A Beginner’s Guide to Vegan Cheese – La Fauxmagerie.

Another trendy cool plant-based place in East London? Don’t mind if we do! 

La Fauxmagerie sells vegan cheese from different places, previously situated in Brixton and now set up in Brick Lane. They also sell online. Now, you could grab individual orders of each cheese, but they also sell their six best selling blocks as an “introduction pack“. Which is as pretty dam convenient as it gets. I was in the mood for crackers anyway. This pack can be ordered from their site but I decided to make an appearance. The place is small, with a singular filled fridge, parallel to the wall is a rack selling crackers and biscuits. There are some great little curios such as figs, plant-based bacon slices, and various butters and vegan honey on sale too.

Their website is fantastically designed and in person it’s the same. They’re certainly going for that nicely rustic, quaint look. It’s made up like a cosy cellar, with large counters of fresh wheels and slices of cheese, quaintly covered in plastic cosies, as the centrepiece. Everything is very clean, tidy, and mercifully quiet. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t need to hit you over the head with a concept or gimmick. Which makes for a friendly visit. Being there in person I requested the introduction selection pack for £36. While grabbing all the blocks and placing them together, the keeper made chat; one of the blocks was sold out, so they subbed it for their personal favourite instead. They also told me that they’re planning to open a vegan wine bar downstairs. – Please, do a cheese-making course? It’d be a laff. – Anyways, not only do I have a beginner’s pack of vegan cheese, it’s a store staff approved edition!

If you’ve never made vegan cheese – and why should you when you can laugh look at my own attempts – there is a little bit of a knack to it. I for one could never get the thing to set. So personally, this place is a godsend. Variety and expertise in another little niche interest in foods. And these guys are clearly passionate about their craft. The gift boxes, says the shopkeeper, are “. . .painfully all hand made by me. . .’ as she packs up the blocks. And read this excerpt, taken from this page on Kinda Co’s Faux Lox:

Note: This is Charlotte’s favourite cheese. She tried to take some on to an aeroplane in her hand luggage but was stopped by security who pointed out that over 100ml of both liquids AND ‘mousses’ were banned from hand luggage. She refused to waste this delicious cheese so she quickly ran back through security and ate the entire pot with a bagel she had saved in her bag. She nearly missed her flight but says ‘it was totally worth it’. 

The pack also comes with a pack of biscuits, but we’re also getting through these with boxes of Ritz, Ryvita, and sweet chilli rice crackers. Think of them as a soffritti or mirepoix of cheese tasting. 

Vegan cheese seller. Super cute and quaint sign sold separately.

Kicking this off is the Kinda Co. Farmhouse Mature. They describe themselves thus: “Sharp + mature with a cheddar inspired flavour.” The packaging is plain and simple. Which you could say is kinda the point. . . eyyyyyyyyy? Okay, I’ll stop. 

As soon as you open the packaging the smell, my goodness the smell is intense. Strong. Honky. The look of it is almost like a bar of butter. However, the taste is where it counts. . . 

On one hand, it’s soothing and mellow and on the other there’s something slightly more in-depth as well. It’s not a flat, soulless 1-note performance; there are layers of taste. The texture is soft, not unlike the mouth-feel of pate. Far more of a mousse thing than a solid block. It’s a rich, ever so slightly acidic, and sweet fatty flavouring. The saltiness of the Ritz made the creamy texture and nuttiness stand out. As the cracker gets chewed up, the softness of the cracker mushes into the mush of the cheese. But, eating it with the harder, more rigid sweet chilli rice cracker was an incredible combination. That little spice kick combo with mature cheese, the hard cracker with the soft intermixture. There’s an ever so slight bitterness undercurrent, and the ingredient list on the packet does say something close to two grams of salt in a 100g cheese packet which really does make it work so much more. Would have expected it to have had a higher salt so I’m interpreting the low number as a sign all the ingredients just work that well together. It would be curious to have it again spread on a sourdough bloomer or a fresh-out-the-oven baguette. I could see it working with something zesty too. Give that fatty-brine an acid to play against.

Kinda Co’s Shamembert: drizzled with honey, slow roasted garlic slices with sea salt and rosemary sprinkles.

Next up is the Kinda Co. Garlic + HerbIngredients: Coconut oil, natural cultures, onion powder, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, beetroot powder, mixed herbs, salt, citric acid. 

The packaging is a little more tightly bound. But once you managed to crack it open, well. . . the smell that greets you is incredible. 

The taste is strong, and that garlic flavouring is coming through right to the forefront each mouthful. The mixed herbs to garlic ratio is dead on perfect. You’re left with this hard cream blend, savouring the alioli like flavour, that rich aroma and the tang. The block is harder, one side of it has a smeared-in skin of herb sprinklings, like a rind-skin on one side. Down the middle is a slight pink hue of the beetroot, giving the appearance of a rare cooked meat. This block contains less salt than the Farmhouse, and the garlic and herb give more flavouring so the taste goes a lot further. 

“. . . it’s soothing and mellow, and on the other [hand] there’s something slightly more in-depth as well. . . “ 

I’d say it’s like garlic and herb Philadelphia but it’s far less sweet and far more in-depth. And a much harder texture. Ritz crackers were perfect for this. I could imagine this would be great in some kind of BBQ veggie burger too. That flavouring would complement smokiness so well.

£36 Beginners Pack. Vegan charcuterie packs are also available.

Honestly Tasty Veganzola: coconut oil, almonds, tapioca, flour, salt, nutritional yeast, carrageenan, agar, lactic acid. 

It looks bulky. Pressing my finger slightly on the surface, it’s got a strong “build” to it. Firm to touch initially. 

The taste is pretty much indistinguishable from the real thing, making it fantastic for vegans that are missing those cheese sauces in their pasta. It’s soft, creamy and delightfully light. The texture and look is convincing like gorgonzola. Honestly can’t believe it doesn’t have garlic in it either, it’s got a deliciously strong umami to it. It’s very easy on the mouth and taste buds. There’s a slight mintiness to the flavouring too. It’s extremely mellow, butter-like. Or like eating through a triple cream. It’s thick and slightly chewy. This also could work as a kind of dessert cheese, grouped with a sharp chardonnay. 

What is kinda impressive is that I couldn’t pick out a singular ingredient. It’s a firm, hard-working block of a recipe that makes you question what sorcery has gone on here. But just like Kinda Co. Farmhouse Mature, there’s a lot of salt underneath. The packet says it’s 2 grams is 29% of your RDA. After a few bites that bitterness does begin to stick out. Perhaps the potency is made primarily for those potential cooking sauces I mentioned? This could work drizzled over some asparagus or broad beans. I could see chilli or some spices working with it too (The sweet chilli crackers absolutely killed it in a tasty combo!) 

It certainly doesn’t last long either. 

“. . .drizzling it with honey, with slow roasted slices of garlic, with sea salt and sprinklings of rosemary. . . “ 

Strictly Roots Vegan Smoke House. Ritz crackers sold seperately.

Next up we have Strictly Roots Vegan Smoke House

‘Ingredients: Organic soya milk, organic coconut oil, kappa carrageenan, yeast extract, nutritional yeast, onion powder, maize, tapioca, salt, sweet paprika.’ 

I can definitely smell that smokiness. The rind is a rich skin, I’d love to try this in a vegan-bacon toastie. Cutting through it is a softer texture, far easier on the knife and mouth. But it tastes like dairylea with a little bit of BBQ sauce thrown in. The ‘meat’ is dry and mellow. Which means there’s some lovely interaction between the smoky skin and the easy-going flavour of the cheese. Their website suggests using it as a topping for Welsh rarebit or lasagne topping. I’d also like to suggest perhaps throwing on top of a pizza. It’s far more into the savoury side of things. This one, unlike the others, is nut free, and with the paprika, is capable of giving it more personality, more unique amongst the garlics, and their cashews. But the flavouring is stuck somewhere between a Red Leicester and a slightly smoked cheddar. Crank it up. 

The crackers that they throw in with the box are Seeds of Revolution, which are on the extremely arid side, tasting like a very granular, seed-based Ryvita or a wholemeal Weetabix, only better. For the purpose of cheese tasting they definitely give the flavour a great palate to try and taste different styles with.

I love how cute and quaint this box is!

The shopkeeper’s favourite, and the one that got subbed was I am Nut Okay’s Peppahhh; cashew nuts, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, pink Himalayan salt, garlic, onion, tapioca, mustard, lactic acid, cultures, miso (soy). 

This one is closer to the Veganzola. It’s got a garlicky, herby scent. But also, as the name would suggest the cracked black peppercorns really gives it a gorgeous aroma, and the taste is incredible. The block is so buttery and creamy, that’s the bonus to using cashews. It’s so svelte and smooth. Like the Kinda Co’s Farmhouse, it has a texture that resembles pate. The pepper gives it a warming, spicy edge to it. Unlike the other blocks, instead of normal salt we have soy and miso and pink Himalayan salt, which makes that flavouring undercurrent a little more complex, and the intense pungency carries itself so well, working front of the palate in your mouth. And that smooth-fat cheese smears the ‘corns enough to stop it overcoming and building up into too much. And you can taste that lemon juice, working with the fat and cream to make it stand out. That zest doesn’t intrude, but you can tell it’s there, it works with the cashew-cream so, so well. A beautiful tang right in the back of the taste. 

I could really see this working well in sandwiches or a pasta sauce. It definitely holds it own as a savoury dessert cheese, perhaps with cranberry seeds on top of a cracker. It certainly is my favourite too! 

I’ve saved the most photogenic for last, having gotten a little bored of cheese and crackers I now turn my attention to the Honestly Tasty Shamembert – which suggests baking for 14 minutes with rosemary and garlic bulbs. Don’t mind if we do. I slow roasted slices of garlic for a little longer before putting it into the Shamembert, and I suggest you do that too. Let that garlic begin to sweeten up for a bit. I ended up slashing it, drizzling it with honey, with slow roasted slices of garlic, with sea salt and sprinklings of rosemary. For all the food pornage I got from this, it’s the flavour where it counts. Coming out of the oven you can see that cheesy goo seeping out from the grid. The Shamembert holds together the flavour very well, it’s rich. Fully fat, creamy and could pass for regular camembert. However, it does “clump” together a little. . . thick? Perhaps it could have been a little sweeter, a little thinner? 

So all in all. . .it’s a fantastic introduction to vegan cheese! Perhaps it would be a great gift for your plant-based friends or a bank holiday treat for yourself. The good news is after going there in person it was obvious that this pack was just about scratching the surface, which gives plenty of reasons for return visits. The shop itself is a gorgeously quaint, quiet place and they clearly know their stuff and are passionate about what they do. That kind of tried and tested combination of passion and know-how appeals to peoples like yourselfs. 

*

[ed note: we visited this place in the summer of 2020, and published it nearly two years later, the contents of their introduction pack have now changed!]

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