Last night around 7 p.m., I got off at the 16th Street BART station and headed down Valencia Street to meet some friends for a bite to eat. Past Locanda and Bar Tartine, which were just filling up, past other restaurants that were just dead empty, and then on the horizon, I saw an actual wait for a table, with people milling around. Lo and behold, it was at Mission Cheese, my dinner destination.
The latest addition to the Mission District (this is now a standard preface for half of the stories I write for 7x7), Mission Cheese feels more restaurant, less cheese shop. Inside, chalkboard walls are decorated with sheep drawings and a small menu of the day. A bar, behind which are refrigerated cases of cheese for sale, is tiled in shocking yellow. It's hard to peel your eyes off it.
Mission Cheese is not a touch-and-smell setup as much as a a point-and-buy. The cheese selection is all-American, with a selection from cheesemakers from Vermont to Wisconsin to, of course, California. But on a Wednesday evening, I didn't see anyone picking up cheese to bring home. Most everyone was enjoying glasses of wine with cheese flights, pressed cheese sandwiches on Della Fattoria bread, and macaroni and cheese with bread crumbs. (Late-nighters, be forewarned that Mission Cheese closes at 8 p.m.)
I asked the adorable owner Sarah Dvorak a few key questions:
Top three cheeses right now?
1. "Sumi from Goat's Leap Dairy in Saint Helena for it's beautiful simplicity. It's deliciously creamy with just the right amount of salt."
2. "Capriago from Bohemian Creamery. The wheel we have right now has a perfect, smooth texture, the paste has this great sweetness on the finish, almost like cotton candy, and the rind adds a great earthy balance."
3. "Last but not least, Tilston Point from Hooks Cheese Co. in Wisconsin. It's a funky washed-rind blue cheese. I love simple, but I swoon over funk. It adds a great earthy balance."
Favorite cheese and wine pairing?
My favorite general pairing is a delicious blue with a Sauternes or something similar like Vinferno from Bonny Doon. My favorite pairing in the shop right now is probably our pale pink rose and Kunik, a goat and Jersey cow triple cream.
What do you think of beer with cheese?
I love beer & cheese! My stance is, in general, it is easier to pair cheese with beer. Hands down. However, when you find a good wine & cheese match...it is pretty blissful.
Best mac 'n' cheese cheese?
I think it needs a combo of cheeses. You need a melter like Cowgirl's Wagonwheel, or Comte. And a sharp-salty-earthy component. My favorite now is Fiscalini Clothbound Cheddar.
Mission Cheese, 736 Valencia St. (at 18th), 415-553-8667