If Pink is the new Black, then Cheese is the new Wine, and Sommeliers will have to make room for Affineurs*. And if you don’t know what an Affineur is, then Sara Vivenzio’s The Cheese School of San Francisco will make the perfect alma mater.
I don’t think I’ve ever taken more notes or learned so much, or left a class with such a happy belly. Intimate classes are held in a bright, sunny room, and include detailed handouts, plentiful tasting samples, red and white wines, and a variety of “go-withs” such as fresh and dried fruit, Marcona Almonds, breads and preserves.
Sara was a professional cheese monger and buyer for Cheese Plus, a wonderful store a few doors down. She has recruited a talented roster of experts, such as my “teach”, Judy Creighton, an enthusiastic cheese educator and former owner of cheese and wine shops in San Francisco for over 25 years.
Novices can start at the beginning with Cheese 101, comprising of four courses: a Basic Cheese Primer, Cheese Selection, Service and Storage, and Cheese and Wine Pairing. However, true to form, I jumped in feet first, to a wonderfully stinky class: Extreme Cheese, which featured an incredible, international selection of Big, Bad Boys!
Our tasting started with Truf, a new chevre from Piedmont, Italy that was lightly infused with black truffles, and ten cheeses, later we finished with the award-winning Rogue Creamery Echo Mountain Blue cheese from Oregon. My fav, though, was an ooozing, dripping delight, Serra Da Estrela, a raw sheep’s milk cheese from Portugal, that Judy aptly described as “a thoroughbred just raring to get out of the gate.” (Priced at over $50 a pound, I’d better win big at the races to support my new habit!)
And trust me, after one two-hour class, you will be hooked. Not only will you have an enjoyable evening (some students brought their significant other–good idea for a fun & seductive date)! but you will cultivate a new appreciation for artisanal cheeses after tasting such superb examples and learning how they were made. For my next class it’s a toss–up between Ga-Ga for Goat, or For the Love of Chocolate. But I’m warning you… CLASSES SELL OUT REALLY QUICKLY! Check out their website for the latest offerings.
(*Affineur roughly translates to Master Cheese Ager.)
The Cheese School of San Francisco
A: 1555 Pacific Avenue, 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94109
P.S. Wouldn’t this make a GREAT Father’s Day Gift?