Barclay Losse has a sweet tooth. He also has diabetes. About a year and a half ago, Losse started experimenting with desserts that he could enjoy without jeopardizing his health.
"I wanted to create something tasty that wouldn't mess with my blood sugar as much as other tasty things," he explains. "Also, I had jaw surgery, and I was trying to figure out something to shove between my teeth that was calorie dense."
Necessity is the mother of invention, and that was certainly true for Losse. What started as an effort to accommodate his personal health needs has grown into a thriving small business venture.
Dubbed Plant-Based Pies, Losse's raw, vegan and paleo "cheesecakes" are now available at a variety of local retailers and restaurants, from Locavore and the Bond Street Market to Bend Brewing Company and the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin.
Losse started with 12 different flavors last summer, ultimately narrowing it down to his top three: pumpkin (his answer to "plain"), strawberry, and raspberry.
"I'm a one-man show, no business partner, no girlfriend, no wife. It came down to what I can produce," he explains. So far, Losse's keeping up with the growing demand, though he admits, "It's kind of taken on a life of its own."
The pies, available in single-slice servings or full pies, are made with a creamy cashew/coconut oil base, getting their cheesecake-like bite from lemon juice. Sweetened with agave, the smooth filling satisfies a craving for dessert without threatening a cavity.
Dates and nuts comprise the bulk of the dense, crumbly crust, for a pleasing textural contrast.
While reminiscent of conventional cheesecake, the pies aren't likely to fool an unsuspecting guest. Still, as far as guilt-free desserts go, it's nice to have an option that tastes like real food, rather than cardboard or pseudo-sugars. Full of good fats, protein and fiber, but light in sugar and devoid of cholesterol, Losse's Plant-Based Pies are a tasty treat that could double as an occasional meal replacer.
And while Losse didn't invent the vegan cheesecake, he's put his own spin on it, and at a reasonable price. Single Slices retail for about $4.55 (depending on the seller), almost $2.50 less than a comparable product at Whole Foods. And, as a bonus, the pie comes with a reusable bamboo spork.
"I'm encouraging everyone to keep and put in camping gear, take to lunch," Losse explains. "I think you can buy [the sporks] for $3 online. You're basically getting a free piece of cheesecake when you buy a spork."
Ultimately, he says, he's trying to bridge the taste and cost gap between healthy and unhealthy foods.
"It's a contradiction, right? But I think it works," he says. "Because I eat two slices a day and my blood sugar is perfect."