Monday, November 02, 2009

adventures with daiya

grilled daiya with tomato on sourdough, lime roasted brussel sprots

adventures with daiya: the first in a series of musings on vegan cheese.

The excitement of a new vegan cheese hitting the market cues nondairy lovin' drooling, eyerolls and quite possibly more hype than a red carpet event. I'm usually guilty of all three of these reactions.

I mean, holy crap, this cheese won the VegNews Product of the Year endorsement. If anyone knows vegan products, it's the VegNews staff, right? Totally. Last year, they awarded the title to Dr. Cow's Nut Cheese. It's their duty to be on top of these things and that rules.

I've tried Daiya a handful of times now, and can only say I actually enjoyed it once.
So far.

I think it's super great that it's:

a) a new vegan cheese
b) soy-free
c) um, becoming available everywhere
d) being embraced by the public, including restaurants & chains, faster than any nondairy cheese before (seems like it!)
e) specifically, available for bulk purchase through the Food Fight! store in Portland
f) melty, or something that resembles melting

It's been openly available in the US since Spring '09, and so many East Coast and California vegan bloggers seemed to be loving it. That is, until I noticed one vegan friend mention they didn't like it. I was shocked, even the processed vegan cheese haters seemed to be down. I highly respected this person's culinary opinion, and my anticipation to try it grew into sheer curiosity.

I finally tried Daiya while in Laguna Beach, CA from zpizza, and returned to see it hit Food Fight's fridge. I'll talk more about my zpizza experience as soon as I locate my photos of that pizza - but know this, I despised it. I had to double check it was actually Daiya, and told myself it had to be a fluke.
It reminded me of a stick-to-your-mouth, coat-your-teeth, get-it-away experience I had with rice cheese at Seattle's Pizza Pi a few years ago (under previous, previous management, I'm told). I didn't like the Italian blend melted, and I didn't like it firmed, and the taste...I didn't hate the taste, but I didn't love it. But, I'm not desperate for a soy-free vegan cheese, or a new vegan cheese, I'm just excited and curious.

I'm used to the buttery Follow Your Heart, Teese and Tofutti singles, and Daiya channels something different. Cheddar Daiya really seems to go the Velveeta look and taste route. I was looking forward to the zpizza and falling in love with the best vegan cheese ever, and I didn't. I hyped myself too hard.

Anyway, since then, I've tried it a few more times. I truly enjoyed it from the Savor Soup House cart downtown, pictured below. Nancy knows grilled cheese...


You can see how this one achieves a level of gooey-ness mine did not.

My grilled cheese at the very top didn't achieve this goo, and I suppose I should give it another go with cheddar. I know this is all so ridiculous, but it's an adventure. I think it wanted a little more time to melt, because the one at the top became........fluffy. And I'm not saying that in a delicious way.

Final Thoughts:
  • I'm a vegan cheese supporter, and I'm trying to like this one, a second time.
  • I think this might be a great vegan cheese for new vegans to try.
  • Maeve says I should try it over pasta, so I will.
  • I thought the Cheddar was almost vile on nachos.
  • Both Native Bowl & Whiffies have had specials involving Daiya, that I've yet to try. I feel left out of a vegan craze.
  • Every time I come across a random vegan on the internet stating they dislike it, it makes me feel a little less alone.
I ask you, what's your take on Daiya? What's the tastiest way you've experienced it?

38 comments:

Katie said...

Yummy cheesy goodness! :)

Eve said...

i, too, find daiya real...ICKY. that's me being nice. i also had it on a zpizza (twice because i wanted to give it a second chance), and could not handle the flavor or the texture. blech! give me follow your heart any day.

Vegyogini said...

I've had the same stick-to-the-teeth experience w/ Daiya (and have blogged about it). I don't find that pleasant at all. I think it's best used in the cheddar flavor in a grilled cheese or a quesadilla, although I had some success combining the two varieties and melting it over tortilla chips for nachos (no teeth-sticking in that case). I haven't done so yet, but I think experimenting with combining the 2 flavors on pizza might work to alleviate the teeth-sticking and give better flavor since the Italian variety doesn't have much flavor on its own.

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

I really like it, but NOT just "plain" where the cheese is the starring role. I have never EVER found a vegan cheese that I could handle... Now, the ways I tried it may have helped reduce the "sticky" factor, plus, I used very little, because I never cared for great globs of cow cheese back in the day (not saying you used great globs of it or anything, of course)but my kids and I used a blend in quesadillas (with beans) which all of us deemed DEE-LISH... and I put a light layer on a very-herby-garlic-and-veggie-covered pizza, and we really liked it there too - but there wasn't a LOT of it, either, I think that makes a difference. It definitely has to be MELTED and combined with other tasty things. I tried it just melted on toast and did not care for it (but that's not a great example, I don't think I'd like cow cheese that way either)

Panderbear said...

Yay, someone who agrees with me! I was so excited to try Daiya, and it really did melt, but it felt almost TOO real to me. I enjoy the cheddar in small amounts (like in grilled cheese sandwiches) but when I tried the mozzerella on a pizza, I didn't even want to finish it. It was like oily overload, and by the time I was halfway through I was feeling a little nauseous. And the mozzerella flavor just has a weird unpleasant aftertaste; I MUCH prefer the taste of Teese. Since I hate the cheddar variant of Teese, it works out OK!

Anyway, you can keep your Daiya, just give me Dr. Cow's.

Jess of Veg Out! said...

I thought I was the only one not going apeshit over Daiya! I'm not a fan, either. I used a handful once in a vegan beer cheese soup I made - and it was good... But I think the soup was good on its own, anyway, and the Daiya didn't really add anything special.

On pizza & in twice baked potatoes, it had a funny aftertaste, and I totally agree on the "mouthfeel" & how it sticks to your teeth!

I am tempted to keep trying it because everyone is nuts for Daiya... But I'm unimpressed so far.

Andrea said...

I didn't like it the first time I put it on pizza. I've had it get hard and crisp and weird when I sprinkled a thin layer. I made pizza recently and used a thin layer of follow your heart slices with grated Daiya sprinkled lightly over the top, and the combination really did taste good. The fyh was melty and creamy and the daiya added a small amount of flavor and stretch. I don't like a thick layer of cheese - I like mostly veggies on my pizza.

Alicia said...

I love Daiya! On pizza, my wife and I will sprinkle the italian blend AND cheddar together, it takes the edge off the italian a bit. And I've made veggie fajitas with the cheddar that have been awesome. I think the thing I like most about it is the stretch.

Abigail S. Bean said...

I think the problem might be that you're not becoming one with the Daiya. As you admitted, your grilled cheese needed to cook longer. I find that you have to forget everything you know about cooking with vegan cheese and go back to the thoughts you had cooking with real cheese. And, my Daiya rule of thumb is: cook it longer. I have had nothing but success with both flavors in all kinds of recipes. I'm still drooling over the eggplant parm sandwich pic from your "East Coast" link...and it was my own! Keep trying and if you really decide you don't like it...I'll be happy to eat your share!

Tami (Vegan Appetite) said...

I had problems getting it to melt at first, but now that I cook it long enough, I love it. Besides in quesadillas, my other favorite is in a sandwich like this:
http://www.veganappetite.com/2009/09/food-network-friday-inside-out-pizza.html
I've seen it used beautifully in some pasta dishes, but haven't tried that yet. Like vegyogini said, combining the two is a great way to play with the gooey factor, like in nachos or pizza.

You know, it might just not be your thing, like onions.

PB and Jess said...

I like Daiya a lot, but I don't know if it's "the best" vegan cheese on the market. I love that it's spreading like wildfire and cropping up everywhere - even St. Louis! I bought cheddar and used it to make quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches, and both came out great!

Julia said...

I really like Daiya on homemade pizzas and burritos. I tried zpizza last weekend and wasn't too impressed but it was OK - I had one with mushrooms, onions and a garlic sauce. It was nice to be able to go OUT for pizza for once and I want to support their efforts so I'll probably go back. But I much prefer my homemade Daiya pizzas.

I LOVE Dr. Cow cheese! Have you tried it? It's great on crackers - the first vegan cheese that I've liked that way.

Liz C. said...

I tried Daiya for the first time this weekend at Slice in NYC. I really liked it and was tempted to buy some because Slice is selling it. It does sort of stick to your teeth, now that you mention it. But, I liked it better than Follow Your Heart.

John said...

I normally wouldn't do this but I love Daiya so much that I'm stepping into the ring! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that's great. Mine is that Daiya is hands down...the best vegan cheese I've ever tried. Second only to FYH! Definitely way better than Teese (gross!). It melts better than any other faux cheese I've worked with. Great on pizza. In biscuits (shameless sweetpea plug). Soups. Chili. Ham & cheese sammys. Tofu scramble. Hell...It's delicious on it's own. Daiya rules. Plain and simple.

chrystad72 said...

Thanks, this is good to know...i actually havent tried it yet. Ive been curious about it though since Ive heard alot about it.

tahinitoo said...

I don't care much for Daiya either Jess. In fact, it's very rare that vegan cheese ends up on my plate. If I had to choose, Follow Your Heart is my favorite, but only melted on pizza.

Tracy Warner said...

I have that same issue with Zpizza-- the cheese like sticks to my teeth and the melt-y consistency is almost like a gummy sauce.

I think they just put too much on. When I made a pizza at home, I used less of the daiya cheese and it was more pleasant in moderation.

I'm yet to find a vegan cheddar I like. It's so vomit-y tasting.

DJ said...

Reading your post made me laugh - I think we've all had too many run-ins with bad vegan cheese to not recognise your descriptions! We don't have Daiya over here in the UK but we have an equivalent sitch with Sheese which is often hyped as an 'authentic' vegan cheese but as far as I can see doesn't melt, grates like playdoh and tastes of socks. But it's almost like there's some kind of Sheese conspiracy cos everyone I speak to really likes it... I'm a redwood mozarella-style cheezly girl, myself.

Garrett said...

Daiya oh Daiya, you confusing cheese you. I've had it on pizza twice, once with a blend of the two flavors and going light on the cheese which I found delicious and made me think it was the greatest but then... I had it on a pizza last night with only the italian flavor and with lots more cheese than the first time and yuck! It was the worst vegan cheese experience I've ever had:( Everything you pointed out in your post manifested on my pizza last night, it was just terrible! I've also tried just the cheddar in a grilled cheese and it made me want to cry it wad so good? Daiya leaves me confused but as for pizza I'd say mix the flavors and go light on the cheese to avoid an unfortunate taste and uncontrollably sticky experience!

Miel said...

I'm so happy you posted this. I follow quarrygirls blog religiously (being an LA vegan, it's like my bible) and she ALWAYS goes on and on about it. I've had it at whole foods on pizza twice and on a grilled cheese. To be honest, the pizza was way too freaking much. Even though it was the mozzarella flavor, it reminded me way too much of American cheese. Strangely though, the grilled cheese was amazing.

Jody from VegChic said...

I'm a Daiya fan. For me, it beats Follow Your Heart which I like for the most part.

I've tried it on pasta, in a VB omelet, and grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.

Bummer that you aren't loving it, but if FYH works for you...then it is all good!

kittee said...

daiya is pretty good, but i think i'm a fyh for lifer.

xo
kittee

Crystal said...

I would love to try this! I'd also love to try Dr. Cow and do a comparison. I just need to order the stuff because neither is carried around here that I'm aware of.

Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

I like cheddar best. And I think the Italian version is better if you let it cool just a bit if it's on an acidic sauce. When I had it at Z Pizza with the roasted garlic for sauce, it was divine. On their tomato sauce...not so much.

laura said...

i love that we have OPTIONS now. yeah, i think daiya has an edge for me. but i still like teese and follow your heart mozz. for cheddar though, it's daiya only for me though.

Alison Blue said...

Daiya sticks on your teeth a lot, that is why I seldom talk why eating these wonderful treats!

Yu Tok said...

Yummy. So deli-cheeeesssyyy.

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Alice Van-Weed said...

kids would rather have these treat rather than sucking their pacifier clip

all or nothing book said...

Yes so yummy. I find it really funny the points that you have presented aboce.

green glue said...

Wow this looks really delicious!!! I'll try making this at home. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Wish it didn't taste like american cheese. I can't stand anything remotely tasting like a Kraft single.

Anonymous said...

it's not just me! i also tried daiya more than once (in grilled cheese and on zpizza) and didn't like it at all. the smell and flavor made me feel ill...but my vegetarian (not vegan...yet!) boyfriend loved it and said he would eat it instead of regular cheese anytime. so i get it for him so at least he isn't buying cow cheese, and i try not to inhale as the odor of his grilled cheese drifts into the living room.

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Anonymous said...

Glad to see the post. I, too, have been trying to like Daiya for the past year. I try and try and no matter what it's in, no matter the blend, I just hate it. And still I continue to buy it every so often to try to convince myself I can handle it.

I really don't understand what all the fuss is about over melting. "It melts!" "It melts!" I get it, but that isn't a substitute for it tasting so gross. And don't even get me started on the ubiquitous "it TASTES like cheese!" statement I hear from vegans all the time. Daiya does not taste like cheese. In any way. Ever. This isn't a matter of personal taste or opinion. I feel comfortable making the definitive statement that I know what cheese tastes like.

What I've felt frustrated by is the complete and total craze Daiya is causing. Now, no matter which restaurant I go to in NYC, the vegan cheese is always Daiya! I cannot escape it. I'd like to see these restaurants making their own nut or yeast based cheeses; some variety would be nice. And worth the price tags.

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ShellyBean said...

Hi there, so glad to have stumbled upon this post. I am new to the dairy free lifestyle, not totally vegan as of yet. However, I've recently purchased Diaya shreds in cheddar & mozzerlla, quite honestly, I'm not a fan. With my first attempt, I tried it on pre-made gluten free pizza crust, by Udi's. It was tolerable, but didn't really knock my socks off. A few days later, I was determine to get my money's worth, I tried it as a topping on beef nacho's. This yielded better results, but still, wasn't great. My third & finally go at it (I had refused to just toss it out) was last night, when I made a pizza using "from scratch" gluten free pizza crust. Unfortunately, I had only consumed about 2 tiny slices, before finally tossing it in the trash.

I will have to try FYH (Follow Your Heart)and perhaps, Teeze the next time around. There just has to be a vegan "cheese" out there that's better than Diaya. Although I do have to add, that I've recently tried Amy's brand organic mac & cheese, which uses Diaya, and that was so soooo good. I couldn't believe it.