This London Cafe Opened My Eyes to Vegan Cheese | culture: the word on cheese
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This London Cafe Opened My Eyes to Vegan Cheese

Photo Courtesy of La Fauxmagerie

In a pocket-size café painted to evoke the mottled mold exterior of a natural rind, I savored the cheeses laid out in front of me: a creamy, smoky, ash-coated cheese called Minerthreat; delicately-veined Baby Blue that was tangy, piquant, and earthy; and a bold, garlicky, and highly-Instagrammable black cheese, aptly named Nerominded. The trio was presented on the menu as the Esoteric, along with other cheese lineups such as the Traditionalist, the Vampire Slayer, and the Levantine.

All three of these cheeses were as intriguing on the palate as they were visually—the textures and flavors on par with some of the best cheese plates of my dairy-obsessed existence. All, it must be said, were vegan. Because this plate at La Fauxmagerie, my first foray into plant-based cheese, exceeded my expectations, I waved my server down. “I’m not going to finish,” I told her, apologetically. And then by means of asking for forgiveness, I said, “so I can try as many cheeses as possible.” What followed was a parade of vegan cheese excess. Familiar cultures such as Penicillium roqueforti and Geotrichum candidum joined forces with cashew, coconut, and almond bases for a cheese feast that could make Aristaeus himself swoon. My only regret, despite the unnatural number of plates I ordered for my solo table, is that I couldn’t justify the baked Camemvert—rendered oozy by means of shea butter—that was indicated “for two” on the menu. What would it have mattered, I wonder now, when I had already enthusiastically partaken for five?

London, to me, has always been the pinnacle of urban cheese tourism. From the myriad stalls at Borough Market to legendary Neal’s Yard Dairy to any of Mathew Carver’s playful cheese cafés (Fondue on a barge! Cheese plates on a conveyor belt!), I’ve never left London without a memorable cheese experience. La Fauxmagerie proved no exception, and it’s a spot I’d introduce to cheese lovers of any ilk.

Admittedly, my only prior association with vegan cheese was complaints from formerly omnivorous, now vegan, friends who bemoaned the inability of vegan grocery store shreds to melt like the original. Without a dietary or moral obligation to motivate me, vegan cheese was simply something I’d had no need for. La Fauxmagerie, in London’s ultra-hip Shoreditch neighborhood, only became a blip on my radar when a vegan friend in London, knowing I was cheese-inclined, asked whether I was familiar. Here was a vegan cheese retailer, he explained, so provocative in its very existence it incited the wrath of the UK’s dairy industry when it opened. Naturally, for the sake of journalism, I had to see what all the plant-based fuss was about. The experience was not only pleasurable, but a much-needed lesson: Just like its dairy brethren, vegan cheese is better represented in its artisanal form than its industrial one.

Pamela Vachon

Pamela Vachon is a freelance food and beverage writer and educator based in Astoria, New York, whose work has appeared in Bon Appétit, Wine Enthusiast, and VinePair, among others. Formerly a bartender and captain at New York’s two Michelin star restaurant, The Modern (where her cheese education began as a driver of a tableside cheese trolley), she is also a certified sommelier, and leads cheese, wine, and cocktail tastings through Murray’s Cheese and Night Inn

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