By Joshua Katcher Beneath the Williamsburg Bridge, just off the East River, multitudes of microbes are silently ripening a viscous concoction formulated by two Argentinean transplants. The contents of this mixture, and of the modest kitchen itself, are poised to transform the face of one of the most impassioned and rapidly-growing foodie cultures: vegans.
Legend has it that thousands of years ago, in the deserts of Arabia, a nomad carrying milk in a sack made from sheep intestine produced the accidental first batch of cheese curds. Her movements agitated the amalgam of milk and intestinal enzymes and, under the hot sun, produced what we call cheese. Rennet (or Rennin), an enzyme that is a product of calf stomachs and sheep intestines is a key ingredient in typical cheeses - not only making most cheese undesirable for vegans, but also for vegetarians - many of whom imagine that cheese is somehow produced without harming animals. Some veal with your cheese?
The world of vegan cheese-like-imitations usually consists of heavily processed soy products simply made to look like cheese at first glance - and never followed through by taste or texture. Some Vegan cheese-esque products are notorious among the adventurous, and tend to elicit the response "well it tastes ok if you cook it in something and add a ton of nutritional yeast, but never on its own". Placing a block of vegan 'cheese' on a board among fruit and crackers would be considered heretical among cheese connoisseurs and self-aware vegans alike. "It Melts!" is usually the selling point for these rubbery replicas and even the long awaited 'Scheese', imported from Scotland is a yucky disappointment after months of anticipation by American dairy-abstainers. The only tolerable soy-based cheese is 'Follow Your Heart' Monterey Jack. Even still, none of these so-called cheeses even deserve the title 'cheese'.
Enter Veronica and Pablo of Dr. Cow, a small company that got its start making granola. They use raw, organic tree nuts like cashews and macadamias as the base of their cheese products. They apply different cultures and molds, and age it like any udder cheese. The final products are irresistible, delicious, and obsession-worthy artisan cheeses that are not only amazingly savory and versatile, but they are 100% raw, vegan, and full of probiotics, enzymes, protein, healthy fats, and omega fatty acids. While conventional cow's milk-based cheeses are laden with cholesterol, chemicals, hormones and a host of other objectionable attributes - not to mention the ethical and environmental concerns of animal agriculture and dairy-collection, Dr. Cow's cheeses are an anomaly; Healthy and deviantly indulgent.
Pablo and Veronica have relayed to me that they are continually refining and perfecting the process of making these cheeses. There is a hard Parmesan-like variety, bleu cheese, Roquefort molded, cream cheese, herbed wheels, truffled squares, blue-green algae layers, flax-crusted, and my favorite - the original soft cashew wheel that is reminiscent of a soft, sharp cheddar. Apparently they are experimenting with Swiss Cheese bacterias now. They are pioneering a new cheese, and there is no reason that any food lover shouldn't take them seriously. "We are perfecting a process that involves balancing many ingredients, carefully controlling environmental humidities, temperatures, and ripening processes. New York City is our testing grounds, and we certainly plan to expand".
If you want to try these cheeses, visit Pure Food & Wine, Organic Avenue, Marlow & Sons, or Westerly Natural Market. Click Here. They also take personal orders!
DB's Etiquette Recommendation: Bring a wheel to your next gathering. I have given this cheese to many people, placed it out at parties, and tested it on devout dairy devotees. The one resounding response I hear is "Oh my god, this is really good."