Local co-op vegan offerings, reviewed

Over fall break, Northfield’s own Just Food Co-Op hosted a vegan food tasting sample day, showcasing local vegan food vendors to highlight an array of options to “diversify your vegan diet.” According to Jessica Hutton, Just Food Co-op’s education coordinator and graphic designer, the event collected a lot of buzz and excitement around the community. 

“It’s a good way to get to know our customers and give them good, quality customer service as well,” she said about the event. 

Now, let’s get to the food. Full disclosure: I’m not a vegan, but my mom is, so at this stage in my life I’ve grown fairly used to enjoying a wide range of vegan and non-vegan foods. That being said, I’ve rated each item according to vegan and non-vegan pallets so that all can enjoy, no matter what their dietary choices.

Vegan Grilled Cheese: This sample was prepared using ‘Chao’ slices as a substitute for dairy cheese, as well as utilizing oil in the place of butter. Easily one of the best vegan cheeses I’ve had the pleasure of consuming, this grilled cheese was melty in all the right ways and full of a smooth richness that has me salivating even as I write this. This can easily go head to head with any non-vegan grilled cheese.

Vegan rating: 8/10

Non-vegan rating: 7/10

Baby Carrots with ‘Daiya’ vegan ranch: Despite the cutesy name, this presentation was fairly simple. With average baby carrots, the focus was on the ‘Daiya’ vegan ranch. ‘Daiya’ was one of the first brands that I tried when my mom began substituting dairy-less foods into our diet. Over time, I’ve found many options that I consider to be much better, and this is no exception. All in all, it was merely okay. The ranch was definitely on the tangy side, and much more liquidy than I would prefer. 

Vegan rating: 6/10

Non-vegan rating: 3/10

Organic Oat Milk, Vanilla: Made from oatmeal, drinking this milk is like drinking the last remnants of milk leftover from a bowl of oatmeal. A little on the sweet side, but in a good way. Not my favorite non-dairy milk though. 

Vegan rating: 7/10

Non-vegan rating: 5/10

‘Milkadamia: Moo is Moot Original’ Milk: (Made from macadamia nuts)

Not too much flavor, honestly. The staff member working as a vendor described this milk to be easier for people not used to dairy. I don’t know if I agree. In my opinion, this was closer to water in taste than it was to milk. 

Vegan rating: 4/10

Non-vegan rating: 3/10

‘So Delicious’ Coconut Milk: (Gosh, do you think it’s made from coconuts?) A passerby had this to say: “If you don’t like coconut, you taste the coconut. If you do like coconut, you don’t taste it.” I guess I like coconut because when I drank this, I didn’t taste anything. This was even more watery than the ‘Milkadamia’.

Vegan rating: 3/10

Non-vegan rating: I just wouldn’t.

Nicoise Olives: It’s literally just olives. In all honesty, I despise olives with a burning passion. Yet, I’m a journalist, and sometimes getting the truth out can be painful. That said, I ate the olive. It didn’t quite make me want to throw up, so if you like olives, I guess these are probably a good bet to go with. 

Vegan and Non-vegan rating: As good as olives are gonna get, which isn’t saying much. 

Kakookies: Boundary Waters Blueberry and Cashew Blondie: These are locally made as a healthy substitute in a world bursting with over processed snack bars with athletes in mind. This snack is gluten friendly, vegan and soy-free. I found the Boundary Waters Blueberry to have a bit of a weird texture with the taste of a protein bar but not to sweet and natural tasting. 

Vegan rating: 5/10

Non-vegan rating: 4/10

As for the Cashew Blondie, these ones are super good. Much sweeter than the blueberry, but not too sweet, and much better in terms of texture. The $1 price makes these even sweeter in all the best ways. 

Vegan and Non-vegan rating: 7/10

‘Hail Mary’ chocolate almond butter cups: Made with creamy almond butter and a rich dark chocolate ganache. It makes sense why these ones are flying out faster than they can be restocked. These are super good and melt in your mouth like a gooey Reese’s candy crack. The chocolate might be a little jarring as it has more of a cocoa powder taste, but overall it’s just delicious. 

Vegan rating: Bro, get it. 

Non-vegan rating: Bro, what are you waiting for? You should get it too. 

Overall, my main highlights are the vegan grilled cheese with ‘Chao’, the cashew blondie Kakookie, the ‘Hail Mary’ chocolate almond and the super friendly people working there. Bummed that you didn’t get a chance to attend the free sampling? Well, you’re in luck. Just Food-Co-op has a themed sample day on the second Saturday of each month. While they won’t all be vegan, they’re bound to be super fun and it’s also a good chance to be able to check out all that they have to offer for yourself.