Review: Kite Hill Non-Dairy Cheese

February 4, 2014

in Reviews & Giveaways

Kite Hill Artisanal Nut Milk Cheese Review // picklesnhoney.com

I remember first reading about Kite Hill’s nut milk cheeses last summer and staring in awe at their soft-ripened White Alder. The rind looked exactly like brie, and based on people’s feedback thus far, it tasted similar too. Now, I’m far enough along in my vegan journey that cheese is usually not something I miss. Nutritional yeast fills that flavor void for me, but I also wasn’t cheese-obsessed pre-vegan. Frozen yogurt is more my kryptonite.

However, I was so impressed with the craftsmanship behind Kite Hill’s non-dairy cheeses, I knew I had to try them. If not for me, then for my cheese-loving husband, because cheese is most definitely his kryptonite (and coffee and baked goods, but at least the first is already vegan and I feel like I have the second one covered). Just one problem: Kite Hill was only available in California and hadn’t yet made it to the East Coast.

Until now. Or maybe, quite a while ago and I missed it. You see, it’s exclusive to Whole Foods but you won’t find it anywhere near the Daiya in the regular dairy aisle.  Instead, Kite Hill’s products are appropriately located in the fancy cheese department. That’s awesome, but it also means a lot of people searching for non-dairy cheese may miss it. Good thing Whole Foods usually puts the gourmet chocolates next to the cheeses. At least the vegan chocolate lovers will be hovering nearby.

Kite Hill Artisanal Nut Milk Cheese Review // picklesnhoney.com

Kite Hill makes four varieties of almond and macadamia nut milk cheeses, including plain Cassucio, Truffle, Dill and Chive Cassucio, White Alder, and Costanoa. I was able to find all but the beautiful paprika and fennel-pollen-encrusted Costanoa at my Whole Foods, and despite the slight sticker shock (they ranged in price from $12-$14 each), I excitedly purchased all three. I mean, I had to for research purposes.

The verdict? Simply put, I think Kite Hill is a game-changer for the non-dairy cheese world. The appearance, the texture, the flavors…spot-on. And here’s why, via Kite Hill’s website:

“From the beginning, we were adamant that our process follow the time-honored techniques of traditional artisanal dairy cheese-making. This meant using only a short list of the best ingredients, superior French equipment in our aging rooms, and going through a lengthy and painstaking process of trial and error rather than taking shortcuts.

…we value craftsmanship, culinary creativity, delicious choices, and collaboration with farmers. And while our cheeses are made with only four ingredients: nut milk, cultures, enzymes, and salt, the magic of fermentation and aging yields many delicious possibilities…”

Kite Hill Artisanal Nut Milk Cheese Review // picklesnhoney.com

So awesome. The cheeses are not quite as rich and creamy as their dairy-based counterparts, but when served with crackers, fruit, and a little fig butter, I completely forgot I was eating nut milk cheese. I kept trying to choose a favorite variety, but they’re all so good.  And the true test – did Aaron like them?

Kite Hill Artisanal Nut Milk Cheese Review // picklesnhoney.com

Yes, he loved them! Aaron immediately started talking about how thrilled it made him to be able to bring back our old tradition of enjoying a cheese plate at home, and giving me forewarning that our grocery bill was about to increase.

I would like to say that these cheeses are destined for a homemade, less expensive version, but after reading about the process and the art behind them, I’m happy to let the professionals at Kite Hill take charge on this one. And what a team they have.

Have you had the luxury of trying Kite Hill yet? If so, what did you think?

xo
Amanda

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Caitlin February 4, 2014 at 11:27 am

i had no idea they were in the fancy cheese section of whole foods! now i know where to look ;) that price tag is pretty hefty, though. i wonder if they have coupons? it’s kind of funny, i used to love cheese, but was mostly an American cheese sandwich girl, or a habanero jack pepper cheese block and cracker girl.
Caitlin recently posted…To my parents on their 30th wedding anniversary

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Amanda February 4, 2014 at 11:48 am

I’m not sure about coupons, but that would be nice! It’s definitely a once in a while treat for me because of the cost. Also, if I had to categorize myself, I’d say I was a gruyere girl. And I loved the end pieces that other people used to eat around. :)

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Cadry February 4, 2014 at 11:53 am

I have only tried one of the cheeses from Kite Hill, the White Alder. I was immediately impressed with the look of the cheese and how reminiscent it was to my old favorite, brie. (It was the most difficult cheese for me to stop eating when I went vegan.) I haven’t compared in ounces, but I was glad that you really get quite a bit of cheese for the cost. While I have enjoyed Dr. Cow, it’s very easy for two people to finish it in a night.

That said, I wasn’t that impressed taste-wise with the White Alder. It was fine, but it didn’t blow me away. The kind of crackers I ate with it made a big difference, and I noticed that it was much more brie-like with a buttery cracker than with a water cracker. I have been much more impressed with some homemade cheeses like those in Miyoko’s book, the tofu chèvre from Keepin’ It Kind, and Somer’s holiday cheddar ball to name a few. However, I would like to try the other flavors and see if they appeal to me more. It wasn’t that the White Alder was bad at all, just a little plain.
Cadry recently posted…Should Vegans Eat at Non-Vegan Restaurants?

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Amanda February 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cadry! I found that most of the flavor in the White Alder is in the rind. To me, it has a distinct mushroom-y, brie-like flavor, and I totally agree about eating it with a buttery cracker. The Cassucio has more flavor, especially the Truffle, Dill & Chive (I found dill to be the most predominant of the three). That one was especially good topped with fig butter! I agree about Miyoko’s book, having tried a couple of her cashew-based recipes. They were very good, albeit a little time intensive and I may have let them ferment a bit too long. Have you tried anything from The Non-Dairy Formulary cookbook? I’m hoping to try the brie recipe soon!

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Cadry February 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

Oh, and I meant to comment about the location of the cheeses! On the one hand it does seem to legitimize Kite Hill cheeses by putting them next to the other gourmet cheeses, which I like. But for myself, I would rather have it (and other plant-based cheeses) next to the other vegan specialty products. For smell reasons, I prefer to stay away from the cheese & meat departments in grocery stores. When I went looking for it, it felt weird/foreign to be in that part of the store again.
Cadry recently posted…Should Vegans Eat at Non-Vegan Restaurants?

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Amanda February 4, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I totally understand your points here. Maybe they should have it in BOTH sections of Whole Foods?! Vegan cheese for all! ;)

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Michelle Lahey February 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm

I’ve always been skeptical of vegan cheeses, but these look incredible. I would totally pay that price, even just to try them. I’ll have to find them at my local Whole Foods!
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Amanda February 4, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I’m skeptical of vegan cheeses too. I know a lot of people love Daiya, but I am just not a fan (and neither is my stomach). Let me know what you think of Kite Hill after you try them!

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Michelle Lahey February 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Will do!
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Katie @ Produce on Parade February 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm

*sniff* *sniff* I’ve been yearning to try Kite Hill for sooooo long. We don’t have a Whole Foods in Alaska, obviously :( So jealous, but happy you did a review on it. I might have to arrange a shipment from a friend in the states!
Katie @ Produce on Parade recently posted…My Favorite Deodorant – Death By Lavender Review & Giveaway

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Amanda February 4, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Alaska needs a Whole Foods!

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Ashley February 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm

The cheese plate you put together in these photos is so gorgeous and definitely has put me in the mood to try these! I was a big cheese lover before going vegan, especially brie with apples or grapes. I’ll definitely have to look for this at my Whole Foods!
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Amanda February 4, 2014 at 3:53 pm

This cheese plate was pretty delicious, if I do say so myself. :) The combo of cheese + fruit is so good.

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Kait February 4, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Are we living the same life? Did you somehow know I spent a solid 15 minutes in front of the hummus and artisan cheese case this afternoon debating whether I should spend my $ on Kite Hill? SERIOUSLY?! ;)

Alas, I went with the (slightly) less expensive Treeline and proceeded to smother delicious slices of Seeduction bread (my fave by the way, if only for the sexy pun) with it. And devour the ensuing deliciousness.

Oh Kite Hill – one of these days!

Also, the Columbus Circle WF has it with the Hummus. Its across from meat which isn’t much better IMO than going into the cheese section but hey…you have to walk past it to get to grocery anyway.

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Amanda February 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm

That’s too funny! And now you have me wanting to try the Treeline and Seeduction bread. I love the Columbus Circle Whole Foods. My friend used to live right next to the Mandarin Oriental and I remember being blown away when I saw that WF and all of its prepared food glory (and super efficient check out lines).

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Kait February 4, 2014 at 7:13 pm

It’s pretty fantastic since we’re on the local train and can get door to door in about 15 minutes. And all the grocery stores I’ve been in the city have a similar checkout process. I do miss full registers though, not gonna lie!

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Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} February 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Oh how I wish I lived near a Whole Foods! I don’t often miss cheese but posts like these make me remember how yummy brie was….
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Amanda February 5, 2014 at 9:11 pm

You might look into the brie recipe from The Non-Dairy Formulary cookbook. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard good things!

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Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan February 10, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Oh my gosh! I am about to go to Whole Foods after work today after this news, hehe. I actually wrote to my store once, asking them to stock artisan vegan cheeses… I will be pretty embarrassed about that assuming I can find this in the places I wasn’t looking.
Shannon @ Yup, it’s Vegan recently posted…Dark Chocolate Mango Macadamia Nut Butter Cups

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Amanda February 10, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I think it’s great that you wrote asking for more vegan cheese! It’s good for them to hear there’s demand. I hope your Whole Foods has the Kite Hill cheeses, and if they have the Costanoa – please try it for me! You know, I should actually put in a written request for that one…

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Richa February 10, 2014 at 8:12 pm

I recently found them there too. and i was jumping like a mad woman. which i think my local WH already knows that i am:)
i’ve tried the cassucio and its insanely good!
Richa recently posted…Brown Rice Pudding with Banana, Walnuts and Mango. Vegan Glutenfree Recipe

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Amanda February 11, 2014 at 8:23 am

haha I am the exact same way about new vegan finds at the grocery store! It’s the little things in life.

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Frances Boynton February 17, 2014 at 6:05 pm

My local Whole Foods had it in the vegan cheese section but only had the Brie equivalent and the plain Casucio. Brie wasn’t one of my faves so I went with the Casucio. By itself, I thought it was bland by itself but I tried it with the suggested fig preserves and also bought some red pepper jelly. It went perfectly with both of these. I’m going to ask the store to order some of the other flavors. I would buy this one again but hope one of the other flavors would stand alone better than this one.

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Amanda February 18, 2014 at 8:43 am

The Truffle, Dill & Chive Cassucio is more flavorful, though I can’t say I’d eat any of them on their own. I added the plain Cassucio to salad one day and that was really delicious.

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