As an inveterate dairy eater, our understanding of vegan cheese is largely limited to two lowest common denominator products—plasticine bricks of health food market-sourced Daiya, and tubs of Tofutti AKA whipped soybeans and trans fat masquerading as cream cheese. A perception, it seems, that was not all that off base—at least until fairly recently.
“When I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan a few years ago, I never felt like I was missing out on anything, except when it came to cheese,” confirmed Michaela Grob of Riverdel, an upcoming vegan cheese shop in Prospect Heights. “The few options out there were functional, but not anything you’d want to put on a cheese board. Today, there are a bunch of great choices, but they’re hard to find—a lot of the time, you have to go online.”
Needless to say, scouring the city for artisanal vegan cheeses sparked the idea for Grob’s 300-square foot store — a dairy-free answer to one-stop shops like Stinky Bklyn. And with all due respect to Daiya and Tofutti, Grob is committed to exclusively showcasing small batch creations from independent makers, that are minimally processed, and don’t rely on gelling agents like xanthan gum. “Of course, we’ll hardly be on the scale of places like Murray’s with hundreds of cheeses; we’ll probably top out at 15,” Grob admits. “But as the market continues to grow and expand, we hope to grow and expand with it.”
So by the time Riverdel opens in early November, patrons can expect to find wheels of Aged English Sharp Farmhouse (sort of like cheddar) from Miyoko’s Kitchen, a leader on the West Coast vegan cheese scene; as well as chevre-esque Sichuan Pepperberry rounds from the Catskills-based Cheezehound, and Cream Cashew Cheese with chives at Williamsburg’s own Dr. Cow, as well as a few items Grob plans to make herself. “There’s also a young chef who just started creating his own cheeses, which he’ll be selling in my shop alone. He makes a mozzarella that, I swear, you could put right beside the real thing and you wouldn’t know the difference,” she insists.
To go with the variety of nut and hemp-based cheeses, Riverdel will offer a small selection of sandwiches, as well as chutneys, mustards, olives, spreads, and even beer and wine, perfect for facilitating a vegan-approved picnic. “As long as you’re not expecting a really funky blue cheese or runny brie, there’s really something for everyone,” maintains Grob. “Most of my friends aren’t vegan, which is why I’ve made a point to test everything on them and generally, they agree that these cheeses are really, really good.”
820 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights
For more info, visit riverdelcheese.com