Daiya (pronounced “day-ah”) is well-known in the vegan world for their dairy-free cheese shreds. If you’ve had vegan pizza in any restaurant or Whole Foods store there’s a good chance you’ve tried it. More recently, their block cheeses, cheese slices and cream cheese spreads have been wowing vegans and maybe even converting some omnivores who used “I could never give up cheese” as their excuse for not joining the dark side.
I might be one of the only people on Earth who could easily give up cheese – maybe because as a former lacto vegetarian dairy products never agreed with my stomach, anyway. (It makes sense when you consider the fact that milk is a cow’s breastmilk, meant to nourish a 70 lb calf.) There are a lot of fantastic alternatives on the market (and in my book!) but if I had to skip cheese forever I would honestly be alright.
Cheesecake, however, is another story. So I was pretty stoked to get an invite to the Daiya #SayCheezecake launch party in Chicago recently. I brought my best girl Jessica as my date, and we spent the night sampling all four flavors – New York, Key Lime, Strawberry and Chocolate – along with bite-sized savory items made with Daiya’s varieties of cheese.
We started with New York, mostly because the Strawberry table was swamped and New York was close to the coat room and we are very lazy. The Cheezecakes are soy-free and gluten-free in addition to being vegan, and the main ingredient for the filling is dessicated coconut. Jessica and I both thought it was a pretty great dupe for “real” cheesecake, with the rich, creamy texture you’d expect and just a little bit of tanginess. If you out-and-out hate coconut I’d recommend trying one of the flavored Cheezecakes rather than New York, which is plain, of course, because you can taste the ghost of coconut in the filling.
After our first bite we ran into Marla Rose from Vegan Street and Michelle Shea Walker, and at that point the savory snacks were flowing out of the kitchen so we snacked on mini “cheese burgers,” asparagus quesadillas made with Daiya Smoked Gouda, slices of gluten-free pizza and herbed grilled cheese.
Our group broke up, and Jessica and I headed over to the Strawberry Cheezecake table, which was still pretty crowded with people grabbing flutes of champagne, so we kind of shoved our way in and grabbed our treats. Neither of us loved it, even though it’s made with real strawberries it tastes a little “strawberry flavored.” Later we ran into vegan cookbook author Kat Berry and Betty Alper from Betty Bot Bakery, and if I remember correctly strawberry was Betty’s favorite, so to each her own, I guess.
We walked all the way to the back of the room for Chocolate Cheezecake next. It’s delicious, of course, but as bakers ourselves, Jessica and I agreed that it was a shame to cover up the real “cheesecake” flavor of this recipe with so much chocolate. Again, I have never and will never kick chocolate out of bed, I love it — but if you can nail a great vegan cheesecake, in my opinion, you let that tangy cheesecake flavor sing. Chocolate lovers will definitely love this one, though.
Finally we tried what turned out to be our favorite flavor of all – Key Lime Cheezecake. It was refreshing, sweet balanced with tart and tangy and I think it was the only flavor that we both had seconds of all night. I’ve looked in two Whole Foods since this party, though, and neither of them carry Key Lime. I’ve found New York and Strawberry in the freezer sections, but no Key Lime. I’m waiting, Whole Foods!
There was a photographer walking around who undoubtedly caught me making some awful faces as I am a very animated talker – I’ll post a link to the album once Daiya shares it… and there might also be a video of me being incredibly awkward and talking about eating entire Cheezecakes by myself. Oh! And Jessica and I got our portrait drawn by the caricature artist on hand at the party, too. I’m sorry to confess that even though I spent a good chunk of my childhood at Six Flags Great America I never had one done, so this was a first for me.
OK and now for the best news of all – Daiya has given me four vouchers for FREE Cheezecakes so one lucky Bake and Destroy reader can try all four flavors! Enter below, good luck!