When it opens in February, Blue Heron Creamery will be Vancouver’s first and only standalone vegan-cheese shop.
Located at 2410 Main Street, it’s run by chef Karen McAthy and her business partner, Colin Medhurst.
A vegan herself for more than 20 years, McAthy had found herself uninspired by the dairy-free cheese options on grocery-store shelves. The Alert Bay native was the executive chef at Graze Vegetarian, which is now closed. There, in response to demand for plant-based charcuterie boards, she began researching the science behind dairy-free cheese.
She has since gone on to develop more than 20 types of dairy-free cheese and write a vegan cookbook called The Art of Plant-Based Cheesemaking.
While other dairy-free cheesemakers around the world tend to use cashews as their base. McAthy works with those nuts as well as all sorts of other ingredients to make her vegan cheese, including almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and coconut milk.
When the Mount Pleasant store opens in early to mid-February, it will carry a selection of freshly made cheeses as well as vegan butters and yogurt.
Among the cheeses customers can expect to see are:
- Cumulus: A coconut-milk-based cheese that has a sharp, clean acidity and pairs well with pasta, salads, and white wine.
- Smoke n’ Spice: An almond-based cheese with smoked paprika and pickled jalapeno.
- Cormorant: A semi-firm cheese made with cashew and coconut milk that is aged with vegetable ash. (This comes from vegetables that are dried and turned into ash, which helps neutralize the surface pH of the cheese.)
- Beechwood: An almond-based cheese that resembles Parmesan Reggiano in that it slices thinly and is almost translucent. It’s smoked and then beer-washed with Tofino Brewing’s Kelp Stout.
Down the road, McAthy will introduce blue cheeses, including one made with B.C. walnuts, and ash Camemberts.
The Art of Plant-Based Cheesemaking recently won the Canadian section for vegan/vegetarian cookbooks of the Gourmand World Cookbook awards at the Frankfurt Book Fair and is shortlisted for the international prize in that category, to be announced in May.
Medhurst, meanwhile, is a firefighter, holistic health coach, yoga instructor, and supporter of plant-based nutrition, having co-written The Juice Truck: A Guide to Juicing, Smoothies, Cleanses, and Living a Plant-Based Lifestyle.
Launched in 2016 as a vegan cheese-making and event catering company, Blue Heron continues to receive interest from all across Canada, the United States, and beyond.
As plant-based eating continues to grow in popularity, alternatives to dairy-free cheese are in demand. By the year 2024, global sales of vegan cheese are expected to reach more than $3.9 billion, according to Variant Market Research.
Update: Blue Heron Creamery has announced that its opening date will be February 15.