Above: Neo (Never Expect Ordinary) Pizza + Taphouse uses plant-based Vitalite cheese on its vegan pizzas.
Leho Poldmae, owner/operator of Neo (Never Expect Ordinary) Pizza + Taphouse, based in Baltimore, recently contributed to our story on vegan cheeses in the October issue of PMQ Pizza Magazine. Here's what he shared about his journey while adding vegan cheeses:
Having worked in and owned successful restaurants for more than 25 years, I know how important it is to use quality ingredients, and Neo Pizza is known for its artisan pizzas. When we were looking for a vegan cheese, we needed one that would help us bring our signature creations to life and chose Vitalite plant-based, vegan-certified, dairy-free mozzarella-style shreds from Saputo Dairy USA. We have been impressed with the product’s ability to help us to deliver the great taste, texture, melting performance and visual appeal our customers expect. With more people following a vegan or flexitarian approach to eating, it’s a must to have vegan options on the menu today.
The biggest thing to know about working with vegan cheese is to understand that it’s not always a one-to-one replacement for dairy cheese. Before using it as a topping on a pizza, experiment with it to ensure you understand its characteristics. We like to recommend adding toppings with different textures and interesting flavors to create a delicious artisan vegan pizza. One great thing about our plant-based cheese is that it does well with some rest time before consumption, which gives us a bit more flexibility in service. From a cooking standpoint, we’ve found that it melts best under high heat, which is ideal for the pizza ovens we use, but we’d recommend experimenting with textures, temperatures and flavors when first adding a vegan cheese to the menu. Vegan cheese pairs well with pickled items and vegetables, so creating menu options that bring out some of those flavors are ideal.
We charge an additional $2 for vegan cheese, sausage or pepperoni on our 10” pizzas and $4 on our 14” pizzas. We’ve had a great response from customers since we’ve added vegan cheese and vegan meat substitutes to our menus. Vegan, flexitarian or dairy-intolerant customers appreciate being able to enjoy our artisan pizzas—they feel more valued when they come to your restaurant and have a few menu items to choose from.
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