There's no question that grain-meat maker Field Roast is one of the superstars in the meatless market. The Seattle-based company (with a distribution center in Miami) has made major waves, earning nods from Ellen Degeneres, the New York Times, Saveur, and others.
Its products (sold at Whole Foods, Milam's Market, and elsewhere) run the gamut from sausages to deli slices to hand-formed burgers, and its newest additions are three varieties of Chao Slices -- the company's first retail entry into the cheese-alternative niche. In a marketplace overflowing with dairy-free products, this is the best by far.
Chao comes in three flavors: Creamy Original With Chao Tofu, Coconut Herb With Black Pepper, and Tomato Cayenne With Spicy Pepper. I had the chance to sample it at Seed Food & Wine Festival last month, but I recently picked up a package to try at home. I had to gauge its melting ability and flavor in my own kitchen.
I opted for the Creamy Original With Chao Tofu, which I imagined would be the closest thing to provolone or Swiss. The ingredients include coconut oil, fermented chao tofu, sea salt, and other natural stuff -- no unpronounceable chemical ingredients.
I melted the cheese on a just-cooked Gardein Beefless Burger, and it softened like a champ. While Daiya does the job for me on a regular basis, the Chao Slice's consistency reminded me of legit, deli-sliced cheese. Thick and hearty, it didn't crumble or fold. It draped over the burger like the real deal.
And the taste. Flavorful and complex, it has the creamy richness of its dairy brethren. As far as comparisons, it's probably closest to muenster or Gouda. Best of all, unlike almost any other cheese alternative (except maybe Kite Hill), this product stands on its own. It's tasty straight out of the package, without having to be added to a dish or paired with something else.
The best recipe I can think of is this: Get two slices of bread, add Chao Slices and Deli Slices (another outstanding Field Roast product), smear on a little Just Mayo, top with tomato slices and lettuce, and you've got a vegan sammie extraordinaire. It's guaranteed to satisfy any meat eater and delight any herbivore who longs for the deli experience.
Judging by the crowd's enthusiastic reaction to their meatless Cubans and cheeseburgers at Seed last month, people are big fans of what Field Roast is up to.
At the moment, Chao Slices are available exclusively at Whole Foods, but next year they'll hit the shelves at other stores. Go get a cartful to feed hungry relatives over the holidays. Oh, and recipe ideas are welcome. Because what isn't made better with cheese?
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.