Eating cheese in San Francisco can be more than just an exercise in indulgence, as we've learned from two recent meals designed to offer a crash course in the, um, culture of cheese through exploring commonalities as well as differences.
Mission Cheese offers flights ($12) of three cheeses that are divided by region; current options include California, Midwest, Vermont, and "Monger's Choice." The flights are accompanied by crostini, pickled vegetables, and fruit (apple or fig). The selections change daily, so there's always an opportunity to learn about new varieties. When it is brought to the table, you'll get some passionate descriptions akin to the recommendations behind the cheese counter at Rainbow Grocery (or in front of the CDs at Amoeba Music, to make a non-edible comparison).
Bluestem Brasserie features a seasonal cheese board ($16) consisting of five cheeses from around the world, unified by a single theme. For the next two months, the restaurant is showcasing cow's milk cheeses from France, Ireland, Italy, Washington, and California, each paired with crostini and a different accompaniment such as pickled watermelon rind, green grape mostarda, and honey gelée with a nut and seed brittle. The selections range widely from Camembert to blue, though they're all cow's milk based, which provides an enlightening experience as to the diverse potential of dairy.