29 August, 2008

Labor Day! Gateway to Cheese!

And no, I'm not talking about VH1 Classic 80 Hours of the '80's, although let me tell you, the big haired earnest drama and clumsy special effects call to me with a siren song as strong as the saltiest cave aged Gruyere!
Anyway, the Cheese School in San Francisco's North Beach has been around since 2006. Located in a naturally aged brick walk up, the sunny space host events suitable for the food professional or the merely curious. As the Indian Summer heat waned, Xandria and I hit their Drop in Night. Ukulele music? Not sure about that. However, I was instantly in love with the locations; attention to cheese and wine pairing. They served two wines, a Tocai Friuliano "Vida Rose" from David Noyes and WELLINGTON 2004 GRENACHE "ESTATE VINEYARD" SONOMA VALLEY. These were selected to pair first the white with the softer, floral goat cheeses and the red, with the harder cheeses. In actuality, both went interchangeably. The heat of the day made the Tocai a welcome palate refresher. The grenache was a great wine. With complex chocolate, spice and a hint of licorice at the end. The cheese, as you can imagine, was off the hook.

Tomme - Georgia This cheese was a cow milk variety with Havarti like characteristics

Chapparal - Santa Margarita Valley, CA. Made from a blend of sheep and cow milk, this had a rich, round flavor with a hint of sheep on the finish. Because I'm not the biggest fan of anything gamy (read: all things ovine), I needed bread with this to balance the taste
Ayr - Vermont This cow milk cheese tasted like a creamier cheddar. Hard and salty, it was a masterful pairing with the Grenache. A slight grapey taste rocked alone or with bread. My favorite!

Promontory - Utah Is Promontory Mormon for "velveeta"? This cheese tasted off and kind of processed.

Grayson - Virginia Delightful slightly ( and when I say slightly, the aroma wafted over on the early evening heat the second we crossed the threshold of the place) stinky cheese with brie-like qualities along with a more assertive sharpness and lovely rose colored rind. I'll be looking for this one.

Bellies full of cheese, we wobbled out into the evening prowling for wine. Having never been there and already having parking, we thought we would try to take public transportation to Cellar 360 ://www.cellar360.com/cellar360/index.jsp Of course, you're exactly right...this has trouble written all over it. The public transportation part. We gave up and cabbed it out to their location. And a good thing too, as we were cutting it a little close. But we were able to get a great overview of the interesting classes they offer and are definitely signing up for the Mushroom class. The tasting room is lovely, the staff super friendly and knowledgeable. We had a quick taste of the good things they have to offer: Etude Pinot Noir! Since they had already locked the doors, we reluctantly left this lovely spot and ventured into the fog to trace our way back to the car. Xandria's inappropriate footwear and my latent lazy streak prompted us to dispense with the pretense of public transpo. Grabbing a cab in SF can be like hunting ocelet. Luckily, Ana Mandara is like a watering hole for our elusive quarry, so in seconds (almost like a reward for resisting the pull of cocktails!) a towncar pulled up. We know value when we see it and snagged it. A good time was had by all!
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