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Saturday 27 April 2013

Field trip to the Cheeseboard

Anyone who's visited us here in Berkeley will know that I'm a little obsessed with local bakery/cheese shop/pizza place The Cheeseboard. You'll know this as I've surely dragged you there to try something delicious! If you haven't visited us yet just remember that I will be taking you there when you do.

Well, Ava and Lola are pretty keen on The Cheeseboard too. They know that Thursday is Asiago Schtick Day (our favourite day of the week), that every day is a good day for bialys and zampanos and that you can't have enough garlic olive oil on a pizza. Mmm... I'm making myself hungry just writing about it!

Imagine Ava's surprise when she found out that her Kindergarten class would be going on a field trip to The Cheeseboard. It seems to be field trip season at school at the moment. A few weeks back Ava's class visited the local fire station, they're off to see a performance at a nearby theatre next week, the local library the following week and they have a field trip to Crab Cove on Alameda Island coming up. Ava has been pretty excited about all of these field trips but by far the one she was looking forward to the most was their visit to The Cheeseboard.

Ava's crazy class after their field trip to The Cheeseboard

Well, Thursday was the day. Lola and I tagged along with Ava's class as chaperones - or chaperone and little helper! It was Asiago Schtick Day after all and we needed to visit The Cheeseboard to get our fill. Why not help out with the class field trip at the same time?

Ava's class started their visit to The Cheeseboard with a stop in the pizza restaurant side of the business. Here they learnt a little about the basic ingredients of the pizza dough and some of the toppings. After putting on clean aprons the class moved to the kitchen where they were each given a piece of dough and shown how to form it into a pizza base. The kids had so much fun bashing at the dough with their palms (or fists!), shaping it with their fingertips and attempting to stretch it by lifting it up and spinning it. Some of their attempts resembled actual pizzas, others not so much. They all had fun though and that's what they were there for.

Learning a little about the ingredients

In the kitchen getting messy with flour!

Here comes the dough

Squish it out with your fingertips

Starting to look like pizzas

Some of the kids did a really good job at making their pizza bases big

Being shown how to spin the pizza dough into shape

Keep spinning it!

The Cheeseboard's pizzas are incredibly popular and a favourite for lunch or dinner for Berkeley locals. Only one pizza variety is made each day which greatly speeds up the service and helps to maintain the quality of the pizza. At peak times the queue for Cheeseboard pizzas can stretch out the store and well down the street. I was originally put off by the long queues but quickly discovered that because there is only one type of pizza available the queue moves rather quickly. Apparently on week days the Cheeseboard makes around 700 to 800 pizzas. These are sold hot and ready to eat (dine in or take out) through the pizza side of the store, or cold to heat at home through the bakery/cheese shop side. On a busy Saturday they can make around 1,200 to 1,300 pizzas. That's a lot of mozzarella!

From the pizza kitchen we moved on to another part of the kitchen. Here the kids saw the giant mixers that are used to mix the dough. They were all pretty impressed by the largest mixer that uses a hydraulic lift to tip the finished dough out. They also learnt about the "starter" which is used in all the sour dough breads. The bacteria used by the Cheeseboard in their sourdough starter is Lactobacillus sanfranciscenis. Phew, what a long name! While you may struggle to pronounce the name, you may notice that it has San Francisco in it. That's because the bacteria used in the best sour doughs is native to the San Francisco Bay Area. Ok, so bakers of sour dough in other areas may disagree that it's the best ;) Anyway, the starter used at The Cheeseboard has been "alive" for more than 30 years. While I found this quite fascinating I actually think that most of the kids were a little grossed out by the idea of their bread containing something that was both alive and over 30 years old! They weren't too keen on the smell of it either!

The kids enjoyed watching the mixing bowl lift up

...And several hundred pounds of dough lands right here where you're all standing!

Not so keen on smelling the sour dough starter

What the kids did like the smell of was the walk in cheese storage fridge. I didn't get a chance to look inside but according to the kids there was an awful lot of cheese in that giant fridge.

From here we moved out into the store where the kids checked on the cheese on display for sale, and I stocked up on asiago schticks for the day.

Mmm... cheese!

I'll have some brie please

It was then back to the pizza restaurant side of the store for some lunch. You'll never guess what it was... that's right - pizza! Yummy, yummy pizza with long stretchy mozzarella and loads of garlic oil. Luckily there was enough for the chaperones too!

Mmm... cheesy pizza

Still more questions about pizza to be asked

Ava on her second slice

Then we were back on our way to the classroom. It was a school day after all and the kids probably did need to learn something other than how to make pizza bases! Before heading inside they stopped for a class photo. It seems that everyone was feeling a little silly so the class photos came out a little silly too. I love these shots!

Ava's class
Ava's class

What a fun day of school!


  1. Found you on cup of jo's fb. Always nice to find blogs where you can get fun kid activity ideas. Love Cheeseboard.

    1. Thanks for stopping by!
      There's always so much fun stuff to do with kids in the Bay Area. We love to get out and about exploring what this wonderful area has to offer.

  2. What a fun excursion! Looks like they had a blast. I guess you'll be getting pizza made for you by busy little hands at home in the next few days:)

  3. Looks like a great way to teach kids about food...love Ava's look when you took her pic though..."Muuum, eating here!" - K


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