Whenever I go to the grocery store and come to the refrigerated-foods aisle, I pick up a box of tofu—pale, waterlogged, and lonely in a vacuum-sealed plastic container. Filled with good intentions of going meatless more often, I often buy it. It’s less often that I use it. Tofu may have its benefits (soy purportedly lowers cholesterol, eases the symptoms of menopause, and promotes heart health), but the fact remains that coagulated bean curd is decidedly not sexy.
John Scharffenberger, CEO of the Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland, California, hopes to change that.
Scharffenberger is a veteran of the luxury food market. His Scharffenberger Cellars brought critically acclaimed Champagne-like sparkling wine to the masses. His most well-known venture, Scharffen Berger Chocolate, helped steer Americans’ chocolate tastes from sweetly pedestrian to unabashedly dark. Now, Scharffenberger and Minh Tsai of Hodo Soy aim to turn us on to tofu, hippies and foodies alike.
Hodo Soy Beanery is a small tofu factory that uses organic, non-GMO soybeans from Iowa farms to make products including tea-infused soy blocks, braised five-spice nuggets, and yuba strips—crepelike noodles cut from thin sheets of soy. The company has a stylish website, offers public tours of its facility, and just might be the future of tofu.
“The timing is right for tofu,” says California, the magazine of the Cal Alumni Association, “as more people reduce their meat consumption and seek out vegetarian protein sources without sacrificing flavor.” And as the discussion on genetically modified food heats up, non-GMO tofu may get an additional boost.
By no means is Scharffenberger the only player in the new tofu renaissance. According to the San Francisco Gate, there are several artisans bolstering tofu’s image:
Bay area chefs are making their own tofu, and local companies are producing it as it is done throughout much of East and Southeast Asia—for daily consumption…. These producers are bringing the noble bean curd back to its handmade roots, showing that it can involve as much craft as cheese or chocolate.
Tofu like cheese or chocolate? I’ll never pass you by in aisle five again.