For those of you unfamiliar with our background, Sonia and I aren't vegan. We probably eat less meat than the average American, but dairy is very much a part of our daily diets. Sonia gravitates toward alternative milks like almond and oat, particularly for her cereal, since she occasionally has lactose-intolerance issues, while I very much prefer cow's milk, despite being quite familiar with all its many alternatives since childhood. For something like cheesecake, we'd both reach for the traditional stuff—unless, of course, there's a vegan alternative that can somehow magically compete with "the real deal."
Approaching this cheese-less cheesecake, I am very skeptical. The product itself and packaging look pretty nice, and we all know Trader Joe's has offered impossibly delicious "alternative" foods in the past, but I've also tried a number of lactose-free/vegan offerings that were, in my opinion, less than edible.
Preparation is simple enough. Just plop the cheesecake out of its little cup onto a serving plate, let thaw in the fridge for 2 hours, and voila: ready to eat. I'm not the kind of person that knows what I'm going to be hungry for 5 minutes from now, let alone 2 hours. What am I, Nostradamus? But I went ahead and prepped the cheesecakes anyway, hoping I'd be more or less in the mood for cheesecake for my mid-morning snack, AKA brunch AKA second breakfast.
Well here we are. The moment of truth. First impressions? Really surprisingly, shockingly, good for a vegan product. Not exactly like real cheesecake, but still pretty darn tasty. Sonia's initial reaction: disappointment. We both agree we were expecting the opposite: that Sonia would like it and I would not. Not sure what we can attribute that turn of events to. Maybe my expectations were too low and hers were too high?
The graham cracker base is pretty much what you'd expect. The "cheese" part is very creamy, although perhaps a tad thinner than regular cheesecake. It's nice and sweet. There's an interesting flavor that's hard to put our fingers on. I'd say it has a bright, almost citrusy element to it. There's definitely a tartness underneath the initial desserty sweetness, but it works quite well in my humble opinion.
Holy goodness! I'm so glad I didn't look at the ingredients before I tried this stuff. This "cheesecake" basically has a lima bean base. Lima beans! Oh gosh that's gross. I mean, lima beans are okay when buttered and salted and served as a side dish. But lima bean cheesecake?? Ugh. That's just weird. Maybe Sonia just subconsciously tasted lima beans and I didn't. Why not red beans like you'd find in all those Asian desserts? Or tapioca? Those would be less...unusual choices.
Other ingredients are pretty normal. There are lots of different kinds of oils, agave syrup, oats. On down the list you'll see there is in fact lemon juice. I don't know if I'll ever get over that lima bean thing. It's like the yogurt I consumed and enjoyed for many years was ruined once I found out there were thousands of ground up little bugs used for coloring in them. You know, carmine?
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I'll try not to punish this dessert for being made of lima beans, because it does taste oddly good to me. Strangely enough, Sonia's not grossed out by the lima bean thing. But she'll only throw out two and a half stars. She's not impressed. I might have gone with four and a half initially...so put me down for four, I guess.
Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.