Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Product Review: Kite Hill White Alder vegan cheese

 I am so excited! My local Whole Foods just got Kite Hill cheeses.

Kite Hill is cultured and aged using traditional cheese-making methods. It's the first vegan cheese to be featured in Whole Foods' specialty cheese department. Up until recently, it was only available in California, but it's slowly rolling out to other places. Now it's finally reached South Florida.

Look at this:

This gorgeous circle of creamy goodness is the white alder variety. It has a soft rind, but the inside is as creamy and smooth as any dairy cheese could be. The flavor is very mild - to the point that on it's own I thought it was slightly too mild, but combined with a touch of salt from a cracker it just comes alive.

This is a very expensive product. (This 6 oz round cost me $13.99) It's not an everyday item, for certain. But  for special occasions or those little luxuries we all occasionally need... it's so worth it!

Perhaps more importantly, it proves it can be done. It proves that a vegan cheese can be a genuine equal of a dairy cheese. You'll have to try it to believe it, but believe it you will!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vegan on the Road: Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is old-school South. It's the home of Paula Deen's restaurants, where cheese and pork products invade every vegetable dish. It's Low Country - a region whose most famous cuisine involves throwing a passel of sea creatures into a pot and boiling them. It's not a place where you'd expect it to be easy to eat vegan.

To a degree, this reputation is still well-deserved. At the event that brought me to town, I was with a vegetarian coworker. I knew I wouldn't be able to eat at the buffet, but I thought perhaps she could - the menu included macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, and salad with ranch dressing. I asked the catering staff which of the dishes were vegetarian and was met with unabashed horror. "We weren't told there were any of them coming!" Each of these typically vegetarian dishes contained meat... or at least lard.

But with the help of HappyCow.net and my dear sister - a Savannah local - I managed to find some terrific vegan food, too. 

There are two main areas to know as a vegan visitor to Savannah: the first is the plaza at the 1800 block of E Victory Dr. Here, on arrival, I met my sister for lunch at Zoe's Kitchen, a vegan-friendly Mediterranean chain. I had veggie kabobs, braised white beans, and a Greek salad (hold the cheese). It was fresh and affordable. Also in this plaza, you'll find a Chipotle and a Whole Foods Market. (This became essential knowledge after the buffet disaster. We had just enough time to make it to Whole Foods for lunch, and to pack up dinner for the plane.)

That evening, my travel companion and I went to Green Truck Pub for dinner. This restaurant, voted Best of Savannah three years running, boasts a house-made veggie burger that is definitely award-worthy. In fact, I'd say it was downright amazing. Combined with a side of vegan chili and fries, it was an incredible meal. (Did I mention that the pickles and the ketchup were house-made too? And amazing?) The major drawback was that the place was packed. Granted, it was a Friday night, but they told us to expect a 35-45 minute wait for a table. Instead, we ordered to-go at the bar, so you don't get to see a photo of this masterpiece of burgery. Burgerdom?

On Saturday morning, I got up early to check out The Sentient Bean, in the Forsyth Park area. Turns out this is the second area in Savannah for a vegan to know. 

The Bean is a very indie sort of place, with chalkboard menus, eclectic decor, and a looooooong line on a Saturday morning. But it's completely worth the wait for some truly amazing vegan pastries. (They also have actual breakfast foods, like tofu scramble and vegan breakfast burritos, but I can eat healthy at home, right?)

$9 worth of vegan goodies. Worth every penny.
I bought three items to sample, all of which had disappeared by the time I got home that night. They were apple currant bread (soft, moist, with a slight sugar crunch on the top), peach cobbler (ooey-gooey fruit in the middle and sugar-crisp on the outside), and vanilla cake with peanut butter frosting, (oh, my stars! the peanut butter frosting!) It's rare I find vegan baked goods that I think are better than I can make at home, but this is one of those cases.

Across the street this Saturday morning was the Forsyth Park Farmer's Market.

The farmer's market was really that - actual farm stands. Fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers predominated. There were fewer of the little artisan booths that typically populate farmer's markets at home, but there were some - including fresh made breads, pastas, and my favorite, jams and fruit butters!

The Vegetable Kingdom booth was fantastic. Dozens of different freshly-canned jams, jellies, fruit butters, and soups. (Only one of the soups was vegan.) I bought caramel apple butter, burnt sugar pear butter, watermelon raspberry jam, and thick cut orange marmalade.

(A word to the wise, as I later discovered, TSA considers jams to be liquid. Unless you're traveling by car or checking a bag, plan to mail any purchases you aren't eating in Savannah back home. My collection of jams did make it home, but at the expense of checking my bag and getting patted down and swabbed for explosive residue twice.)

Back across the street, next door to The Bean, is Brighter Day Natural Foods, a handy little health food store where I popped in to get a natural soda. They had a variety of things I would've found handy had I been staying in town, for example vegan cheese and mayo, which would've made a lovely lunch with the fresh bread and vegetables I'd have liked to have bought at the farmer's market! 

One final note, we weren't staying in Savannah, but in nearby Port Wentworth. Other than Subway, I didn't see anywhere in Port Wentworth to get a vegan meal. If you're not staying in Savannah proper, be prepared for a drive.