With its many celebrated restaurants and food festivals, Brooklyn can stake a serious claim to being New York City’s food center. Though the borough touts esteemed restaurants like Peter Luger Steak House and Chez Ma Tante, a number of innovative food companies, including many immigrant, family-run enterprises are often overlooked. These culinary inventors bring their cultural heritage to the borough with an assortment of chocolates, wines, whiskeys, olive oils, tahini, spices, ice cream, and produce.
Here are a few small Brooklyn companies that showed their wares at the Javits Center’s Fancy Food Show, the largest food show in the country, and called by Chef George Duran on Good Morning America “a foodie’s Disneyland.” Food companies come to showcase their imaginative new products, which this year seemed to mean advances in making plant-based food delicious as well as nutritious.
RIND: For Admirers of Creamy French Cheese (Including Vegans)
“We started out loving traditional, soft-ripened, French cheese,” Joshua Katcher, co-founder of RIND said. “But then we became vegans. Did we have to give up French-style cheese? Not at all.” Instead, Katcher and his partner, Dina DiCenso, set about developing a proprietary formula to make delicious cheese using a plant-based cream base instead of mammalian milk.
The cheese has won many awards and even passed the high standards set by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, which decided that the market for vegan cheese was so strong it better take a closer look. It chose nine of the most well-regarded vegan cheeses in the country and ran a taste contest. The magazine named RIND’s Classic Cambleu “The Best Blue Cheese-Style Vegan Cheese,” praising it to be “earthy, funky, pleasantly briny and sharp. Ultrasmooth and creamy.” Or, as The Boston Globe wrote about the Camembert, “With dark bleu veins runnings through its rind, like a blue cheese, this cheese’s interior is soft, buttery, and yeasty. You might not guess by its appearance that the wedge is actually plant-based and vegan.”
And you wouldn’t. Unlike most past vegan attempts, RIND products are good enough to be partnered with the best chefs. Belse, a trendy downtown restaurant, serves it on a cheese plate, where it is elegantly at home with raisins on the vine, seasonal preserves, and house-pickled vegetables. This cheese is in a whole new class of its own.
For the carnivores among us, RIND offers a more plebeian cheese, Carrot Cheese Slices, which has a “Creamy, robust and cheesy flavor,” according to RIND. The cheese, which is a perfect substitute for American cheese on traditional hamburgers, has a “melty, gooey and luscious texture when heated.” Carrot Cheese won the 2022 New Product award from the Specialty Food Association.
RIND’s plant is in Brooklyn, but because the environment must be strictly controlled for health purposes, the company is unable to entertain visitors — no unwanted bacteria is allowed. Beyond their company, both co-founders are deeply involved in Brooklyn life. DiCenso founded Gristle Tattoo, an all-vegan tattoo studio in East Williamsburg, and Brooklyn Nurse Practitioners, a plant-based primary care clinic. Katcher is a designer, educator, and author who created the website, The Discerning Brute in 2008, and the elegant Brave GentleMan label in 2010. He also wrote Fashion Animals in 2019.