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Archive for August, 2011


The Marvelous Codfish

Understanding how to salt and preserve the Atlantic Cod gave rise to an industry that fueled the age of European imperialism.  Cod fed the armies and merchant marines of the entire continent, and its production made world powers out of Portugal and Spain.  The promise of new fisheries across the North Atlantic accelerated the technology of shipbuilding as demand increased.  Soon huge fleets of fishing vessels would cross the sea towards the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and down the coast to the Gulf of Maine.  In fact, they did such a good job that as fishing technology advanced over the next 100 years, the cod fisheries of the north Atlantic had basically collapsed and with it, entire communities were devastated.

Nowadays the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Fishwise have listed the Atlantic Cod as a “red” or unsustainable choice.  And unfortunately for us, most of the high quality salt cod that is available these days is still made from Atlantic Cod.  So several months ago I went to work to better understand the process of making our own salted fish in house.  I started taking all of the sustainable white fish that we sell here at the market–pacific true cod, petrale sole, flounder and halibut–and experimented with salt content and drying times.  After getting the recipe down and product rotation into full swing, we’ve discontinued using Atlantic Salt Cod and now use only our house made product!

You can taste our house-salted cod in our brandade, available in our self-serve prepared foods case, or buy the fillets to make your own.

Chinese Knife Shaved Noodle Making, Caught on Video at 18 Reasons

This month we hosted our final noodle lab at 18 Reasons: we learned to make dao xiao mian, traditional Chinese knife shaved noodles! This was the third in our international noodle lab series, and our friend Henrik Meng captured the whole thing on film for us. Watch Bi-Rite chef Linh Phu take the class through the steps of creating these noodles from scratch as has been done for centuries, from rolling the dough to shaving it, then cooking the noodles into a hot pork soup.

In Henrik’s own words, this video is “nothing fancy, and I highly doubt that Ken Burns has anything to be worried about, but hopefully you’ll like it!  At the very least, watching it reminds me of how awesome and delicious the class and our dinner was.” Thank you Henrik for capturing the night for us!

Kiko’s Food News: 8.26.11

Slow Food USA has officially launched their $5 Challenge campaign, encouraging people across the country to cook food at home that costs no more than five dollars per person:(full story)

Federal agents organized a sting operation against a tiny raw milk buying club in Venice, CA (the Rawesome Raw Food Club-how good is that name?), arresting a club volunteer and seizing computers, files, cash, and $70,000 worth of perishable produce; how’s that for efficient use of crime fighting resources?!: (full story)

Scientists have discovered a natural preservative which could mean the end of rotting food; the substance destroys the bacteria that make meat, fish, eggs and dairy products decompose: (full story)

Federal officials rejected Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to bar New York City’s food stamp users from buying soda and other sugary drinks with them; the decision derailed one of the mayor’s big ideas to fight obesity and poor nutrition in the city: (full story)

Chicago’s O’Hare Airport has partnered with a community group to start a 2,400 square foot apiary on-site; now 23 beehives are up and running and are scheduled to yield 575 pounds of honey this year: (full story)

UC Davis, long California’s hub for agricultural learning, has just launched a sustainable agriculture major, taught by faculty from 8 different departments: (full story)

If you’re reading this from New York, please visit this store since I can’t: the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store, a health-conscious and earth-conscious grocery nestled in the hills of Harlemville, has a special labeling system for foods produced by nearby farms that maintain “ecosystem-friendly ratios of plants to animals”, and runs sleepover camps where children learn how to milk cows and make yogurt: (full story)


Wines from the Volcano: Terre Nere

Growing grapes on the slopes of one of the world’s most active volcanoes is not an undertaking for the faint of heart. But when you taste the results, you can’t deny the allure of this most dangerous of viticultural ventures. Sicily’s Mount Etna erupted for the 11th time in 2011 last Saturday and we’ve been uncorking bottles of Etna Rosso, Bianco, and even Rosato all month long! One of our favorite producers of vino dell’Etna, Terre Nere, is back in the market and tasting better than ever.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Bianco  $19.99

Celebrated importer Marc de Grazia has decided to take a shot at making his own wine from neglected vineyards on the slopes of Mount Etna. Many of these vineyards were are over 100 years old with vines that pre-dated the phylloxera disaster of the 19th century. De Grazia saw the potential in these old sites and began making wines that started a revival of this ancient wine region. His Etna Bianco is a blend of the truly obscure; Carricante, Catarrato, Inzolia, and Grecanico. You’ll discover aromas of flowers and flavors of mineral-laced white fruits in this delicious white.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosato $19.99

Normally, our allocation of Terre Nere’s beautiful rosé is claimed each year by one of our guests who absolutely adores the unique notes of cherries, licorice, earth, and minerals that this wine possesses. This year, however, we secured 5 cases and are able to put it out on the shelf for the rest of us! If you’re looking for more complexity in your rosé, this one based on the Sicilian red grapes Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccino is a must try!

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso $19.99

What makes wine from Mount Etna so special is the unique qualities of the grape Nerello Mascalese and its affinity for volcanic soils. Vines here do not need to be grafted onto phylloxera-resistant root stocks but instead grow on their own roots. Many compare the flavors of Nerello Mascalese to that of Pinot Noir, a comparison that makes sense given its ability to express the terroir of Mount Etna so clearly. This entry level red from Terre Nere shows intriguing notes of herbs, leather, red fruits, and minerals, all on a medium-bodied frame. If this piques your interest, you may want to try some of the higher-end single vineyard wines from Terre Nere; ask us, we may be able to source some for you!


A Delicate Entrant to Our Olive Oil Category

Who says good olive oil has to be grassy and peppery?  Although many people prefer that in their oil, more delicate olive oils are often overlooked.

We’re very excited to introduce our latest Bi-Rite Olive Oil.  It’s another gem created by Joe Bozzano of Bozzano Olive Ranch.  Joe runs the family business with his father and he is quickly becoming one of California’s best olive oil producers.  We’re calling this oil “California Style” because it’s an oil that suggests everyday use.  The olives used in this oil are 100% organic Coratina Olives.  The Coratina Olive is the main cultivar grown in Puglia, the southern region in Italy that forms the heel of the “boot” of the Italian peninsula.

The first thing that strikes me whenever I pour this olive oil is its alluring golden color.  The oil itself is delicate and very well balanced.  It has a buttery yet elegant texture on the palate.  It has distinct notes of sweet almonds along with very subtle notes of cherry.  It finishes with a slight touch of spice.

Our California Style olive oil is very versatile.  It will complement all foods and recipes that call for olive oil.  Apply it on salad dressings, mayo, pesto, pastas, and fish just to name a few.  Or you can do what I enjoy most: rip off a hunk of Firebrand’s Kalamata olive baguette and dip!

Tasting San Francisco Through Our New Honeys

Kyle and I are apparently very proud.

It seems that honey’s been moving up in the world, with more and more people putting in bee hives and appreciating the flavor nuances of different honeys. I couldn’t believe the headline I read today about Chicago’s O’Hare Airport installing a 2,400 sq foot apiary on their property!

On that note, we’ve found room for 5 new local honeys in our assortment.

We’re very excited to bring in honey from Bay Area Bee Company, started by a husband and wife team (Rokas and Kelli Armonas). Rokas came to the US from Lithuania and studied beekeeping under Spencer Marshall of Marshall’s Honey and decided to start his own company. They do not use any artificial products or chemicals when caring for their bees and processing their honey, and they tend to all their hives themselves. We’ve stocked three of their honeys:

  • Potrero Hill: Lighter and fruity with a hint of fennel, indicative of the flowering fruit trees and backyard blossoms in the hillside gardens of Potrero.
  • Tenderloin: Fruity with warm floral tones, expressing the diverse flora in the Civic Center and Tenderloin neighborhoods.
  • Bay Area Blend: Perfect honey for baking–more structured and well-balanced blend of SF and surrounding Bay Area hives.

Another new honey producer hitting our shelves is Robert McKimmie’s City Bees. We currently have two of his honeys:

  • Glen Park: Beautiful honey with light citrus notes and subtle flavors of vanilla and lavender. Trac says it tastes like coconut to him.
  • Potrero Hill: The darker of the two honeys, with rich notes of fennel, sage, rosemary and jasmine with subtle baking spices.

Robert is also the beekeeper who’s taking care of our own rooftop hives (which he says he’s harvesting soon, stay tuned!)

Anne and Kris

Notice Something Different in the Ice Cream Freezer?

We realized recently that even though we have a whole bunch of seasonal flavors available for just a few months throughout the year, they’ve been hiding! How can we expect you to find Earl Grey, Eggnog, Candy Cane, or Orange Cardamom when they look the same as our daily standbys??

So from now on, if you’re looking for a seasonal ice cream flavor, think yellow. All of our seasonal pints will have a yellow label both in the freezer section at the Market and in the freezer of pints for sale at the Creamery.

Right now you’ll find our Basil, Balsamic Strawberry, Olive Oil, and Peach Ginger in their new yellow coat…

Kiko’s Food News 8.19.11

A bright start to the school lunch year in Greely, Colorado, where public school food service officials attended a culinary boot camp as part of their district-wide initiative to restore the lost art of cooking in cafeterias: (full story)

Food prices could level off at the end of the year because farmers are seeing less demand for corn and are expecting a big crop; this will slow general food price inflation (since so much of food is made from corn!): (full story)

Speaking of the farmers, Mark Bittman profiled a handful of new ones that feel “the pie is getting bigger and that the more people that get into this the better it will be for everyone”: (full story)

Whole Foods has opened its first Wellness Club at its Dedham, Mass. store; members can use the reference library, take a lifestyle evaluation, or “learn how to prepare a dish — such as mango quinoa porridge — from a chef in a sleek kitchen, and then head out into the store to find, and buy, the ingredients.”! (full story)

The outbreak of illness from turkey contaminated with antibiotic-resistant salmonella is reviving a debate over whether federal regulators need to curtail the use of antibiotics in livestock. The focus now is on whether the FDA will turn its guidance for limiting antibiotic use into mandatory rules for the industry: (full story)

And meanwhile, a recent study by the University of Maryland found that poultry farms that have made the transition from conventional to organic farming have significantly lower levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventional poultry farms: (full story)

You know about Slow Food International but don’t ACTUALLY know about the projects they’re involved in? Take this home for weekend reading: their beautiful new electronic “almanac”, in Carlo Petrini’s words, “speaks about us and the land we live on: in other words, our true wealth”: (full story)


SunFed Organic Beef: Tasting the Cowboy Tradition

SunFed cowboys Chris Donati and Matt Byrne checking up on cattle and pasture in Modoc County

A month or so ago, two striking cowboys walked into Bi-Rite and captivated the staff’s attention.  Who are these guys with their ten-gallon cowboy hats, silvery belt buckles, and blue jeans?  Not the designer or skinny jeans we’re used to seeing in the Mission.  Authentic, well-worn Wranglers. Chili was looking for an organic option for pasture-raised beef and he introduced us to Matt Byrne and Chris Donati, two cattle ranchers each of whose families has more than 100 years experience raising and breeding predominately Angus cattle in Northern California.

Over a beer one evening more than a year ago, Chris, Matt, and Mike and Michelle LaGrande decided to combine resources between their three ranches in Butte, Modoc and Colusa counties, and bring to market an organic, pasture-raised and finished beef.  In the summertime, the cows graze on meadows of clover and legumes, then follow the grasses to the Central Valley, where winter rains nurture California’s oak woodlands and native grasses. By moving their cattle from small pasture to small pasture, they ensure the grass has time to produce mature seeds to provide a high quality diet for the cattle even as the seasons change.

Another good day to be SunFed cattle on the LaGrande Ranch in Colusa County

I've been talking about this salad ever since making it!

Conventional cattle that are fed a diet of corn are finished out 16-18 months after they are born.  Since these are pasture-raised cattle, it takes more than two years to mature to 1,300 pounds.   Their cattle never eat corn or any other grain. All SunFed cattle and ranches are certified organic by CCOF, meaning there are no pesticides or fertilizers on their farms and their cattle are never, ever treated with antibiotics or growth enhancing hormones. Every drop of milk, every bite of grass and vitamin the cattle receive meets the stringent requirements of the National Organic Program.

Being a country girl, I understand it takes a little longer and is more costly to raise cattle this way, but you should taste it.  After a yoga class on Saturday, I went home to make lunch.  Little gems from the Bi-Rite garden in Sonoma, blanched haricot verts, and squash blossoms dressed with a Banyuls vinaigrette. The ultimate garnish?? Seared SunFed bavette, sliced and topped with a crispy fried egg!

Marcia Barinaga’s Baserri Batch 22: A Cheese Tasting and Learning Adventure

When I reached out to Marcia Barinaga back in January, I hoped that she wouldn’t start laughing as soon as she read my e-mail.  What I was asking for sounded crazy, I’m sure.  I hoped to buy an entire day’s make of Baserri, her delightful  farmstead Basque-style ewe’s milk cheese, which is limited in production and high in demand.  I hoped to provide an unprecedented learning and tasting experience for our staff and guests alike by tasting cheese from the same batch as it matures and changes.  Fortunately, Marcia welcomed the idea and even sounded excited, promising to select a nice batch for us.

The hardest part has been waiting!  Marcia manages her herd of ewes seasonally, breeding in October with lambs arriving in March.  She allows the new lambs to stay with their mothers for a month before weaning them and then, in April, begins milking and making cheese.  Because Baserri is a raw milk cheese, by law it must be aged for 60 days.  Marcia selected Batch 22 for us, made on June 1, 2011, a day when her yield was 21 wheels of Baserri.

Each month, we will have 2 wheels from the batch to taste and sell, until June 2012 when we will open that last wheel to taste Baserri at an age of 12 months.  Before the wheels come to Bi-Rite, they are aged and cared for by Marcia and her assistants at Barinaga Ranch in climate-controlled rooms designed specifically for aging cheese.  Because cheese is alive, it is constantly changing, and our hope is to gain a better appreciation for how Baserri evolves throughout the course of its life.  As a relatively new cheesemaker, Marcia hasn’t quite settled on the ideal age for Baserri and is eager for our feedback.  Help us!  We’re keeping a binder in the cheese department to record our notes for Marcia, and we would love to include your feedback and tasting notes.

I just got back from Barinaga Ranch with our first two wheels of Baserri from Batch 22 in the back seat.  We’re opening the first wheel today!  Come in for a taste.