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Miyoko's Creamery Product Review Party
by Marla Rose
come a long way from the dark days of vegan cheese but I think there is
a part of my tongue that remains forever scarred by that frighteningly
plastic-like residue and the relentless taste I can only describe as
being reminiscent of old, dirty socks. (Yes, I might have eaten a few
old, dirty socks in my day – like you haven’t.) Thankfully,
fast-forward some years, and we have dedicated food scientists,
epicureans and entrepreneurs who are working to eradicate anything
dismal or less than delicious from the burgeoning array of animal-free
products. Chef, cookbook author, and all-around goddess Miyoko Schinner is just one of those pioneers, creating the Now and Zen Epicure cookbook based on recipes from her former restaurant in San Francisco, the UnTurkey (go here
to learn how you can recreate this old favorite in your own kitchen),
and the cookbook that took the world by storm a couple of years ago
(and probably caused a cashew and miso shortage), Artisan Vegan Cheese.
Recently, Miyoko tossed her hat into a new realm when she launched her
line of nine artisan vegan cheeses - err, cultured nut products – with
her new company, Miyoko’s Creamery.
(I’m going to call them cheese in this review just for simplicity’s
sake, though cultured nut product has a snazzy ring to it.) With
stylish packaging and a price point that seems to be consistent with
fine cheeses, this is miles away from the plastic vegan cheese product
of yore. When I saw Miyoko over the summer at Vegetarian Summerfest,
she invited me to a little Creamery preview party and I may have gotten
a little tipsy to get in character as I entertained my friends doing my
Angry, Drunk Vegan impersonation (I was playing a role!) but even in
that state, I knew that Miyoko’s cheeses were utterly divine and it was
clear that a game-changer was in front of us. We tried smoky, ashy,
sweet, creamy, complex flavors and textures previously not well
explored in non-dairy cheese. When Miyoko offered to send me some a few
months later to sample with my friends, I jumped at the chance.
Our hungry crew from Chicago VeganMania cleaned up nicely and got to sample the Harvest Collection with us, an assortment of five diverse flavors: Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf, French Style Winter Truffle, High Sierra Rustic Alpine, Classic Double Cream Chive, and Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic.
With wine, crackers, bread and fruit, it felt upscale and civilized in
a way that is rather rare for vegan gatherings, so for that reason
alone, Miyoko’s Creamery offered a fun opportunity to be able to dress
up, break out the cheese platter your mother bought you six months
before you went vegan and talk about a wine’s nuanced bouquet. Or, you
know, eat something pretty spectacular.
By and large, the group of us was pretty impressed by the collection,
all of which were very spreadable and worked very well with crackers,
apples and bread. We imagined that this would work as a completely
perfect replacement for the swanky cheese one might find at a
fancy-pants party without prefacing it with any excuses or a need to
tell those eating it to readjust their expectations. It’s that good,
there is no need. What follows are the impressions of the group of each
cheese and then our favorites in order.
Winter Truffle, described as “Elegant, woodsy, earthy flavors full of umami in a luxuriously creamy base,” on the Miyoko’s Creamery website:
“Creepy in a good way.” [Meaning cheesy.]
“Smoky. This is going to be hard to find my favorite, I can tell already.”
“It has the creamy mouth-feel of dairy cheese.”
“Not mushroom-y for truffle, which is good as far as I am concerned.”
“I found it mushroom-y but I like mushrooms.”
“This one is my favorite, though it’s the first one I tried. I have a feeling I am going to say that a lot.”
Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic, described on the website as, “Creamy and robust with deep Mediterranean flavors.”
“I like it. It’s tomato-y.”
“This would be great on a bagel.”
“It has an apple-y note. Something sweet but not cloying.”
“You only need a little bite for a lot of flavor.”
Classic Double Cream Chive, described as, “Buttery, savory, mild herbal garlic flavor” on the website.
“My favorite. There are two more to go but I’m pretty sure this will be my favorite.”
“This tastes like French onion dip. It’s my favorite so far. I bet it’d be great to mix with vegan milk and make a dip out of.”
“I love it. This is almost too good to put on a bagel but it’d be amazing that way.”
“Um. This is pretty great.”
“It reminds me of a flavored cream cheese but upscale.”
High Sierra Rustic Alpine, described on the website as, “A semi-hard wheel with nutty, sweet overtones and buttery finish.”
“Smoky and cheddar-y. I like it. It’s weird.”
“This one has a different texture. It’s more firm.”
“I like it but it’s kind of sticky; it’s kind of oily, too.”
“It has a strange mouth-feel. I still like it, though.”
“It’s too oily for me.”
Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf, described as, “Wine-soaked fig leaves caress a gorgeous soft, fresh, aromatic wheel,” on the website.
“This is the cheesiest of all. And I mean that in the best possible way.”
“It’s borderline ‘too salty’ for me but I think that would be reduced how you serve it.”
“This is the best for cheesiness.”
“I can tell that it’s good because I feel guilty eating it, like it’s dairy cheese or something.”
“If I didn’t see a label, I wouldn’t know it was vegan.”
Oh, also, “I am just wondering what that fig leaf was covering first.” Smart ass.
(Our buddy Jim attempts a cheese wheel sandwich. Nice try.)
This was how they stacked up against one another from most favorite to least, some separated by just a point or two:
1. Classic Double Cream Chive
2. French Style Winter Truffle
3. Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf
4. Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic
5. High Sierra Rustic Alpine
In all, we loved the cheeses and the opportunity to sample them. I know
it’s a cliché, but these are a real game-changer for those who “can’t
give up [their] cheese,” especially connoisseurs of finer varieties.
For those who are vegan or those who are looking to move in that
direction – or even anyone who wants to try something unique, flavorful
and different – Miyoko’s Creamery is highly recommended. Now getting
into grocery stores in Northern California, I am hoping that it won’t
be too long before it’s distributed nationwide. For now, though, you
can order on her website.
Perfect for a holiday party or just to enjoy with your family, you
won’t be disappointed with these gorgeous cheeses, and there are so
many opportunities to dress them up with crackers, fruit, bread and
more, as well as incorporate into luxurious recipes.
The dark days of vegan cheese? I think that they are officially behind us now.
Vegan Street received this product for free to review and this was my honest evaluation.
2013, 2014, Vegan Street