August 22nd, 2013 by Gary Smith
Sometimes we come up with pretty good ideas around here. The idea to have a Vegan Vine wine tasting and cheese making/cheese tasting event is definitely one of our better ideas. In addition to tasting all four of Vegan Vine’s varietals – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Red Blend – we were able to get a few vegan cheese companies on board.
Some of the companies are new, and some sent us brand-spanking new products getting ready to hit the market shelves. 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 friends to create a homemade vegan cheese as well, and hinted that there would be a contest of some sort to make sure they brought their ‘A’ game. 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 werk.
We also had a packed room of hungry and talented vegans such as Nathan Runkle and Ari Solomon of Mercy For Animals, Alternative Outfitters co-owner Jackie Horrick, Vegan Collection creator Kevin Lien, Clara Cakes owner Clara Polito, Bizzaro comic artist Dan Piraro, indie filmmakers Gene Blalock and Denis Henry Hennelly, screenwriter Mikko Alanne, musician Tony Kanal, and several bloggers whose reports will surely come later.
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, revealed for the first time, are our 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.
Finally, who’s the best fromager we know? We asked guests to select their two favorites, and it is with great humility that we confess my own blue cheese, from a recipe available in Conroy’s The Non-Dairy Formulary, was one of the two winners. Vegan blue cheese? Yes. It even had blue-green swirls. How, you ask? You’ll have to buy the book.
The other favorite, provided by Ari and Mikko, was the spreadable aged sharp cheddar from Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese, which they made using the “crock-style” option. This cashew-based cheese gets its tang from miso and was delicious on crackers and baguette slices.
We’d like to 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.