What does vegan nomad Kristin Lajeunesse think of New Zealand food? video

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff.co.nz

American blogger Kristin Lajeunesse travels the world promoting the vegan lifestyle.

She's travelled the world for five years in search of vegan-friendly eateries, including all 50 American states.

This week Kristin Lajeunesse touched down in Auckland for three weeks, travelling the country and seeing what we have to offer on the vegan foodie front.

She'll also feature as a guest speaker at New Zealand's very first vegan festival, Vegan Vibes, to be held in Tauranga on September 24.

Kristin Lajeunesse at Auckland's Little Bird Unbakery.
Lawrence Smith

Kristin Lajeunesse at Auckland's Little Bird Unbakery.

Lajeunesse's life as a vegan nomad began in 2011 when she quit her job, bought a van to live in, and set about travelling the USA on a mission to try every vegan eatery in the country.

"I thought that I would go on this trip for a year and then go back to my normal life," says Lajeunesse, across the table at Little Bird Unbakery's Ponsonby branch. 

"But then I totally fell in love with nomadic living, and that journey alone ended up taking two years instead of one, so I thought, OK, how can I keep travelling full time, so I became self employed so I could work from wherever."

The walnut mushroom burger at K Road's Revel eatery.
Kristin Lajeunesse

The walnut mushroom burger at K Road's Revel eatery.

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Now a freelance marketing consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs, Lajeunesse balances her travel time between that work, maintaining her own blog Will Travel For Vegan Food and contributing vegan-related content to other websites.

Il Buco has six kinds of vegan pizza on rotation.
Kristin Lajeunesse

Il Buco has six kinds of vegan pizza on rotation.

She's written a book, Will Travel for Vegan Food: A Young Woman's Solo Van-Dwelling Mission to Break Free, Find Food, and Make Love, published in April 2015, of her two-year American vegan odyssey, and since then has travelled extensively around Europe.

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It's her first trip to New Zealand though. Lajeunesse says she's heard amazing things about the country, and just one day in has found herself pleasantly surprised by the vegan offerings.

"I do expect to fall in love before I leave… with the country of course!

The Acai Bowl at Little Bird Unbakery.
Kristin Lajeunesse

The Acai Bowl at Little Bird Unbakery.

"Other than Vegan Vibes on the weekend I don't really have a plan. My plan is really just to eat some delicious vegan food and see the gorgeous landscape.

"When I saw the event was going on I reached out to the organisers, and said, 'I'm on this worldwide trek right now, I'd like to come down there'.

"They're going to have a variety of speakers, food vendors… I'm excited for it because it's the very first vegan festival here. It's cool to be here for that."

Kokako cafe's vege hash.
Kristin Lajeunesse

Kokako cafe's vege hash.

Lajeunesse says there are typically online vegan communities for every city, and before travelling to a destination, or on arrival, she often puts out word through these.

"If I'm looking for a couch to sleep on, a place to eat or someone to hang out with, I'll post in the group."

Of everywhere she's been, Berlin and Portland, Oregon have stood out as top spots for a vegan bite.

"Not only do they have a tonne of stuff, but just the care that goes into the food, you can see it in the way it's plated and the way it tastes."

But she's warming to Auckland, having already discovered a good variety of vegan options within walking distance.

"I think New Zealand is comparable to Europe actually [in terms of veganism], it's right at the tipping point of fully becoming a thing, but people just aren't making a big noise about it."

WHAT KRISTIN'S EATEN SO FAR IN NEW ZEALAND

Revel, Karangahape Road - The mushroom walnut burger (with mushroom, walnut and lentil pattie, greens, hummus and beetroot relish.

Il Buco, Ponsonby Road - has six different vegan options on rotation.

Little Bird Unbakery, Ponsonby - The acai bowl is a favourite dish of Lajeunesse's, and Little Bird's take ticked all the boxes, made with fresh acai berries, organic berries and banana topped with 'grawnola' and house made coconut yoghurt.

Mondays Wholefoods, Kingsland - The Zen Bowl (spice roasted root vegetables on a bed of zucchini noodles with coconut broth) and their Gold Latte (turmeric and spices with house made nut milk).

Grey Lynn village - Lajeunesse enjoyed a "lovely and filling" vegan hash at Kokako, before popping across to Tart Bakery, where 95 per cent of their pastries and savoury treats are vegan. Around the corner is The Cruelty Free Shop ("the only fully vegan store in the country"), where she picked up a Vego chocolate hazelnut bar ("my favourite guilty pleasure snack").

Know any good vegan-friendly spots around New Zealand? Tell us in the comments below.

 - Stuff

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