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    Eat & Swig

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    My husband and I had a plan for our senior years: to live in an Old Louisville mansion puttering about making cheese. For us, for our friends, for fun. Just stinking up the place with pots of warm milk and piles of wet cheesecloth. Our hair would smell of cheese. Our clothes would smell of cheese. We would sell our cheese to kids at the Mag Bar. An odd, graying couple holed up with their dairy dream amid Victorian splendor. That was the plan.

    Then last fall the chest pains arrived, followed by weeks upon weeks of tests. Finally, a diagnosis — heart disease. The cardiologist stood at the foot of my husband’s hospital bed and said that, at just 38 years old, bad genes and bad luck were to blame. The long life we once assumed a guarantee now had stipulations, like vigilant exercise and a healthier diet. “Cut out the dairy,” the doctor directed. I believe we groaned in unison.

    We’re now sorta vegan. My husband still eats occasional seafood. I eat meat and yogurt here and there. Oh, how we miss the cheese. And the pizza. But mostly the cheese. So my heart leapt at the sight of a little jar of cashew “Cheddar cheese” sitting on a cold shelf in Rainbow Blossom. The team behind the popular V-Grits food truck makes the cashew cheese as well as other packaged “Grab & Go” meals branded under the name Elevate.

    Kristina Addington, the 34-year-old chef behind V-Grits and the Elevate line, says her food truck (and cafe that should open this summer in a yet-to-be-determined location) focuses on vegan “junk food,” like her take on mac ’n’ cheese and a pizza burger. The Elevate line counteracts that. It’s pure health food — raw and organic and free of oils, gluten and soy. “I recommend fresh stuff during the week and vegan junk food on the weekend,” she says. Addington, who won the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen competition in 2014, committed to veganism 11 years ago after diving deep into the ugly truth of factory farming and the health benefits of a plant-based diet. “I went cold turkey,” she says. (Get it? Ha!)


    Photo: Casey Chalmers

    On a recent evening, my husband and I dined on Elevate’s zucchini lasagna with cashew ricotta and raw pad thai coated in a ginger almond dressing. Spinach and zucchini stood in for traditional lasagna noodles, a substitute that, while tasty, made me recognize the power of pasta. Also, one should brace for a salad when biting into the pad thai. Still, the flavors were tremendous. I’d love to know Addington’s recipe for the lasagna’s sundried tomato marinara. And the pad thai’s ginger almond dressing was so light and fresh I drank the few stray drops left puddled in the plastic cup. The real star of our meal? Cashew cheese. Addington achieves the consistency, tang and allure of nacho Cheddar while going easy on the arteries.

    Elevate meals are currently only sold at a juice bar located at the Heine Brothers’ on Brownsboro Road. Her cashew cheese and a few other products are available at Rainbow Blossom and Lucky’s Market. But Addington plans to expand. Which is good for our plans, now that they’ve changed.

    This originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here.

    Cover Photo: V-Grits - Facebook

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