I read about Kite Hill’s new vegan cheeses well over a year ago and have been on the lookout for them ever since. They’re made by Tal Ronnen, the renowned celebrity chef who has made vegan meals all over the world. Whole Foods has an exclusive deal with Kite Hill, so if you don’t have one nearby you’re out of luck. I’ve looked at Whole Foods in the Chicago area, but never had any luck. I realize now I probably have been looking in the wrong section every time we’ve been there. Our other closest Whole Foods is in St. Louis, Missouri. We took a Valentine’s Day trip to St Louis this weekend and I made a point of stopping before we left for home.
We found the three Kite Hill cheeses after asking an employee who originally told us they were out. They were located in the cheese case, but we also found them lumped with the vegan cheeses. I’ve missed brie since going vegan more than any cheese; I’ve honestly had dreams about eating it again. I knew I wanted to try the White Alder flavor since I first read about them.
It’s no longer called White Alder, instead it’s labeled as “Artisan Almond Milk Product.” The price tag at St. Louis Whole Foods was $9.99 for a 4 ounce wheel. I was expecting $14.99, so that was a surprise, but it’s definitely still steep when 4 ounces of dairy brie is around $5.
The ingredients are simply almond milk, salt, enzymes, and cultures. I definitely appreciate that the entire container is less than 300 calories, as I probably could polish it off in one sitting.
Upon opening the package, I was struck by how realistic the rind is. Kite Hill using the same aging process with their cheese as dairy cheese makers, which explains how they achieve such a similar product. It even had that strong brie odor.
The inside is creamy, albeit more opaque than I remember dairy brie being. I was impressed with my first bite; however it went downhill from there. The rind is very loose from the soft interior and each slice kind of falls apart into rind and inner piece. It definitely has a similar mouthfeel, but it left a tingling in my mouth that I couldn’t get past. I don’t have an allergy to almonds and I can’t imagine why the cultures would cause this, but I could only eat about two pieces before it bothered me too much. My husband also ate a bite, but he had never had aged cheese before going dairy free. He ate one bite, declared it tasted like really bad feta, and gave me the rest of his piece.
My overall impression is that it’s an interesting product and was worth the try. If I were trying to impress my omnivore friends I would include it on a cheese plate or perhaps bake it in a crust with raspberry preserves. I think it’s a good marketing move to maintain the exclusivity with Whole Foods, as they can keep the price high without competition, but I also feel the price is something only dairy free people would be willing to pay. If the price point was dropped to about $7 I feel it would be reasonable to splurge on something like this every once in a while, but I doubt I will purchase it in the future, especially with the unpleasant reaction I had. As much as I miss brie, I think I’ll have to finally attempt Miyoko Schinner’s recipe or go without.