Monday, July 2, 2012

Cheese Monday: Andante "Trio"

Trio Cheese

Shock seized my chicken-fried soul, when I realized I've never done a post about my love affair with Andante Dairy!1  Saturday Ferry Building Farmers Market,  I scurried over to their lil' cheese stand and tried to decide on an extra delicious cheese to review.  Usually,  I avoid their big cuts of Triple Cream Cheeses,  since I can only eat so much Triple Cream in a day and they spoil fast.2    But I made an exception since I wanted to do this post, and a picnic was planned for the following day where I could share.  As I oogled the cheeses one more time, I chose a young piece of "Trio" and scurried back to my car a la this dude at 01:45

Trio Cheese

"Trio" is a glorious triple creamy combination of goat's and cow's milk with crème fraîche.   I've said it before, and I'll continue to exclaim it, that I'm always a sucker for fresh cheese in the center of a gooey  shell.  The richness of cow cheese with the slight tartness of goat cheese makes for a dreamy spread on a good crust of bread.  I found it especially delicious paired with some of my homemade pear & fig jam4 or a nice summer salad.  

I first became enamored with Andante cheeses, when I saw their delicate  Figaro.  A young cow and goat milk cheese wrapped in a fig leaf. 5   We loved it, and became even more excited when we found out the cheese maker was an Asian lady by the name of Soyoung Scanlan.  My dear Mr.Phi always felt like the only Asian around that liked cheese, and felt elated to find a leading Asian cheese maker existed!  Later, I found out the cheeses were served at the holy grail of The French Laundry, so my joke has always been eating their cheese is akin to eating at the French Laundry, minus the other 14 courses.   So I said that if I ever go to French Laundry2, I would skip the cheese course.  BUT, then I paused at this impossible statement leaking from my mouth and immediately said "oooh noooo, I would NOT skip it."  Once again my stomach took control of the situation and set the world right.  

My main go-to Andante cheese is their "Tomme Dolce," an aged goat cheese rubbed with June Taylor’s plum conserve and brandy.  Really?! Does life get much better than that description.  Always a picnic "must-have" for  trips to Napa or Sonoma.   And if you arrive to the Andante booth early, sometimes you can get a small piece of their famously rare butter.  Usually, The French Laundry buys it all up, but every great once in a while, it will be available only at the Saturday Ferry Farmers Market.  An unbelievable yellow color, exceptionally creamy taste, and highly sought after for memorable Sunday brunches.  Make sure to arrive before 9am if you're hoping to get some!  The below event happened to me one of the few times I've seen it... 

So if you happen to be in San Francisco, definitely visit the Saturday Ferry Building Farmers Market, because that is where you'll get to see the biggest selection of Andante cheeses(And if lucky, BUTTER.)  Otherwise, you can find a select few of their cheeses at upscale restaurants or specialty stores.   Good Luck and welcome to Andante Addiction!

1  Love affair would be incorrect, because many are in love with Andante.  I would say it's more likely some kind of dairy orgy I'm part of, but orgies never bring up romantic imagery.  So I'll stick with love affair for now...
2  Feels a bit sacrilegious to say I have a limit on Triple Creams...
3  Mr.Phi and I always say we'll go eat there for our last meal living in California.  We have plans to vacate one day.
4  Would anything taste bad with homemade pear & fig jam? just saying....  
5  Read about how Andante wraps the cheese in Fig Leaves here.  Amazing!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to do Napa correctly....


       Like everyone under the sun, I dream of living in the Napa area.  Maybe I could just sleep in a barrel in a winery?  Dig a hole under some grape vines?  Live in a big ole Bouchon? This will definitely require a glass of wine and more pondering...Anywho, after many trips, I have a list of my faves...  Hope this will help you Bay area Newbies or just people taking trips to this tiny drunken piece o'heaven.

For wineries, I really suggest you mix it up.   Make an appt at a private winery, stumble into one you spot along the drive or go to a very well-known one.  This way you get to know all the different winery types and this will educate you on what to focus on the next day or the next trip.

Personally, I prefer the private  or low key experience.  Much less squeezing into counters for a next pour and the counter pourers generally care about the wine.  Here is a few of my faves.....

*Tres Sabores - $25/appt required.  My absolute favorite winery and we've been happy members for a few years now.   THIS is what people expect when they go to Napa and NEVER get.

*James Cole - $20/tasting  Amazing wines.  Start and end the day here.

*Schramsberg -$45/appt required. The priciest, but the best sparkling wine.  If this is too much, I suggest just buying a bottle and enjoying one night in town.

*Silverado - $25/tasting Very delicious wine with gorgeous views.

*Frogs Leap - $20/tasting Great place to wind down and enjoy some bocce ball with your wine.

I could keep the list going and going, but kept it weekend small.  A BIG suggestion to you, is find a wine you love and look for it at wineries.  Like if you love Malbec, visit wineries that have malbecs.  Also, if you are with a group and want to save money, just buy a bottle to share at wineries.  Most wineries have nice sitting areas and you can take your bottle and enjoy it outside.

Or if you want to not deal with planning out a trip.  Take advantage of a good tour company, one that takes you to some smaller wineries or gives you a more unique experience.

*Platypus Tours - Small Tour Bus that drives you to the wineries and takes care of appts

*Napa Valley Wine Train - so 1930s, Looooveee it!

*Napa Valley Bike Tours - Make sure to reserve an electric bike for when you get tired after too many wineries!

So wine is settled, now for the most important part, what to eat in Napa!!  I have a lot of favorite places, but there are a few I always end up going back to!  PLUS, you need to make sure you have plenty of snacks for all that drinking and definitely keep some electrolyte water!!

The Fatted Calf - This place is amazing to pick up charcuterie or sandwiches at.  No Napa trip is complete without at least getting some of their chorizo to snack on!  Also, if where ever you stay has a bbq grill, I cannot think of a better dinner than picking up one of their steaks to enjoy with a newly bought bottle of wine.

Ad Hoc Addendum - Open 11am-2pm Thurs-Sat.  For $16.50, you get a choice of their famous buttermilk fried chicken or barbeque.  How can you pass up the offer to eat at a Thomas Keller restaurant for $16.50!?!  Definitely call ahead your order, so you can appear like a local as you cut the line for pick up!

Bouchon Bakery - I never really regret the 45 minute wait for food here, because it is always amazing.  Seriously, you can not go wrong with anything, especially the Bouchons.  I think I want to live in a flour sack here...

Rutherford Grill - A good steak and no corkage fee.  Need I say more??

So much to enjoy in Napa, so take it easy and don't over do it.  Keep hydrated, well fed and you'll be beyond happy the entire trip!!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pop-Up City

PopUp City  
The above incident actually happened to my friend Kat and I.   We met on the street and started chatting.  All the sudden a line formed behind us and we realized we were at a Pop-Up for Schmendrick's Bagels.   So OF COURSE, we got one of the bagels with a scallion cream cheese and proceeded to wolf it down.   But I thought that this is hilariously amazing, how we can just stand somewhere in this great city and all the sudden find ourselves in line for some kind of specialized foodie delicacy.  Makes me feel we truly live in a town comprised of nothing but Foodies.

For those of your unfamiliar with what exactly a Pop-Up is...I think a good definition is a restaurant without a permanent home or address.  The restaurant uses Twitter to alert their followers of their locations as it moves across the eating grid like a hobo with a sack full of delicious pork belly, instead of old stinky socks.

And that got me to wondering how many current pop-up restaurants are there in San Francisco.  So I decided to make a small list, mainly for myself so I can keep track on where to stand with my "Schramsberg 40"1 on Friday nights...

1058 Hoagie
3 Bottled Fish
Bayou by the Bay
Brass Knuckle
Easy Creole
Hapa Ramen - permanent location opening this summer
Jablow's meats
Liholiho Yacht Club
Reform Club
Rice Paper Scissors - Vietnamese Banh Mi
Rocky's FryBread
Schmendrick's Bagels
Seoul Patch
Sweet Jo's Chili n' Biscuits 
The Wild Kitchen

These below places host Pop-Ups
Casa Sanchez
The Window
Vinyl Wine Bar

(This list is purely pop-up restaurants.  No FM vendors, Trucks or Pop-ups who have moved to permanent homes(Congratz!) were counted)  Please feel free to note ones I forgot to list and I will happily update!

PS I think the extra draw to these Pop-ups is a fervor over the notion that any meal could be their last and some home chef envy.  Because, honestly don't all of us fancy home chefs have our own day dreams of doing a pop-up?  (Adam Sach's attempt made me all hearts and starbursts!)  I totally harbor secret fantasies of doing one, minus the hard work,  but BIG plus epic praise and reviews.....

1 How to make a Schramsberg 40?
 Buy a Cobra.  Pour contents on ground in remembrance of your college days and to get rid of garden snails.   Wash out cobra bottle 3xs AT LEAST.  Insert funnel and pour in Schramsberg "Blanc de Noirs."  Sit out on stoop with your "Schramsberg 40" and wait for pop-up restaurant to appear on block.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bohemian Creamery Bodacious

So I visited Cheese Plustoday and picked up some cheeses for Memorial Day weekend.  Was super excited to see that they carried Bohemian Creamery's "Bodacious" cheese.  haha I love how clever this name is, because it makes it sound like you are already praising the cheese.  Plus, you get warm, fuzzy memories of Bill &Ted or TMNT from just saying "Bodacious."

"Bodacious" is a fresh goat's milk cheese encased in a candidum mold to keep that creamy inside all tangy and soft. Nothing gets my heart thumping more than seeing a core of fresh goat cheese surrounded by a runny shell!!  Seriously, its like my two favorite worlds of cheese are combined.  Gooey and crumbly!  I ate, as they suggested, with a thick slice of the cheese spread on some fresh bread with a small salad on the side.  Life was heaven for those 10 minutes I munched on it, especially with my feet in the afternoon sun.     This cheese is available March through October and I totally suggest trying to get a wedge of it on your next Napa/Sonoma trip!  Look forward to trying more cheeses from Bohemian!

In other news, I went to my husband's company party this week and totally did this....

pistachio macaron

When macarons are free, watch out! I am on the prowl!! Unfortunately, macarons do not keep their shape in your purse when you start busting moves on the dance floor.....

Hope all of you have a great holiday weekend!!

PS  I love the letter that Wendy McNaughton wrote to Nabisco below and feel very simpatico with her on this matter.  "Cookie" is a holy name that should not be abused...

1The visit to Cheese Plus started out a little hilarious with the guy helping me not knowing that gorgonzola is a blue cheese and trying to find it among the fresh/hard cheeses.  But, then a lady took over and all was well.  Good Selection and lots of specialty items.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Houston Dairymaids

Texas Cheese plate
 On my last visit to Houston, I was very excited to discover that a new Cheese Shop had been opened in the last few years called Houston Dairymaids.  So of course, I made my parents leave their North Houston, suburb, safe-house and visit the cheese shop, so I could get my dairy fix!

Houston Dairymaids 01

Houston Dairymaids is located in an up and coming area of Houston.  I loved their lil shop and how they had a Huge Fig Tree growing in the back lot.  After seeing the tree, I felt like it should be a requirement for any Cheese Shop and I'm curious to know if they make their own fig preserves?  

Houston Dairymaids 05
As I entered, the lady cheesemonger was very excited to see us and greeted us warmly.1  She proceeded to grab many cheeses out for us to sample.  I informed her I was visiting from California and very interested in trying Texas Cheeses.  So she introduced me to a wide variety and discussed where each was from, plus flavor profile.   As I gobbled each cheese up, I tried to listen to her, but this is very tough when you are floating on a cloud made of gouda.  All the cheeses there are kept in perfect condition, temperature...there is just no way to get a bad cut of cheese from them.

Houston Dairymaids 02
Additionally, they carried other items like fresh Bread 2, Texas honeys, locally made dry pastas and a variety of other items.  Plus a beautiful beer/wine selection, including one of my faves, 512 Pecan Porter.  You can definitely make all your Friday evening dreams come true her y'all!  

If I was staying another week in Houston, I'm positive I would of bought a few pounds of cheeses.  BUT, sadly I was headed to Austin then Dallas, and I've learned many lessons about not traveling with cheeses... especially on a particular warm fall weekend in France. 

Houston Dairymaids 03
So the few cheeses I did choose were Redneck Cheddar,  and Pure Luck Dairy plain Chevre.  (I would of chosen a basket molded Chevre, but was leaving the rest of it for my Mother and she prefers plain....le sigh)  The other items I bought were Lucky Layla butter and yogurt drinks; which I have had before in Dallas and well aware of their greatness! That yellow on the butter...cmonnnnnnnnnnn

The cheese that made me teary eyed not to buy was Sainte Maure, especially since the cheese maker Pure Luck Dairy does not sell out of Texas.(pretty please, start!)  At least I got to taste the goat cheese and enjoy its shroomy gooey goodness for a few sacred momentos!  

I will definitely be going again our next visit to Houston and hope to attend either their Friday or Saturday tastings.  My other plans are to stop by Davis Meat Market for their cheddar & jalapeno summer sausage AND Revival Market for their Charcuterie as well. Another note to self is to try Texas Cheese House in Lorena,TX!3  So happy to see Texans are still & always will be producing amazing foods.

PS Simon Walker knows the sadness every Texan feels on leaving our home for another few months....


1.  Sometimes Cheesemongers can be cranky, boisterous jerks....maybe too much savory?
2.  Adore Slow Dough Bread's Brioche.
3.  Always seems to drive to Dallas late at night but this is never a bad thing since Czech Stop Kolaches are always involved.  

Friday, May 11, 2012


I've been pretty busy since my film became a finalist for the Student Academy Awards....But thats nothing to complain about hah.  Especially with Pluot season right around the corner!  When I first moved to California and saw pluots at the Farmers Market, I was so confused.  What was this fruit in a variety of colors with a name I'd never heard of?!   Then I tasted one....Sugary Starbursts exploded from my eyes and a tasty nectar of pluotnesslish dripped down my chin.  Ever since then, 38% of my summer diet is  pluots, 42% is peaches and the other 20% is reserved for fried substances. mmmmmmmm

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen's "Craft Beer & Grilled Cheese" Dinners

cheesy couple          

        This is a small painting I did of Heidi Gibson and Nate Pollack, the cheesiest couple I know.  Both are co-owners of The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, one of our favorite restaurants, especially since my dear Mr.Phi is a grilled cheese fanatic. Lucky us have been blessed not once, not twice, but THREE times with their Craft Beer and Grilled Cheese Dinners. So you're saying... wellllll why have you not posted about them before. And its totally cause I'm selfish and worried tickets will become even harder to get. I already buy them 2 months in advance! Buttttttt, I finally decided I just have to write about one of these dinners! They are just too amazing not to share with others.

  Spring 2012 Grilled Cheese (Back)

The First one we went to was for SF Beer Week in 2011 featuring a Firestone Walker and Grilled Cheese Pairing. Death nearly happened that dinner, because we could not pace ourselves. We tried to eat every grilled cheese, Mr.Phi attempted to drink his weight in many rookie mistakes! I actually don't have the menu for that one, because they wanted to keep it for my sketches. The second dinner was in Fall of 2011 with Shmaltz Brewing Company and we brought good friends H&J to share the glory.(You can view that menu here)  The most shocking part the second time around was it was just as good, if not better! All the sandwiches that night seemed to be odes to different breakfast flavors and I got to try Wise Sons Pastrami for the first time. Countless swoons happened during that dinner!.  Sooooo of course we went to their Firestone Walker Part2 Dinner this past February for the 2012 SF Beer Week!(see menu above) Our friends H&J joined us again and we were all giddy with expectation!1

Mini FondueHeady House Saison 
For the first time they served an appetizer for a welcome round. A "Herbed Chevre Fondue with Pink Lady Apples" The Fondue was not as warm as I would of liked, but that doesn't mean we didn't keep it with us to dip our crusts in for later courses after the apple slices ran out. Heady House was a surprise beer guest just like in 2011 and paired their Saison with the tasty Fondue app. I was sad there were no Beer Cocktails like 2011, but that may of been because of how many people went stumbling out that night hah.

My favorite grilled cheese of night
FireStone Walker Pale 31
 So gooeylish 
Our mouths were watering with anticipation as the first Grilled Cheese appeared among us. "Bellwether Farms Carmody, Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold, and Redwood Hills Goat Cheddar on Acme Pain De Mie." Squeeallll, I always find myself falling in love with the first sandwich of the night, because it's just a simple grilled cheese. I'm a big fan of simplicity in food and just letting the ingredients shine. So of course, this was my fave of the night, especially with such an amazing combo of California cheeses.2 I could not help but eat all of it IMMEDIATELY, and was happy to wash it down with a Pale 31, the first Firestone Walker of the night!

Potato/RoastBeef Grilled CheeseFirestone Walker DBA 
At this point in the dinner everyone is certainly cheery. The anticipation of the first course is gone and everyone has settled in for a great meal. The second grilled cheese to arrive was a "Jasper Hill Cabot Cheddar Clothbound Cheddar, Golden Gates Meats Roast Beef, roasted Yukon Golds, Garlic-chive butter and Horseradish cream on Pinkie's Bakery Levain." Holy Moly, shi8t just got real. Potatoes on a Sandwich, that is definitely going after a Texan gal's heart. I love the commitment here to using local butchers and bakeries. I never knew of Golden Gate or Pinkie, until these dinners and now I love to visit each. Mr.Phi experienced a slight wave of jealousy as I proclaimed "This sandwich is my boyfriend." I guess it was too manly with all that savoridelishiness! Paired with FireStone Walkers DBA and after taking a few sips of that beer, Mr.Phi forgot all about my 5 minute epic love affair.

"Breakfast in Bed" Mini-Biscuits #1Firestone Walker's Reserve Robust Porter
 Usually the third course for me can be a lil disappointing for me...BECAUSE, I realize we're in the middle and the end is looming around the corner. Wah!  But American Grilled Cheese has fixed this by serving a mini-biscuit. I'm a complete sucker for biscuits, so I feel like they belong to a whole other elite category for me.3  And I have to proclaim that The American produces some of the most prolific biscuits EVER!  These were called "Breakfast in Bed" mini biscuits-"Beehive Cheese Co's Barely Buzzed and Tumalo Farms Fenacho topped with a fried quail egg"....can I get a hallehujiah ehhhhhh! Nate Pollak was really kind and made it rain biscuits at our table. Giving us a few to take home as well as he noticed my tears of joy as I shoved them with glee in my mouth. Paired with FireStoneWalker's Reserve Robust Porter..... life got too good to bare for a few minutes.

 Jalapeno Grilled CheeseFireStone Walker Union Jack
 Now for the bittersweet part of dinner, the final grilled cheese....le sigh. But, this is the one Mr.Phi always waits in giddy expectation for because it is S-P-I-C-E-Y!!  The secret to the extreme spiciness at The American is they use raw jalapenos and I must agree, it is amazing. A "Pondhopper Cheese, Laura Chenel Chevre, Zoe's bacon and freshly cut jalapenos on Artisan Sourdough" This is the one that makes Mr.Phi cry, not for its hawtness, but because the last bite signifies the end until the next grilled cheese dinner. Luckily it was paired with FireStone Walker's Union Jack, so we had an amazing beer to drown all our sorrows.

Chocolate Stout CakeFireStone Walker Velvet Merlin
 Of course, the sorrow is fleeting when Heidi's Stout Chocolate Cake is laid in front of us.4  This is no-joke, one of my top 5 chocolate cakes ever, maybe even #1. Our friend J commented that every time he took a bite he could hear Barry White singing. Seriously, the cake is so rich, moist,deleshious....ooooh baby!   There is just so much love packed in the cake, it just knocks all the wah out of you.  Heidi uses the Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin to make the cake, so of course it pairs unbelievably when you have a glass of the beer with it.

 So that was the night in February and it was unbelievable as usual. On a small side note, Heidi Gibson was a super trooper and came in even though her leg was in cast. Not to diss the kitchen at all, because the food was amazing... BUT, I could tell having eaten at the previous 2 dinners that there was something missing from the food with her not being present in the kitchen. Does she sprinkle magic cheese dust or something, because the food is epic when she's in charge?! I guess that's why she was a Grilled Cheese Champion for so long!
 To close up, what I love about these dinners, besides the amazing food and beer, is the camaraderie of the evening.  From everyone in the kitchen, to the brew masters who give great talks, to the waitstaff who put so much effort into making sure you have a grand evening... you can just tell this is a big labor of love.  Hope to continue our lucky streak of attending these amazingly cheesy dinners and wish to share one with you in the future!

1. The space is small at The American, so I would say party of four at most.
2.  California Cheeses are always unbelievable.  What is up with this and why am I so lucky to live here?!
3.  If there is a biscuit involved with any meal I have, it is always my favorite part! No matter what is served with is...fancy meats, intricate dishes.. its all about the biscuit! Texan 4Life...
4. I still need that recipe, Heidi! ;D