Sunday, August 28, 2016

Treeline Treenut Cheese

I’d heard only good things about Treeline. Disappointed with almost all vegan cheeses, I’d become pessimistic, but still held out hope for this artisanal, cashew-based brand given all of the positive reviews I’d read. I finally found it at a nearby Whole Foods (for some reason, they only have it at select stores, but it’s available at several other stores as well; the web site has a useful “Where to Buy” section), picked up a fresh baguette, and couldn’t wait to get back and give it a try.

I was very pleased. Treeline offers two aged cheeses – classic and cracked pepper. The only one available at the store was the cracked pepper. Had I noticed this on the label, I probably wouldn’t have bought it, as I hate pepper. I never season anything with pepper, and generally dislike dishes in which its flavor is detectable. So I wasn’t encouraged when I opened the box and saw the pepper crust. But I have to say…I loved it. Almost makes me think differently about pepper. It had the consistency of a real artisanal cheese, a nice tang, and the pepper gave it just the right bite.

I chose the scallion-flavored soft cheese. It also had a pleasant, authentic texture, and was extremely flavorful. I can’t wait to try the herb-garlic flavor, which is their best seller. These are the first vegan cheeses I’ve tried that I would be happy to serve at a party. I’m also excited to use them in various dishes, and even develop some new recipes around them.

One bit of information of note is the relationship of Treeline to the local New York community where it’s made. From the site’s FAQ:
Where is Treeline Cheese Made?

In the town of Kingston, in New York’s Hudson Valley. Kingston, settled in 1651, was New York’s first capital. Our facility, minutes from the Ulster County Performing Arts Center, is part of an ongoing effort to revitalize one of the city’s distressed downtown neighborhoods.
Second, this Village Voice article from last month provides helpful background about Treeline and founder Michael Schwarz’s philosophy:
Schwarz grew up in South Africa, the son of Annette and Harry Schwarz — an anti-apartheid activist, lawyer, and statesmen. The Schwarzs taught their children that it was completely inadmissible to accept apartheid as the norm. This upbringing left an indelible mark on Schwarz, who later looked back on his childhood with the realization that had he made a different choice, he would have grown into an adult filled with shame. “I think it’s really important to know that you’re doing the right thing,” he tells the Voice. “Especially when you look back on your lot: Did I do the right thing or not?”

“I really believe that future generations will look back on the way we treated animals and abused the environment, and go, ‘What were you people thinking?’ in the same way we look back on our history in South Africa and America and go, ‘What was that about?’” Schwarz explains.
The article also reports that Treeline will soon “start selling at Kroger - the largest grocery chain in the country - which will double the company’s distribution,” and that there are ongoing discussions about expanding to Europe, “where his pitch (‘This is cheese made from cashew nuts’) has invoked more interest and appreciation than incredulity.”

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