Photo by Gene Blalock.
Have you ever uttered the words “I would be vegan, but I just can’t live without cheese?”
You’re definitely not alone—and you’re not crazy. Cheese addiction is real.
Turns out that all dairy products contain casomorphins, an opiate-like substance that encourages baby mammals to nurse from their mothers so they don’t starve to death. Cheese contains an abundance of concentrated casomorphins. When you eat cheese, you’re getting a little high.
So it was in the interest of science, and public service, that my wife and I contacted a few new artisan vegan cheese companies and invited them to send us their brand-spanking new products getting ready to hit the market shelves for a wine and cheese tasting event.
Along with the cheese, we served our friends wines from Vegan Vine—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blend. Vegan Vine is made entirely without animal ingredients typically used in the winemaking process. The four most common animal products used are albumin (from egg whites), casein (the main protein in milk), isinglass (fish bladders, usually from sturgeon) and gelatin (from animal hooves and sinews). These products are used as fining/filtration agents, binding with small particles in the wine to soften the flavor and render it crystal clear.
Instead, Vegan Vine wines are fined with Bentonite clay from naturally occurring volcanic ash. It has been found equally effective in removing haziness and undesirable characteristics—and, it’s 100 percent vegan. Vegan Vine’s winery and vineyard in San Martin CA are also certified sustainable.
And now, for the cheese. Cheeses we tasted included:
- Heidi Ho Veganics two brand-new cheeses Ne Chevre Pure + Simple and Ne Chevre Hazelnut + Black Lava Salt
- Treeline Cheese sent over Herb-Garlic French Style Soft Cheese
- Door 86 sent us Brie, Cheese Ball, White Stilton with Candied Lemon and Sriracha Cheddar
- Rau Om sent over Tofu Misozuke, tofu aged to creamy umami perfection, considered a Japanese delicacy.
To up the ante, as well as the amount of cheese available to stuff in our faces, we asked our guests to create a homemade vegan cheese as well. I must say that I was shocked not only by the array of cheeses, but also the quality. We had quite the spread—from bleu cheese to cheddars to bries to pepper jack to a tangy spreadable mystery called “Edenhurst,” probably 15 homemade artisan cheeses in all. Our friends know how to work.
Between our professional cheeses, and our talented home cooks, we have to say: the world of artisan vegan cheese is alive and well. Look no further than these three fantastic vegan cheese cookbooks currently available: Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner, The Non-Dairy Formulary by Skye Michael Conroy and The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. Between these three books, and the hugely talented vegan food bloggers out there, there’s an animal-friendly version of practically every classic cheese.
We asked our guests to pick their favorite cheeses to pair with the four different varietals (hey, we take our eating and drinking seriously). Here are the winners:
Best cheese with Vegan Vine Chardonnay: a tie! Votes were split evenly between Door 86’s spicy and tangy Siracha Cheddar and Door 86’s delicious Lemon Stilton. All of Door 86’s cheeses were delicious, but these two in particular stood out for flavor and gourmet cred. Vegan Vine’s Chardonnay isn’t overly oaky or buttery, and is likable enough to win over even the “ABC” crowd – “anything but Chardonnay.”
Best cheese with Vegan Vine Sauvignon Blanc: another tie! Voters couldn’t decide between Treeline Herb-Garlic French Style Soft Cheese and Heidi Ho Ne Chevre Hazelnut + Black Lava Salt. Needless to say you cannot go wrong with either gourmet option. Vegan Vine’s crisp, cheerful, and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc is a refreshing wine that goes perfectly with summer.
Best cheese with Vegan Vine Cabernet Sauvignon: The runaway winner here was Treeline Herb-Garlic French Style Soft Cheese, making it a two-time champion. Vegan Vine’s Cabernet Sauvignon is a smooth, classy, medium-bodied red with slight hints of spice.
Best cheese with Vegan Vine Red Blend: Another hands-down decision, Heidi Ho Ne Chevre Pure + Simple took the win here for its creamy lusciousness. Vegan Vine’s Red Blend is a berry and jammy Bourdeaux-style combo of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and others.
We thank all our guests, the cheese companies that are turning the vegan world upside down, and of course Vegan Vine for giving us a great excuse to party.
For a recap of the Vegan Vine/vegan cheese party, please visit this link at The Thinking Vegan.
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Ed: Sara Crolick