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One Potato, Two Potato… No Potato?

"Potatoes" by Sara Bloomberg

As Saint Patrick’s Day approaches, I’m reminded of the Great Irish Famine (1845-1852), during which the nation’s potato crops became diseased and a large part of the population died. Around one third of Ireland’s poorest people depended on potatoes for their survival. It was a devastating collision of environmental and socio-political occurrences.

As a Bay Area resident in the 21st century, I feel extremely lucky to live in a thriving epicenter of great food and a seemingly unending supply of it. We truly are blessed, even in this modern world, where many people continue to starve daily and good environmental policies often seem to fall victim to private interests.

So, in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day this year, throw on something green and grab some savory spuds! Fried eggs and potatoes anyone?

As far as potatoes at Bi-Rite go, the Klamath Pearls are small and great for roasting. To make some tasty mashers, try the Irish Red or Yukon Gold potatoes from Willey Farms in Madera, California. Keep your eyes peeled for the local fresh crop of potatoes, which will hopefully begin arriving to our produce section in a month or so.

Or come to the Deli and try our special house-made Colcannon-style mashed potatoes, made with cabbage and leeks! They’re available for a limited time from March 14th-17th as part of our full St. Patrick’s Day menu.

As the old children’s rhyme goes,

“One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four,

Five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes, more!”


Small Fish in a Big Sea

About 6 months ago we made pledge to go “farmed-salmon free” at the market.  Although the Loch Duart Company, the salmon farm we have been using for the past 10 years, utilizes the best practices for open water aquaculture, the risk of fish escaping, competing with and potentially contaminating wild salmon populations is too important to be overlooked. We successfully discontinued farmed salmon in our fresh seafood case when we found a direct source of wild Alaskan salmon, but had trouble adapting our smoked salmon recipe utilizing the wild fish and did not want to compromise the quality of the final product. This was a hard decision for us as our house-smoked salmon is one of the most revered items we make.  After several months of experimentation, we have finally developed a recipe using wild caught Alaskan King salmon that we are proud of.

The king salmon is a bit leaner and not as uniform as the farmed fish, but the final product is absolutely delicious and just as luscious.   The variation in each fish is a result of mother nature– different genetics, location of catch, and the natural feeding patterns of wild fish.

The one down side of the switch is that there will be a slight increase in the price.  The reason for the increase starts with the cost of the raw whole product.  Farming fish allows for streamlined production, less variable expenses in growing and harvesting, and more controlled yield and loss.  Wild fishing has many more variables (weather, fuel spent fishing, quota permits, etc… ) that affect the quantity caught as well as money spent in catching, storing and transporting the product.  The high demand for a wild caught salmon also has a big impact on the market price, especially when the season’s yield is unknown from year to year.

We hope that even though the price increased, that you would agree with us that ultimately it is more important to promote and support the most sustainable seafood possible.


Meet Mel!

The next time you’re in the Market, stop by the cheese and wine aisle and say hello to the newest member of our team, Mel Guse. Mel comes to us via Swirl on Castro and the Winery Collective where she developed a diverse set of wine interests, from European classics to cutting edge California wines. She’s also working on her level III certification from the International Sommelier Guild! Mel picked out a few items from our shelves at Bi-Rite to give us all a sense of some of the things she’s excited about.

2009 Breton Bourgueil “Avis de Vin Fort” $19.99

Cabernet Franc is one of Mel’s favorite grapes, so she selected one of the Breton Bourgueils as her first pick. “Avis de Vin Fort” means “drink strong wine” and is a play on an old French nautical phrase “avis de vent fort” (high winds warning). Presumably sailors would need to ready themselves for the impending storm with a mug of warming wine. This Cabernet Franc’s character is very much the opposite of its name sake; its delicate structure and bright fruit notes make this the perfect wine for cruising the grounds of Dolores Park instead of the stormy Atlantic. Mel loves this wine’s versatility with food, whether it’s a cheese plate or a hamburger!

2009 Aldrich Browne Syrah Mariah’s Vineyard $34.99

Mel’s second pick is a small production Syrah from the Mendocino Ridge, a series of wind-swept hills above the Pacific in Mendocino County. This is not your average blackberry jam and spice Syrah; it’s flavors actually have more in common with the Northern Rhone than what we’ve come to expect from many California Syrahs. There’s a savory, salted meat character and dark coffee notes that remind us of a Croze-Hermitage. Ask Mel about her other favorite local wines when you meet her – she’s got a wealth of great suggestions.

La Tur
For cheese, Mel can’t resist the creamy flavors of La Tur, the famous three-milk cheese from Piedmont in Italy. The combined effect of cow, sheep, and goat’s milk produces a complex layering of flavors in this bloomy rind cheese. When its fresh, it has a fluffy, cake-like texture and when ripe, it oozes creamy goodness. Mel likes to enjoy this cheese with a crusty baguette and fresh fruit – she’s confident you will too!

Register Recipe: The Bronx Cocktail

The Bronx is a variation on the martini. Created in the early 1900s, it is rumored to be invented by Johnnie Solon (who actually never drank) at the Waldorf Astoria.

1 ½ oz. gin (We recommend the 209)
¼ oz. dry vermouth
¼ oz. sweet vermouth
1 oz. orange juice (try our heirloom navels from Bernard Ranches!)

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass.

Yimin’s Pickle Blog

One of the coolest partnerships Bi-Rite has going these days is one that we forged through Nextcourse, with Eat Ur Veggies’ Culinary Leadership Team at Mission High. Kitty-corner to our Market and Creamery sits beautiful Mission High School, where the group of about 20 students are learning about the joy and social dimensions of food preparation and dining, as well as how food relates to living a healthy and productive life. 18 Reasons has partnered with this group on an ongoing project called Goodies 4 Good, where the students are enlisting the help of food business pros from 18 Rabbits,Tcho, Bi-Rite and more to bring their own healthy food item to market.

To go along with the students’ work in building their own food business, many of our Bi-Rite staff members are spending a couple hours speaking to the class about our jobs (they’ll get the full spectrum, from Chili our butcher to Anne who runs the Creamery). I shared with them the variety of my roles as Bi-Rite’s marketing manager, ending with my biggest new project, the Bi-Rite Blog. Turns out these kids aren’t new to blogging: they manage their own blog, Teens on Greens, and take turns updating it week to week. I challenged them to write a blog entry about pickled vegetables, which I’d brought in for them to snack on, and promised to post my favorite one.

I chose Yimin’s essay, which talks about the way that sharing food with her family (even if it’s food she doesn’t like!) creates special bonds. I liked how our discussion about a genre of food that most of the kids haven’t tried (pickled veggies) caused little snippets of ethnic food traditions to surface from several of the students.

Without further ado, here’s Yimin’s debut on the Bi-Rite blog:

A lot of people like pickles, but I personally don’t. It’s the way the pickles smell—vinegar, especially. There’s just something about sour things that I don’t like.

There are times after dinner when my little sister will ask for pickled veggies, like cucumbers, artichokes, and olives. I don’t see how my little sister can munch on those little sour cucumbers. Me and my baby sisters are the only ones in my family who don’t like pickles, so I’m not alone. I guess that creates a bond between me and my baby sister when the rest of my family brings out the sour-soaked veggies!

Yimin with her Eat Ur Veggies classmates and Chef Michelle preparing Thanksgiving 2010


How to Cook Meat, Bi-Rite Style

While nothing is as good as talking about a recipe for how to cook meat in person, we’ve created brochures for how to cook beef, chicken, pork and fish so you’re armed with basic how-to’s once you get home with that delicious pasture-raised cut. These brochures, download-able here as pdfs, include guidelines for cooking temperature as well as what to look for no matter what meat counter you find yourself standing in front of.

How to Cook Chicken (printable pdf) Breasts, thighs and our Meyer Lemon Roast Chicken

How to Cook Beef (printable pdf) Tips for steaks, roasts, stews, braises…including your holiday prime rib!

How to Cook Pork (printable pdf) Ribs, chops and tenderloins

How to Cook Seafood (printable pdf) Filets, steaks, small whole fish, scallops and shellfish


Getting my hands on Herve Souhaut Syrah VDP L’Ardeche Rhone

It’s not a secret I love natural wines, so whenever I get chance to taste great one, I’m in heaven. Among my favorite natural winemakers are Rene-Jean Dard and Francois Ribo, who make lip smacking Syrah from Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph. Recently, Chris Terrell, a distributor for Jenny & Francois Selections in NYC, tasted me an ‘08 Syrah  from winemaker Herve Souhaut, and it blew me away!

This wine is simply beautiful. It has a distinctive cool-climate Syrah peppery kick on the nose, and a really elegant yet supple red fruit note on the palate. All of this flavor, and under 11%  alcohol!  This elegant but aromatic Syrah reminds me of my favorite Dard/Ribo wines–not surprising since I’ve learned that Herve Souhaut studied under them early in his career. Herve Souhaut wants to interact as little as possible with the juice, so the wines are fermented with natural yeasts only and the winemaking techniques are old fashioned: no destemming, long maceration, long fermentation, no temperature control, old barrels, no chaptalizing (adding sugar to the juice), and very little sulfur before bottling.

Unfortunately, there’s very little of it made (only 2,000 cases total), a small amount gets exported to the US, and even less makes it over here to the West Coast. I was fortunate that Chris brought a small amount over from NYC for Chez Panisse and wanted Bi-Rite to be the sole retailer because he believes our guests will appreciate it. I’m happy to have Herve Souhaut wines here and hoping for more in the future!

RenéJean Dard and François Ribo

EAT GOOD FOOD: The Manuscript is In

Finally, after 16 months of writing and research, we’re done with our manuscript for EAT GOOD FOOD, the Bi-Rite book to be published by Ten Speed Press in October. I could not have come close to finishing without the help of the entire Bi-Rite team, Ten Speed and my brilliant and tireless co-author Dabney Gough.

It’s been a long process, and we’ve learned a ton connecting more deeply with vendors and producers– we’re excited for you all to read it. If you want to check in with some of our staff to see what they think, it’s in their hands right now to read through for the first time.

Over the months of writing the book I re-visited many of the farmers, ranchers, winemakers and other food producers we feature, and caught a few moments on film. Here’s a quick clip from our visit to Straus Family Creamery–you can see Dabney for a brief moment too:

Now it’s time to tackle the cover! We’re pushing for a photo-less cover (today’s norm for most books is a full bleed photo cover)– something timeless and classic, like the exterior of Bi-Rite. We want the experience of opening up the book to be like walking into the store–a burst of color with mouthwatering texture and information.

If you want to learn more about our book and how it contributes to our mission of Creating Community Through Food, reply back to this post! Or send me an email with your questions or hopes for the book.


Spring Produce Update

Don’t let the warm weather of recent months fool ya! The rainy cold weather is here, and farms throughout California are struggling to harvest their usual early spring crops. Most California crops are being harvested 2-3 weeks late due to freezing temperatures and slow growth. March is going to be a transitional month, holding us over until spring fruit (strawberries and cherries!) arrive in April.

Matt has done a fantastic job of keeping an amazing local veggie selection available. Here’s what we currently are featuring from some of the farms that always have our backs!

Mariquita: fennel, lacinato kale, orach spinach, stinging nettles, baby erbette chard, broccoli di cicco, castel franco
Martin Bournhonesque: arugula, puntarella
Happy Boy: braising mix, bunched rapini, baby carrots, red chard and yes –they’ve still got Sweet Dumpling and Kabocha squash
Full Belly: green garlic, spring onions, leeks
County Line: little gems
Capay: Romanesco broccoli
Catalan: cauliflower


Orach from Mariquita Farm: What is it, how do we cook it?

Orach is a darkly-colored, less common variety of hybrid spinach, great in salads and cooking. Mariquita Farm is not only awesome enough to give us this nutrient-rich veggie (I would bet that we are the only retail market in the city that has it!) but they also post great recipes on their website to teach their community about how to use it. Thanks to Mariquita’s hard work, we can spread the love! Here are some cooking ideas they recommend for Orach:

Recipe 1: Orach Salad

1 clove roughly chopped garlic
pinch salt
1 teaspoon (scant) dijon mustard
2 teaspoons plum jam or any other jam available
4 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Washed orach leaves

  • For the Dressing, whirl all ingredients besides the orach in a blender until emulsified.
  • Dress washed orach leaves with dressing; add other chopped vegetables as desired.

Recipe 2: Orachy ‘Green Sauce’

Green sauce is a common and age-old early spring recipe, adaptable to what you have on hand! This sauce can be a soup embellishment, a potato topper, a risotto flavoring, and more– experiment and enjoy.

2 cups orach
1 clove garlic or 1 shallot or 3 scallion bottoms, chopped fine
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste

  • Put all ingredients in a mortar and pestle or a food processor and mash/whirl until desired consistency is reached.

Orach Pasta

2 cups cleaned and lightly chopped orach leaves
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil to taste
2 cups hot cooked pasta (shaped pastas work better than long noodles)
Optional additions: roasted pine nuts or walnuts, crumbled blue or other cheese, grated parmesan

  • Saute the onion & garlic in the moderately hot olive oil (about 1-2 Tablespoons) until soft.
  • Add the greens and the salt & pepper.
  • Cook until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes, depending on how hot your pan is.
  • Mix with the hot pasta, and optional additions if you’re using any of them, and serve.