Categories
cheese restaurant

Presidio Social Club

If you have ever won­dered where, in this city of hip­sters and hip­pies, are the WASPs, look no fur­ther. They're at the Pre­sidio Social Club, a new(ish) restau­rant in the beau­ti­ful­ly ren­o­vat­ed for­mer offi­cers' club in the Pre­sidio. Enter the din­ing room and behold! You're at the coun­try club. Men in blue but­ton downs neat­ly tucked into pressed khakis, women wear­ing pearl ear­rings and head­bands, blonde chil­dren still dressed in their school uni­forms. Nev­er in San Fran­cis­co have I seen so many East Coast-style WASPs in one place. It comes as no sur­prise that gin is fea­tured promi­nent­ly on the cock­tail menu. While their affin­i­ty for gin is well doc­u­ment­ed (see Cheev­er, John), WASPs are not known for their culi­nary sense of adven­ture, and the din­ner menu focus­es on updat­ed com­fort food—a slop­py joe made from Kobe beef brisket, white ched­dar mac and cheese, chick­en pot pie on Tues­days. The food at Pre­sidio Social Club isn't bad. It's not espe­cial­ly great, either. The fried okra, a hard dish to pull off above the Mason-Dixon line, is per­fect, but it feels a lit­tle exot­ic on a menu so fix­at­ed on Amer­i­can clas­sics. The night I went we were run­ning late for an event at the Palace of Fine Arts and so didn't get to try what looked like the best thing on the menu: cup­cakes made to order, brought to your table with a side of frost­ing for you to apply your­self. The next time I feel the need to observe the endan­gered WASP in its restored native habi­tat, I'll go back to Pre­sidio Social Club and try the cup­cakes.

Categories
cheese restaurant

Piccino

The T‑line may have brought Muni to a crash­ing halt, but it's done a lot for Dog­patch, and not just its real estate val­ues. Restau­rants, cafes, and gar­den stores have popped up along the Third Street cor­ri­dor in antic­i­pa­tion of Muni-enabled con­sumers flock­ing to the neigh­bor­hood. Bas­ing one's busi­ness plan on the via­bil­i­ty of Muni mov­ing any­one any­where seems unwise. Bas­ing one's busi­ness plan on serv­ing thin crust piz­za in a tiny space on an unlike­ly street cor­ner, how­ev­er, is a tried-and-true for­mu­la in San Fran­cis­co (see: Pizzetta 211). The apt­ly-named Pic­ci­no occu­pies such a cor­ner at 22nd Street and Ten­nessee. Pic­ci­no is lit­tle. It has a small menu. It serves small plates of nib­bles between lunch and din­ner. In the morn­ing you can find Blue Bot­tle cof­fee and fresh-baked pas­tries; at lunch piz­za and pani­ni take prece­dence; din­ner (only on select nights) builds on the lunch menu. I haven't expe­ri­enced break­fast and lunch, but at din­ner recent­ly I sam­pled three of the five piz­zas on offer, plus dessert. By sam­pled I mean split with one oth­er per­son. Like every­thing else at Pic­ci­no, the piz­zas aren't big. Which isn't bad, because it means you can eas­i­ly order three for two peo­ple and not feel too glut­ton­ish or stuffed. The crust is right-on—a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of crisp and chewy. The top­pings are a lit­tle less excit­ing. The night I was there, they had a margheri­ta, napo­le­tano, pep­per­one, bian­co, and a spe­cial involv­ing lemon zest and pine nuts. The toma­to sauce on the pep­per­one was a lit­tle too acidic for me, and the bian­co was a lit­tle bland. The real stand-out fla­vors were on the spe­cial, par­tic­u­lar­ly the lemon zest. The piz­za is good; we didn't leave any left­overs. Pic­ci­no is a great neigh­bor­hood restau­rant. If I lived in Dog­patch, I would be their most loy­al cus­tomer. Too bad I live in Cole Val­ley. This is the Gold­en Age of Piz­za in the Bay Area. With the likes of Pizzette, Pizze­ria Del­fi­na, Lit­tle Star, and Piz­zaio­lo around, it's not enough to be good if you want to pull peo­ple in from out of the neigh­bor­hood. While I'm will­ing to brave the Bay Bridge for Piz­zaio­lo, or the Rich­mond fog for Pizzette, Pic­ci­no isn't quite com­pelling enough for the trek to Dog­patch.

Categories
cheese

Goat Cheese Pyramid

The Andante Dairy goat cheese pyra­mid is a lit­tle like that rare wood­peck­er in Arkansas that some peo­ple say they have seen and oth­ers say is extinct. If you can get up ear­ly enough, you might catch a fleet­ing glimpse of the pyra­mid at the Andante stand at the Fer­ry Plaza Sat­ur­day Farm­ers Mar­ket. I have been lucky enough to catch it twice; all oth­er times I have either been too late (and I would argue that 9:00 a.m. shouldn't be con­sid­ered late for a week­end morn­ing unless you hap­pen to have a baby in the house) or the per­son at the stand has denied all knowl­edge of even the exis­tence of the pyra­mid. The pyra­mid is an aged goat cheese, firm and creamy, yet a lit­tle crumbly, the per­fect con­sis­ten­cy for eat­ing on a crack­er. The first time I bought one, I served it to din­ner guests, ladies with petite appetites who only ate half of it and I spent a glo­ri­ous week eat­ing goat cheese pyra­mid on starr ridge crack­ers for din­ner. The sec­ond time I bought one, I served it to din­ner guests, rav­en­ous glut­tons who devoured the whole thing in the time it took me to prep a leg of lamb for the grill. My rec­om­men­da­tion: put the pyra­mid on your life list while main­tain­ing to oth­ers that it is only a myth.

Categories
cheese

Cowgirl Creamery Pierce Pt

Recent­ly at a din­ner par­ty I met an eli­gi­ble, attrac­tive sort, not real­ly my type but entic­ing nonethe­less. Cow­girl Creamery's sea­son­al Pierce Pt. is a cheese per­fect for a fling: it's creamy and com­plex, and it's only around for a short time so you don't have to wor­ry about mak­ing a long-term com­mit­ment. It's a whole milk cheese bathed in mosca­to and rolled in dried herbs (some­thing I often wish would hap­pen to me); it shows up in fall and win­ter and is gone by spring, inspir­ing a gath­er-ye-cheese-rounds-while-ye-may approach when you find it on a cheese plate.

Categories
cheese

Blondie's best

this is a pleas­ant lit­tle aged cow's milk cheese from a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia cheese­mak­er whose name I can­not recall. Rest assured, though, that if you're try­ing to eat as local­ly as pos­si­ble, blondie's best can safe­ly be on your gro­cery list. It's some­what like an aged jack, or an aged hip­pie, with that kind of mel­low nut­ti­ness, cut with a lit­tle tang. It's good on a crack­er but also works well in a sal­ad with some dried cher­ries and toast­ed almonds.

Categories
cheese

Appleby's Cheshire

with a wedge of appleby's cheshire in the house, one is always eat­ing good in the neigh­bor­hood. It's a Neal's Yard cheese, and so far in San Fran­cis­co I've only found it at Whole Foods. There are oth­er cheshires to be had in the city, and accord­ing to the grumpy pro­pri­etor of the cheese shop in my neigh­bor­hood Neal's Yard cheeses are over­priced, but to me Appleby's is the best tast­ing. It is the ched­dar of my dreams. I know you shouldn't keep hard cheeses in the refrig­er­a­tor, but I've always found that when left out, they take on a kind of oily sheen that I don't find very appe­tiz­ing. The cheshire, on the oth­er hand, gets bet­ter and bet­ter the longer it is left out. Fresh from the fridge it has a kind of firm but creamy tex­ture; when left out it takes on a delec­table crum­bli­ness that inten­si­fies the fla­vor. A piece of cheshire on a starr ridge crack­er is a meal for kings. The only prob­lem with leav­ing it out is that it can become a meal for dogs. Bis­cuit has to date swiped four blocks of cheshire care­less­ly left with­in swip­ing dis­tance on the counter. She always does such a com­plete job, leav­ing nary a crumb, that I often don't real­ize until a day lat­er. The dog is not known for her refined palate, but she makes an extra effort for the cheshire.

Categories
cheese

Quark

Quark (when it's not a sub­atom­ic par­ti­cle) is a byprod­uct of curds and whey that results in what some describe as "a Ger­man-style cream cheese," oth­ers describe as "a cross between yogurt and cot­tage cheese," and still oth­ers describe as "yum­my." This Sat­ur­day we bought some lemon quark at the Spring Hill Jer­sey Farm. This can best be described as tast­ing like the fill­ing of a lemon cheese­cake. You can eat it with a spoon, spread it on toast, or just use your fin­ger to scoop out deli­cious lemo­ny creamy pleas­ant­ly tangy milk fats in a semi-sol­id state. My friend Reed recalls that in Hol­land, they sell quark in some­thing like yogurt-con­tain­ers, and that there it is most­ly like pud­ding. I like it best spread on toast and driz­zled with some 420 Hon­ey.

Categories
cheese cheese lifestyle

Camping with cheese

If i could only give one piece of advice in regard to camp­ing cheese, it would be this: avoid ched­dar. the worst is the cheap, gener­ic ched­dar, which turns to moist, crumbly shag car­pet­ing after about 18 hours. when i was camp­ing in wash­ing­ton this sum­mer, i brought a pound of fan­cy wis­con­sin three-year ched­dar because i thought it would be dry enough to with­stand three or four days of hik­ing. wrong! the cheese expe­ri­enced a major mal­func­tion some­time dur­ing the morn­ing of day 2, and i mis­er­ably choked and gagged on it for the next week. the best camp­ing cheeses are the parme­sans and dry goudas. why didn't i bring them? who knows? it maybe had some­thing to do with the fact that i was wicked­ly hun­gover when i was shop­ping. there are some with­in the back­pack­ing com­mu­ni­ty who believe that the cheese argu­ment has been moot since the cre­ation of indi­vid­u­al­ly wrapped mozzerel­la sticks. i would like to point out that (a) i can't find any doc­u­men­ta­tion prov­ing that those sticks are actu­al­ly cheese and not some par­tial­ly hydro­genat­ed fac­sim­i­lie, and (b) they have this nasty, flac­cid, rub­bery qual­i­ty that is un-food-like and frankly repul­sive. as far as the best camp­ing cheeses: argen­tine parme­san is cheap and not too crumbly like its sis­ter the reg­giano. old ams­ter­dam is clear­ly packed with the sweet sweet sodi­um that i crave on the trail. any of the asi­a­go fam­i­ly are rea­son­able; i'm 'bout em, even if they're not as tangy or tasty as the oth­ers. remem­ber, avoid ched­dar. avoid it!

Categories
cheese

Flor di Capra

Flor di capra is an organ­ic, aged goat cheese from Italy. I bought it at the Rain­bow the oth­er week in part because I had some Capri­cious (organ­ic, aged goat cheese from Cal­i­for­nia) at home and want­ed to com­pare how they taste. Leslie par­tic­i­pat­ed in a sim­i­lar tast­ing last week at Buffy. Flor di Capra is very tasty, but it smells and tastes amaz­ing­ly like grass. It lit­er­al­ly taste how lying in a field of grass smells. And at the rind it tastes like dirt, the way grass at the root tastes of dirt. And the Capri­cious, as not­ed here else­where, tastes like salty sea air. This made me think a lot about the con­cept of ter­roir, and how I wish there was a word for this in Eng­lish, both because say­ing some­thing in French always makes it sound pre­ten­tious and stuck-up, as opposed to a sound and true prin­ci­ple, and also because the fact that there's no word for it in Eng­lish points to the fact that we don't think it's impor­tant. And it is. Isn't it a piece of basic com­mon sense that things taste like where they are grown, or made? If goats live by the ocean and eat grass that grows in salt air, and then their milk is made into a cheese that is then aged in a cave by that ocean, doesn't it make sense that it tastes like the salty sea in a creamy milk-based form?

Categories
cheese cheese lifestyle

Bacon

Now, I know that this is a forum for talk­ing about cheese, but I want to take a minute and talk about cheese's great friend, bacon. Bacon's role in the down­fall of many a veg­e­tar­i­an regime has been well-doc­u­ment­ed else­where, and that is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the recent arti­cle in Food and Wine about Cap­tain Bacon, which fea­tures a tour of arti­san smoke­hous­es with the man who owns the Grate­ful Palate, which fea­tures more than one kind of Bacon of the Month Club. Instead of hav­ing a book club, why don't we have our own Bacon of the Month club, where we eat bacon and dis­cuss its sub­tleties of fla­vor?