Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January PDX Restaurant: Vtopia


In the midst of the 22-day veg challenge, and trying and wanting to make more vegan choices (hmmm, I like that phrasing - to go all or nothing and "be vegan" can be daunting; to make vegan choices, moment by moment, choice by choice, is perhaps more doable), it seemed like the perfect time to explore a vegan alternative to something I love dearly, cheese. 

Cheese. It's a big reason I haven't gone vegan before. Not only is it delicious and part of many comfort foods, but it's almost always a big part of the vegetarian options at mainstream restaurants. Finding a vegan alternative to cheese is a must. And processed vegan cheeses (like daiya) just really don't do it for me.

The shop is located on the edge of downtown Portland, just a couple blocks from the Goose Hollow MAX station (which we did take in - street parking looked like it's available, but not plentiful). I'd heard about it shortly after they opened this summer, and I can't believe I put it off and missed out on it for so long!

Genre: Artisan cheese, deli dishes including their cheeses

Price: Cheese plates: each for $5, 5 for $23, 6 for $27, or 7 for $31 (and they're quite generous servings of each!). $5.50 to $13.50 for other small dishes, entrees, and sandwiches. Wine, beer, and other drinks also available.

Setting: Home-y deli

What we tried

Obviously we had to get a cheese platter and try a variety. I honesty can't completely recall which ones we got (other than than the feta which Abe really wanted to try, we just asked asked the waitress to include her favorites. This was in partbe cause they were out of a several - due to their recent move to a bigger manufacturing facility - but also just because why not.) 

I think, from left to right: 

Mediterranean feta, macadamia and cashew camembert, spicy white cheddar, roasted red pepper surrise, peppercorn brie.

My favorites, by far, were the camembert, followed by the one on the far right (which I think is brie, but is the one I'm least sure I'm remembering correctly). They were really amazing. Just like any fairly mild spreadable or cream cheese (the camembert seemed like Laughing Cow - yes, I have very low brow tastes in my cheese, I didn't even recognize half the names of the cheeses here). Really, really delicious! The only one I didn't like was the feta, but I'm not a fan of regular feta either.

The cheese plate came with some bread and crackers - surprisingly the cheese portions were very generous, but the carbs seemed a little stingy to go along with it! Fortunately they gave us a refill on that. We also got the beer cheese with sourdough bread - taste and texture were right on! 

Abe had ordered one of the specials (to be joining the regular menu, I believe), a club sandwich. Sadly, we eventually got news that they were out of the cheese to make it (again, supply issues were due to the relocation of the manufacturing spot, but that's done now so shouldn't be an issue going forward). But, to make up for it, they gave us a couple bon bons. I'd say the cheese was better vegan cheese than the bon bons were vegan chocolates/candies, but that's not to say I'd turn them down!

Overall impression: Amazing! Abe has instructions to stop by sometime soon (it's reasonably on his way home from school) to pick up cheese to bring home.

Would I take my parents?*: Yes. While the concept "vegan cheese" is a bit outside of their comfort zone, I think they'd be willing to give it a shot for my sake, and I'd bet they'd find something to enjoy.

*Scale: Heck no. No. Probably not. Maybe. Eh, yeah. Yes. Definitely. 

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