Parmela’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Parmesan Cheese Available Near BoulderBy Evan Sandsmark -
Parmesan cheese is a very precise thing. It is the cheese made in a select few provinces in Italy, including Parma and Reggio Emilia, which is why the cheese is called “Parmigiano-Reggiano.” (“Parmesan” is the English and French rendition of this thoroughly Italian name.) Thus, it is technically misleading to refer to any cheese not made in this region as “Parmesan cheese,” and so a gluten-free and vegan Parmesan cheese made in California (where Parmela is based, although you can buy it near Boulder) is a doubly misleading. It isn’t a cheese and it isn’t made in one of the relevant provinces of Italy.
And, for the record, this designation is taken seriously – the use of the name “Parmigiano-Reggiano” and “Parmesan cheese” is strictly regulated by both Italian and European law. However, the US is not Europe or Italy, and we tend to use the world “Parmesan” with a lot less care. It can basically be applied to any hard cheese in the approximate style of the real Parmesan cheese, and so in the US there can be such a thing as vegan and gluten-free Parmesan cheese, even if this is regarded as a chimerical concept by our European brethren.
Now, with that important linguistic point made, we can move on to our main concern, which is Parmela, which actually doesn’t claim that it makes Parmesan cheese. Rather, Parmela offers a Parmesan-style cheese, one that is entirely vegan and gluten-free. (We should note that most cheeses are gluten-free, a point we made in our article about another excellent vegan cheese made by Kite Hill.)
Unlike some vegan cheeses, Parmela Parmesan-style cheese is fermented and aged, giving it an unusually strong and rich flavor, exactly what Parmesan cheese is known for. Thus, you can sprinkle a bit on some GF pasta, soup, or whatever else you fancy and taste the difference. You can of course never reproduce the exact taste of regular cheese using entirely non-dairy products – in Parmela’s case, almonds, cashews, and a little fermented soy, which is easier to digest – but one thing that is good about a vegan Parmesan-style cheese is that it isn’t (and needn’t be) at the center of the dish. It is merely one small component of a much larger dish, so even if you perceive some deficiencies in the taste of a vegan Parmesan-style cheese (at least relative to the real thing), it doesn’t really matter. You aren’t eating the cheese by itself, and it is a perfectly acceptable way to fill the “Parmesan cheese” gap in your pasta dishes.
While you can’t yet buy Parmela Parmesan-style cheese in Boulder, you can order it online – Parmela lists the online retailers on their where to buy page – and you can also get it at Nooch, an entirely vegan grocery store in Denver, which you might want to check out anyway next time you are in the city. It is also possible that Parmela will come to Boulder soon. It is in many ways a perfect market for the product, and Parmela’s offerings are expanding. In addition to the Parmesan-style cheese, they just released a new line of vegan cream cheeses that come in three flavors – original, black pepper and kalamata olive – according to our colleagues at the Happy Gluten Free Vegan.
Available in Boulder or not, Parmela’s Parmesan-style cheese is worth checking out. A small sprinkle could add exactly the flavor you are looking for in a number of your dishes.Read Next Article » Lenka’s Live Foods, Entirely Gluten-Free, Vegan, Raw, and Organic
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