Our gal Miyoko is on fire! Super Vegan Phenom Miyoko Schinner is busily promoting her stellar new cookbook "The Homemade Vegan Pantry" (read my glowing review here) and adding more cheeses to her line of Miyoko's Creamery Products. I saw Miyoko speak on a panel at the VidaVeganCon Conference and it was great. She seems to be bursting at the seams with ideas and energy and passion and commitment!!
Five glorious boxes of vegan majesty! I must say, I absolutely love the Miyoko's Creamery packaging. It's classy and elegant and beautiful. When you open the boxes, each cheese round is carefully wrapped and sealed with a sticker. It all makes you feel very elegant. I like pretty things and I appreciate the work that goes into making something feel fancy and special.
a note about the shipping process:These were sent to me from Miyoko's Creamery for review, and I must say, the shipping worked quite nicely. I think they were sent via 2-day shipping, but when they arrived, they were in a very tidy, thoroughly insulated box and the ice packs (and the cheese!) inside were still cold. If you're considering an order, you can rest assured that the shipping method will keep your cheese cool!
What's a girl to do with five lovely rounds of Miyoko Cheese?
Invite some vegan friends over for a Super Fancy Vegan Cheese Party!
I invited my friends Sophia & Max and (my new vegan friend) Connie over for an evening of cheese tasting and sampling. It was so much fun eating and comparing notes and laughing and generally just having a gay old vegan time.
Here are the cheeses all laid out on my nicest cutting board. Is it weird that I have more than 5 cheese knives? Fellow VidaVeganCon attendees will spot the lovely cheese knives we each got from Miyoko's Creamery in our swag bags. Up to this point, my cheese knives have been more useful for dips or spreads at parties... but it finally feels like the World of Vegan Cheese has gained enough momentum that I'll actually be busting them out more and more often for fancy cheese plates!
Warning! We did indeed have a classy affair, but it was also tres serious, with much sophisticated nerdery going on. When my guests arrived, they were greeted by a glorious spread, but also by some homework: tasting cards and pencils so that we could each annotate our thoughts of each of the different cheeses. I looked online for ideas about what questions to ask, and my friends later ribbed me about the redundancy of a few of them. Whatever! I may have 5 cheese knives, but I'm still a vegan for god's sake. I wasn't sure what kinds of cheese questions to ask about cheese, but this is what I came up with:
First Impression: / Appearance: / Consistency: / Favorite Pairings: / Overall:
Cheese Tasting Go-withs
Here you see, Baguette slices, Late July Classic Rich crackers, dark Danish Rye Bread, water crackers, fresh basil leaves, and sun-dried tomatoes.
More Elegent Cheese Pairing Options
This was the less savory side of the table: roasted delicata squash half-moons, cucumber slices, halved cherry tomatoes (from our garden!), fresh figs, Charentais melon slices, black and red grapes, fig jam, and agave. So much beauty all on one table! I loved that I finally got to justify owning so many small, darling little plates and dishes for this party.
Oh, and of course there were apple slices!
and heart-shaped mini-plates!
My beautiful plate, Round 1 (of many)
We had such a good time nibbling at our cheeses and then trying them with different pairing combos, and sharing our thoughts. As soon as everyone sat down with their plates, there was a hush across the room as we each began (very seriously) tasting our different cheeses and thinking about them and jotting down notes. Poor Max took this whole affair so seriously that he was still taking notes by the time the rest of us had pretty much eaten everything on the whole damn table. After a while, we each went around and read what we had written and shared our thoughts and impressions with each other. It was so fun!
We came up with ideas for other tasting parties - like a miso party and a make-your-own-sodas party. Note to self: it's fun to combine good food, good friends, and a healthy dosage of nerdery.
Our completed tasting cards
Overall, there were two categories of cheeses: soft & spreadable vs. firm and sharp. The spreadable varieties we tried were the Winter Truffle, Sundried Tomato Garlic, and Double Cream Chive. The Black Ash and Sharp Farmhouse were firm and sharp.
All of the cheeses are made with a cashew base, and of the varieties we tried, all but the Winter Truffle are also made with Chickpea Miso. There is definitely a consistent current of miso flavor through all the varieties made with it. The creamy cheeses all had a very similar texture to one another, as did the two sharper varieties.
What follows is a flavor-by-flavor break down, with some of the thoughts and impressions we had from our tasting party:
Consistency: Soft and creamy. This was by far the softest of the cheeses we tried. It's made with coconut oil, and didn't really stand up to a long exposure at room temperature. It was definitely good that we had only put out half the wheel. That said, it was also super spreadable. A few of the tasters felt it was just too soft and melty. I would definitely recommend keeping it cool until the last moment. (Actually I think this would be a good idea with all of the softer cheeses, since they are partly made with a base of coconut oil)
Appearance: As you can see this cheese is speckled throughout with mushrooms, which gives it a lovely, earthy appearance.
Favorite Flavor Pairings: Dark Rye + Roasted Winter Squash
Overall Thoughts: I really loved the umami flavor of this cheese, which surprised me a bit, because I am generally not a mushroom fan. Here, the mushrooms impart a rich earthiness to an already rich cheese. The aroma is also very nice and earthy. There were mixed reviews on this cheese, mostly because of how soft it was, but I was a fan. I also think this is a very unique product in the ever-expanding world of vegan cheeses, and that was part of why I enjoyed it so much.
Double Cream Chive
Consistency: Soft and Creamy, Rich and spreadable
Appearance: We all appreciated the pale green hue of this cheese, and the visible abundance of chivey specks throughout the cheese
Favorite Flavor Pairings: Cucumber + Tomato + Baguette
Late July Rich Crackers*
(*in many cases we found that these crackers had too much flavor to compliment the cheeses, but here they paired really nicely together. In general, the water crackers had a much more neutral flavor but still provided a nice crunch and a foundation for the cheese and any other goodies)
Overall Thoughts: This was one of my top two favorites! Of the varieties we sampled, this is closest to the Boursin cheeses that I loved as a kid. This cheese is rich and smooth and imparts a definite chive flavor that's perfectly balanced: you definitely taste the chive, but it's not at all overbearing. I can definitely see myself getting this one again and again. I think it would be really great on sandwiches!
Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic
Consistency: Soft and creamy. A little firmer than the previous two, but still spreadable
Appearance: Beautiful rich orange hue, and with tomatoey flecks throughout.
Favorite Flavor Pairings: With Fresh Basil Leaf on Cucumber
On Baguette + Fresh Basil Leaf + Sundried Tomato
On Water Cracker + Cherry Tomato + Fresh Basil Leaf
Overall Thoughts: One taster noted that this cheese had a nice "pizza" flavor (especially when paired with fresh basil and tomato), but on it's own the sundried tomato flavor is not overbearing at all. I think this would be really good on pasta or even mixed into the fillings of a lasagna. This cheese is very rich as far as texture goes, but not too strong with the flavor. It's got a Mediterranean flavor profile, and I think it would go nicely with any dish or dinner party in that range.
Aged English Sharp Farmhouse
Consistency: Firm, sliceable. A little crumbly
Appearance: Beautiful golden color, the color of miso.
Favorite Flavor Pairings: Apple
Rye Bread + Apple
Baguette + Grapes
with Sundried Tomato and Basil
Overall Thoughts: This is a delicious, sophisticated sharp cheese. It's a little bit smoky, packed with umami, and absolutely special compared to the other vegan cheeses on the market -- which tend to be more creamy chevre-type cheeses. We all really liked this cheese, and the vegans in the group were especially excited to be eating sharp cheese again, since that's not a flavor we get to experience very often! Like the Black Ash, this cheese paired really nicely with anything sweet, especially with the fresh fruits.
Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash
Consistency: Firm, sliceable. The beautiful black ash gives a very slight grittiness to the mouthfeel, but not necessarily in a negative way. We all noticed it, and still this sharp cheese was a unanimous favorite
Appearance: That super dark ash coating on the pale creamy cheese is really striking! One taster was a little put off by the dark blackness of it at first; I guess we're not really used to eating pitch black foods. I was in the other camp though - I immediately found this cheese to be visually surprising, beautiful, and definitely very unique.
Favorite Flavor Pairings: with Apples or Grapes on Baguette
with Fig Jam on Water Crackers
with Apple on Rye Bread
with Fresh Fig
(here, Mr VE&T just wrote "Ash is cool" -- very helpful!)
Overall Thoughts: This cheese was a unanimous favorite, we all liked it a lot! It's sharpness is strong, but not excessively so. As you can see above, the sharpness of this cheese paired very nicely with a number of the different fruity items we had out. As a former cheesaholic, it's really wonderful to experience these taste sensations again after so many years. I had forgotten how lovely and unique the sharp cheese + fruit combo is. So glad to be reunited! I also just think this cheese is crazy beautiful. It would be a striking contribution to any party table, but you probably shouldn't wait until the next time you host a party to try it. It's really good!
These cheeses are beautiful and special and would be great on a platter at pretty much any party. On their site, Miyoko's Creamery also has some suggestions for using the cheeses in recipes and I'm looking forward to trying some of their suggestions with the other half-rounds that I still have left. Since the time that I received these cheeses, Miyoko's Creamery has also come out with a limited edition version of fresh mozzarella (which sold out immediately! - I heard great things!), and they are also working on a cream cheese. The world of vegan cheeses is so exciting right now, and these products from Miyoko's Creamery are on the vanguard! Vegans rejoice!
The Abundance Diet Giveaway Winner!
p.s. I used the Random Number Generator to pick a winner for my giveaway of Somer McCowan's book "The Abundance Diet" -- and it picked #13. Guess what?? Comment #13 just happened to be from my aforementioned vegan pal Connie!! How fun! Congrats to Connie.
Sorry to those of you who didn't win. "The Abundance Diet" is such a great book, I really recommend it so highly. Also, I have at least one more cookbook giveaway scheduled before the start of MoFo2015, so you might still be a winner! xo