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Aug 29, 2005 04:53 PM

the girl & the fig new custom built cheese bar ...

  • r

... called the “Salon de Fromage”

Just got an email from the restaurant about it. Link to info on website below.

Supposedly they have 'cheese flights', and on site cheese expert (who knows) and some house made cheeses. Cheeses can be purchased by the pound to take home.

Not on the website (which has most of the email info) is the following:

“Part of our cheese program will include our house-made cheeses, guest cheese maker visits and scheduled cheese & wine pairings,” says Bernstein. “We want this to be interactive, educational and of course delicious. Our Executive Chef, John Toulze is particularly excited about his house-made ricotta, mozzarella fresca and crème fraiche.”

Rats! I was going to stop by last Tuesday but was too stuffed with NY pizza. That house-made mozzarella would have been nice to try with the tomatoes from the Sonoma Farmers Market.

Don't know if the cheeses are limited to what is on the website which include some of the usual California suspects, a few raw milk and farmstead European cheeses and Pierre Robert

If you check the events link on the website, there are some good suggestions for food events, one of which Sondra Bernstein is participating in which I can highly recommend having attended this in the past.

Link: http://www.thegirlandthefig.com/html-...

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  1. Such a great concept. Is there anything comparable in the City/East Bay (i.e., not a cheese course at a restaurant)? The Cheeseboard in Berkeley offers generous tasting and extensive variety, but you have to do your tasting while standing up and jostling for counter space with the crowd, and the samples come smeared on bits of waxed paper.

    3 Replies
    1. re: lqf
      Morton the Mousse

      The Cheeseboard sometimes hosts cheese bar parties in the evening with cheese courses, wine and live music. Go to their website and get added to their email list and they will contact you when one is coming up.


      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        Not that it's really the same thing, but you could design a cheese flight for yourself at Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building. They're very good about giving ideas about which cheeses complement and contrast with each other, as well as with certain foods.

        You can buy as little as a quarter pound of a few cheeses (maybe less if you let them know what you're up to and buy several kinds) and mosey over to the Ferry Building Wine Merchant. The people there are very familiar with Cowgirl's cheeses, and you can get some wine to enjoy with your purchase. They'll even bring out a cheese board and knife. Some bread from ACME or other Ferry Building treats round out a perfect snack. To the best of my knowledge, this will be the closest experience in SF to what they're doing at The Girl and the Fig outside of the usual restaurant cheese plates.

        1. re: nooodles

          Gee, two great ideas.

          All these years as a Cheeseboard customer and I never knew about those cheese bar parties Morton. It seems to be a good idea to get on email lists for places you really like.

          I knew that the Wine Merchant was always nice about letting you bring your own sandwich, but I never realized they would be so accomodating to even provide a cheeseboard if you bring over some Cowgirl Creamery cheese. Love that Wine Merchant.

    2. Would be great if the mozz is pulled to order and served while still warm . . .

      8 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        This isn't like when you asked if the quesa fresca was from Mexico? You know I'm stupid enough to ask them to do this (g). Actually something like that would make me make a special trip ... with a strombolli from Parry's on the way back so I can compare it to Lola's.

        1. re: rworange

          Well, if they're already making the mozz in-house, it's just a timing problem. Once mozz is refrigerated, it's not really "fresh" anymore and starts to harden. I've only had pulled to order mozz once at a demo in SF, served warm (hot water is used to soften the curd for pulling), then drizzled with Austrian pumpkin seed oil. Even though it wasn't fancy water buffalo milk curd, the texture was so much more voluptuous than anything else I've had locally.

          Did the email mention who the cheese expert in attendance might be?

          Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Wow, that sounds wonderful. Hope someone checks this out. Hmmmm ... I haven't checked out the Friday morning Farmers Market in Sonoma yet.

            Nope, no mention of who the cheese expert is. Given the location and some comments on the site and e-mail, I'm guessing it's just that Sondra Bernstein & John Toulze are training staff memebers. Well, this does sound olike a worthy little research project, eh? Haven't checked the Napa fish store for smoked salmno either (Sonoma Market was a major somked salmon dissappointment).

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Stopped by girl and fig to check out the custom built cheese bar and cheese flights.

              Let’s just say that there is a good and imaginative copy writer. HOWEVER, on the very positive side I can highly … highly … recommend the house-made crème fraiche and fromage blanc … talk about voluptuous. They must be 100 % butterfat.

              It has been eons since I’ve bought either type of cheese, but I’m thinking that a whole pint of these cheeses for $5.50 is a steal. The house-made ricotta was the same price but they were out. They sold out of the fresh mozzarella too. It is not on the menu, so not sure of the price. They make the cow’s milk ricotta at the same time as the mozzarella so when one is out, the other is usually out I was told.

              The fromage blanc is silken and tangy. The crème fraiche is thicker and very luxurious.

              There might be a happy ending to this, but for a while I was shooting mental daggers at the staff, you and myself over the warm fresh-pulled mozzarella. It took me three people to break through on this.

              First of all the custom built cheese bar is just a counter like your kitchen counter with pieces of cheese on it. The cheese specialist has been working there three days and basically is one of the young chefs who puts together the girl and the fig cheese plates. Everyone one was confused about the cheese flights and they are basically, at this time, just the current cheese plates on the menu. I guess no one at the restaurant read the info on the web site about the cheese flights.

              There is a board above the bar with cheese available - 6 cow’s milk, 5 goat and 7 sheep. In addition to the three cheeses on the website and the three house-made cheeses, cow’s milk cheeses include Joe Matos St George and Vella Dry Jack Reserve. An additional goat cheese was Laura Chenel chevre. Additional sheep’s milk included Ricotta Salata and Bulgarian Feta.

              They will give you samples of any of the cheeses, but you need to wait while orders for cheese plates are being filled. You can sample all of their jams, chutneys, compotes and sauces. They are thick and spicy. I liked the fig caramel sauce the best but none enough to purchase at this time.

              The cheese specialist knew nothing of the mozzarella. The manager who was tending bar knew nothing either. Everyone said the concept was new. So they haven’t worked out what is happening yet. Thankfully no one said “Warm mozzarella? Do you mean melted?” However I was mentally bitching at this point about being dumb enough to ask about this.

              HOWEVER, here’s finally the almost happy ending. One of the chefs walked by and said they ran out of the mozzarella. I asked if it was ever warm and hand pulled. I said someone had this and it was delicious.

              Lights went on. The first thing he said … “was it at a demo?” Yep, I said. Then he says, that’s a wonderful idea. We should do that when we have one of our special tasting nights. So hopefully he’ll remember, pass it along and the germ of an idea you planted in a post might result in a lovely night in the future at the girl & the fig.

              I wasn’t as impressed with the restaurant on this visit which may have had to do with the disappointing, at this time, cheese bar. I continue to have parking karma and once again parked at the door.

              The salmon niccoise was ‘deconstructed’. The poached salmon fillet was on a small bed of overdressed greens. Some pointless, tasteless cherry tomatoes were in the lettuce. There were some pretty pieces of fresh pink beets also. Around the salmon were little islands of two fresh anchovy fillets, designer fingerling potato pieces., cut radishes with sea salt, egg quarters and a selection of mixed green olives. All was good, but it didn’t wow me. The sea salt was on the salmon too, making it a bit too salty and crunchy for my taste.

              I don’t think I’ll sit at the end of the bar again though (it was near the cheese counter). It is pretty busy with staff and unavoidably listening in on conversations, there were a few untrained people there. Some customers seem to be real pills though. Someone complained that their wine was corked. It was the wine I liked best in my flight - 2001 Gregory Graham Voigner. It was from the same bottle as my glass. I’m getting really good at detecting even slight corkiness. This wasn’t corked. They even opened another bottle to check and be sure. It’s a very sweet and fruity wine and I’m guessing the customer didn’t like the stuff. It wasn’t corked, but they substituted another wine for her.

              So, give the cheese thing a while to settle in. However, right now the two house-made cheeses I tried were excellent. I hope to try the ricotta and mozarella in the future.

              However, for the rest, if buying to tke home, I'd suggest the Cheesemaker's daughter or even Vella Cheese.

              Oh yeah … September’s Plat’s du Jour (Sun-Thurs – 3 courses - $28 … with 3 wine flights ($35)

              Sept 4 – 8 Stuffed trout – lavender beurre blanc
              Sept 11 – 15 Steak au Poive
              Sept 18 – 22 Liberty duck breast
              Sept 25 – 29 Market vegetable pasta

              Link: http://www.thegirlandthefig.com/html-...

              1. re: rworange
                Melanie Wong

                What I think they should do is establish a schedule of times that warm mozzarella comes off the line. Then taking a cue from the "hot" donuts sign at Krispy Kreme, they'll train their customers to salivate and come running at the signal.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I'll be sure to suggest that on my next visit.

                  I was astounded that the two containers of cheese I bought were each wrapped in olive green tissue paper and put in a little grass green paper shopping bag. I've never had gift-wrapped creme fraiche before.

                  Having a clearer head today, I figured out that the tissue paper was probably for the glass condiment jars and the cheese person was just new. She was a pleasant person though. Poor baby, learning a new job and having to put up with me grilling her about cheese. My cheese purchase really was a pity purchase for my pestiness.

                  I wasn't wowed by the new cheese I tried. The two from European boutique farms were fine. I did like the Three Sisters Serena cheese. I'll have to keep an eye out for more of thier prodcuts. It seems they were at Ferry Plaza last month.

                  Link: http://threesisterscheese.com

                  1. re: rworange
                    Melanie Wong

                    Sondra checks the board sometimes, so maybe she'll catch this thread. Btw, I love The Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen, something else for your agenda when you find your way up the road.

                    Link: http://www.fema.gov/press/2005/katrin...

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Stumbled across this recent SF Chronicle story about this cheese. Very interesting. There is a second cheese as well. It has a list of places to purchase it. As the article mentioned, there is a limited quantity made so it might not always be in stock.

                      Link: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi...