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Entries in goat cheese (1)

Friday
Nov112011

Wine, Cheese, Pizza – A Gastronomic Triple Play!

We are still in San Francisco. Are you with me? Good.

I had strategically planned my dinners in San Francisco around Una Pizza Napoletana. However, en-route to Una, we were sidetracked. By wine and cheese. And also these fabulous chalkboard sheep:

Mission Cheese is a tiny wine bar in the Mission district (aptly named!) of San Fran. Tiny but well stocked! Behind the natural wood bar are rows and rows of cheeses. Piled on top of each other in an orderly fashion, just waiting to be sliced up and placed on miniature cutting boards.

After some convincing (Kaz is slightly apprehensive of stinkier cheeses) we decided up on the Monger's Choice – which means we threw caution to the wind and allowed the monger to choose three cheeses that he thought we would like to eat. We were allowed to give him some guidelines (for example Kaz suggested nothing "too" stinky). We were presented with the following plate (accompanied by the selection of dried fruits, baguette slices and cornichons featured above):

The first cheese from the left was a goat cheese - smooth and silky wrapped in a leaf which gave it just a touch of earthiness.

The cheese on the right hand side was a mild blue variety. Soft for a blue, it was almost spreadable. To me, it was like butter with a kick and was my favorite. Even Kaz (stinky cheese averse) liked it.

The cheese in the middle I can't remember. This is very irresponsible food blogger behavior of me. And it could be because of this:

The Donkey and Goat Carignane from 2010. It was a recommendation from the bartender and a perfect one at that. It was a medium-bodied red with a cherry fruitiness. It also seemed like there was a touch of minerality that made it downright refreshing.

So refreshed we were, that we felt it was time for pizza.

I was living in Los Angeles at the time that Una Pizza Napoletana was located on the Lower East Side of NYC. Upon moving back to NYC, Una promptly left for San Francisco. I admit to taking it personally.

However, I was hell-bent on making up for lost time.

The scene is wide-open and airy. And very basic. This theme of simplicity is carried over into the "kitchen" which is essentially a baby blue wood-fired pizza oven in the center of the restaurant roped off by chains.

The prep table has just enough ingredients to make the following pies:

We selected the Margherita and, on the server's recommendation, the Filetti. Chef and owner Anthony Mangieri alternately wielded a long pizza peel and rocked a baby carriage from side to side. That's dedication if I ever saw it. Both to pizza and to his child.

Our Margherita arrived (also pictured above) with generous amount of tiny globs of fresh mozzarella, and a smattering of whole basil leaves all decorating a thin layer of crushed tomatoes.

I would like to begin with the crust. My description of the crust covers both pies. This is the most perfect crust outside of Naples that I have sunk my little teeth into.

Moist? YES.

A thin crispy layer dotted with extra crunchy char spots? YES.

Chewy but light and airy? Oh my yes.

Floppy but not falling apart? Indeedy.

And how about the way those blobs of mozzarella sunk made pockets in the crust (much like Homer Simpson's butt groove in his couch), creating nooks and crannies of flavor. It was like eating the surface of the moon, if the moon's terrain were moist and glazed with extra virgin olive oil.

I did find the tomato flavor a bit sweet, which I personally am not fond of. I prefer more tang to my tomatoes, so it felt a bit bland on my taste buds.

Next up was the Filetti, the easy winner of the two.

Halved cherry tomatoes were nestled lovingly in the crevices created by cheese and dough. Small pools of oilve oil collected in the around the tomatoes creating reseviors of happiness where the tomato juice mingled with the oil and the fat from the cheese.

And once again, I must draw your attention to the crust. Look at that form! I'm not sure Michelangelo ever etched anything in marble that was as beautiful as that crust.

We topped our pizzas off with two Neapolitan coffees – an espresso-like beverage, but a touch less intense.

Our beverages were served with some chocolates from Poco Dolce – a new brand for me. I became so excited by these chocolates that on a subsequent trip to Bi-Rite I raided their stores and brought home tins of the salted toffee and burnt caramel varieties.

My review would not be complete without a trip to the bathroom – for photos:

A very basic, but clean establishment, the bathroom was accented by a two pieces of framed art. These included Chef Anthony's tattoos hands forming a round of dough, and "Una Pizza Napoletana" in Copperplate calligraphy. A large vase of purple flowers offset the yellow walls quite nicely. And there were, of course, subway tiles – clean and white.

Overall Pizza Eating Experience: Heat

Mission Cheese
736 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA
415-484-6553

Una Pizza Napoletana
210 11th St + Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94103
415-861-3444