There's a New Cheese in Town

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Locals who forgo dairy and gluten in their diets are all abuzz about a new product that just arrived in Sacramento: Daiya is a vegan cheese that claims to taste, shred, melt and stretch just like dairy-based cheeses yet contains no dairy, whey or casein and is free from common allergens such as gluten, wheat, corn, nuts and soy. So what’s in it? Per the label, tapioca and/or arrowroot flours, canola and/or safflower oils, plus natural plant-based flavorings. According to Melanie Weir, owner of Gluten Free Specialty Market at 2612 J St., hers is one of only two stores in all of Northern California so far to sell Daiya (the other: Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco). She carries both the shredded cheddar and Italian varieties in 5 pound bags, but by late March hopes to be selling it in 8 ounce bags, which will retail for about $5. Does Daiya live up to its promise? We tried the Italian variety on pizza and found its flavor rich and a bit oily, its texture light and creamy. Dairy-cheese eaters won’t be fooled, but for dairy- and gluten-free folks who miss the gooey stuff, it’s bound to be a hit.