Friday, February 28, 2014

Perelandra's Definitive Guide to Vegan Cheese

Growing up, I always thought of the cheese platter as the pinnacle of sophistication, something to be eaten in a little black dress while talking casually about modern art and trips to Paris. But by the time I was old enough to actually encounter a cheese board, I was vegan. I tried to console myself, "Who cares about being fancy when you're doing what you think is right?" Only I did care. I wanted to eat my cheese and be vegan, too.

Six years later. Enter Perelandra. I stopped in one day to pick up a pack of Daiya mozzarella style shreds--my absolute favorite pizza topping--when I noticed a group of other vegan cheeses, elegantly wrapped and looking like they could hold their own at a cocktail party.

Perelandra carries more than 25 varieties of non-dairy cheeses from Teese, Daiya, Dr. Cow, Punk Rawk Labs, Tofutti, Treeline and Follow Your Heart. Every flavor is distinctly delicious and has it own best uses. Some can be paired with olives or fruit for a beautiful cheese board.  Surprised by all of the options? Use this guide to find the best ones to serve the next time you feel like throwing a party and spending more time on your outfit (and catching up on modern art) than cooking!

Perelandra's vegan cheeseboard! "It's a tough job eating delicious vegan cheeses, but someone's gotta do it." - Testers

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Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet: This product is one of the first commercially available vegan cheeses that we can recall - first there was Veganrella, and then there was Follow Your Heart many years later, and for a long time it was the only game in town. It is made by the makers of perennial vegan favorite, Vegenaise. It is available in mozzarella, monterey jack and cheddar flavors and has a base of soy protein.
Sliceable? Yes, it is sliceable, and it is easiest to slice just out of the fridge. It has a more gelatinous texture than any of the others and is suitable for grating as well.
Meltability? It melts fairly well, especially when put under a broiler.
Best uses: Pizza and lasagna. We don't recommend this one for eating straight from the package.
Staff Comments on Follow Your Heart Mozzarella: "I don't like this one." "I can see it being good in lasagna." "Not great on a cracker." "Bland, but I can see it being tasty if you're cooking with it."

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The Organic Gourmet Soy Feta: This is the only feta substitute that we've seen. Formerly owned by Sunergia, it has been around for a long time and has a loyal following. It has an organic soymilk base and carries the USDA certified organic seal.
Sliceable? Yes, you can slice it but it is quite crumbly like real feta. It has a firm tofu-like texture.
Meltability? It is not meltable.
Best uses: Recipes that call for feta, pizza with roasted veggies.
Staff Comments: "Tastes like what you would expect feta to taste like, with good flavor. Not great by itself, but would be good in a dish." "I like the texture."

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Dr. Cow: Made in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this cashew-based cheese is fermented the same way dairy cheese is fermented, so it has the same savory, umami tang. It comes in both hard cheese and spreadable forms, and all have a simple base of cashews, probiotics and Himalayan sea salt. They make an array of flavors, including one with kale, one with algae, and a sun-dried tomato-turmeric variety.
Sliceable? The hard cheeses are very easy to slice, and their small size makes the slices perfect for crackers.
Meltability: These cheeses do not melt.
Best uses: Eat the hard cheeses right out of the package. They are ideal for cheese plates and pair perfectly with a slightly sweet cracker (like Back to Nature's Crispy Wheats). They're great with very sweet fruits, grapes in particular. The spreadable cheeses are perfect on bread, bagels or crackers. These are delectable cheeses to eat on their own, but they don't taste as good when cooked, and they can easily overpower other ingredients.
Staff Comments on Dr. Cow's Kale-Cashew Cheese: "Interesting flavor, really good." "Too tangy." "Looks good on the cheese plate." "I didn't like the flavor." "I love this one."

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Punk Rawk Labs: Made in Minneapolis and created by a chef trained in Matthew Kenney's raw food academy, Punk Rawk cheeses are handmade using organic ingredients using a process that is similar to traditional cheesemaking, except with nut milks instead of dairy milks. They use either cashew or macadamia as their nut bases and have a variety that is a blend of both types. They are deeply tangy, salty and very rich and smooth.
Sliceable? They are sliceable, and slice best when they have just been taken out of the refrigerator. As they warm to room temperature, they become softer. Perfect for scooping with a cracker or crostini!
Meltability: These cheeses do not melt.
Best uses: Perfect on a cheese plate, spread on a cracker, or sprinkled on a veggie pizza. Try the original cashew variety with a slice of tomato and a few leaves of fresh basil on sourdough bread for a mind-blowing sandwich. The nacho variety, not surprisingly, makes outstanding nachos. Try Perelandra's favorite nacho recipe: Garden of Eatin' blue corn chips, Upton's Ground Chorizo Seitan, Jeff's Naturals Pickled Jalapenos, Amy's Refried Black Beans and thin slices of Punk Rawk's Nacho Cheese. Put in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 to warm through. YUMMMMM!
Staff Comments on Punk Rawk Plain Cashew Cheese: "Realllly good." "Tastes like real cheese." "It doesn't taste nutty or like fake cheese. If I didn't know better I would think it was cheese." "Impressed with the tang, has a nice creamy texture."

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Daiya: Daiya is the most widely available of the vegan cheeses. It comes in shreds, wedges, slices and cream cheese. Its tapioca base makes for prime meltability, and it comes in a number of varieties, including cheddar, pepperjack and mozzarella shreds; provolone, Swiss and cheddar slices; jack, jalapeño-garlic harvarti and cheddar wedges. They make pizzas that use their shreds as well.
Sliceable? The wedges are definitely sliceable, and the slices are, well, slices.
Meltability: Daiya melts easily and well in an oven, broiler or in a pan.
Best uses:
Shreds: Pizza, quesadillas
Slices: Grilled cheese sandwiches
Wedges: With crackers, on a cheese plate, grilled cheese sandwiches
Cream cheese: Replace regular cream cheese with this to make an awesome cheesecake and top your bagels with it, too.
Staff Comments on Daiya's Cheddar Wedge: "It actually tastes like cheddar cheese." "It has a weird texture." "This really impressed me, I would use this for a grilled cheese." "Not too exciting on it's own, it's good with pasta and on veggie burgers."

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Teese Vegan Cheese: Made by Chicago Vegan Foods, makers of the famed Dandies vegan marshmallows, Teese is soy-free, gluten-free, peanut & tree-nut free. It has a pea protein, tapioca starch and coconut oil base. It comes in cheddar, mozzarella and cheddar cheese sauce.
Sliceable? It is sliceable (except for the cheddar sauce)! It comes in a tube and your slices will be perfect circles. It's easy to slice and shred, and is really super firm if kept in the refrigerator prior to use.
Meltability? It melts very well, and becomes stretchy. You can even make a surprisingly authentic and super simple macaroni and cheese with the creamy cheddar variety if you combine it with cooked pasta.
Best uses: Anything melty! Macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, nachos, quesadillas...
Staff Comments on Teese Mozzarella: "Very mild flavor, a little salty, I can see it being good on pizza." "I didn't care for the consistency." "Very easy to slice."

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Treeline: Made in the Hudson Valley, these creamy, spreadable cheeses are made from cultured cashews, probiotics and salt.Treeline is currently perfecting a hard cashew cheese as well, but it is not currently available.
Sliceable? Sliceable when it's just been taken out of the fridge. Once it warms it won't retain its form.
Meltability: These cheeses do not melt.
Best uses: Cheese plates, crackers, and bagels (oh my!). The ingredients of Treeline cheeses are really similar to those of Dr. Cow's, but official Perelandra taste-testers report that their flavors are different, with Treeline winning the prize for tangiest cheese.
Staff Comments on Treeline's Scallion Cream Cheese: "This is my favorite!" "The scallion flavor is delicious." "Really good, best flavor of all of them." "It has a big flavor to it." "Great taste, I could just eat it on it's own."

-Kristina Marie Fullerton, Guest Blogger. Check her out here!

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