Monday, March 3, 2014

Kite Hill - Nut-Based Cheese

As the market for nut-based vegan cheeses continues to grow, more and more players have joined the scene. The newest player in the race to make the finest vegan cheese is Kite Hill. Kite Hill debuted its line of artisanal cheeses made from natural nut milks in spring 2013. They are the first non-dairy cheeses to have ever been showcased in Whole Foods cheese department alongside the dairy cheeses. In fact, Whole Foods is selling these cheeses exclusively so there is no other place to obtain them. The team behind Kite Hill includes celebrity vegan chef, Tal Ronnen, of Crossroads in Los Angeles along with other chefs, cheesemakers, and biochemists.

These soft cheeses are made with plant-based ingredients including almonds and macadamia nuts along with traditional cultures and techniques, creating a real cheese made from nuts. They were able to compensate for the lack of casein and lactose so that the nut milk can coagulate and form a curd that is then concentrated and cultured just like that of dairy cheese. After coagulation, Kite Hill follows artisanal dairy cheese-making techniques all the way down to the brining and aging. They currently offer four flavors: Cassucio, Cassucio Truffle Dill & Chive, Costanoa, and White Alder.

I was able to try the White Alder made of just almond milk, macadamia milk, salt, enzymes, and cultures. The first thing I noticed was that it looked like real dairy cheese as it had a fluffy white rind on the outside. And when I sliced into it, it felt like dairy cheese. It was a little creepy, but in a good way. As far as the taste, it has a very subtle taste to it -- very light. It would pair well with stronger flavors and white wine with citrus notes. As far as the texture, it is soft and velvety. This is not a strongly flavored cheese like the Dr. Cow tree nut cheeses. In fact, it is about as light as it gets. So it is more of a cheese to eat with wine and salty crackers or olives rather than to savor alone.

All of the nut cheeses I've ever had have had strong flavors so this one caught me off guard. I don't think I'd buy it to have at home, but for a dinner party, it would be perfect.

I also tried both flavors of the Cassucio. The Cassucio cheeses are also made of almond milk, macadamia milk, salt, enzymes, and cultures, but they taste very different from the White Alder. The non-flavored one really didn't have much flavor at all. But, what most surprised me was that the texture was like that of silken tofu. It is incredibly soft and breaks apart just like silken tofu. I was not a big fan of this one.

I found that I preferred this flavor best when paired with stronger flavors like bread with olive tapenade and Mary's Gone Crackers herb crackers. 

The other flavor is the Cassucio Truffle, Dill, & Chive. Now this one is bursting with dill flavor, but still has the tofu-like texture.  It seemed even more spongy than the regular flavor.  I paired this cheese with Dr. Kracker crackers and dolmades.

The cheeses are quite pricey at $13.99 per wheel so they are definitely a special occasion-type cheese. In the end, I definitely preferred the White Alder of the three. But to be quite honest, if they are putting these beside Dr-Cow nut-based cheeses, I'd choose Dr-Cow in a heartbeat.

If you decide to give one of the Kite Hill flavors a taste, please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Full Disclosure: Although the cheese was provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion. 

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