A curious thing happened one day last week. I arrived at the grocery store and noticed that David had added to our shared grocery list with all of the usual suspects for one of our nibbly nights. On the list – crackers, cornichons, dolmas, grapes, and a bottle of wine. I picked up the items in question and arrived home to see the star of the evening waiting on the doorstep.
Unbeknownst to me, David had ordered the Traditional Collection of cheeses from Miyoko’s Kitchen as a wonderful surprise. Miyoko Schinner is the goddess of vegan cheeses, and her book, Artisan Vegan Cheese, is beloved in our house as well as in the houses of so many other vegans. I’ve made several cheeses from the book, but I still haven’t made any of the slow aged variety, because I’ve been intimidated by the waiting time. Instead I’ve gone for cheeses with more instant gratification (or at least within a few days or so).
I have tried some of the more labor-intensive cheeses, though. Miyoko made some of her nut-based cheeses for the Vida Vegan Con gala last year. The platter was very well loved by the time I got there with just bits and pieces left.
Since that time Miyoko has opened a cheese-making facility of her own based out of Fairfax, California. At some point in the future, the facility will house a retail store with their own cheeses and a variety of other artisanal vegan products. They also plan on hosting events, including cooking demonstrations and movie nights. (So fun!)
However, for right now their cheeses are just beginning to show up in stores. Currently their products are available at Good Earth in Fairfax and Republic of V in Berkeley, California. Starting in November, they’ll be available in natural food stores (like Whole Foods) in Northern California. From there, they’ll branch out to smaller stores and restaurants. For the rest of us in the United States, Miyoko’s cheeses are now available online. (At this time, they’re not shipping out of the U.S.)
The Traditional Collection that David ordered included three cheeses: Aged English Sharp Farmhouse, Aged English Smoked Farmhouse, and High Sierra Rustic Alpine. However, only two cheeses were in the box – both varieties of the Farmhouse cheeses. Since the cheeses require aging and the demand has been high, there was more interest than there was supply on some of the cheeses that take time to age properly. So they ran out of the alpine. In exchange, they took that amount off of our total and gave us a coupon to use towards a future shipment, which is great because I’m very excited about ordering more.
With crackers and other nibblies laid out, I unwrapped the cheeses. They are in sweet, well-designed boxes, and the cheeses themselves are in glossy wax paper, wrapped up like presents with a seal. It felt like Christmas unwrapping the neatly folded packages.
The first thing I noticed was the size of the cheeses. I was afraid they might be small like the Doctor Cow cheeses, which come in at 2.6 ounces. (I think the Doctor Cow cheeses are very tasty, but at $10.99 for a small round of it, it doesn’t last long.) However, the cheeses from Miyoko were 6.5 ounces, which is considerably larger. There was plenty for our dinner that evening, along with enough for a European-style breakfast a couple days later with cheese, crackers, and fruit. After some additional random snacking, there’s now the tiniest wedge of cheese left.
And how did they taste? Heavenly. Both of the cheeses had very strong, sharp flavors that were tangy and exploded on the tongue. In the same way that dark chocolate has a much bolder flavor than milk chocolate, I loved how these cheeses had the same dominating pop of flavor. I was satisfied with less cheese on the cracker, because each sliver had so much richness of taste.
The Aged English Sharp Farmhouse is vaguely reminiscent of a sharp cheddar. There is also a bit of nutritional yeast taste to it. (That is totally good by me. I love nutritional yeast.) The cheese is firm but still spreadable, and I loved the crackly dry exterior of it. The ingredients are simple: organic cashews, water, organic chickpea miso, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and cultures.
The Aged English Smoked Farmhouse had a dominating smoky flavor that reminded me of the smoked cheeses I used to enjoy in my vegetarian days. Because of the smokiness, it was less neutral than the Sharp Farmhouse. I am a big fan of smoky flavors, and especially in the fall and winter, there’s something very warming about those tastes. It had a lovely bite to it that was noticeable but not overwhelming. The ingredients were the same as for the Sharp Farmhouse.
What to try next? The ones I’m most interested in ordering next time are the Double Cream Chive, which has been receiving raves all over the internet, the Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf, because it looks so beautiful and eating the leaf is part of the taste experience, and the Limited Edition Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash, because it looks so unique and eye-catching. However, I have a strong feeling that whatever I order, I won’t be able to make a wrong decision. Just from this one go, I can already say that Miyoko’s cheeses are easily my favorite vegan cheeses on the market.