Archive | November, 2012

The Best Big Spicy Reds Under $20

29 Nov

John took some time from his busy schedule as head wine taster at Cheese Plus to share some of his picks for the holiday season. Here are his tasting notes on four big reds for little green.

2010 Coteaux des Travers Rasteau Reserve – $15.99
Southern Rhone Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. Bold, fruit-forward spicy but with enough structure and acid to keep it afloat. Tension and rocks galore.

2011 Antic Central Coast Pinot Noir – $17.99
Earthy, fruity, a real Pinot Noir. Natural yeast fermented, low sulfur, no new oak. Plums, dried flowers, autumnal spices.

2009 Tayerle Troubadour – $9.99
Old Vine Syrah and Valdiguie (old French varietal) from Suisun Valley just SE of Napa. Loren Tayerle lives in the neighborhood and makes great, honest wine in Napa sourced from vineyards up and down NorCal. Concentrated, black cherries, cinnamon and star anise. Exotic but from just next door.

2010 Bielsa Garnacha – $11.99
Old vine Garnacha (Grenache) from Eastern Spain. red and black pepper, rich red fruit, but with a dusty edge that speaks of the dry Spanish plains.


Best Gifts To Bring a Food-Loving Party Host

16 Nov
  1. Villa Manodori Cherry Balsamic
  2. Martelli Pasta
  3. Mead and Meads Maple Syrup

In an etiquette article from Conde Nast Traveller magazine, Robert Hickey of the Protocol School of Washington notes the right gift should be “a distilled symbol of your relationship.” Now you and your host or hostess probably have a common love of food and even of the products we carry at Cheese Plus so here are three gifts we enthusiastically recommend.

  1. Villa Manodori Cherry Balsamic. Aged for eight years in dark cherry wood, this artisan balsamic has tart notes followed by a thick balsamic sweetness that’s been described as “addictive.” Produced in very small quantities by Massimo Bottura of Michelin-star winning Osteria Francescana restaurant in Modena, Italy, this makes a bold salad dressing over spicy greens or use as a finishing drizzle on risotto or roasted pork. It’s absolutely divine over Negranti Dairy Sheep Milk Honey flavor ice cream.
  2. Martelli Pasta. The Martelli family in the tiny Tuscan town of Lari makes only four cuts of pasta. What makes them our favorite dried pastas is that this is truly “slow food.” It’s kneaded with cold water then dried for up to fifty hours hours at 91-97 degrees to make this intensely flavored pasta more firm and chewy. The long curing process plus being extruded through traditional bronze dyes creates a more textured pasta that “grips” the sauce.  Always in the same yellow bag since 1926, your host will love this.
  3. Mead and Mead’s Pure Maple Syrup. Winter and Jude Mead run their small family sugaring house in the Canaan Valley of Connecticut wth the highest standards of stewardship. Making great maple syrup is a slow process of removing the water from the freshly tapped sap through reverse osmosis. The sap is then boiled until it has exactly 67% sugar content and triple filtered, resulting in a syrup  that is very complex and rich yet light with a clean sweetness.  This is nothing like the pancake stuff from that famous aunt. What’s more, its beautiful clear Italian glass bottle with an embossed maple leaf helps turn this liquid gold into a perfect present.

Gobble Pastured Turkey This Thanksgiving

14 Nov

Thanksgiving is about traditions but thankfully some traditions are meant to be phased out. This year we wish everyone could get beyond the Butterball and get a pastured turkey. Yes, it’s more expensive because your tax dollars aren’t subsidizing the costs, but it’s worth it. Many of Tara Firma Farms’ friends have been experiencing the better taste and clearer conscious that pastured chicken and beef provide.  Here are three good reasons to be gobbling pastured turkey this year too.

  1. Better for you. Pastured-raised turkeys produce conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) from the grass they eat. This fatty acid is known to fight cancer, keep arteries from getting clogged, build lean muscle and even help you lose weight. (a) In addition, pasture-raised turkeys are higher in Omega-3s, vitamin A, vitamin E and folic acid than their Butterball counterpart and they aren’t filled with antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or chemicals to kill pathogens.
  2. Better tasting. Most people don’t know what real poultry tastes like because they are so familiar with factory versions. Pastured birds don’t have the induced moisture and saltiness of their factory counterparts. They are allowed to live much longer and are much more athletic producing a firm lean meat that has a wonderful flavor.
  3. Humanely Raised and Processed: Tara Firma Farms birds see the sun every day and are free to roam on the pasture. It goes without saying that factory birds live a cramped, de-beaked life, possibly in layers of fecal matter. Factory birds endure some of the most inhumane treatment of any livestock. Even organic or free range turkeys live in questionable conditions. The USDA definition of “free-range” states “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”(b). Who knows what that means? Compare that to the fresh air, exercise and free-roaming life Tara Firma Farms turkeys live every day and it’s no contest.




Three Great Domestic Cheeses That Can Blow Away Their European Counterparts

12 Nov

While Cheese Plus is known for finding, praising and selling the best cheeses the Old World has to offer, we also acknowledge and love the artisan cheese makers on this side of the pond. Some are even making new classics that can blow away many of our European favorites. Here’s three we love.

  1. Rush Creek Reserve: From Upland Cheese, a family-run dairy in SW Wisconsin. Inspired by the French Vacherin Mont d’Or, this traditional farmstead cheese is made only in the fall as their cows’ diets transition from fresh summer pastures to winter’s dry hay. It’s a custard-soft cheese with a deep but delicate richness like a finely cured meat while having a sweet, woodsy flavor from being bound in spruce bark. Image
  2. Shaker Blue: This assertive raw sheep milk blue from Old Chatham Shepherding Co in upstate New York is their take on French Roquefort although we find it to be more bold and rustic. Creamy yet crumbly with salty pockets of aquamarine blue, this is a baguette’s best friend! A great match with Sierra Beauty apples.Image
  3. Barinaga Ranch: Made right here in West Marin on 800 acres above Tomales Bay, this classic sheepsmilk cheese is made in small batches just like its Basque inspirations. Nutty, grassy and buttery yet firm, it’s been called one of America’s finest cheeses and always sells out so make sure you get some early this season!

What You Should Be Eating This Week

12 Nov


One of the main reasons Tara started Tara Firma Farms is because she’s a huge believer in eating seasonally through a CSA program.  It’s a mind shift. Rather than thinking about what you want to eat then shopping for it, CSA members receive a box of fresh, seasonal foods and figure what do do with it. Beyond expanding your culinary creativity and without getting into the debate on the environmental impact shipping and storing food actually has, here are five great reasons for eating seasonally.

  1. It’s better for your health. It’s widely accepted that fruits and vegetables are most nutritious closest to their pick date because they lose stored organic materials as they respirate after picking. Also, food in the supermarket is there based on yield, growth rate, and ability to withstand long-distance transport.
    Unfortunately, the traits which benefit national and international produce distribution aren’t usually the ones that maximize nutritional quality. Local farmers grow for flavor, nutrition and diversity vs shipability.
  2. Eating seasonally means variety. This gives your body a better assortment of vitamins and nutrients and your palate some entertainment.
  3. It’s less expensive.
  4. Eating local foods support the local economy! Farmers get a far higher cut when they can sell direct.
  5. Tastes better. You just can’t beat fruits and vegetables that are allowed to ripen fully. When fruits and vegetables need to endure the rigors of shipping they have to be picked when they are more rugged, i.e. unripe.

Three Reasons to Take A We Olive Cooking Class

8 Nov

Chef Nicole at We Olive

Who doesn’t want to meet new friends, be more fun and of course be a better cook? The one place to accomplish all three is at a We Olive cooking class. Plus, you’ll love our instructor Nicole, a former biotech corporate slave who quit it all to focus on bringing her mother and grandmother’s recipes to a wider audience.

Our next cooking class is Wednesday, November 14th from 6-8 pm. They are selling out fast so rsvp asap if you want in. We’d love to have you. Call (415) 673-3669 or email

The Farmers Market Supper we’ll be making and eating is:

  • Starter: Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad
  • Entree:  Farfalle with Chicken, Mushrooms, and Swiss Chard
  • Dessert: Apple Crostata

The Perfect Gifts For Foodie Friends

8 Nov

Food lovers love food gifts. And the classic food gift is the gift basket. But gift baskets don’t have to be boring groupings of bad jellies and stale crackers. Here’s some prepared ideas the expert curators at Cheese Plus offer, or call them at 415-921-2001 to create custom ones. These are always a hit and if you are around when it’s opened, you get to partake!

Snack Attack $75:

A munchy maniac’s dream come true. Spanish Marcona almonds, pickled peppers, chocolate bridge mix, stuffed olives, crackers, cookies and licorice.

Cheese Lovers $90:

The world’s finest cheeses including Camembert, Blue, Cheddar, Manchego and creamy goat accompanied with fig jam, Marcona almonds and crackers.

Fog City $85:

A bountiful assortment of our favorite Bay Area artisan foods including cheese, salami, honey, mustard, biscotti, chocolate, crackers and preserves.

Fiore di Italia $100:

Your passport to great taste including smooth extra virgin olive oil, sweet and tangy Balsamic vinegar, pasta gnocchi, chocolate, Parmigiano Reggiano and La Tur cheeses and Crostini crackers.

Meat Lovers $100:

All things carnivorous including local artisan salame, duck leg confit, smoky pastrami, Spanish chorizo, creamy pate’ cornichon pickles, mustard and more.