Archive for April, 2011
Sporting vibrant red coats with black spots, ladybugs are as enchanting as they are vital to sustainable farming. They are perhaps best known for their ability to ward off pesky aphids from devouring valuable crops. This is one of the sustainable methods used by Mariquita Farm, which takes its name from the Spanish word for “ladybug”. Mariquita is an organic operation located in Watsonville, CA, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco, and their greens, lettuces, peppers, berries, and more are a constant fixture of our produce section. They’re an incredible source for Italian varietal vegetables throughout the year.
Among the wonderful bounty of their harvest right now is rapini, a bitter green in the broccoli family. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is a time for cleansing and preparing for the warmer summer months (or in our case, cool and foggy months). Bitter foods like rapini stimulate the gallbladder to produce bile, which acts to cleanse the body of toxins.
As a part of our Spring menu, we are using organic rapini from Mariquita Farm in our Orrecchiette Pasta Salad, now available in the deli. Serve with pasture-raised chicken or wild Alaskan Halibut for a real treat! We also have rapini available in the produce department if you’d like to cook some up at home.
And while you’re chowing down, remember to thank those little red bugs!
On the second Sunday of each month* at 5 PM, the quiet that descends on 18 Reasons is sudden, slightly electric, and yet calmly happy. During the proceeding half hour, moms, dads, couples, friends, and eager cooks have happily clambered into 18 Reasons, arms full of soup, braises, curries, breads, salads, and the occasional dessert. They have each set their offering (a continuum from vegan to meat loving dinners) out on our table, said hi to familiar faces and introduced themselves to new ones, announced what they’ve made, and then, quick as anything, swapped out their meals for those of four others. Arms now loaded with a completely new bounty, each person has trotted back out the door, gone again for another month. All that is left is that air, charged with the vibrancy of the 12-15 cooks.
Our monthly “SWAP: Homemade Family Dinner” is, hands down, one of my favorite events at 18 Reasons. Though only a quick 30 minutes, SWAP manages to engender each of the core principles of our organization. It brings people together to share food and meet each other. It requires that people cook meals from scratch but holds no expectations for fancy ingredients or laborious cooking preparations. But it also doesn’t penalize if someone wants to get a little creative with their kitchen acrobatics. It asks that people think about others, since it will be other bellies that are nourished by the meal they are making. It helps people put good, honest, homemade food on the table even when schedules are furiously hectic. It suggests that if we plan ahead and work together as a community, we can eat well all of the time.
Here are some photos from our most recent SWAP, which is co-hosted by A Little Yumminess, a blog written about kid friendly foodventures in the Bay Area. Anyone is welcome, and our definition of family is broad, so come join us next month! More information is available on our website.
* May only SWAP: Homemade Family Dinner will be on the third Sunday of the month at 3:30PM. In June we will return to our normal second Sundays at 4:30.
The 2011 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco was an event that I will never forget. It’s always a pleasure when I run into one of my favorite California olive oil producers, Joe Bozzano of Bozzano Olive Ranch. The last time I saw Joe was at his beautiful olive ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. It was quite an experience, and our encounter at the Fancy Food Show was no different. I had the opportunity to try one of his newest creations, an olive oil made from 100% organic Bosana olives. The Bosana olive is the main cultivar of olive grown in Sardinia. Premium Sardinian olive oil is nearly impossible to find here in the U.S. In addition to that, Sardinian olive varietals are rarely grown in California.
Joe Bozzano’s Sardinian style extra virgin olive oil blew me away. As soon as I opened the bottle, I was amazed at how fragrant the oil was. Vibrant notes of apple and fresh cut flowers flourished as I put the sample to my nose. When I tasted the oil, it had a pleasantly strong fruit intensity, while staying incredibly well-balanced. The texture is very fluid and buttery, with notes of artichoke and fresh garden herbs. The finish is slightly spicy with notes of mint.
Joe told me this olive oil was available in limited quantity, so I was flattered when he gave me the opportunity to purchase most of the oil and put Bi-Rite’s name on the label.
We partnered with our trusty graphic designer Arin Fishkin to create a special Bi-Rite label for this new addition to our line of products resulting from partnerships with our producers. Voila, our Bi-Rite Sardinian Style Extra Virgin Olive Oil is on the shelves! At $14.99/500 mL bottle, this may be one of the best values in good olive oil that you will find. Not surprisingly, lots of staff have already grabbed a bottle to take home for their pantry.
The moment our fish team had been waiting for came to pass this week when Greenpeace’s updated seafood sustainability scorecard ‘Carting Away the Oceans’, was released. We were recognized as one of the most sustainable seafood retailers in the USA!
With a score of 87%, we’re the second highest scoring retailer in California (after Sacramento Natural Foods, kudos to them!) and above Safeway (65%), Whole Foods (62%) and Trader Joe’s (45%). More than anything, these low scores from national retailers show us that we still have a long way to go to ensure the American public is protecting our fisheries and environment as much as needed.
More importantly, we’re proud to have partnered with our guests and suppliers to improve our score by 10 percentage points from last year’s score of 77%. We did this by pledging not to sell several kinds of fish that we learned weren’t being caught sustainably. Even though many of our guests missed some of their favorites, they were excited to try the sustainable alternatives we found. The greatest mark of success, and the most encouraging for other retailers unsure of the economic impact on sourcing more sustainable fish options, is the fact that our seafood sales increased by 20% this past year. This is a true sign that consumers want to know where there food comes from, how it was sourced and the impact it has on the environment. One thing we know for sure, casting a wider net is not always best.
Here are some of the species we’ve pledged not to sell:
- Farmed salmon (both from our fresh seafood case and our house smoked salmon)
- Yellowfin tuna (our grocery team took the canned version off of our shelves, too)
- Trawl caught rock cod
Sustainable alternatives that we are excited about:
- Wild Alaskan salmon
- Albacore tuna
- Farm raised California trout
- Sardines and Squid caught locally
Part of our commitment to sustainable seafood involves partnering with FishWise, a non-profit focused on improving the sustainability of seafood retailers. They created this chart depicting how various SF retailers are doing on the spectrum:
Silky soft white blocks
So many ways to prepare
Tofu is delish!
-Haiku by Sara Bloomberg
A part of many Asian cuisines, soy has entered the American kitchen full force- from soymilk to tofu to edamame and beyond! And it’s not just for vegetarians… In fact, our custom of using it as a replacement for meat and dairy products is quite modern.
Traditionally, soy complemented the rest of a meal- it wasn’t considered the main course. But making soy products, such as tofu, is still rooted in traditional methods and we are lucky to have an artisanal producer, Hodo Soy Beanery, in our backyard.
Deriving its name from Chinese characters that mean “good bean”, Hodo is based in Oakland. They use certified organic soybeans from a family owned cooperative in the Midwest and pride themselves on creating small batches of fresh products. For a deeper look into Hodo’s production ethos, watch this clip on youtube.
Here at BiRite, we’re featuring Hodo Soy Beanery’s tofu in our Forbidden Rice Salad, part of our new Spring menu available in the deli. It’s made with tantalizing Forbidden black rice, sumptuous Hodo tofu and crispy green pea sprouts, all tossed in a ginger-rice wine vinaigrette. It’s vegan friendly and delicious on it’s own! But would also go well with stir fried sugar snap peas and slices of seared pork tenderloin. Add some phó and sake and let the feast commence!