Photo courtesy of Bice
Bice cheese plate
"There's a cheese bar in San Diego and you didn't tell me?" my daughter said indignantly.
Jeez, call Child Protective Services on me.
But I can't say I blame her for getting mad. She loves cheese and likes to have it in her lunch. Good cheese, not pre-sliced American cheese and certainly not that Kraft grated Parmesan cheese that tastes like pencil shavings.
So to find out that Bice in the Gaslamp (425 Island Ave.) has a sushi bar-like set-up for cheese must have been eye-opening for her.
No wonder she was angry for not knowing about it earlier. She must wonder what other wondrous things I'm keeping from her. Let her wonder about those—we're on a cheese adventure now.
Bice is an upscale Italian place with a New York feel. Besides the white-cloth covered tables, there is a cheese bar in the middle of the dining room where a cheese sommelier discusses your cheese preferences and creates a plate to your liking.
Our guy was Kevin, who was helped by Michael, in preparing our cheese plates just right, cutting just the right-sized slabs.
The cheese plates contain three, five or seven cheeses for $18, $21 and $24, including fig bread. Additional accoutrements such as imported olives, jams or honeys are available at an extra charge.
We went for it all since I had a lot to make up for, seeing as how I had denied my daughter for so long. We added a plate of prosciutto as well. This was a good idea—the saltiness was a good palate cleanser. It came with a big dollop of locally made burrata cheese that was smooth and creamy.
I usually don't like super strong red wines because they can compete with the food I'm eating. But I was happy with the Super Tuscan recommended by the bartender.
"You'll need a strong wine to stand up to the blue cheese at the end," she said.
My daughter isn't of drinking age nor, sadly, of driving age so I stuck to one glass and she had a virgin mojito.
While we were waiting for the cheese, I soaked in the vibe of Bice. It's smooth and classy, and I really enjoyed hearing John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk playing in the background. Very relaxing. Felt cooler than my daughter thinks I am.
All of these cheeses were imported from Italy. Kevin had us eat them in an order starting with lighter cheese and ending with the strongest gorgonzola.
Although he explained the nuances of each of the cheeses, I didn't catch them all because I was too busy nom-nomming. I was impressed with the pecorinos he chose at our request because they accentuated the inherent nuttiness while downplaying the tart, puckery quality associated with it.
The lagrein, a "drunken cheese" (meaning it's soaked in wine) was delicious, and had almost a meaty flavor and a pleasant purplish rind.
My daughter and I were knocked out by the Dolce Gorgonzola at the end: It had the blue flavor without any of the ammonia essence. It was a perfect dessert cheese.
Seeing our reaction, Kevin then asked if we wanted a sample of the Verde Capra, their strongest blue cheese.
"Yes, please," said my daughter.
It was strong and full of rich cheesy flavor. So good, we just wanted to keep it in our mouths as long as possible.
"This is what happiness probably tastes like," she said. "We're coming back."
Whatever you say, dear.