Meet the Woman Behind Secret Vegan Cheese
by Kiki Athanas
February 04, 2018
But that's not why this inspiring DIY-er behind the Crescent Dairy Free brand, and founder of the mysteriously fabulous and "exclusive" Secret Vegan Cheese Club, is lovingly crafting these "cheesy" goodies. Nope, it's not for "health" or a fear of "bad foods"...and that's precisely why I love her, and why her creamy nutty blends taste so flipping delicious.
Instead, Kira is crafting dairy-free cheeses out of pure love of good tasting, homemade food for the soul, very much inspired by her true "DIY-er" of a mother - Kira jokingly admits she forgets there are things you "can just buy", because she grew up in a household where almost everything possible was made from scratch.
So while Kira's dairy-free cheeses - with an extravagant, unique, rotating menu featuring experimental nut blends to keep things fresh for both herself and her (exclusive) customers - are certainly full of the "good stuff" (raw nuts, coconut oil, probiotics, etc.), she's not about restricting what makes them extra divine. Oh yeah, they're fatty and salty, and there isn't any skimping on taste to make some silly "low-fat" "salt-free" concoction just so some OTT health-nut can jump for joy.
I knew there was something special about her cheeses, after just tasting the scrumptiously perfect vegan feta [YAS she's sharing the recipe - it's at the end of this post!] I had ordered for my very Greek family Christmas dinner...even they had to admit it was tasty enough to serve as a rich add - rather than a "healthier, vegan alternative". Ain't nobody wants to live in a world of compromise, and so while these cheeses are still incredibly "healthy" by scientifically nutritional standards, Kira doesn't like pitching them like that.
They are darn good food - not a replacement or a substitution in a world governed by restricting eating.
Amen to that!
So who exactly is Kira, and how this is all come to be?
"It started as an obsession with nut-based cheese, then it was a huge part of gift giving for me, and then people started paying me, and then I went ‘secret’ public with a Facebook group where people can order and follow me - I actually just started using Instagram a few months ago - I am very lucky to have commercial kitchen space, and now ‘the secret’ is becoming an actual company, crescent dairy free."
While Kira is remarkably humble, I eventually (it took while) was able to pull out of her why exactly her cheeses just taste THAT much better than any other nut cheese I've ever tried (and being a health-nut like myself, I've tried and sampled quite a few!):
"I think there’s just something about my personal touch that you can’t put your finger on, but sets me apart even in recipes when I’m using similar ingredients as someone else might- vegan cheese making is quickly catching up to the centuries of dairy cheese makers with their own ‘terroir’ so to speak, and we all have our signature palates. While I’m proud of my classics like ‘brie’ or ‘havarti’, I think the flavours that I combine are unique to what I enjoy eating, and nothing trying to be specifically like a dairy cheese anymore - sacred sage is just sacred sage, its has its own flavour profile of herbs, culture, and smoked sage leaves."
Now it's important to note that while Kira is going to knock it out of the park and be in stores across the globe soon (whether she likes it or not - ha!) for now, she's really only catering to the Toronto market. But not to worry my non-GTA-bound friends! I got Kira's expert advice when it comes to shopping for nut cheeses in general...
Tips for Buying Dairy-Free Cheese:
"Choose local makers to your area, if you can. If there’s less folks involved there are usually less filler ingredients trying to prep something to be shipped. In general though, if you’re eschewing dairy for whatever reason, let that be a celebration of your choice, your health, and our changing planet rather than a fearful avoidance. Buy the plant based cheese that you really want to eat, that you really want to share.
This being said, if you’re looking for probiotics, choose un- set or dehydrated cheeses, as they’ll have the highest ‘bot yield."
Finally, as promised, I asked Kira to share the vegan feta recipe that even gets my "conservative" Greek aunt excited! To make things super duper (relatively speaking) easy on you, and to encourage you to actually try it, this is the slightly more 'instant' version - and with it there's a raw or baked version:
Psssttt: want to join the secret goodness?! Kira currently sells her cheese across the GTA through the Secret Vegan Cheese Club on Facebook and @secretvegancheese on Instagram. What's more, if you're ready to totally indulge yourself in the epic adventures of nut-based cheesiness, she's also got a cheeseboard and wine tasting pre-fixe coming up on Feb 12th (details here). *SPECIAL OFFER*: Mindfully Edible readers get $5 off the ticket price with promo code MINDFULLYEDIBLE (or just mention this post!).