veganized her mother's recipe, and who seemed as surprised as anybody that all her "smack talk" about wiping the floor with the other contestants turned out to come true. People's Choice, which attendees voted on after trying one or two or three samples from each of the contestants, went to the Plant Power Couple (Brittany & Terrence Roche), who proffered a very tasty coconut-bacon-infused dish that also had coconut bacon bits for topping (more on that in this Thursday's V for Veg).
Most Original was It's Not Easy Being Green, which featured green beans along with crispy onions and mushrooms. If there had been an art award comprising presentation and costumes (you'll have to forgive me if I have the Kinetic Sculpture Race on my mind this week) it would likely have gone to Vegan Chef Lenka, who carried a "sailing" theme to the utmost with samples in little paper boats arranged on a beach, and who spent the event in a sailor's outfit. She also won a certain amount of audience favor by topping everyone off with some of her signature vegan creme brulee that was donated by The Plough and The Stars.
There were also plenty of raffle prizes, maybe one or two too many, as the calling out of ticket numbers finally became a little repetitive as we were waiting to see who had won. But that was a small speed bump in a fun event that also made a statement about the great variety and quality of vegan foods in Philly. Carlo and Carmella of V Marks the Shop promised more fun to come, and I for one can't wait to see what their next vegan move is.