This past Sunday afternoon, with no real plan, I headed out to the Vegetarian Food Festival at the Southwest Florida Buddhist Temple in St. Petersburg. I didn't have many details on the event at all - just an address and a time frame - but was excited to support a veg*n event in the area.
The entrance to the temple kind of snuck up on me and I turned in just in time. I was not expecting to encounter so many statues, right there in front of me. I admit, an audible "Whoa!" escaped my mouth.
(I didn't actually say it Joey Lawrence-style, unfortunately. It was more like a whisper.)
After parking in a fairly full lot, I headed to the nearest entrance and kicked off my shoes before entering the temple.
It was very soon after entering that I realized the actual food festival was behind the temple, as I could see it through open doors on the other side of the building. Oh well. I already had my shoes off, so I figured I'd wander around inside for a minute.
It was a beautiful day for a vegetarian food festival.
The set up was like a bustling market. A bit over a dozen booths were set up, each manned by a local family, selling a variety of Vietnamese foods, ranging from traditional to unique.
Veggie chicken wings, anyone?
I noticed a crowd gathering around a particularly busy booth where sugar cane juices were being made.
I had a taste, and was pleased to find it wasn't as sweet as one would expect from freshly juiced sugar cane. It tasted very fresh and had a hint of citrus, as well.
I did some more strolling, juggling juice and my camera, and then came upon a vat of pho. At this point, I was starting to realize that a cold might be coming on, and soup sounded pretty awesome.
It was perfect. Rich, flavorful broth... juicy shitake mushrooms... crisp mung bean sprouts... tofu... bright tastes of cilantro... I wasn't crazy about the mock ham and mock beef and left most of that behind, but everything else about this was delightful. I couldn't quite master the art of eating rice noodles with chop sticks, so by the end of this bowl, I had chopsticks, a spoon, and a fork. Whatever.
Before leaving, I took a stroll through the little statue garden in front of the temple. As I mentioned previously, the weather was just perfect.