It's obviously no surprise that I'm kinda, maybe, sorta, totally obsessed with cheese. I'm pretty sure that what we've labeled "cheese" in modern times was actually called "ambrosia" way back when Greek Gods ruled the land and had to eat something worthy of their status as, you know, gods.
So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board to attend a Wisconsin cheese class at the Cheese School of San Francisco, hosted by non-other than the infamous Laura Werlin. Not only does she have a killer haircut, she's also kind of a big deal when it comes to cheese, and someone I've been following for some time. So, it didn't take more than a millisecond for me to gratefully accept their invitation.
And man was it worth it! Even though I consider myself a bit of a food snob and didn't think classes were really worth it for me, man was I wrong. First, as you can see on my personal cheese list, there's a severe shortage of American cheeses. So I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised that I learned so much in the small span of 2 hours.
First of all, the atmosphere of the Cheese School is fantastic - you really feel like you're being welcomed into someone's home. Everyone who attended was very friendly, engaging, and excited to learn. And they started us off with a glass of champagne, which clearly never hurts. It also didn't hurt to be placed next to none other than one of the most established writers in the Bay Area, Patricia Unterman of the Examiner, so for me that was certainly an unexpected, extra treat.
The table setup is also very thoughtful - a few glasses of wine were supplied (definitely enough to get you through the presentation), along with dried fruits, fruit compotes, nuts, crackers, and bread. It's easy to hear the presenter from any seat, and feedback/questions/open discussion is welcomed.
But what about the cheese? Well, it certainly didn't hurt to have Laura Werlin running the show - she's very experienced in leading these types of events, and providing insightful information on the production, flavors, and ideal wine pairings for every cheese. Not to mention she's quite entertaining, so it never feels like sitting through a 2-hour lecture on Organic Chemistry.
Although we tasted 10 cheeses, 2 really stood out in my mind and have actually been added to my Infamous Guide to Cheese: the Evalon (a raw goat's milk) and the Rush Creek Reserve (a raw cow's milk). And while these may have made the cut, almost every cheese selected was special in its own way and something that I would rarely have the chance to try. And, when you try a series of cheeses like the one presented at a class like this, you are really able to pick out the differences between the different varieties far more effectively than you would trying them one at a time, on your own.
But watch out! A few bites of 10 cheeses doesn't sound like much going in, but that plus wine certainly adds up and I was surprisingly full at the end of the event. Uncomfortably full, in fact. I didn't plan for that at all, and actually had already made dinner plans at Flour+Water immediately following the class. That was not the best idea, and if you're going to make plans for after a full tasting like the one I experienced, I'd recommend either continuing the night with a few cocktails, or a light, light dinner. Attempting anything else is quite daunting.
I must say, despite some initial hesitations, I learned a lot more than I expected and would highly recommend a class (and no, not just the cheese/wine parings classes!) to any cheese lover in the City.
Cheese School of San Francisco
2155 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA 94133