polly-o cheeseplate...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


i went out to dinner the other night, first time in a while. i felt like eating steak, but didn't feel like cooking one myself. this lovely (sarcastic) island that i live on has a steakhouse that people actually come to from off the island; i'd heard good things. "steaks'r'us" as we'll call it, does good business all year round on an island that is mostly deserted in the off season. i'd only ever been there for drinks, and never to eat, so i figured it was time to give it a try. i went in with two friends of mine, both happen to also work in the industry. we had a few cocktails at the rawbar while waiting for our table, no complaints there. the oysters were great, and the shrimp was not previously frozen. we get to our table and order a cheeseplate while we were checking out the menu deciding on our entrees. the cheeseplate was described by our server as having on it- (i wrote this down on my napkin as soon as the server walked away because i thought it was so funny) "smoky gouda", "salty manchego", "stank blue cheese", and "a special for tonight, fresh mozzarella handmade by the chef". cool, sounds good, and it's all served with grapes and fig preserves and pita crisps. i was excited for this cheesplate, we all were. now although this combination of cheeses is not exactly a combo that i would put out together, they are all great in their own right...you'll see why later. read on my friend, read on... so it comes out. very nicely presented on a wooden cheeseboard, that happens to have a star shaped burn mark on it from being left on a gas burner, but we didn't see that til we finished the plate.
the gouda: was indeed "smoky" as our server so cleverly stated, and was very delicious. a bit nutty, and paired very well with the bottle of 1999 backsberg estate cabernet merlot that we were drinking from south africa. (we later found out that this "smoky gouda" was actually old amsterdam gouda from holland. A )
the manchego: i don't know that the term "salty" would be in any part of the description that i would have used to describe this cheese, but again a great cheese. a bit tangy and very creamy and delicious with the fig preserves. (this, we later found out was queso manchego from cuenca, spain. A again)
the blue cheese: "stank", although a term i might expect a chef or cook to use to describe blue cheese is not, in my opinion, a word that a server should be using to describe any item on a menu. unless maybe you're dining at dick's last resort. as soon as the girl said the word "stank" i immediately thought of a nasty hooker, call me crazy. although it was good for a laugh, the blue cheese turned out to be great. very creamy and naturally pungent, i guess would describe it best. not over powering, but strong flavored. excellent with the green apple slices on the cheese plate. (again, this turned out to be an A cheese. great hill raw milk blue cheese from massachusetts.)
the mozzarella: without a doubt the most laughable part of the evening. before i start, let me say this- mozzarella is not traditionally a cheese that you would see on a cheese plate unless it's smoked or you're at an italian restaurant; nothing on the plate would compliment the "fresh mozzarella" and almost semmed like an afterthought. but nonetheless, we thought maybe this chef was trying something new, making fresh mozz and figured he would throw some on to the cheese plate to get some reactions. it's all good. until we tried it. "fresh"??? try polly-o string cheese. that's what it tasted like. the texture was NOTHING like fresh mozzarella. it looked, and turned out to be, a store bought brick of mozzarella cheese that was cut with a round cookie cutter into a cylinder and then sliced to look like slices of fresh mozzarella. i wonder if anyone was fooled. i'm sure some poor soul thought that it was the most delicious mozz they had ever eaten, as they don't know much about good cheese in these parts. thrown on a pita crisp with a little salt, it tasted like a mini ellio's pizza slice at best. (this turned out to be, thankfully, the only F for the evening.)
long story short, i got my porterhouse steak with porcini demi and broccoli souffle and was very impressed. my friends also enjoyed there steaks and had no other complaints. after finishing up and settling our bill, we left the restaurant and headed to our cars. but on the way, we stopped in the back of the restaurant for a quick smoke while we chatted. a few minutes after standing there, two guys came out of the rear kitchen door for a smoke break as well, one of which the three of us used to work with during my casino days. we went over to chat. the first thing on all of our minds was that mozzarella incident. after a brief hello and introduction to the chef, i came out and said it- "dude, what's with the "fresh mozzarella" on the cheeseplate? it tasted like polly-o." he eagerly admitted that it was. the chef made homemade mozzarella and everytime a cheese plate went out, it came back because the people said that the mozzarella was disgusting, inedible, etc. so they ran to the grocery store, the illustrious shop 'n' bag and picked up shitty mozzarella and the complaints haulted. it wasn't polly-o though, it was white rose. generic mozzarella cheese tastes better than homemade mozz to these people down here in the dirty south of jersey. the chef gave each of the three of us a ball of mozz to take home since he wasn't going to use it in the restaurant, and i must say i was impressed by it. definately better that the polly-o, excuse me, white rose. damn near, and i'm not lying here, some of the best fresh mozz i've ever had. a shame all the work went to waste for the restaurant. need i say more?

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