Most vegan cheese is a foul abomination that makes even the most empathetic people assent to the nonlethal exploitation of milkable mammals.
And yet, maybe there's another way?
Goose Hollow's new Vtopia Cheese Shop & Deli (1628 SW Jefferson St., 971-271-7656, vtopiancheeses.com) makes the best case I've heard.
Cheesemaker Imber Lingard started as a server at Cornbread Cafe in Eugene—arguably the best vegan restaurant in the state—where she impressed with a homemade, cultured cashew cheese at a party. She started making other varieties for the restaurant. Customers loved them, so she spun off into a new business, figuring out how to wrangle a cornucopia of bacteria to turn humble cashew cream into very good milk-free cheese. The process, obviously, is highly proprietary, but so far successful.
Lingard, an affable Australian, has since expanded her line to include a tasty aged white cheddar, an herby Mediterranean feta and a dark-purplish brown fermented black garlic wedge that's aged for two months. You should definitely bring the latter to your next vegan-heavy party.
The shop doesn't have much atmosphere—and a liquor license is pending, meaning kombucha is your best pairing option—but the $23 five-cheese plate with fruit, olives, bread and crackers is worth a try even if you've been disappointed by vegan cheese.
More: Read about two of Portland's dueling vegan restaurants here.