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After eight years as a vegan, I’d come to accept that cheese substitutes would never be as yummy as the cruelty-derived animal milk pus stuff.  As various plant-based “cheese” substitutes have entered the market, they’ve each confirmed my feeling that vegan cheese could be decent, palatable, and functional (i.e. melt, spread, etc.), but certainly would never be truly gourmet. We could never compete with the so-called cheese gourmands who fill pages of magazines waxing poetic about the stuff.

Until now, there just haven’t been vegan cheeses that even came within the ballpark of real gourmet cheese. Again, I’m not talking about the waxy, bland American cheese that can easily be substituted with Daiya or Teese–I’m talking about the kind of cheese sold by fancy cheese shops and counters, the kind that command a high price point and can be served with fruit for dessert. As I said–all of this was true until now. Enter: Kite Hill cheese.

Kite Hill sent me generous samples of some of their much-hyped artisan vegan cheese.

Kite Hill sent me generous samples of some of their much-hyped artisan vegan cheese.

Touted as “artisinal nut milk cheese of remarkable craftmanship,” Kite Hill has received significant hype from foodies of all stripes in the past few months. Created by vegan chef mastermind at the helm of Crossroads, Tal Ronnen, Kite Hill is truly gourmet vegan cheese that embodies the bold flavor notes and textures of animal product-derived cheese. Through expert techniques,  macadamia nut milk and almond milk are aged with enzymes to somehow becomes blocks of firm, complex, flavorful and rich real-tasting cheese.

The company sent me generous samples of their White AlderCassucio Soft Fresh, and Cassucio Truffle, Dill & Chive to try. Though I’d heard the hype, I was completely blown away.

White Alder plant-based cheese created by artisan cheese company Kite Hill.

White Alder plant-based cheese created by artisan cheese company Kite Hill.

Let’s start with the White Alder, my favorite of the cheeses. According to Kite Hill’s website, “White Alder is a soft ripened velvety cheese with a white, fluffy rind. It has a tangy mushroomy flavor profile with a rich, silky texture and pungent aromatics. This cheese is best served straight from the refrigerator and pairs well with white grapes.” The website also suggests wine pairing options for each of its cheeses–for White Alder, it recommends “A dry white wine such as a Chardonnay with fruit or citrus notes or even Champagne.”

I found the White Alder to be rich in flavor, and I loved the white rind. It reminded me of (non-vegan) Brie in texture and taste, and was delicious spread on crackers and enjoyed as a gourmet appetizer. I love the wood container it comes in–it’s obvious that from the packaging to the presentation to the flavor, this is a really lovingly crafted product.

Next, I tried Cassucio Soft Fresh cheese. I found this cheese to be the least tangy of the bunch, similar to a (non-vegan) mozzarella. According to Kite Hill’s website, “Cassucio Soft Fresh is a supple, creamy soft fresh cheese, rich and complex with sweet and balanced aromas…The lactic flavors pair well with fresh greens, so this cheese is beautiful when sliced into a salad.” I agree with Kite Hill’s assessment–while enjoyed atop bread, I could have easily seen this gracing a hearty salad or rounding out a raw vegetable dish. Kite Hill suggests pairing it with spicy, red wine–I’d love to try that combination sometime.

Lastly, I tried the Cassucio Truffle Dill and Chive. According to Kite Hill, “The Truffle, Dill & Chive Cassucio is a supple, creamy, fresh cheese with earthy, black truffle overtones. The curds are hand mixed, combined with fresh truffle oil and a mixture of herbs, and then shaped and pressed immediately before packaging to ensure ultimate freshness.” They recommend pairing it with a dry white wine.

This cheese was a crowd favorite among my vegan guest tasters, as it has its own tang and rich flavor notes. Truffle oil was all the rage a few years ago, and I’d love to see this cheese bringing it back into vogue. I think this cheese would go well with vegan Caviart at a swanky party. While my friends and I enjoyed this with beer, they really do deserve to be paired with fine wines or kombuchas–I can easily see myself orchestrating a wine and cheese party to wow even my non-vegan friends.

Kite Hill cheese paired with gluten-free and non-alcoholic beer at a recent dinner party.

Kite Hill cheese paired with gluten-free and non-alcoholic beer at a recent dinner party.

In sum, I highly recommend Kite Hill cheese for vegans who have been missing truly gourmet, artisan cheese. This is the best in class, by far. At the risk of sounding dramatic, Kite Hill has made me feel like we we vegans have truly “arrived”–we no longer have to “go without” in order to live cruelty-free and forgo dairy. We can now saunter up to the cheese aisle and say, “I’ll take few ounces of the White Alder, please,” with the same air of connoisseurship as those who stake their claim as non-vegan cheese gourmands.

Currently only available at select Whole Foods, in the future, Kite Hill will be more widely available. They also make a gourmet Ricotta and a beautiful, paprika and fennel-rinded cheese called Costanoa which look absolutely fantastic. Learn if Kite Hill cheese is available near you on their website and check out their Facebook page for updates on future availabilities.

Hampton Creek Foods Just Mayo, Eat The Dough and Chipotle Mayo. Photo via Vegansaurus!/Megan Adamson-Jackes.

Hampton Creek Foods Just Mayo, Eat The Dough and Chipotle Mayo. Photo via Vegansaurus!

I’m told that back in the day, we plant eaters had to make our own veggie burgers and milk our own nut milks. Now, if we want to make our own veggie burgers and strain soaked almonds through our nut milk bags, so be it–but we have choices. These choices allow us to be lazy vegans if we want to, but they also allow for people with tons of expertise (aka food scientists or professional chefs) to develop and refine ingredient combinations that the average vegan just doesn’t have time for.

Of course I think it’s wonderful to enjoy a whole foods, plant-based diet, but I think it’s a huge step in the right direction that we vegans can be lazy if we so choose, and are able to pick up packaged vegan foods as easily as omnivores. In the past, vegans wanting legit-tasting, cruelty-free mayo had to enjoy Veganaise (which isn’t bad, but isn’t great either) or make their own from scratch. Now, we have Just Mayo by Hampton Creek Foods, which offers a superior-tasting vegan mayonnaise that really behaves like it should–thick, creamy, slightly tangy and easily spreadable. Hampton Creek Foods’ team of very talented food chefs and scientists were no doubt involved in its creation! Learn more about the development process on Our Hen House’s podcast featuring Hampton Creek Foods CEO Josh Tetrick.

Silver Hills Bakery gluten-free vegan bread and Just Mayo: A perfect sandwich combination.

Silver Hills Bakery gluten-free vegan bread and Just Mayo: A perfect sandwich combination.

I tried Hampton Creek Foods mayo on Silver Hills gluten-free vegan sandwich bread. It went so well with the avocado, tempeh and tomato fillings! I also love that Hampton Creek Foods is getting national attention. You can check out just a bit of the press they’re getting here, here and here. Oh, and did I mention Bill Gates is one of their investors? You KNOW this company is going places. Perhaps what I love the most about Hampton Creek Foods products is that their target demographic actually isn’t us vegans–it’s omnivores, and their smart marketing campaigns use verbiage that make it very easy to see a new possibility for the millions of chickens who are abused, enslaved, and lose their lives in order to create mayonnaise for someone. This is a very promising path to the future, indeed.

Hampton Creek Foods also sent their Chipotle Mayo (which was not my bag but I could see others loving it) and their “Eat The Dough” gluten-free vegan cookie dough. Absolutely awesome cookie dough, I can’t wait to grab some in stores at some point.

Connect with Hampton Creek foods on Facebook to stay updated on the latest news and to find out when they’re selling in a store near you.

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary in Deer Trail, CO with my love Courtney. Approximately 1.5 hours drive from Boulder, Peaceful Prairie provides a safe, loving home to rescued farm animals. Having hit upon hard times–their main well and cisterns froze and broke in the recent cold spell–Peaceful Prairie is currently doing a fundraising campaign to get back on their feet. During the tour, we learned that they’re slowly recovering (though they definitely still need help!) and it was an honor and a privilege to get to meet some of the human volunteers who run the sanctuary, as well as some of the gorgeous non-human animals who make the sanctuary their home.

Here are some pictures of the non-human friends we had the pleasure of meeting at Peaceful Prairie:

Beautiful cows at Peaceful Prairie in Deer Trail, CO.

Beautiful cows at Peaceful Prairie in Deer Trail, CO

Courtney cuddling a cow.

Courtney cuddling a cow.

A beautiful pig. Photo by Josh Valentine.

A beautiful pig

Lovely fowl at Peaceful Prairie. Photo by Josh Valentine.

Lovely fowl at Peaceful Prairie

A banana-loving pig at Peaceful Prairie.

A banana-loving pig at Peaceful Prairie.

Justice the cow stole my heart! What a sweetie.

Justice the cow stole my heart! What a sweetie.

There I am, explaining to a goat that I am a vegan.

There I am, explaining to a goat that I am a vegan.

With Courtney at Peaceful Prairie sanctuary.

With Courtney at Peaceful Prairie sanctuary.

A lovely bovine friend at Peaceful Prairie. Photo by Josh Valentine.

A lovely bovine friend at Peaceful Prairie.

Whole Foods donates expired produce to Peaceful Prairie. The animals love it!

Whole Foods donates expired produce to Peaceful Prairie. The animals love it!

Lots of great goats at Peaceful Prairie.

Lots of great goats at Peaceful Prairie.

A goat friend at Peaceful Prairie.

A goat friend at Peaceful Prairie.

The crew at Peaceful Prairie.

Some of the crew at Peaceful Prairie.

Courtney and a new friend at Peaceful Prairie.

Courtney and a new friend at Peaceful Prairie.

During the tour, I heard the story of a lovely goat who was rescued a few weeks ago by the sanctuary. Originally “owned” by an organic, “feel-good” goat dairy farm, this goat was only a few years old but had already had 6 kids (all of whom were stolen from her) and was “spent”–meaning she could no longer produce milk that could be commodified by humans.

At the time of rescue, she had a severe eye infection and parasites that were left untreated because–now here’s what’s so important to convey–organic farms aren’t allowed to use antibiotics to treat their animals.

This is a horrible reality that must be shared with vegetarians and omnivores who purchase and consume cow or goat dairy from these so-called “feel-good” organic farms as an alternative to animal products from factory farms. There’s nothing “feel-good” about them for the animals who suffer. I am grateful this goat was rescued and to be able to pass on this crucial info.

Sanctuaries like Peaceful Prairie are a fantastic and important reminder to me of why I am vegan–seeing rescued animals always motivates to try harder and do more for the animals. Eating a vegan diet and telling others about being vegan are important steps, but there’s always so much more we can do. Interacting with the non-human animals for whom I choose this delicious, easy, and extremely rewarding lifestyle known as veganism is such a pleasure.

I look forward to returning to the sanctuary at some point in the not-too-distant future and wish Peaceful Prairie continued success with their fundraiser. You can learn more about Peaceful Prairie and donate to their fundraiser here.

Bleating Hearts by Mark Hawthorne

If you’re thinking of reading an animal welfare-themed book this year, make it Mark Hawthorne’s breathtakingly well-researched and expertly written new book, Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering. Following his activism-focused first book Striking At The Roots, Hawthorne examines the many unseen sources of animal abuse, mistreatment, murder, and exploitation rampant in our world.

Bleating Hearts features lesser-discussed stories in animal welfare that are incredibly relevant in our modern times. As a vegan who considers herself to be relatively well-informed, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know about many of the specific animal abuses mentioned in Hawthorne’s book. There’s literally so much shit that people do to abuse animals that Hawthorne has painstakingly uncovered, it’s almost unreal. Hawthorne isn’t out to shock—he’s out to inform, providing generous research and sources to show the reader her blind spots and shines light on societal blights many of us have no idea about.

Vegansaurus! Review of Bleating Hearts

Continue reading my review of Bleating Hearts on Vegansaurus!

Linger in Denver

Linger in Denver, CO

Last night was a superb one–not only did Courtney and I move back into our apartment after three weeks away (it was being repaired post-Boulder flood)–but we were also treated to a magical vegan dinner at Linger in Denver, CO with fabulous new friends The Gay Vegans!

I have admired Dan and Mike of The Gay Vegans from afar for a long time, so it was such a treat to get to meet them! I so admire their compassionate approach to vegan activism; kinder, more caring and passionate vegan activists I’ve never found. These guys are also smart, witty, and charming, and Courtney and I had a lovely time trying out one of their favorite vegan-friendly restaurants, Linger. The Gay Vegans have written about Linger before on their fabulous blog, which you can check out here.

Starting with sweet potato waffle fries and a sweet dipping sauce, we elected to split dishes including a delightful seasonal butternut squash salad, dosas, and a unique carrot falafel dish that came with a smoky, cheesy-like sauce. Heavenly! We also enjoyed some incredibly prepared watermelon appetizers with sugared spicy topping.

For dessert, after laughing and sharing stories and getting to know the people behind the blogs (!), we enjoyed tangerine sorbet and a melt-in-your-mouth homemade peanut butter cup dish that kicked store-bought versions to the curb. Linger has a to-live-for location with a great view of Downtown Denver and a sweet rooftop bar. Linger isn’t a vegan restaurant, but they do right by vegan gourmands! I really love when restaurants that aren’t exclusively vegan feature amazing vegan dishes beyond standard veggie burgers and salads! The waitstaff and owner were also really sweet, which is always wonderful. I highly recommend checking out Linger if you’re in the Denver metro area.

It was a truly delicious meal with uncommonly kind and generous vegan rockstars–I can’t believe how much Mike and Dan of The Gay Vegans do for human- and non-human animals, and Courtney and I were so grateful that they took us to this lovely spot as a great introduction to Colorado. I highly suggest checking out Dan and Mike’s blog if you haven’t yet (aka you’ve been living under a rock!) Also, you can read more about causes The Gay Vegans are involved in and care about here.

Incredible butternut squash salad at Linger in Denver with The Gay Vegans Such a treat!

Incredible butternut squash salad at Linger in Denver with The Gay Vegans Such a treat!

Inventive and delicious falafel merged with carrot and spices and a rediculous vegan yoghurt sauce at Linger in Denver!

Inventive and delicious falafel merged with carrot and spices and a ridiculous vegan yoghurt sauce at Linger in Denver!

Chocolate peanut butter cup genius at Linger with The Gay Vegans and Courtney Pool!

Chocolate peanut butter cup genius at Linger with The Gay Vegans and Courtney Pool!

The gorgeous, kind, compassionate, charming and fabulous gay vegans!

Gorgeous, kind, compassionate, charming and fabulous Dan and Mike from The Gay Vegans!

A nice shot of Linger in Denver, CO. Photo via Gridskipper.com

A nice shot of Linger in Denver, CO. Photo via Gridskipper.com

Today, Courtney and I are moving furniture and unpacking with our wonderful new vegan friend Josh Valentine, who blogs at JoshValentine.Net. I am so grateful to be settling into life in Boulder, CO after a bit of a rocky start! I look forward to sharing more news and photos from the Front Range! In other news, I’m proud to say Queer Vegan Food was recently featured as a top “Gay Foodie” blog on The Huffington Post! Check it out!

Yesterday, I accidentally ate non-vegan hummus.

Yesterday, I accidentally ate non-vegan hummus.

Yesterday, I accidentally ingested dairy in the form of milk hidden in the ingredient list in organic “classic” -flavored hummus sent to me by Eat Well Enjoy Life, a company that wanted me to review various flavors from their line of hummus.

I specifically asked Eat Well Enjoy Life to send only vegan flavors, and so I didn’t even think to check the ingredients of what they sent me. It turns out, they make a lot of vegan flavors, and only a few are made with dairy. I was randomly scanning the ingredients this morning when I saw “contains milk” and my heart sunk. It turns out that in addition to all-vegan hummuses (which are amazing, and are made with really unique vegan ingredients like lentils, white beans, and black beans!), they also sell Greek-yogurt infused hummus. Bummer to the max.

The vegan flavors from Eat Well Enjoy Life

The actually vegan flavors from Eat Well Enjoy Life. They are great.

The non-vegan flavors from Eat Well Enjoy Life. They are made with Greek Yogurt, which wasn't so obvious from the packaging.

The non-vegan flavors from Eat Well Enjoy Life. They are made with Greek Yogurt, which wasn’t so obvious from the packaging.

I haven’t accidentally eaten animal products (that I know of) in a long time, and each time it happens (it’s been only a few times during the 8+ years I’ve been vegan) it’s challenging for me on many levels. I figured I can’t be the only one who has gone through this, so I decided to share what I’ve learned from my recent experience.

Here are the 5 Things I learned From Accidentally Eating Animal Products:

1) Our world is not as vegan as I sometimes wish it were. Weird uses of dairy/eggs/etc. still exist in things one would suspect would be vegan, but you can’t be too careful and it’s always a good idea to double check when trying new products.

2) Companies may claim to understand what veganism is and seem enthusiastic about veganism, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes. I’ve even seen things labeled vegan that list whey, honey, dairy, and eggs in products’ ingredients. It’s always a good idea to check, educate, and have conversations to really ensure products being received or reviewed are vegan, especially as a food blogger who gets to interact with sales and marketing people on the reg. I think in this case, there was just a miscommunication between the person with whom I interacted and whomever sent out the samples for review. Eat Well Enjoy Life’s vegan hummus flavors are indeed delicious–creamy, spicy, white bean hummus and edamame hummus, and other bean formulations are indeed worthy of telling vegan bloggers about–it’s just a shame they accidentally sent non-vegan samples that I didn’t think to check as well.

3) It’s best to make your own hummus. No matter how great a store-bought hummus, nothing compares to homemade versions. Homemade hummus tastes way fresher and better, I’ve learned. I highly recommend any of the hummus recipes on Choosing Raw.

4) I am human, and sometimes humans forget to check product labels even when they know better. We live in a non-vegan world and this is just another reminder that we all need to do our best to keep educating and helping people understand why we choose to abstain from consuming animal products.

5) Good can come from bad. Today, in honor of my unfortunate accidental ingestion of dairy, I’m going to make a donation to an animal welfare-related cause. I’ve decided to give to Veganism is the Next Evolution (VINE). VINE is a wonderful sanctuary and I highly recommend checking them out. I realize it is a privilege to be able to donate, and my accidental ingestion of animal products is a great excuse for me to put extra attention into doing what I can. (Not that one needs to wait until they accidentally eat animal products to promote animal welfare causes!)

Thanks for reading! xo

I’d love to hear about others’ experiences dealing with this, if anyone has a story related or wants to share?

As I sit here on a plush mauve couch in a stranger’s warm, well-lit living room drinking fair trade organic French Press coffee with soymilk and stevia, typing away on my computer, I feel really, really grateful, lucky and blessed.

If you’ve been checking the news lately, you have probably heard that Boulder and other parts of Colorado were recently hit damn hard by a historic flood. 

I moved to Boulder a few weeks ago. I wrote a post about it. Courtney and I had just moved into our new apartment four days before the floods hit.

At about 2:30am on Thursday, I awoke to Courtney telling me water was coming up through the floor (we chose a first-floor apartment–oops!) and that we needed to take action. The flood definitely came by surprise.

We have a really sweet landlord who coached us through the necessary steps to leaving the place–putting as much of our stuff as we could up on shelves and on top of the fridge and kitchen cabinets, turning off the power fuse box to avoid electrical issues, putting down towels wherever we could. Twitter confirmed roads were closed and there wasn’t a possibility to go anywhere outside of our building during the storm, so we brought our sleeping bags and blankets to the third floor of our unit and texted with friends in the area to see if they were out of harm’s way, and prayed for those were were vulnerable to the storm. We snapped a selfie to commemorate the crazy evening (look–we’re the Instagram generation!) and then tried to get some sleep in the hallway.

Flood evacuation selfie: 2:30a

Flood evacuation selfie: 2:30a

After some half-sleep, we were rescued by our landlord’s friend, a nurse who showed up in his shining black Subaru while there was a bit of a break in the rain. He took us to a nice home a few blocks away owned by a mutual friend of theirs, which also became home to other flood refugees. I am grateful for their kindness and generosity.

I checked the news and contacted friends and started getting a sense of the true devastation of the flood. Towns and homes destroyed. Our apartment was wrecked by the flood water, but thankfully we were able to grab our laptops, passports, a change of clothes and some rations. Nothing was destroyed that can’t be replaced.

I have to give a big shout-out to Tasty Bite, who miraculously sent me samples of their products to review right before the storm hit. I grabbed some of the yellow bags quickly on my way out, and have been so glad I did! Lots of delicious, easy-to-prepare quick meals have really helped out in a pinch. Tasty Bite will be my new go-to camping or emergency food supply, for sure. It tastes great and doesn’t even require cooking, though I have heated it up and served it with fresh greens.

Best flood food ever.

Tasty Bite is the best flood food ever.

The past few days have meant rebuilding in many senses. Courtney and I have since gone over to our apartment and pulled out soaked drywall, cabinets, and baseboards. Our landlord brought a crew of folks to get started on the construction, and has been amazing in every sense, working quickly to help us get back into our apartment–cross your fingers it’ll hopefully be next week.

Boulder and nearby towns are wrecked–roads destroyed, paths muddied, homes ruined–but there is a sense of resiliency as volunteer crews have already formed to help people and animals cope with the storm’s wake.

It’s been humbling to think of how many have been hurt by this storm. Boulder Pride was slated to happen today, and I agree with the organizer’s decision to postpone it. Now is not the time to party; it’s the time to restore, help out, and rebuild.

As I work remotely, I’ve been able to get some work done amidst this flood chaos, and have been touched by the kindness of the clients with whom I work who have witnessed this from afar.

The muddy Goose Creek path in Boulder, CO.

The muddy Goose Creek path in Boulder, CO.

The Goose Creek Greenway trail filled with mud after the flood.

The Goose Creek Greenway trail filled with mud after the flood.

The Boulder waterways are muddy and in need of repair after the flood.

The Boulder waterways are muddy and in need of repair after the flood.

The iconic flatirons enshrouded in clouds the morning after the flood.

The iconic flatirons enshrouded in clouds the morning after the flood.

A lot of places in Boulder have opened up again, including gyms, Whole Foods, and other local businesses. Life goes on. There is a lot of work to be done to repair what the flood has done to this city and its people, but it’s heartening to see some things springing back to life.

I have been blessed and lucky to be safe and to have been helped out by some truly kind and lovely folks, as well as to have such amazing friends and family who have checked on us and offered love and support from a distance. Thank you, sincerely–it means the world to me.

I hope to post more updates as things progress. Thanks again for all of your love and support, and for reading. xo

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