Miyoko’s Kitchen: Nut-Based Vegan Cheeses

Miyoko's Kitchen: Vegan cheesesA 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.

Miyoko's Kitchen: Vegan cheeses made from nutsSince 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.

Miyoko's Kitchen: Nut-based vegan cheesesWith 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.

Vegan cheeses from Miyoko's KitchenAnd 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.

Vegan cheeses made from nuts - Miyoko's KitchenThe 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.

NYC Vegan Travel: Greenwich Village, East Village, SoHo & Upper East Side

Sacred Chow - New York CityDo you know the best way to really see a city – especially one that can feel complicated and sprawling? While tagging along with a local! Luckily in New York, I had just such a person – my friend, Dianne (a.k.a. Veggie Girl). Dianne met me at my hotel, and we started off on a day of much walking, sightseeing, and shopping.

First stop – lunch. We went to Sacred Chow, where neither of us could decide between the Roasted Black Olive Seitan Panini and the Thai Ginger Barbecue Seitan Panini. Answer? We both ordered one and then gave half to the other person. It’s a good thing too – she preferred the one I ordered (BBQ), and I preferred the one she ordered (olive).

Washington Square - NYCWe walked through Washington Square Park, which was exciting to me as a long-time When Harry Met Sally fan. I imagined the two parting ways there after a long drive from Chicago.

Vegan Ice Cream - NYCVegan ice cream - New York CityFor dessert, we walked to Van Leeuwen for some ice cream made with coconut and cashew milk. I ordered a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of banana nut.   It was particularly hot and sticky that week, and so the ice cream went down deliciously well.

Moo Shoes - NYCWe stopped by the all-vegan shoe store, Moo Shoes, and got some much-needed kitty therapy by way of their friendly in-store kitty cat. There was one pair of shoes that particularly caught my eye, but I resisted. Then I noticed earlier this week that they’d gone on sale and had just one pair left in my size! So they arrived in the mail yesterday. Woo hoo! It’s a little post trip souvenir.  (Moo Shoes recently opened an L.A. location as well. Those SoCal locals are so lucky!)

Then we went to nearby Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics to check out their 100% vegan makeup.

Pearl River NYC - bunny bowlNext, we ventured to SoHo, because I wanted to visit a two-level Asian import store that I’d heard about, Pearl River. There’s clothing, stationery, stuff for the home, food, and dishes. I had the hardest time choosing and ended up picking this sweet bowl with rabbits running across it. I love the wet look of the paint.

Dianne and I met up again a few days later, this time with husbands in tow and my friend, Katrina. We went to V-Note for dinner, which is an organic wine bar and vegan bistro created by the same people who own Blossom.

French Onion Soup - V NoteTheir soup of the day was French Onion, and even though it had been a million degrees outside all day, I couldn’t resist ordering it. It was topped with a dollop of melted Daiya and a slice of crusty bread. The soup was rich and full bodied.

Crispy Pine Nut & Basil Seitan - V NoteFor my entrée, I ordered the Crispy Pine Nut & Basil Seitan. The seitan was covered in a creamy white wine sauce with roasted potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. It was then topped with grilled pineapple.

Tiramisu - V NoteBy this point I was well past full and skipped out on dessert, but I did snag a bite of the Tiramisu that Katrina ordered, and it was heavenly.

V NoteWe all had such a fun night and really clicked. The conversation flowed easily and non-stop.  I still have one more NYC post left, but this dinner was our last night in New York, and it was just the perfect cap on the week. Friends, food, and laughter – what more could a person want?

For more pictures from our visit, check out this post from Dianne on Veggie Girl.