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Archive for May, 2011

Food Trucks & Healthy Eating: Nextcourse’s Veggie Fiesta is Saturday!

I wrote about our partnership with SF nonprofit Nextcourse last month after I visited the Mission High Culinary Leaders group and did some group pickle blogging. Well the Nextcourse students have been very busy, and this Saturday they’ll throw their biggest event of the year.

They’ve partnered with Off the Grid to produce the 2nd annual “Veggie Fiesta” this Saturday, May 14th. This free, family‐friendly event will transform Dolores Street between 17th and 18th into a food truck court from 11:00am to 3:00pm. You’ll be able to choose from several of the city’s most popular food trucks, which will feature signature, vegetable‐inspired menu items that showcase the best of the Bay Area’s spring produce. A portion of the food truck sales will be donated to the nutrition education program at Mission High.

In additon to the special menu items for sale at the food carts, visitors will be able to purchase a special treat that Mission High School’s Culinary Leadership Team developed as part of their nutriton education program (we’ve helped them get their hands on the raw ingredients but I’m not telling you what the treat is!), with all proceeds going towards the nutrition program. The Fiesta will also feature games and a raffle for prizes including a butchering class from 4505 Meats, a 3‐day “romance package” in New Orleans, and two round‐trip Virgin America airline tickets to anywhere in the United States.

Nextcourse, a San Francisco nonprofit that teaches sustainable food education and cooking to lower income groups, has been teaching nutrition and cooking classes at Mission High for the past five years. The “Eat UR Veggies” project introduces students to cooking with local, seasonal, fresh foods, and recruits participants with a passion for food to the culinary leadership team. The team teaches their peers about healthy eating, while learning about the culinary industry through hands‐on experiences with local food businesses.

The students involved in the program are a truly special group (I speak from the experience of working with them in the classroom and serving their peers a feast today at Mission High’s Cinco de Mayo lunch fiesta) so I encourage you to make the Mission High parking lot a stop on your Saturday stroll!

How favas won me over

I was in the dark on favas for too long. It took me a while before I contemplated growing fava beans in our Noe Valley garden, and even then I didn’t have the slightest clue about how much I would come to enjoy them. 

I have to say, I was impressed from planting the seeds all the way through harvest; fava seeds sprout and grow vigorously in the most depressing conditions, no problem!  These plants stand tall and proud through the dark and wet of winter.  Their roots add nutrients to the soil.  Their flowers and leafiness attract and provide habitat for beneficial insects.  If you let them grow to full size, they can produce large quantities of the edible beans, which have become a spring time culinary staple. Now that favas have passed the SF city garden test, I plan to have a crop in constant rotation.  I’ll plan on a big planting in October/November, and then again in the early Spring.

My favorite way to cook and eat favas is simple if you have fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme, a buttery extra virgin olive oil,  fresh picked young favas, and just a little patience.  Here’s what I do:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil

2. While the water heats up, shell 3 lbs. of mid-season favas; discard the pods (or save them to make a fava stock!)

3. Parboil shelled beans for 1 minute, then drain and immediately toss them into an ice bath for a few minutes

4. Drain again and remove their pale green skins by piercing outer skin with your thumbnail and popping out the bright green bean with a pinch

5. Warm 1/2 cup of olive oil in a shallow, heavy bottom saute pan

6. Add beans and a pinch of salt

7. Add 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped very fine

8. Add a sprig of thyme, one of rosemary, and a small splash of water (just enough to cover the beans and prevent sticking)

9. Cook at a slow simmer, stirring and tasting frequently for about 30 min, until they become completely soft, pale green and easy to mash into a puree; if needed add more water to prevent sticking

10. When the beans are done, remove herbs and mash the beans into a paste with the back of a wooden spoon

11. Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon to taste.  If the puree is still too thick or dry, add more olive oil.

Spread your bright green puree onto a piece of toasted country-style bread with a healthy shaving of Parmesan for a special springtime snack.  Or I love to leave the puree a bit chunky, crumble in some Ricotta Salata and use it as the ultimate Springtime ravioli stuffing!

As you can see, I’m sold 🙂


Si’s May Produce Update

The weather has been warming up, and May should be an exciting introduction to what is going to be a bountiful summer of local fruits and veggies!

Tasty Fruit

The excitement has started with the first round of Burlat cherries from Ed George’s Orchard in Winters, CA. The Burlat is not as sweet and firm as other varieties, but is a great way to celebrate the start of the local cherry season.  Ed also grows the Garnett cherry, often the best cherry of the season! They’ll hit our shelves by mid-May and will only last 7-10 days.

Frog Hollow Orchard in Brentwood, CA will start harvesting their organic cherries at the end of the month and continue into early July.  Hidden Star Orchard in Linden, CA got hit by a frost and lost 80% of their crop!  The larger cherry growers like Stemilt in So Cal will start harvesting on May23rd.

Local strawberries are about to go off!  Mariquita Farm, Swanton, Blue Moon, and Full Belly Farm will be our main growers throughout the summer, and we’ll try to have both the “Chandler” and “Albion” varietals in stock.  As the summer heat settles in, the flavor will improve (this also means they’ll ripen a lot quicker once picked).

Local blueberries might start coming in at the end of the month.  Hidden Star will have a great crop this year, and Mom Mogannam is fired up to start harvesting the Bi-Rite blueberries in Placerville, CA.

Most of the citrus is starting to wind down, and it’s a perfect time to go mango crazy! We’ll have extra-sweet Haden and Ataulfo mangoes for the rest of the month.

Melons are on the shelves of grocery stores all over the city. The problem is that they taste like “crunchy watery cucumbers” (in the words of our team after tasting a sample of the melons available right now). We’re patient and waiting for the flavor to improve.  We do have have organic Orange honeydews with good flavor and texture that will satisfy your melon needs.

More exciting stonefruit like peaches should be in by the end of the month.

Veggie Supreme

Peas of all shapes and sizes continue to be the hot spring item.  We’ll have yummy snow peas, snap peas and English peas for the rest of the month and into most of June.

Little Gems from Martin in Salinas continue to be the “go to” lettuce for spring time salads!

The local organic asparagus has been amazing!  Full Belly Farm and Capay Farm have been doing a great job keeping both our produce department and deli supplied with sweet and tender grass.

Local artichokes are here in all sizes and colors.  The baby purple artichokes are beautiful and delicious.

All of the unique spring veggies like ramps, morels, nettles and fiddle head ferns are still available, but will be slowly disappearing as we get closer to June.

They local veggie scene hasn’t quite picked up, but by the end of the month all the local farms will have plenty of produce to satisfy your taste buds.

Mese di Formaggio Italiano

Come celebrate Italian cheese month with us!  Every month we look forward to highlighting cheeses from a particular country or region, and May marks the start of our celebration of the bounty of Italy.  Cheeses, like traditional cooking, vary dramatically by region and we’re tried to assemble an interesting selection with a sense of place.

We’ve just cracked open some cheeses that we’re loving!

Testun al Barolo—a beautiful and striking cow and sheep milk blend from the Piedmont, based on an ancient mountain recipe.  Earthy, and fruity, this cheese is covered in Barolo must and aged for at least 5 months.

3-Milk Robiola di Langhe—another gorgeous mixed-milk cheese, this one sheep, goat, and cow, from Langhe, the agricultural heart of the Piedmont.  This creamy cheese is very representative of the region’s robiole.   Bright, tangy, with a little bit of the barn!

Robiola Rustica—think of this as Lombary’s take on the robiole.  Fans of Taleggio will notice some similarity, this small-format washed rind cheese is pleasantly pudgy with fruity, yeasty notes, and a nutty finish.

Pecorino di Pienza a Crosta Nera—ewes grazing in the famed Val’ d’Orcia produce the milk for this sweet and nutty pecorino.  Perfect with some honey and toasted hazelnuts.

Canestrato di Moliterno—a classic Southern Italian pecorino with a twist—added goat’s milk—for additional complexity.  A bolder alternative to the elegant Pecorino di Pienza, this cheese is well-suited to full-bodies, aged red wines.

And Gustosella, our favorite mozzarella di bufala, is on special for $6.50 all month!

Bees buzzing on our roof means honey’s on the way

It certainly feels like Spring here in the Mission; we’re finally selling more beverages than broths, more chips than pasta, and we just can’t keep Chicharrones around for more than a few days! The weather’s been beautiful, and we’re seeing the effects of it as our neighborhood is absolutely pulsing with energy. Another sure sign of Spring for us is the constant buzzing of bees in our back patio here at Bi-Rite. While it may make some people nervous, the moving bees tell us that we can be looking forward to our Rooftop Honey as we move into the summertime.

We’re lucky to have partnered with Robert MacKimmie from City Bees this year; he’s a talented beekeeper who has been nurturing San Francisco hives since 1996. He successfully relocated a swarm of bees onto our roof a few weeks ago (as seen in this crazy picture), and since then we’ve seen a ton of activity. Robert shared an update with me earlier this week, reporting that the bees are “building up and starting to bring in nectar,” meaning that we can expect our rooftop honey to be available before we know it. Robert excitedly told me that he’s seen more activity from his bees this year than the past several years, a great sign for our delicate local bee populations.

Robert has hives all over the city, with each location producing a uniquely flavored honey dependent on the flora surrounding the hives.  I had the opportunity to sample almost a dozen of his honeys a few weeks ago and was amazed by the striking variation in taste between the different locations.  We realized that we just had to carry his honey on our shelves, and are excited to bring in not only our Rooftop Honey, but several of his San Francisco varietals moving into the summer time. Look out for his amazing honeys hit our shelves in June!

Our book has a cover, now on to the final edits!

We’re down to the wire:  Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food book is almost done. We got to see first round galleys this week and it looks awesome. We had to increase the page count by 48 pages to make room for all of the rich information we want to share.  I am most excited about the cover, which took a lot of back and forth (who knew it would be so challenging?) but we ended up with the perfect balance of image and graphics, just enough of a teaser to lure you in. I feel it looks and feels Bi-Rite, but let me know what you think. Email me and let me know.

Last week we filmed a video about the book, which was a lot of fun. I took Melanie, a Bi-Rite neighbor, shopping in the Market and then we cooked up a recipe from the book together. Peter and Sarah from Belle Creative caught the action on film, and we all learned a lot. Stay tuned!

The next few weeks will be busy with final edits and design layouts so we can get the manuscript off to the printer by the end of May.  There is still a lot of work to do in order to have books in hand by October—which I know will be here sooner than I can blink (in the meantime, you can pre-order a copy here). Our 18th Street world will be exposed to the whole world; I’m nervous, and a bit anxious, but mostly excited to get the book out there.  It has been two years in the works, but really a lifetime if you consider that all the info included spans from my childhood to now.  The experience has been wild and has exceeded all of my hopes and expectations.

I am hopeful that Eat Good Food will inspire change, empower more people to question where their food comes from, and give them the confidence to ask more questions wherever they shop.  But more importantly, I hope you have fun reading it and get a clearer understanding of what makes us tick. We’re a nutty bunch. We’re crazy about food and are passionate about feeding people. We love what we do, have a ton of fun doing it and hope you do too.