Tag Archives: cheese

Restaurant Review: Sweet Alchemy [Vermont]

Growing up in Vermont, most places I considered “vegan” were stereotypical hippie joints – local co-ops bathed in patchouli oil, incense, and Birkenstock footprints.  And, while many places in the Green Mountain State still resemble those icons, the vegan scene in Vermont is changing.

On a recent trip home, we pulled our car into a non-descript parking lot in Essex.  The property is shared with a nursery/greenhouse. A small sign over a beautiful deck read “Sweet Alchemy Bakery and Cafe.”

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From the outside on this chilly Winter day, so far the experience was quintessential Vermont – from the rolling frozen hills in the distance, to the barn-esque design of Sweet Alchemy.  Once inside, the warm, sweet smells of a talented baker completed the experience.

Their menu, while expansive, still seemed to lean toward a healthier side of vaganism, far from the deep fryers that dot the Pacific Northwest, dipping fake chicken and oreos into grease.

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The baked goods case had some great looking things, from maple-glazed pumpkin rolls to muffins, and scones.  It was a good sign of a healthy business that many items were sold out by the time we showed up for lunch.

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The hard part was choosing a menu item that would both warm me up, and give me some sustenance.  I had been traveling quite a bit, and frankly, wanted to pig out a little.

I ended up choosing the BFG (BF Goodrich!?) burger, and talked my mom into sharing her “Mac N Trees.”  It was a tough choice, given a menu with entries like “Super tuber tacos,” “Real Deal Enchiladas,” and “Savory herb waffles.”

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The burger was really good, and a solid choice for lunch.  Once it was presented, I realized this was certainly one of those healthy vegan places.  Not that it was a bad thing –  at all.  But it did make me realize that the super fatty places I have come to expect have changed veganism away from its earlier healthy days.  So, it must be true that as veganism expands across the mainstream, it somehow also becomes generally unhealthier.

The burger was full of housemade goodness, serving it on toasted bread slices was a little odd (pretzel bun, anyone?) and contributed to a little dryness.  The thick-cut fresh tomatoes helped out a lot in this area.

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My mom (a local Vermonter) has been going to Sweet Alchemy for quite a while.  One trip in particular, she sent me this synopsis:

“My friends had the Creamed Butternut Soup. They said it was delicious!! Chet said it was the best soup he’s ever had! They are not vegan but are willing to venture out and tempt their palate. I had a delicious Banana Walnut Muffin with an Iced Americano. Everything is vegan. Amazing flavors!!!”

Back to this trip, I plunged my fork into a bowl of hearty Mac and Trees…and it was amazing!  The crumbled nuts sprinkled on top balanced it so well.  The healthy yet hearty “cheese” was phenomenal, and of course the broccoli (trees) rounded it all out.

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The facility was super nice, with a huge outdoor seating area, that huge deck, and big, bright windows surrounded by old books.  There was a nice coffee bar off to the side.  I could envision myself watching a Vermont blizzard blow, reading a book and enjoying some of that coffee.

I will be going back to Sweet Alchemy every time I go back home.  You should check it out too!

Sweet Alchemy is located at Lang Farm on Rt.15 in Essex, VT.

Is it Possible to be Completely Vegan?

For many, veganism is like one of those religious cults.  Where, as you “progress,” you gain higher and higher levels of clarity, or stature, or sumsuchshit.

Anyway, I have seen this very same attitude apply to vegans.

“I am not totally vegan, I wear Goodwill wool.”

“I am not totally vegan, I just can’t give up cheese.”

“I am 100% vegan.”  

All of these are false.

I am, but.

Veganism today seems like an all or nothing endeavor.  You either are or you are not.  So, under these pretenses, if you are vegan, but still eat cheese/wear wool/drive a Jeep you are not vegan.

For me, veganism is not a black and white proposition.  To me, it is a set of values we can all strive for…yet they are really, honestly, impossible to attain.

156ab53877b7fc96f921d53acfc6505f.jpgIt is NOT a club where everyone compares their virtuousness to one another, and claim to one up each other based, often, on the level of sacrifices one makes.

I read an article on Facebook about how “true” vegans are against the Beyond Burger.  Their argument claims that true vegans should not eat them simply because they “simulate and appear too much like real meat.”  Let that sink in for a minute.  We should be collectively shamed to consume a vegan product on the premise it is too similar to the non-vegan version.  It is purely mad.

True Veganism is Unreachable

I think it is safe to say that veganism is primarily an answer to a pretty cruel and messed up animal rights issue in our society.  Of course there are other reasons, but I will focus on animal rights for now.

It could be said that a “true” vegan (as in a 100% vegan) would cause zero impact to animals.

Right off the bat, that means no transportation other than walking.  Which, as I think about it, probably kills quite a few insects and members of animalia.  Just the other day I heard the accidental, yet unmistakeable crunch of a snail under my shoe.  I felt terrible.

So, as long as you don’t move you are fine.

But what about where you spend your stationary time?  In a home?  Probably not.  That home was put there and replaced natural growth.  Grass, shrubs, trees, and other habitats were destroyed for that home.  Let’s not even talk about clothing and food which relies on a pretty extensive network of ex-habitat and pollution.

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So let’s assume you end up barefoot in the jungle, living off the land.  Well, if you clear any type of space for yourself you are back to impacting animals.  Even if you simply climbed a tree to live, you would be inadvertently killing or at best, displacing bugs and mosses, and animals.

So as long as you moved from the modern world, ended up “au naturale” in a jungle somewhere, not moving, and somehow living in natural underbrush without possibly impacting any other being, then yes, you would be 100% vegan.

And why am I making such an absurd metaphor here?  

Because these are the details that make us all realize that “true” 100% veganism – aka ZERO impact to the animal kingdom – is unattainable.

And, perhaps even more important is this.  Once we know that 100% is unreachable, we realize it is, in fact a gradient.  And, that gradient allows people to determine their own level of veganism.

If you try really hard to be vegan, but on a road trip had to pull off at Burger King for a Morningstar veggie burger (with egg whites), guess what?  You can still be a vegan.

If your own personal goal is to have an minimal an impact to animals and you cannot find a hiking boot that works, and find a leather variant, guess what?  You can still be vegan.

These are true because for me, veganism is not a status symbol.  It is a journey of little decisions that are stitched together to form a lifestyle.  And, sometimes those decisions tip the other way.  And that is OK.

Lynched by the Community?

Nothing really proved my point as much as the lambasting I received in the Portland Vegans Facebook group when I announced my new Vegan Gun Club.  Apparently, according to the rules of veganism established by Lord Vegan, guns and veganism are exclusive.  You cannot be vegan and still own/shoot paper and steel.

Well, my first outing of that very gun club proved otherwise.  We had a massive turnout, good food, and great fellow vegan company.

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Vegan Gun Club.  Photo (c) Zachary P. Hill

And I know my opinions here are not going to be agreed on by all the vegans.  And that is OK too.  They can continue to beat themselves up over fake meats, stockholders of vegan corporations, and wether they can shop at Safeway and eat at Taco Bell.

I have guns to shoot and Jeeps to offroad.

Restaurant Review: Vtopia [Portland]

I have never liked cheese.  Only as a slice on a cheeseburger, or on a plain pizza.  All the fancy cheeses just grossed me out.  The thought of moldy, fermented cow milk was never anything I really wanted to try.

But now, as a vegan, I am really excited to try out all these new cheeses!  They are not gross at all, and, ironically I’m learning all about different cheese now that I am vegan.

What does all this have to do with Vtopia? Well, for starters, it is Portland’s first all vegan cheese shop.  For seconders (is that a thing?) they have an incredible deli that let’s you try all their cheeses in their glory.

Kristin and I pointed the Jeep at Vtopia, and headed to NW Portland for some lunch.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Vtopia [Portland]

Product Review: Daiya Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac

I didn’t feel like dinner.  I felt like some vegan sin food.  And I was longing for those old school, bad-for-you velveeta experiences.

While roaming the aisles tonight at Food Fight, I decided to try the new Daiya Cheezy Mac and grabbed a box.

Continue reading Product Review: Daiya Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac

Pretty amazing stuff coming from the nut-milk cheese front

Here is the link from Food + Wine.

Some highlights:

Days later, Ronnen was in Boston promising to put his life savings into the project. He and Brown convinced Casino to move to California and lined up investment from Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm specializing in green technology. Jean Prevot, director of operations for Laura Chenel’s Chèvre, also joined Kite Hill to help them design and build a production facility in Hayward, California, just a few hundred yards from the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay.

Cathy Strange, the global cheese buyer for Whole Foods Market, tasted the Kite Hill lineup earlier this year. “I loved it instantly,” she says. “I could taste the culture, the rind. I’ve never, ever seen this kind of texture in an alternative milk product.” As a result of that tasting, Kite Hill reached a deal to retail exclusively through Whole Foods.