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Aug 19, 2001 06:33 PM

Cheese Class - Progress!

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I spoke with Artisan Cheese, at 2413 California Street (at Filmore Street) in San Francisco. Artisan Cheese is well regarded by a number of Chowhound cheese lovers.

Artisan is receptive to setting up a 4 session cheese class for us. (They currently hold cheese classes in Pt. Reyes, 1 hour north of SF). They are now working on pricing, dates, and curriculum! It will probably be on a weekday night from 7-9pm at the store (central location in SF; parking will be fine at that time). I'll find out more early next week and will post details.

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  1. At the risk of being known as the voice of negativity around here, I have to say that I was unimpressed by Artisan Cheese's selection.

    They carry only a few cheeses, many american made (which is nice, but hardly anything we make here compares to what one can obtain from france, italy or even spain), at rather high prices.

    On several visits, I found almost nothing of interest there, and certainly nothing of the quality and variety one can find at Rainbow for less money.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Syre

      You called it, not I.

      In recent days a lot of interest has been expressed on this board for a gathering to sample cheeses and learn more about the world of cheese. Fortunately, Elise has take the initiative to arrange something for this group. She's not suggesting that Artisan Cheese is the end all, be all cheese store. Her choice was probably driven by the strong reputation for consumer education and the existing curriculum which gives us a headstart.

      I receive many, many e-mails from chowhounds in other parts of the country who are envious of the cameraderie, positive energy, and learning opportunities we enjoy on this board. Year to date, our community has organized 12 gatherings to share food and fellowship. This only happens because people like Elise take the time to take the reins and plan an activity. What I've seen on the other regional boards is suggestion after suggestion get shot-down and nothing happens. I'd hate to see that here.

      If someone's choice doesn't suit you, no one's forcing you to attend. Everyone has the option of picking their own time and place to organize an event to their own liking. You are welcome to put together an alternate activity.

      There are plenty of positive posts on this board about Artisan Cheese. You may want to post your rebuttal comments in those threads.

      1. re: Syre

        Artisan does not have a large selection at all, but the cheeses they do have are meticulous. I would rather have a small selection that is perfectly cared for than a store with a larger yet mistreated selection. IMO, nothing is worse than buying a St. Marcellin or La Tur and finding it has dried out due to improper storage.

        1. re: srf1

          Well, we disagree about Artisan. I was not impressed.

          Have any of you guys gone to Rainbow and seen what they have there? It really is pretty good, and without all the attitude and pretension of a place like Artisan.

          1. re: Syre

            Syre -

            I live down the street from Rainbow, and frequent them often for cheese, breads, pastries, etc.

            However, I certainly have gotten a fair share of "pretention" there as well -- I've asked for cheese to be cut from a wheel for me in the past and have felt like the counterperson was "put out". So I'm not ready to cast stones at Artisan.

            As for price... all I can say is that you pay for the expertise and experience. Many of the folks at Rainbow are young and, I wager, wouldn't know an epoisses if it said "hello"... At artisan, you know the cheeses are properly stored, you get excellent advice, etc.

            I'm happy to pay just a bit more for that. And truly, I don't think it's exorbitant.

            Perhaps you could try to organize an outing for us all with Rainbow? Then we could all form the opinion for ourselves.

            I, for one, am greatly appreciative of Elise for getting this ball rolling!

            1. re: Syre

              That's too bad to hear that you recieved attitude at Artisan as I have never felt that at all. Attitude and pretension alone can drive me away from even the best places - so unneeded in any store. The way I look at it - if some clerk is giving me attitude I just think of it this way: who's paying who??

              Unfortunately the "customer is always right" has gone the way of the dodo bird, but it doesn't mean you have to deal with somebody's misplaced egotrip.

        2. I think it's great that we have a cheese class lined up! As there are several hundred cheeses out there, it will take many, many sessions of cheese-tasting to get through a fraction of them, and the sooner we get started, the more ground we'll cover. When and where will the classes be held? Will it be possible to sign up for individual sessions rather than the whole series? What sorts of cheese do they specialize in?

          While I myself am trying to set up a cheese and wine session with Mollie Stone's or Draeger's, as a fairly serious cheese-lover, I am thrilled at the opporunity to expand my repertoire of cheeses--and places to buy and eat cheese. I don't know nearly enough--and will probably never know as much as I'd like--about wonderful, complex things like cheese and wine. I'm hoping someone will set up a session at Hayes & Vine, and another at the Le Bistrot.

          The Chowhound Board (I almost typed "Cheesehound Board") has been a very valuable source of information and education for me in the couple of months since I chanced upon it, and, like Melanie said, I enjoy the sense of camaraderie the Bay Area Chowhounds seem to have. People are very positive and happy to share information, and even a negative dish or restaurant review is usually cast in a helpful way.

          One more caveat about cheese: it's a bit like fresh fruit. It has its seasons, some producers are better than others, and many factors (poor storage, wrong temperature at serving, wrong wine, strong perfume, a bad day at the office . . .) can affect one's perception. The only solution is to try as many cheeses as are availble, under the most appropriate tasting conditions, and to do it often!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Pia R

            Pia, thanks for your questions and suggestions. I expect to hear back from the Artisan folks by the end of the week. We'll discuss the logistics, costs, dates, and other details and I'll post immediately under a new thread.

          2. Thanks, Elise, for doing this! I had no idea that Chowhounds move so quickly! I haven't yet had the time to call over to Hayes and Vine about setting up something. And here you have already gotten this going! Well, count me in. THANKS!

            14 Replies
            1. re: Lise

              Chowhounds' energy for moving quickly in food matters is awe-inspiring. At our dim sum lunch last week a couple people said that they'd been trying to hook up with Slow Food events in several different convivia and can't even get a reply to e-mail let alone locate any activities. We noted that Chowhounds leap into action to be responsive and organize cool things, then eat leisurely and take their time at the table once we gather. Chowhound time - fast and slow - works for me.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Sorry for the digression, but what is Slow Food? I've seen it mentioned on the international board as well.

                1. re: Wendy Lai

                  Slow Food is--to put it very simply--a movement against the encroachment of fast food in many aspects of our lives, all the way from the consumption of the carelessly prepared burger at the drive-through, down through the unsustainable production of limited types agricultural produce that went into the burger. I think Alice Waters is an official member of the Slow Food movement, and Chez Panisse tries to embody the principles of Slow Food.

                  They have a website, I think it is

                  I've been wanting to join myself, but the last time I checked, there wasn't much happening in this neck of the woods that was readily accessible.

                  1. re: Wendy Lai
                    Rochelle McCune

                    Hi All:
                    I haven't posted on this board in months. Mostly because both my husband and I were "employment challenged" for a while and our eating out budget was slashed dramatically. I have enjoyed lurking about, reading about your dining experiences.

                    I am a member of Slow Food and have been to some of their events which were very informative (including a lovely Farmstead Cheese dinner). I have attached a recent article about Slow Food that appeared in The Nation. I joined for several reasons other than the local events,
                    1) I wanted to donate to their cause which I greatly admire
                    2) I love getting their very informative magazine,
                    3) I wanted support the products in their "Ark" which are fabulous. (The best coffee I have ever had is in their Ark.)

                    Where Slow Food falls short for me is in their local events. The local groups don't have many events, events are generally a little more than I can pay, they don't seem to have a meeting place so events take place at restaurants only. In general, it seems like the California chapters don't have enough time/volunteers to be really organized and promote themselves.

                    When I joined, I was hoping to find a sort of Tasting Club, a group of people that I could regularly taste foodstuffs with. For example, I was recently at Berkeley Bowl and was overcome by the number & quality of apples. I wanted to buy one of each, taste them & talk about them with other people. Alas, with no Tasting Club, I'll probably just end up either doing with my husband or rounding up a couple of friends (who view this sort of activity as "Sooo Rochelle").

                    Anyway, I highly recommend joining or at least checking out their website and learning about their cause.


                    1. re: Rochelle McCune

                      welcome back! i just wanted to say how fab of us to share a name. i was in my early 30's before i ever met another rochelle and i find it pretty amazing that there are two of us here. and as far as the apple tasting goes my friends would say the same! a namesake commonality?

                      1. re: Rochelle
                        Rochelle McCune

                        Thanks. I, too, was the only Rochelle I knew for years. Now, at my job, there are four of us. Quel Bizzare.

                        I also noticed from postings (Magnolia on Haight) that you seem to live just up the hill from me (I'm at Haight & Steiner). Maybe we'll have to have a special "Chowhounds Named Rochelle" meeting.

                        Speaking of the 'hood, have you been to Metro Cafe on Divisdero recently? It used to be a sandwich shop, now its a French bistro. Two friends, Michael (husband) & I went there for dinner a couple of weeks ago and were pleasantly surprised. I though it was nice as an "neighborhood" restaurant but not necessarily a destination restaurant. I do think they have potential. Their onion soup had a nice balance of flavors. I had a steak that was quite good with a superb sauce. I had a beet/goat cheese salad that would have been good except for too much overpowering rasberry dressing. My friend, who had rabbit, said it was the best he'd had in years. They serve brunch and they have converted the back yard into a dining area which looked nice. Plus, they have a dinner special - $15 for soup or salad, entree (night we were there, it was a salmon) & small dessert. For a deal like that I'm not really expecting Fleur de Lys, just a good, honest meal which is what Metro Cafe delivers.

                        1. re: Rochelle McCune

                          metro cafe sounds great for a neighborhood place and that comment about the rabbit will surely find me there soon. i love rabbit and it's so hard to find it done well. the last time i ordered it at aqua it was dry and stringy and quite the disappointment. has your friend ever had the rabbit at baker st. bistro? they serve it with a mustard sauce over spinach fettucini and it's out of this world.

                          and yes, we are in close proximity, we're just on the other end of haight making us almost neighbors! and i'm all for clubs i'm just trying to figure out how i'll ever find time for chowhound, the cheese club, your suggestion for a tasting club, the reading group and! my sweet boyfriend!

                          1. re: Rochelle
                            Rochelle McCune

                            Rabbit - I'll mention Baker St. Bistro to my friend, it sounds delicious. At the time, he went into a story about his mother's rabbit being blessed by God and then story about a horrible/dry rabbit at restaurant in Italy (which was very shocking to him because they claimed it was their speciality).

                            Time Management - No kidding. My schedule is packed with work, friends, a book club, ongoing educational classes and the half-dozen home improvement projects. I would love to work in a food book club, cheese classes and a regular tasting event but I think I'll have to settle for two out of three.

                      2. re: Rochelle McCune

                        Maybe us Chowhounds need to take over the Slow Food stuff too?! We've gotten what 12 or more "events/dinners" done so far this year and are working on more!

                        I haven't joined Slow Food yet, but definately support their causes (there are only so many that one can support) and had heard that there wasn't much action in events here in the Bay Area, so hesitated to spend the money on Slow Food membership.

                        As for a tasting club.... maybe another chowhound event? I'm a little time-tapped-out right now, but would definately be interested in something like this in the future!

                        1. re: Celery
                          Rochelle McCune

                          I'd love it!! God knows when I got a bunch of friends together, pushed five variations of Sangrita (home-made) on them and tried to get them to tell me which one they liked and why -- I thought they were going to have me committed. And my canned tomato tasting went over like a lead balloon.

                          If anyone's interested in joining a Tasting Club, let me know and I'll try to organize it. While we can start out with single events as time permits, think about what would make a ongoing club work...
                          1) meet how often
                          2) days & times that would be good
                          3) locations that would be good
                          4) some things you'd like to taste
                          5) any other componants that would make it fun
                          and let me know.

                          1. re: Rochelle McCune

                            A tasting club sounds like a fabulous idea -- there are lots of foods I'd like to taste side-by-side -- not just the varieties of fruits, but also things like olive oils, balsamic vinegars, vanillas, even salt (can people really identify Fleur de Sel in a blind test?).

                            Maybe we can find a friendly coffee house that would let us bring stuff in, as long as we bought drinks.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              Rochelle McCune

                              I totally agree with your tasting list! Check out the July issue of Vogue for Jeffrey Steingarten's (I loved his Man Who Ate Everything book!) article about a blind salt tasting.

                              A coffee house was my first idea too. I have a few in mind that I'll check out. I was thinking the ideal place would be centrally located, not hideous parking, have an alcove or side-room. I know Circadia has a room which can be reserved & they have sandwiches & soup but parking can be hell. Any suggestions are welcome though I would prefer in SF (or at least walking distance from CalTrain/BART.)

                              I was also thinking setting some sort of regular time would make it easy to work into people's schedules - i.e. Second Tuesday of each month. I frequently go to "First Thursdays" in downtown SF (when the museums and art gallerys are open late). A friend sends out an Evite letting people know what exhibits are up and where to meet & we RSVP so she knows to look for us. While I don't go to every First Thursday, I go alot because its easy to remember and leave room for in my schedule.

                            2. re: Rochelle McCune

                              See what Melanie means - suggest and we organize things!

                              What would work best for me: Wednesday or Thursday p.m. - anywhere in SF or East Bay (preferably ez access from BART or at least a frequent Muni line), tastings: almost anything (took a fig class at Sur la Table recently and Marie Simmons got sidetracked, trying to get us to do a salt tasting), the coffee shop idea sounds good to start. Keep me posted, this sounds like fun! (Now how to fit it in with the Chowhound dinners, cheese classes, bookclubs and oh yeah work?!)

                          2. re: Rochelle McCune


                            I have been a member of Slow Foods for about a year & 1/2, hoping to get involved in some "projects".

                            Alas, this is not something of interest here in this state, or at least that is what I've decided is the conclusion to suppresse my frustrations. I actually sent in the information needed to start a "Convivum" here in Napa (there already is one) just to do more direct things that involved hands-on-contact.

                            I decided to back off after meeting the local convivum, leader, if-you-will. And not so much in that he is not doing his job well. It is more that my idea is that this movement is about education at a level most folks are not able nor willing to go. For example, I don't want to spend time at a coffee roastery, hearing about where the beans come from, taste like & why. I want to know about how the country is doing, how we all effect this and what things we could accomplish at any level that would contribute to the economy and the well-being of the land. There are seriously ways of helping, learning and contributing to all/any countires. That's why we have Slow Foods.

                            There are many new private schools being built here in Napa. One a Waldorf School that is an incredible opportunity to share education on everything the Slow Food Movement has going on. Going in and actually physically putting in a garden for the kids to learn from is the stuff I'm talking about. Why have some celeb. chef come along to cook a meal for everyone to pay for to benefit the garden by handing over a check? Why not everyone spend a weekend afternoon to help put in the garden? Ask a farmer, a person who depends on the land and hands-on-knowledge what they think. They would rather have the help than the check.

                            How about going up on a Saturday & picking some of those apples you are in love with, especially if grown anywhere near Petaluma/Sebastopol? That is possible and would be that much more of an investment in knowledge, caretaking and the commeraderie that Slow Food represents in Europe.

                            I am in love with the concept as well. Here in the states, things should be more in tune with the cause.
                            Maybe some day!

                    2. i'm definately interested in these classes. altho i rarely get to artisan i, too, appreciate the meticulous care of their products.
                      i have also found the little wine shop that's two doors down to be very helpful in matching wines to my purchases.

                      1. b
                        Burke and Wells

                        I'm getting a bit confused! So many suggestions, countersuggestions, new threads, old threads, I'm not sure what we've decided or if we've come to a conclusion.

                        Have pity on a newbie? I don't know how to tease through these boards that well yet.

                        When a clear time, place, set of requirements, etc., has emerged, when a single coordinating voice has risen to the fore, will a new thread be posted at the top of the board?

                        I'd just hate to miss this because I didn't know how to read the final result.

                        Thanks so much! Needless to say, anywhere, anytime, and anything we do is fine with Burke and me, just tell us where to show up and we're there!



                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Burke and Wells

                          Hi Peter, I understand how this process may seem confusing. That's because no one is designated as the only person responsible for finding a cheese class. Several Chowhounds have happily volunteered to take initiative. I think that is great - we can have more than 1 cheese class and at different locations to be more convenient to Chowhounds all over the Bay Area.

                          I'm expecting to hear back from the folks at Artisan by the end of this week and will post all details. I'll set up a separate thread for it. Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions, I welcome them!

                          1. re: elise h

                            For the benefit of Peter and others who are newer to these boards, I'll mention a few rules of the chowroad that have evolved over these short months of Chowhound gatherings.

                            If you use this message board to organize a dinner, tasting or other event, then the results should be posted here to be shared with the rest of the community. The great thing about Chowhound events is the diversity of perspectives from a group of discerning folks who are all experiencing the same service, food, etc. yet may come away with vastly different opinions. this offers a fairer comparison than dining experiences on several different days. The point-counterpoint provides some interesting reads.

                            The person who is last to arrive at the meet is the designated note-taker. This works to ensure promptness and that at least one person is recording the details. Often someone else will volunteer for this and will initiate the report to be joined by others. But be forewarned!

                            Bay Area Chowhounds love wine, make it part of most gatherings to date and talk about it a lot here. But not everyone who comes wants to partake and there's room for all tastes. Just join us and enjoy the fine beverage of your choice.

                            Lastly, putting together an event can require some communications that are best handled by e-mail rather than the message board. Please keep this in mind, and those of you who have not provided e-mail addresses should consider doing so. A Yahoo, Onebox, Hotmail, etc. address can be readily set-up for Chowhound communications.

                            Back to the chow!

                            1. re: elise h

                              Yes, it is all confusing. Please do post a new thread once you've heard from Artisan. After that, I will focus on the Hayes and Vine option. I just think it's easier if we follow one cheese-scented trail at a time.Thanks for your work on the Artisan Cheese trail, Elise.