It's no secret that I love food in the best way. I love to eat it, cook it, smell it, think about it, talk about it, and dream about it. I often replay amazing food memories in my head over and over and over.....ok, I might have a mild obsession. But that's neither here nor there.
So, it should come as no surprise that people often ask me for restaurant recommendations when they want to dine in San Francisco or Napa. At the top of my list are Farallon in the city (but that's another story for another day) and Tra Vigne in St Helena ("Napa" for all intents and purposes). Today, we're talking about Tra Vigne, pronounced "trah-vin-yay" (thank you Bob Kilpatrick for teaching me that pronunciation! And thank you for the wine recommendation -- we've been enjoying it ever since!)
Dine on their patio. Doesn't that just look magical?
Tra Vigne serves outstanding Napa-Italian fusion style food (click here for the menu -- but be forewarned: you may attempt to devour your computer screen). I've enjoyed everything I've ever ordered here, but the true gem of the menu is not what you would expect:
It's the unassuming and humble Mozzarella Cheese "Al Minuto" antipasti.
That's right. It's just a big chunk of mozzarella cheese. Trust me on this one. This cheese will change your life.
What makes this cheese so special, you ask? Well, friends...I'm glad you asked! Tra Vigne serves this mozzarella "al minuto" which means it is handmade at the moment it is ordered. They drizzle buttery, decadent Napa Valley olive oil over the cheese, and serve it with charred bread that has been rubbed with garlic. In-cre-di-ble! They recently added optional heirloom tomatoes that come alongside the cheese.
I've dined at Tra Vigne almost a dozen times over the years, and order the Mozzarella Cheese Al Minuto every time....and am blown away by it every time. Just before that first bite, I think to myself, "It's not going to be as good as I remember." But man oh man.....it's always BETTER than I remembered.
As much as I adore this cheese, it actually took me almost four years to realize I could attempt to make this at home. I recently purchase one of these cheesemaking kits:
I read the directions online before purchasing, and they seemed pretty straight forward, so I decided to go for it! It promises delicious, homemade mozzarella in 30 minutes, and all you need to buy separately is the milk (the kit comes with everything else you will need).
Stay tuned, because I will be attempting to make mozzarella soon!