Gouda grief, miss, it’s Swiss! Cheese, that is. Gourmets affirm that cheese (especially when paired with wine or foods like fruit or chocolate) is an elegant repast. Cheese plates are a feature at many of San Francisco’s finest restaurants, and can often be found accompanying wine tastings. Here are a few Peninsula suggestions to help you get into the stinky. The nose knows.
Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese Company
421 Main St
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
This store belongs to T. J. and Valeta Rodgers, founders of the nearby Clos De La Tech Winery. Patrons stand at the long bar (no seats) to enjoy wine tastings paired with cheese plates. Cheeses range from the artisan work of Harley Farms (just 20 minutes away) to imported varieties from Europe. However, you won’t want to miss out on the Roaring 40s cheese from Tasmania. It’s stinky but oh so delicious. The shop also offers picnic baskets with special treats like marmalades and chocolates. If looking for your next gift for a friend or in-law, pick them up something here with endless charming baskets and pairings.
B Street & Vine
320 S B St
San Mateo, CA 94401
B Street & Vine combines wine tastings, cheese and tapas with Blues and Jazz. Its unusual (and reasonably priced) menu features bruschetta with selections from 15 different toppings such as prosciutto with figs and mascarpone or ricotta with dates and pistachios. The smoked salmon plate comes paired with creamy goat cheese and goes splendidly together. If looking for a plate strictly of cheese, order the cheese plate that has a small sampling of each previously listed, and more. There are also performances Wednesday through Saturday (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and on the 2nd and 4th Sundays (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) of each month. Wine tastings are scheduled periodically.
Gravity Wine Bar
544 Emerson St
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Gravity Wine Bar’s dark wood decor and community atmosphere makes for a cozy place to hang out with friends over food and wine. Its cheese plate includes a selection of sheep, goat and cow cheeses. These include Pecorino Sardo (firm and from the island of Sardinia), Camembert (soft and creamy), aged gouda, Midnight Moon (dense and aged) and Crater Lake blue cheese (stinky). Domestic cheeses are from Humboldt County (Midnight Moon) and Oregon (Crater Lake Bue Cheese). France, Holland and Italy are represented as well.
A Grape In The Fog
400 Old County Road
Pacifica, CA 94404
A Grape In The Fog was founded in 2011 by Beth Lemke, whose great aunt, Mona Nystrom-Hood, was the guiding spirit of the legendary North Beach nightclub, Mona’s 440. A much-loved charismatic bohemian and bon vivant, Mona (who was not gay) ran the first lesbian nightclub in America, featuring male impersonators. Her niece has said she is inspired by her large-spirited great aunt, and “felt a calling” to create a space that would nurture community. Ms. Lemske’s community features a wide variety of entertainment including blues music, poetry readings and the unique monthly event, “Wine and Conversation: An Intoxicating Salon Series” which purports to bring back the lost art of conversation. The menu features wine flights and the usual selection of small plates, including a cheese plate which is reputed to be quite good. The amount of cheese that comes with this order has recently been increased, and now you can have multiple bites of the three cheeses served with almonds and berries for a perfect combination. Order the charcuterie plate if you like your cheese with meat.
231 S Ellsworth Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
One of the Bay area’s premiere upscale restaurants, 231 Ellsworth is perfect for the most special of occasions. Its fixed-price dinner menu ranges from $49 to $69, plus $20 to $60 for wine pairings. The cheese plate, reputed to be one of the best in Northern California, can be purchased at the bar a la carte. This includes a selection of cheeses, which changes frequently, along with candied hazelnuts, poached fruit and local honeycomb. Who could say no to that? Expect to spend from $15 to $30, depending on the day’s choices. If you have a truly gourmet palate (or want to develop one), this is the choice for you.
Charles Kruger is well known in the Bay area as “The Storming Bohemian” ever since he entered the Bay Area cultural scene in the summer of 2009, attending 90 cultural events in 90 days and blogging about it. This project was successful enough to warrant a mention in The New York Times. His work can be found at Examiner.com.