One of the hardest things that I have heard people say about going vegan is giving up cheese. I can attest to that feeling. One of the reasons it took me longer to come to veganism from vegetarianism was cheese. I made the transition to vegan once I could no longer refute the evidence about how dairy cows and calves are treated. I had to stop ignoring the facts. My body was also kicking me into it because I am lactose intolerant and eating cheese was an assault on my entire body. I gave into my conscious and body and went vegan. The end result was that I felt good and was exposed to a world of vegan cheeses to satisfy my want of eating cheese.
What I discovered were spreads, shreds, slices, cream cheeses and more. Most of these were every day cheeses like cheddar, jack, and mozzarella flavors. I have not run into very many specialty vegan cheeses until recently. The Durham Whole Foods was looking for local bloggers to taste Kit Hill artisanal nut milk based cheeses. I happily contacted them agreeing to get a sample of the product, taste it, and blog about it. What a hard job! ;-)
I was given a sample of the soft ripened cheese from the store. I noticed that they also carried soft fresh original and decided to buy that one to taste and compare. The website indicates that they have two other varieties, but I did not see it at Whole Foods. The two products that they do carry were located in the specialty cheese section with dairy cheeses. I did not realize this and first went to the produce section with tofu and tempeh. Then I went to the section of the store that carries the spreads and shreds. I wonder if the location of the cheese will harm the sales. As a vegan, I would never walk up to the cheese counter and look around for a vegan product. I think if this cheese is going to be viable product at Whole Foods, they need to let customers know that the vegan cheese is among the non-vegan cheeses. Otherwise, I am concerned vegans and dairy freers will never locate the product.
One of the first things that I noticed about the package is the few ingredients that it contains. It is a list of around 4 ingredients focusing mostly on nuts and enzymes. This product is dairy free, soy free and gluten free (well, at least the ingredients do not indicate soy and gluten ingredients). I really like that this product has so few ingredients. While I love vegan cheese, many of my favorites have more ingredients than I care to consume.
The soft ripened cheese is like a brie, while the soft fresh original is like a basket cheese. I am pleased that I bought both kinds because they are different. The soft ripened cheese has a casing around it like a brie does. I am not a cheese connoisseur and I ate the casing with the cheese, so if that is not the way to consume a soft ripened cheese, then whoops! I enjoyed the flavor of this cheese, but was not a huge fan of the flavor of the casing. The casing has a strange aftertaste. However, I think it it was served with a jam, fruit, or agave nectar then I think the casing taste would be quieted. I also know that brie is often baked and I wonder how this would turn out baked.
The soft fresh original was perfect the way it is. I would not change a thing about it and really enjoyed the flavor on a cracker. I am not sure how else it could be served, but I could also see it pairing well with fruits, jams or agave nectar. One of the notable things about both products is that they were delicious at room temperature. Many of the current vegan cheeses out there are only good when warmed up. I am not sure how these cheeses fare warmed up, but room temperature or cold they are delightful.
The verdict on both is that I see myself buying these for parties or holiday gatherings often. The prices on both were a bit steep (9.99 and 10.99), so I cannot justify them for every day consumption. However, I see them being a wonderful addition to any party, gathering, celebration, or as a treat. I also plan to experiment with the soft ripened to bake it and serve it drizzled with agave nectar.
If you are in your local Triangle Whole Foods, look for these cheeses. If you do not see them, ask. They are worth a try!