I stumbled upon it over a year ago while looking for fondue restaurants on Yelp. The only problem is their classes are so popular they fill up within days of releasing a new season’s schedule. I tried to stay on the ball for their fall/winter season this year, but even I waited too long. The one class I was really excited about, “Golden, Green and Glorious: Cheese & Olive Oil” sold out. So when I signed up for two other classes (Basic Cheese Primer and Locavore’s Cheese & Beer), I had the good sense to have them put me and Stephanie on the waiting list. I mean if there’s one thing Stephanie likes more than cheese—it’s olive oil.
Well today I got the call. They had two openings—we were in.
They’re located on the second floor of a building in the Marina, at Powell and Francisco. We took a cab there directly from work, walked up the stairs, and heard what sounded like a party down the hall. I could see a group of well-dressed women with champagne flutes through the door. Oh wait, this is for us! This is class. As it should be!
We both got a glass of Grandin Brut NV sparkling wine upon arrival—which I am happy to report was frequently refilled throughout the evening. We were a few minutes early (oh pity, I guess I’ll have to have another glass of champagne), so we mingled with the instructor, Laura Martinez. This was both her first time teaching this class, as well as her first time teaching for the Cheese School of San Francisco.
The “classroom” itself had about 24 place settings, each with 5 samples of cheese to be paired with 5 types of olive oil. Between every few place settings were a number of different accoutrements to go with each of the pairings.
For each course we’d first smell the olive oil to rate it’s fruitiness, and then we’d take a sip just like you would wine, bringing air into the mouth at the same time in order to open up it’s flavor and sense any bitterness. And then we’d swallow, wait a few seconds, and sure enough this peppery intensity would develop in the back of your throat, leading most people to cough—this was its pungency.
After that we’d drizzle the olive oil on a little sliced baguette or crostini, add the appointed cheese and any additional ingredients—and chow down.
- First course was Capricio de Cabra, a soft Spanish goat’s milk cheese, paired with a Spanish Unio Arbequina olive oil, drizzled with lavender honey. My notes: yummy!
- Second course was Franklin’s Teleme, a very soft cow’s milk cheese from San Luis Obispo with an Italian Tenuta Di Capezzana olive oil on a crostini with fresh lemon juice and black pepper. My notes: cheese + lemon = good
- Third course was Haloumi, a Greek sheep’s milk cheese (which they grilled on a raclette) drizzled with a Greek Divina Renieris Estate olive oil and topped with fresh oregano. My notes: poutine-squeaky, like mozzerella, salty, grilled
- Fourth course was Ossau Iraty, a French sheep’s milk cheese with a French Domaine des Bastidettes olive oil which we ate with some orange and wild fennel salami and juice from an orange wedge. My notes: Creamy manchego
- Fifth “dessert” course was Cowgirl Creamery Panir, a cow’s milk cheese from Petaluma, with a Californian Robbins Family Farm Ascoiano olive oil topped with spiced sour cherries. My notes: Oil adds depth
- As a bonus treat at the end, we had some Parmigiano-Reggiano drizzled with saba, which I learned is balsamic vinegar before it becomes vinegar.