Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sweet Dreams Are Made of Cheese

Warning: This post contains a Vegan Cheese Party. No, you cannot eat your computer screens. But, yes, I will include all of the information you need to have your own!

I suppose I should start out by saying that I am one of those lucky jerks that has a vegan partner. A vegan partner who also likes to cook. I count my lucky stars every single day, and I hope the same happens for all of you one day as well (if you want it to)!

It was his birthday last week, so I threw him a Surprise Vegan Cheese Party! Besides me and Chris (my partner), our friends Elizabeth, Binh, and Angel were the other attendees. And let me tell you, it was basically the best food-related evening of all of our lives. Good friends, good food, good beer, much love.

The idea for this started when we heard that Miyoko Schinner, author of an awesome cookbook that we own and love, Artisan Vegan Cheese, was selling a selection of artisan vegan cheeses on the internet. You should probably sit down for this, because the Miyoko's Kitchen website alone is enough to make you book an impulse flight to California to eat it in person. And that might not even be a bad idea, because it is just that good. But for those of us our here on the East Coast, we can utilize their impeccable shipping---It arrives in 2 days in a neat little refrigerated box.

And in addition to the Miyoko's, we also had Field Roast Chao Slices and Treeline Cheeses. More on all of that later---It's time for pictures!

Here is the cheese selection. We had eight cheeses. EIGHT.
Our Selection: Miyoko's Double Cream Garlic Herb, her French-Style Winter Truffle, her Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash, and her Aged English Smoked Farmhouse. From Treeline, we had the Classic Hard and the Herb-Garlic French-Style Soft. And the Chao we had were the Creamy Original and Coconut Herb.

And here is our Cheese "Plate" (AKA Entire Table of Awesomeness)

That's 3 kinds of crackers, some crusty sourdough, 3 kinds of apples, pears, grapes, pecans, beets, medjool dates, cucumbers, jalapeno slices, assorted olives, apricot jam, roasted maitake mushrooms, and my personal favorite vegan bacon in the world: All Vegetarian Inc.'s Vegan Imitation Bacon Slices. 

We started out tasting all of the cheeses on unflavored crackers to really get the taste of all of them by themselves. Since we'd all had the Chao and Treeline cheeses a million times and LOVE them already, our main tasting objective was the Miyoko's. And her cheeses are everything you could ever dream of, and more. I guarantee it. 
Here are some of our tasting notes for Miyoko's cheeses, including input from all guests:
  • French-Style Winter Truffle: It was pungent, earthy, mushroomy, but very creamy and mild. It was also described as fragrant, buttery, light, and SO GOOD.
  • Double Cream Garlic Herb: Very Italian. Creamy, garlicky, would be good in Alfredo. "Like that French kind of cow cheese or whatever (Baby Bell?)" This one was analogous to Treeline's soft herb cheese, but better. (Sorry, Treeline, we still LOVE you!)
  • Aged English Smoked Farmhouse: Our 2nd favorite. "The best smoked Gouda I've ever had." Funky, smoky, tangy, salty. Bacony, BBQy, SMOKEY. 
  • Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash: Our #1 favorite vegan cheese we've ever had. It is literally coated in black ash, hence the name. Complex, sharp aged flavor. Incredibly nutty. Tart but not sour. Intoxicating. Seductive. 
At this point in the night, we became something we referred to as CHEESE WASTED. Giggling, happy, and repeatedly moaning, "ohhh my god"... Cheese Wasted. It's a thing. Try it if you don't believe me.

So that's when the fun began. (THAT IS A LIE. The fun had most definitely already begun.)


Mt. Vesuvius with pear, pecan, and apricot jam

Winter Truffle with beet, bacon, apricot jam, and thyme on sourdough

Smoked Farmhouse and jalapeno on apple

Double Cream Garlic with roasted maitake

Mt. Vesuvius, pear, and jalapeno on a medjool date

Smoked Farmhouse, beet, and maitake

Mt. Vesuvius, beet, and rosemary

Winter Truffle, cucumber, apple, apricot, pecan

Same as the first one, but everything's better on sourdough

Yeah, so I bet you believe me about the Cheese Wasted, now, don't you? Here's what the table looked like about halfway through:

It was a life-changing event. We ate ALL of it.

And on top of that, there was dessert... 
We had a chocolate cake from Sticky Fingers, which was delectable, as always. But the most exciting dessert was the assorted dozen cupcakes from an amazing local vegan baker called Toadie's Cupcakes! She is based out of Centerville, Virginia, and is phenomenal. Apologies to Toadie's, for not getting better pictures, but like I said...Cheese Wasted... 
L to R on the cupcakes: Birthday Cake (like funfetti, but way more awesome), German Chocolate, Chocolate Cherry (or Pink Chocolate, according to those who may have had too much cheese), and Salted Caramel. These cupcakes are seriously the best. If you are in the Northern Virginia area, GET SOME!

But in conclusion, a vegan cheese tasting CAN be done, and it WILL be awesome. I invite you to go forth and try it yourselves! You will not be dissatisfied. Actually, here's a good last story on that note: One member of our cheese party is an omnivore. A day or two after this vegan cheese tasting, he did a dairy cheese tasting of comparable cheeses to the ones we had. His findings: "Miyoko's cheeses are hands down better than 'real' cheese." True facts, my friends.

And, hey, if you throw someone a vegan cheese party, they may just kiss you while you're holding a piece of cheese.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow Day!

So, it's cold here. It isn't supposed to be above freezing until next week. AND it snowed 5 inches last night. Overall it hasn't been a very bad winter here in Virginia, but I can still definitely say that I am ready for spring.

 Since I'm currently snowed in and have a lot of pictures from the last year that I'll eventually need to write about, I thought I'd post a tribute to summertime. It is my favorite season, and I CAN'T WAIT to have fresh garden vegetables again. So I'm going to go back through my summertime pictures and cry. I mean...anticipate summer and fantasize over this year's garden.

 I don't have many pictures of last year's garden, but I'll share a few and then show you some of the dishes we made with our awesome vegetable bounty.

A delightful bowl of just-picked beans and peas:

Swiss Chard and the first strawberries of the season:

Chile peppers roasting in preparation for (a delicious and sadly unphotographed) Green Enchilada Sauce:

Fajitas with garden peppers and tomatoes:

Swiss Chard and Tomato Pie:

And in the spirit of Summer, I will add our Fourth of July lunch as well:

Yeah. I will be seriously stoked when it is planting season...and no shoes season....and eat-every-meal-outdoors season... I could go on and on. But instead I should probably dig my car out. Or, y'know, continue drinking beers and playing Mario Kart with my friends/roommates who also stayed home today... Tough choice. Cheers, y'all.

P.S. My partner is currently making gumbo. BEST. Stay tuned for the results. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I'm Back! (I think...)

It sure has been a while! But I'm back with a new life, new town, new partner, new dog, and new blog! Still vegan and still making awesome food. I've deleted all of my old posts and changed the layout because I want a fresh, new start. This is basically just a test post, but I will leave you wonderful people with a picture of some brunch I made not too long ago. Cheers!