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Archive for December, 2010


Farmed – Not Necessarily a Dirty Word When it Comes to Sustainable Seafood

The great team at Fishwise offered to help us tell the sometimes confusing story about farmed fish. We lean on Fishwise to guide our seafood purchasing decisions, and advise us on how to explain these choices to our guests. They work tirelessly towards our understanding of the ever-changing wisdom on what we should and shouldn’t be taking from our oceans, lakes and rivers. Thanks to Bill Wall for contributing the below!

Farmed vs. Wild Seafood: few issues elicit more passionate discussion amongst seafood lovers worldwide. Regardless of your views on farmed seafood – positive, negative or maybe somewhere in between– one thing is for certain:  aquaculture is only going to become more important in the future as a source of protein. In the last few years aquaculture production has greatly increased and now accounts for half of the seafood production worldwide.

Without question, some farmed seafood is unsustainable. Many of you are probably aware of the removal of mangrove forests to make space for large-scale shrimp farms in Southeast Asia. Then there’s the disease, waste and fish escape issues associated with farmed Atlantic salmon in places such as Canada, Chile and Norway.

While improvements are needed for some farmed shrimp and salmon practices, sustainably farmed seafood is also plentiful. The U.S. is leading the way in sustainable farming practices with many species such as channel catfish, striped bass, rainbow trout, oysters and freshwater prawns. All of these are ranked green “Best Choice” options on the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch listings. These species are not only sustainable in using the best management practices when farming; they’re also sustainable to our lifestyles since they’re easy to cook and taste fantastic!

To learn more about sustainable seafood, visit www.fishwise.org.

What I’m giving for Christmas

Still struggling for last minute gift ideas? Check out some of my personal favorites below, and put your shopping worries aside. Warning: if you are related to me, you might want to stop reading this post until after Christmas.

  1. For the coffee lover in your life (aka My Dad), put together an assortment of fantastic caffeine-themed goodies. My picks would be a bag of Sightglass or Four Barrel Coffee, a gorgeous Bee House ceramic dripper & filters to match, plus a magazine like Meatpaper, or Culture, to peruse while enjoying their coffee break.
  2. Not a coffee fan? Try a tea themed gift with our delicate Red Blossom Teas. They come ready to gift in beautiful red canisters. Pair that with a Bee House teapot or Red Blossom tea cup, add a jar of Bi-Rite Sonoma Honey, and you’re good to go!
  3. I find that alcohol works well as a gift for almost anyone in my family- one of my current favorites is giving a bottle of Mitchter’s Bourbon, a bottle of Carpano Antica Vermouth, and a jar of decadent Luxardo cherries. These three ingredients will make anyone into a Manhattan lover.
  4. This year, my older brother will be receiving  a pasta kit, which is perfect for sending long distance: a bag Rustichella Pasta (the Casareccia is hands-down the best dried pasta I’ve ever tried), a jar of capers, Pomi tomatoes, a generous hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, anchovies, a bulb of garlic, and a few little Baci balls to end the meal. I wrapped it all up inside a Bi-Rite cotton shopping tote, and I have to say I’ll certainly be assembling this gift again in the future. I would have also added a bottle of Olive Oil, perhaps the Katz Olio Nuovo, if I hadn’t been paying for shipping!
  5. My Grandmother always makes beans for New Years, saying they’re good luck, so she’ll be getting a copy of the wonderfully useful Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans Cookbook. I’ve also picked out a few bags of dried beans to include in the package (I’m doing the Cannellinis and the Eye of the Goat beans), plus their unique Crimson Popping Corn. I’m sure she’s going to love it.

Good luck on your gift giving, and remember to ask us if you need recommendations or help!

Have a warm and healthy holiday,


Our book is a work in progress!

Bi-Rite’s Market Manual is an aisle-by-aisle guide through the grocery store, aimed at helping the reader make better shopping decisions. More than a “what to look for” checklist, though, it also offers delicious ideas and recipes to make those ingredients shine.   

Watch the book becoming a reality! Dabney and I traveled all over the Bay Area meeting with farmers, ranchers, and fishermen and snapping their pictures for the book.

Marin County food producers from dabney gough on Vimeo.

What you should know about strawberries and pesticides

We haven’t carried conventionally grown strawberries for years because the pesticides being used to grow them are basically intentional poisoning. Nina Gold, one of our guests, recently brought to my attention some work being done to stop the use of Methyl Iodide, a particularly horrible pesticide. Nina’s SF-based group, Play Not Spray, is a coalition of parents who want their children to grow up free of toxins in their food, water and air. They’ve partnered with Pesticide Watch to get support from local grocery stores to pledge not to carry strawberries grown with Methyl Iodide. Through their Safe Strawberries Pledge, they aim to let governor-elect Jerry Brown’s administration and big agriculture know that our community demands the right to safe food–in this case, safe strawberries.

Methyl Iodide is what they use in the lab to induce cancer in animals, yet our outgoing governor just agreed to allow the use of it for growing strawberries in California. With the new approval, Methyl Iodide will be applied in Cali strawberry fields as a gas, which has potential to reach many communities and contaminate groundwater. Of course I was happy to sign the pledge–the more stores that speak out, the better; hopefully we can get Jerry Brown to reverse this decision.

As far as voting with our dollars goes, if you as the consumer decide not to buy conventionally grown strawberries, the supply will react accordingly.

Zoe’s Holiday Present

For this year’s 18th Street community art show at 18 Reasons, Sam’s daughter Zoe (age 6) whipped up her own masterpiece: a drawing of three of her favorite fruits (miyr lemen, tangren & blod oreng), and one of three favorite vegetables (fenl, carit & beet):

Bless her heart! These were too good to leave alone. So we decided they would be cute on a small scale, as gift note cards. We also figured that since these were designed by a kid, we should use them to help kids; the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco seems like a good bet. We’re just a couple blocks down from the Columbia Park Clubhouse of the Club, on Guerrero St., so we decided to donate all profits from these cards to that Clubhouse–that’s $5 per pack sold.

We partnered with our friend Arin Fishkin who does other design for us, and made them into little packs for sale at the Market. Each pack of 10 cards has 5 fruit and 5 vegetable cards, and they’re good to stick onto your holiday host gift, or have on hand for 2011….find them at the cash registers, $7.99/pack of 10. Thanks Zoe!

Pulling out all the stops for the holiday cheese course

Do you want to really impress your guests with minimal effort? Wow them with a few of the special cheeses we’ve gotten our hands on just in time for the holidays. Add some whole persimmons, pears, or apples, a scattering of walnuts or almonds, a cracker or two, and you’re ready to host! It’s fun to go European-style and serve a few cheeses after the meal to finish it right. We’re so excited to offer these gorgeous cheeses made in small batches using old style methods:

Andante Selections Reblochon Fermier—the second collaborative effort from Andante we’re lucky enough to feature.  In an effort to import a true Reblochon, cheesemaker Soyoung Scanlan has been working with French affineur J. Paccard to create a 3 pound wheel that is made with raw milk, but due to its larger size can be aged longer with good results.  This should be soft, runny and taste like the farm.

Andante Selections Beaufort Alpage—If you don’t take a moment to ask us for a taste of this cheese, we think you’re crazy. This is a subtle but extremely nuanced cheese from the Haute-Savoie that was made from summer milk of cows raised in the high pastures of the Savoie stretching over the Beaufortain, Tarentaise, Maurienne, and part of the Val d’Arly regions. It owes its creamy fruity character to the milk of herds grazing on these high Alps.

Rolf Beeler Hoch Y Brig—From the preeminent Swiss affineur Rolf Beeler, Hoch Y Brig is a mountain cheese made from cow’s milk in Canton Schwyz, Switzerland during the summer months. It is in the Alpage family of cheeses, developing its unique character from being washed in a white wine brine.

Colston Bassett Stilton—England’s classic Christmas darling from Neal’s Yard Dairy.  Traditionally enjoyed by the British around Christmas time, this blue shows very well in December, as it is made with rich summer pasteurized cow’s milk and at its peak age.


The Meatrix

In support of family farms, we bring you The Meatrix for your viewing pleasure. Visit Free Range Studio’s official Meatrix site for parts II and III of the trilogy.


The best kind of stinky

‘Tis the season to indulge–pick your poison! The adventurous in us might splurge on Black Périgord Truffles or White Piedmont (Alba) Truffles.

Truffles are fungi whose fruiting body grows underground. The plant itself consists of an extensive web of filaments so fine as to be invisible. These filaments, or mycelium, link up with the roots of certain trees and shrubs in what is called a “mycorrhizal” relationship. The fungus gets nourishment from the tree’s decomposing leaves, and the tree uses the mycelium as an extended root system to draw up nutrients from the soil.

Enough science talk, I’m starting to sound like Alton Brown. But I will say that both Black Périgord and White Piedmont truffles are extremely rare, and their aromas intense. They cannot be successfully cultivated – they only grow with certain types of trees, in a limited range of climates, and in certain soils (limestone is preferred). And their season is limited: depending on the region, they reach maturity between November and March.

The Black Périgord truffle is named for the Périgord region in France, though it can be found in southern France, Italy and Spain and still be called a Périgord truffle. Production has diminished considerably in the past century: in 1900, France produced around 1,100 tons of  this truffle; we’re now weighing in around 22 tons per year. Generally grown in Oak forests, its appearance is black with a skin that has been called both warty and diamond-like. The flesh ranges from chocolate brown to nearly black with delicate white veining.

Then we have the White Piedmont truffle or “Alba madonna” (Tuber magnatum), which comes from the Langhe area of the Piedmont region in northern Italy and, most famously, in the countryside around the city of Alba. This variety is grown symbiotically with Oak, Hazel, Poplar and Beech trees. Historically pigs have been used to track down the fruiting fungi, but more recently dogs have been trained to locate the truffles as the pigs simply eat the delicious morsels when they’re discovered– can’t say I blame them!

When it comes to handling either variety, we recommend extreme care. Avoid touching them directly with your hands–moisture makes them slimy.  To clean, use a soft, dry brush to remove excess dirt.  Store them in an airtight container, wrapped in paper towel or submerged in Arborio rice (if you do, use the rice later to make a truffle risotto!). Or leave them in a carton of eggs overnight and your eggs will absorb the heady aroma.  Keep them refrigerated, and use them within a week. At Bi-Rite, we prefer to store them for you wrapped in an unbleached paper towel, since rice will absorb a lot of the aroma.

Finally, the fun part: how to eat them?? For white truffles, keep it simple: shave them paper thin with a sharp knife or mandolin, and scatter raw slices over a simple dish like poached eggs, a plate of hot buttered pasta, or creamy risotto. While white truffles are rarely cooked, black truffles release more aroma when heated.  We recommend shaving them thin, and adding the shavings to sauces and risottos while cooking, stuffing into roulades and foie gras terrines, or cooking them with eggs, lamb, sweetbreads, seafood or poultry.

Next time you’re standing at the deli counter, ask us for a whiff of one. Or take one home to share a whiff with the ones you love. We only get our hands on them at this time of year!

Holiday Prime Rib

Grass fed and grain finished, the quality and tenderness of Five Dot beef is hard to beat.  The cows are pasture raised in Northern California, finished on California grown barley and rice, and are 100% hormone and antibiotic free.  As seventh generation family ranchers, Five Dot is committed to sustainable land management, humane husbandry practices and to producing the best tasting beef possible.

Regularly $16.99/lb, now $15.99/lb while supplies last through the holidays; order now to reserve your cut! 415-241-9760


The ribs need nothing more than a generous sprinkling of kosher or coarse sea salt and roasting until rare to medium rare (about 110 to 120 degrees). Overcooking will result in dry, less tender meat.  Be sure to let the roast rest for 20 minutes before carving to ensure more juicy slices of delicious beef.

Comments from some of our guests:

“This is how beef is supposed to taste”

“It’s delicious: rich and meaty, full-flavored and pure”

“It’s the cleanest beef I’ve ever tasted, there is no fatty or greasy aftertaste.”

Grass-fed Beef is Healthy

Grass-fed beef contains 10 times more beta-carotene than beef not raised on grass; studies have shown that it’s important for:

  • Stimulating the immune system
  • Maintaining healthy vision, skin and bones

Grass-fed beef contains three times more vitamin E than beef not raised on grass, and research reveals that it helps:

  • Prevent cancer
  • Prevent cardiovascular disease

Healthy fats—the omega-3 fatty acids—are present in three times the amount in grass-fed beef, and have been shown to:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Prevent cardiovascular diseases
  • Maintain healthy brain function
  • Prevent and slow the growth of many cancers
  • Prevent arthritis
  • Prevent and treat depression

Grass-fed beef contains three times more CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, which is another of the healthy fats and has been shown to be good at:

  • Lowering LDL cholesterol (the so-called “bad” cholesterol)
  • Lowering the risk of diabetes
  • Lowering the risk of heart disease
  • Lower the risk of many cancers

Holiday Menu 2010

Available Friday December 10th through Friday December 31st

Please pre-order at least 48 weekday hours in advance to secure your order

We are closed on Christmas day; our Christmas eve hours are 9-5

Printable Menu (two page pdf)

Our Holiday Turkey Preparation Guide includes recipes for cooking heritage turkeys and reheating holiday sides. Our Holiday Reheating Instructions will help you prepare any other items from our Holiday Menu to be served.