Aside from Union Square Greenmarket, another of my regular New York City foodie pilgrimage trails is the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Some of my favourite regular Grand Street haunts are Kossar’s Bialys and The Pickle Guys. Also, any visit to this iconic neighbourhood would also be incomplete if I didn’t leisurely browse the gentrified Orchard Street locality, and the ethnically diverse Essex Market.
On my visit to the Lower East Side this summer, I was surprised to find that Essex Market had moved a short distance to a new home on the South East corner of Essex and Delancey Streets. This historic food market has been updated and transformed into a slick, modern airy space and gastronomic food hall. Originally established in 1888, and transitioning to become an indoor market in 1940, Essex Market has changed as time has passed to reflect changes in the community around it. Over the years, the area’s demographic has shifted from being a mixture of Jewish and Italian immigrants, into a much more cosmopolitan one.
The new Essex Market, which opened in May 2019, now hosts an eclectic combination of existing, as well as some new, innovative food companies. One such business is a purveyor and producer of fine vegan cheeses called Riverdel.
Riverdel was established by Michaela Grob four years ago in Brooklyn. They are a vegan cheese monger par excellence that stocks a wide range of vegan cheeses made by some of the best, predominantly North American vegan cheese makers. When I first saw the cheese counter of their stall at Essex Market, my initial reaction was WOW!!! It truly was a sight to behold.
So, what is Vegan Cheese?
To conventional cheese connoisseurs and the uninitiated, the idea of vegan or non-dairy cheese may seem like an oxymoron. However, aficionados of the gourmet vegan cheese world would define these unique products by the cheese-making techniques and cultures used to ferment and produce them, rather than by the lack of dairy as their base ingredient.
As a fan of vegan cheese, I have borne witness to the evolution, innovation and improving quality of products available in the UK. Naturally, I was thrilled to find a similar trend being repeated in the USA.
Michaela told me the story of how her passion for vegan cheese inspired her to set up Riverdel. She also told me about the cashew nut-based cheeses that they produce, and about trends within the vegan cheese industry. You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.