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Archive for February, 2011


Santee and the Winter Sun

Fog on the bridge to Sonoma

Over the past few winters, I’ve headed up to Sonoma to escape the city fog and to see my gardens covered with weeds enjoying the hot North Bay sun!  My only plan this past Sunday was to measure the dimension of the fields, so that I could start my crop plan for the spring.  When I arrived in Sonoma, I was fortunate to get some time in the fields with Sam, Bi-Rite’s owner and most passionate farmer. Sam loves to eat veggies at all stages of growth–he’ll take a bite from the time baby lettuce is sweet and tender, to the hot days of the summer when it turns bitter. Sam always finds pleasure in the different flavors that come throughout the grow season.

This is our second season growing asparagus and we’ve yet to harvest one spear!  However, these 3 yr old crowns from Maine finally shot up a few spears this weekend.  With this spring-like winter, most the crops in the Bay Area are ready to grow and local asparagus will probably be on our tables very soon.   Asparagus spears just shoot out of the ground in about a day’s time, and there is nothing as sweet and tender as homegrown asparagus freshly harvested. We have only a few beds of asparagus on our  Sonoma plot, so it will probably never make it to the shevles of Bi-Rite; rest assured each spear cut will be enjoyed to the fullest!

By far the most amazing part of this beautiful day was when Sam and I headed over to our new one acre farm plot to take some measurements. Half of the the acre is coverd in a soil-building cover crop and the other half has a bunch of overgrown beets, flowering brassica plants and over-weeded green garlic. To my surprise a couple rows of Santee purple sprouting broccoli that i had planted back in late August was now starting to produce florets. I couldn’t believe it– I had given up on this crop and thought I planted it too late in the season! Luckily, the warm weather of January and February got the plants back on track.  First thing that came out of Sam’s mouth was, “Eddy can use it!” Eddy is Bi-Rite’s head chef, who loves surprise 75 lb harvests of purple sprouting broccoli randomly dropped in his walk-in cooler. Please come by the market one of the next few nights and see how the Bi-Rite cooks whip up the Santee and serve it in the deli.

Dessert Art

Josh at the Creamery has recently joined the iphone set, and quickly found out about instagram, the new rage in sharing iphone pics. Combine that with hours spent around gorgeous cakes, cookies and ice cream sundaes, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing a LOT of pictures to drool over coming down the line! (He’s got a good little library going on the Bi-Rite Creamery facebook page, which I recommend you “like” today.)

For now, I give you his take on our White Chocolate Cheesecake (it has a chocolate crust and a crown of raspberries) snapped right before they wheeled it over to the Market for sale. There are a handful of these (sized to serve 4-6) left for any of you who are reading this before you head home from work and need to grab the perfect finish to your Valentine’s dinner.

If you want to see the other gorgeous Creamery desserts for sale at the Market (Double Chocolate Tartlettes brushed with gold, Vanilla & Chocolate Mini Valentine’s Cupcakes, or the Chocolate Silk Pie with Malted Whipped Cream, to name a few) I recommend you get to the Market to see them in person–Josh hasn’t gotten those on film yet, a man’s gotta make a living too!

A new arrival from Croatia

Cheese might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Croatia, but I’m beginning to think it should be!  We’ve just received our first wheels of Paski Sir, a Croatian sheep’s cheese made on the windy island of Pag.

It’s really quite different than any other cheese that I’ve tasted.  Paski Sir has a tropical quality in the nose, like pineapple, that gives way to bright, fruity notes that are complimented by a rich roundness, so characteristic of sheep’s milk cheeses.  The cheese also has a distinct and pleasantly salty nature, that keeps its complex flavors well-balanced.

It is great to snack on by itself but would also be great shaved into a winter salad.  Come by for a taste!


This Valentine’s day, Say “I Love You” with Lamb

Before Hallmark and DeBeers, what we know as Valentine’s Day may have been a pagan festival about purification and fertility. There are a few potential origins for our modern celebration of chocolate, roses and hearts, including the Roman festival of Lupercalia.

Observed from the 13th-15th of Februarius, special priests called Luperci, or “brothers of the wolf”, donned nothing but goat skins and would sacrifice a couple goats and a dog to two entities: Lupercus and Lupa. Also known as Faunus or Pan, Lupercus was the Roman god of the shepherds, an important figure for ancient Roman farmers. Lupa was a she-wolf who nursed orphaned twins Romulus and Remus (the future founders of Rome). Like all great sacrificial ceremonies, a feast ensued! (source: http://en.wikipedia.org)

Let us honor Lupercalia in a modern fashion by celebrating local ranchers while enjoying the company of our loved ones this Valentine’s Day. Try braising a goat shoulder from Marin Sun Farms or roasting some leg of lamb from Pozzi Ranch, both humane and sustainable operations just north of San Francisco and available at our Deli counter, while supplies last.

In love but in a rush? Pick up one our famous Shepard’s Pies, a delicious combination of house-made beef or lamb stew topped with fluffy garlic mashed potatoes, only $8.99/ea in the deli. It’s a win-win! And remember to give Fido a kiss and some tasty scraps, too. Even dogs know that Lamb = Love!


Keepin’ it Short & Sweet

If you were in the store last Thursday or yesterday, you might have noticed a herd of short folks parading through the store (sorry if we got in your way!). Both last week and this Patrick and I visited the Children’s Day School first grade classrooms (just up the street on Dolores) to talk to the students about what we do here at Bi-Rite Market. The following day, each class came to the market for a visit.

A sea of bright-eyed wonder is the only way to describe their engagement and interest in everything from the wall of citrus in produce, to the giant whole trout in the fish case, and especially to the cryovac machine in the back (thanks, Caballo for showing it off!) I was most amazed by the incredibly precise and probing questions their minds came up with. Here are some of my favorites:

“Does your food come from close by, far away, or do you grow it on your roof?” (Answer: All three!)

“How do you decide how much to charge for the food?” (Answer: What a complex concept! We have to consider how much to pay for the item so the person who produced it can stay in business, how much we have to charge in addition to keep the market running, and of course how much our guests would be willing to pay.)

“Why do you have so many kinds of fish?” (Answer: Because everyone’s taste is different and fish, believe it or not, is just as seasonal as fruits and veggies!)

And my all time favorite comment by one of our little observers:

“It seems like you just get the good stuff for people, instead of the bad stuff.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. Thanks for your attention and awesome questions, guys!


St. Patrick’s Day Menu 2011

Available Monday, March 14th through Thursday,  March 17th

From our Deli Case

Mustard and Dill Baked Salmon Filet $9.99 / each

Colcannon Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage and Leeks $5.99 / lb

Guinness Braised Marin Sun Farms Beef Stew $8.99 / lb

Our Own Ready-to-Serve Five Dot Ranch Corned Beef Brisket $14.99 / lb

Pozzi Ranch Lamb Shepherd’s Pie $7.99 / each

Potato, Bacon and Cabbage Soup $4.99 / each

Traditional Boiled Vegetables $4.99 / lb

From our Butcher

Five Dot Corned Beef Brisket $ 7.99 / lb

From our  Creamery Bakeshop

Irish Soda Bread $5.99 / each

Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake $12.99 / each

Lime Pies $18.99/ large or $9.99/ small

Beer special: Guiness 15 oz. 4-pack, $7.99

Find the recipe to make corned beef at home in our March 2010 Newsletter

DIY Desserts at 18 Reasons

Greetings from 18 Reasons! I wanted to share a fabulous blog post from Irvin Lin, who co-leads our monthly bakers’ social hour,  DIY Desserts, with fellow dessert lover Melanie Duve (Melanie’s Blog).  Irvin writes the baking blog Eat The Love and he describes last month’s event with such verve and joy that I couldn’t keep it to myself.  He sums up why 18 Reasons hosts DIY Desserts perfectly. Here’s an excerpt and a link to the full post (which includes photos of DIY Desserts and a killer genoise boysenberry cake recipe):

“Once a month, the amazing 18 Reasons, a community space affiliated with BiRite Market, holds a DIY Dessert evening where they invite people from all over the San Francisco Bay Area to stop by and bring a dessert based on that month’s theme. I’ve been co-hosting the DIY Desserts for the past couple of months and the awesomeness that has occurred there is nothing sort of amazing. This past January’s theme was no different with their New Year’s “Make Something New!” theme where they challenged bakers to bring something they had never made before (good, bad, ugly).  . .

. . . Tart sweet lemon shaker bars, and tangy plum balsamic jam bars were a great treat to munch on, while  whoopies pies totally brought back childhood nostalgic memories. Well, someone’s childhood nostalgic memory, as my childhood memory was of red bean paste desserts and pineapple cakes, but you know what I mean.  . . And then there’s Suzie who showed up with cake she dubbed “Rum Disaster Cake” because she had a problem unmolding the cake from the pan. I LOVED that she showed up with a cake full of personality, named it the “Rum Disaster Cake” and owned up the fact that not every cake looks perfect. What matters most is how it tastes, and this cake was a winner. Moist and wonderful with tropical coconut and boozy rum flavors married together for an awesome dessert delight.

. . .  I had a chance to sample some ridiculously good desserts as well as meet some awesome people, which is really what the DIY Dessert event is all about. Meeting local bakers and dessert lovers and eating desserts! Don’t you wish you could be there? If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area you can! It’s the second Wednesday of every month at 18 Reasons.”  Full post here.

Thanks, Irvin for being so ridiculous and awesome yourself. And for spreading the love.

DIY Desserts takes place on the second Wednesday of every month from 7-9PM at 18 Reasons.  Come join us – we welcome all bakers of all levels!


The Case of the Red Wattle

Drawing by Sara Bloomberg

“You are what you eat!” It’s an old adage that encourages us to make healthy choices about the food we consume. A donut? Or a banana? One will give you energy and the other will slow you down. But for a pig, such decisions are irrelevant. No, I’m not talking about someone who stuffs their face with processed junk. Hogs will slop down just about anything. And for the Red Wattle, what they eat determines the experience our taste buds have when we grill up a chop.

While most pork consumed in the U.S. is the result of many years of selective breeding for qualities that are prized for mass production and a standard flavor, many small farmers have preserved so-called “heritage” breeds, including the Red Wattle which has come close to extinction, except for the efforts of passionate farmers who raise them.

Heritage breeds all maintain unique qualities such as markings, sizes, fat content and flavors- just like the heirloom tomatoes we go crazy for during the fall. Unlike the short local tomato season, pork can be enjoyed year round. We are proud to carry Red Wattle pork from Heritage Foods USA, a collective of small farms in the Midwest using natural, humane techniques for raising livestock. Try one tonight and see what flavors you can detect… Maybe sweet corn? Or nutty wheat berries? Wait a minute, is that chocolate cake? Well, maybe not.

Bon appetit!
Sara  (from the Deli!)

P.S. Right now we’re carrying Red Wattle Heritage Porterhouse Pork Chops ($8.99/lb) and Red Wattle Heritage Center Cut Pork Chops ($10.99/lb)

P.P.S. To read more about the Red Wattle breed, visit Heritage Foods or Slow Foods USA.


Join us in supporting the right kind of seafood practices

I’m proud to say that as of last week, our Greenpeace score reached 87%–the second highest score amongst any FishWise partner retailer!

You  might have recognized the photo of our fish case in the great SF Magazine article on the new wave of knowledge in sustainable fishery practices. We’re inspired by what Kenny Belov of Fish Restaurant in Sausalito is doing to influence how restaurants make their fish sourcing decisions.

Recently, as part of our work with FishWise, we signed on to a number of online petitions with the aim of improving ocean health and promoting sustainable seafood. Below is a brief summary of each of the initiatives we now support. Join us in supporting the right kind of seafood practices!

Petition to Protect River Herring and American Shad from Ocean Bycatch

The populations of these fish are at historical lows primarily because they are being caught as bycatch in squid and mackeral fisheries and discarded at sea. Offer your own support here

Petition to Stand Strong on Rebuilding U.S. Fisheries

The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides scientifically sound, sustainable fishery requirements that benefit fishermen, seafood lovers, the ocean and its fragile ecosystems. We want to make sure the legislation remains as robust as possible. Offer your own support here

Ask Politicians to Tackle ‘Pirate’ Fishing

Pirate fishing, the illegal, unregulated and unreported catch of fish is a serious problem worldwide. We want to support the development of a global record of fishing vessels. Offer your own support here

Support the Development of Marine Protected Areas in Southern California

The California coast is very dear to us and the introduction of marine protected areas will ensure that it is fully preserved. Offer your own support here

Support Responsible Aquaculture

Fish farming, or aquaculture, now accounts for more than 50 percent of the world’s seafood consumption. We now have an opportunity to pass strong national fish-farming standards that will protect our vast and valuable ocean and the wildlife and people that depend on it. Offer your own support here

Wasting food- sounds simple, but we keep doing it.

Have you heard about the simple thing we can all do to REALLY help the environment (let alone our pocketbooks)? Throw less food away! Less glamorous than driving a car fueled by cooking oil, or even composting, being mindful of the food we don’t end up eating is something we all need to do a lot more of. It might be as simple as shopping for groceries more often so you don’t buy as much, which means less food goes bad in the fridge. Or this idea can extend to eating all parts of an animal, not just the classic popular cuts.

We’re excited about American Wasteland,  a book that came out last Fall (you’ll find it for sale in our book section). This article in NY Times gives a good overview of some key ideas from the book.

Post a comment about what you’re doing personally, or with your family, to waste less!