Last spring, we started hearing about this crazy-good vegan mozzarella substitute from the Chicago Soy Dairy, the very same talented people who brought us Temptation Vegan Ice Cream and Soft Serve (available at the always awesome Penny Licks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn). For any of you reading this who haven't dealt with years of being vegan...or, for that matter, years of being around vegans who complain about this non-stop, you should know that cheese is the really hard part for us vegans. There are plenty of great vegan ice creams out there (Temptation among the best), soy milk's obviously broken into the mainstream (see the bizarro cow-head commercials for Silk), and, frankly, eggs were always gross, dudes. But cheese...cheese is a tough one and something that's never been replaced by an ethical, still-awesome-tasting food. If you don't believe me, just take a look at the entry for soy cheese on wikipedia. I'm not saying they're there, but Chicago Soy Dairy is getting close in many ways.
I don't know about you, but when I hear 'Chicago Soy Dairy' I totally picture some Gary-Larson-esque scene where a bunch of bi-pedal cows are getting humans to squeeze soybeans over metal pails. Seriously. That guy loved cows, man. But, it turns out, Chicago Soy Dairy was started out by a couple of guys, one with a passion for the culinary arts, one with an inherited machine shop, who didn't think it made any sense to buy soy milk from California when all the soybeans themselves came from the mid-west. Hi-five, guys. They started making really great soy ice cream and actually got creative with the flavors (Fair-Trade Coffee? Peach Cobbler? Cookie Dough?).
Then, last March, we started hearing that they had gotten into the very un-competitive field of vegan cheese making. They started out very small, offering 1 lb. bags of the mozzarella through their site and gathering feedback from customers on how to improve the product. So we ordered a bag and were pretty amazed. One of the total crap-hat things about most vegan cheese is that it melts not at all. And I realize that's not the only requisite for a good cheese substitute, it is nice. At the time, the taste was a little overly buttery, but since, it's improved significantly. Now the soy dairy sells the cheese through a number of sites like Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe (Atlanta, GA), Pangea Vegan Store (Bethesda, MD), and Vegan Essentials (Waukesha, WI) and has even expanded their range of cheeses: in addition to the mozzarella, they've got a new cheddar cheese and a nacho cheese sauce. We recently ordered all three, strictly for research purposes, and were very pleased. Still a little on the buttery side and they all could use a little more of the savoriness and aged taste that real cheese has, but superb nonetheless.
As always, the mozzarella was great, and we've made superb calzones, manicotti, and pizzas (one pictured above from just last night with cilantro, jalepeños, and sweet onions). And the cheddar worked really well in hot-pressed sandwiches and a vegan mac-n-cheese (with a little nutritional yeast sauce to supplement the sauciness). And, if you're vegan and there's a hole in your heart from the lack of Velveeta over the years, their nacho cheese is for you. We made nachos the other night and they kicked our collective ass. We're huge fans of the work that Dr. Cow is doing right here in Brooklyn, aging raw nut cheeses (don't laugh) in an effort to mirror real artisanal cheese-making, but, when us vegan have missed out on WAY too much in the field of not-so-great-for- you, cheesy, lay-on-the-floor-for-the-rest-of-the-night food, and we're proud to have it back again. Four and a half caws, Teese.
We'll post a recipe soon for our newly-refined homemade pizza crust (seen above), but in the meantime, if you're vegan or thinking about becoming vegan and worried about the lack of cheese substitutes on the market, we highly encourage you: get some Teese.
I'm going to go lay on the floor now.