Not too long ago, I learned through sampling a few wheels of Sheese that the world of vegan cheese isn’t a thing to fear, but a realm of endless possibilities instead. Those humble bricks held such potential that I’ve been chomping at the bit to see what other innovative new products might be brought to the table. Well, it turns out that none other than Bute Island Foods, the makers of Sheese, have taken the initiative and developed a whole line of cheesy spreads in addition to those solid dairy-free “cheeses” that turned me on my head. The only other alternative that I know of is Tofutti, so I was quite excited to get the opportunity to delve deep into this almost entirely untapped market.
Naturally, I found myself enthralled by the seemingly limitless possibilities contained just within this small category. Offering their shmears in a number of varieties, creamy Sheese seems to appeal to all palates, those timid and adventurous alike. With flavors ranging from the classic plain “cream cheese” to the curious “Mexican” flavor, I wished that I could have sampled all five.
Starting off with the Original to get a good baseline, my first whiff was as neutral as one might expect from standard cream cheese, possessing a slightly sour, astringent smell. Unfortunately, the similarities end there. Taking a generous knife-full, it had a strange sort of plastic flexibility, as if over-enthusiastically gelled with agar. Granted, it did spread nicely on my hot, toasted bagel, so this first impression was of little consequence. Cheered on by the consistency, I was pleased to discover that it was like the richest spread I had ever tasted. Unctuous and thick, it coated my mouth in such a way that I had thought only dairy could, but it became almost paralyzing to the tongue if too large a dollop was consumed at once. Nonetheless, I was once again let down to discover that the taste wasn’t all that the texture let on; With a distinct soy aftertaste and not nearly enough salt, I think I might ultimately prefer Tofutti’s rendition on this classic.
I wouldn’t count Sheese down and out of the fight just yet, though! Opening up the container of the Chive variant, I was still excited to see how the tangy spread would measure up. Admittedly, the appearance of the green chive-blotches somewhat reminiscent of mold was rather unappealing, but I certainly wouldn’t fault them for staying true to the nature of the foods they were dealing with. Spread on a slice of toast, I found the overall flavor to be quite mild, something that might be appreciated if sharing this with a significant other, but a little bit disappointing to the chive-lover in me. All the same, it would make a delicious addition to cucumber sandwiches for tea, or a fabulous dip a party. The light onion-y taste is sure to appeal to a wider demographic, and for those like me who prefer it more intense… Well, you can always add extra chives, too!
With my most unusual flavor still waiting to be tasted, I found myself hesitating. Horrific visions of artificial chez-wiz overcame my better judgment, and I feared that this Cheddar spread would be a vegan interpretation of that abomination. Truly, I shouldn’t have worried- This one was made with all natural ingredients in the first place. Initially unsure of how to serve this sort of spread, it was only after I settled on crackers that it occurred to me how nicely it might compliment a baked potato, or even a grilled sandwich. No matter, I was still pleasantly surprised to see that this version did not include the day-glow orange color, opting for a more organic shade of tan instead. It certainly smelled like cheddar… But the taste still left me wanting. A strong soy taste hit me before the real flavor could make itself known, and although it does have a certain cheddar-esque quality, I can’t say it was all that impressive. Not bad, but not my first choice either.
All in all, these creamy spreads were okay, but they really can’t hold a candle to the runaway success of the hard Sheeses. Bute Island Foods is an excellent company with excellent products to be sure, but these are simply not their strongest contributions.
[Written for Go Dairy Free]