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Archive for August, 2011


As Close As We Can Get

This summer has brought us closer to where our food comes from than ever before. I’m so grateful for the hard work of all our staff and the passion of our committed producers who have brought us under their wings, inspiring and teaching us about the food we sell in the Market.

Our produce buyer and farmer, Simon Richard, has been keeping busy on our Sonoma Farms and as a result we have hired another farmer, Riley Nowicki, to help us manage the day to day operations. We recently built a chicken coop, added 30 hens and a lone rooster for good measure, and can’t wait for them to start laying eggs next month! We have 3 breeds of chickens: Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, and Barred Rocks. The 10 dozen or so eggs they will lay each week won’t be enough to sell as refrigerated eggs, but look for them in our prepared foods as a garnish on salads, in sandwiches or just simply boiled for a quick, nutritious snack. We are excited to have the opportunity to better understand egg production and gain a greater appreciation for all the hard work our ranchers do in providing us with amazing pastured eggs.

This summer, our farm operation grew to 1-1/2 acres; the original half-acre that we have been farming for the past 3 years, plus an additional acre we rented about 5 miles south behind the Fremont Diner (killer grub if you haven’t tried it yet). The new acre is part of Circle JR Ranch, six acres owned by Richard and Joanne Andreotti. The other five acres have been pasture for our first two cows, a partnership we developed with Rich to naturally maintain growth of his wild grasses and an opportunity to be part of raising our own cows and seeing them all the way to your plate. Chili, our head butcher, has been beaming with excitement. This is his first opportunity to work with and sell meat from livestock that we had a hand in raising. Rich has been super-supportive and really excited to see his parcel being used for something so productive.

We’ll also be making burgers from the two black angus, 100% grass fed and finished steer for this Saturday’s 18 Reasons Barn Dance Barbeque and Fundraiser (tickets still available!), which will take place on the same land they were raised on! Once the barn dance is over, three more cows will be raised on the land so we can continue learning about this process.

That same land has also been host site for a dozen students in the 18 Reasons Farm Summer School. During the past few months, they have planted, tended, and learned all about the eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and beans in the ground next door to the grazing land. Talk about getting to know where your food comes from!  We have already started harvesting and using these veggies in our summer menu at the deli. Our tomatoes should be popping soon and with that harvest we plan to can our roasted tomato sauce again and to keep you all supplied with Sergio’s delicious gazpacho.

As an added treat, here is the recipe for Sergio’s Famous Gazpacho that will be our deli mainstay over the next couple of months. This is one of the 90 recipes in Eat Good Food, the book Dabney and I wrote that comes out October 18th. You can see a copy of the book at the cashier counter. Just ask!

Rich has also been gracious enough to let us put beehives on the property as well. Two are already in and two more will be coming in the next week or so. Spencer Marshall, of Marshall’s Honey fame, will be tending those hives in addition to the hives he has managed on our other plot. Spencer is really excited and says that area produces some of the most exquisite honey he has ever had. We will have three sets of hives now, and plan to harvest the original two (one of which is on our market’s rooftop) in the next couple of weeks, so look for it on our shelves soon.

Finally, Anthea and our cheese team have developed a relationship with cheesemaker Marcia Barinaga of Barinaga Ranch who graciously allowed us to buy an entire day’s make (21 wheels) of her limited production farmstead ewe’s milk cheese, Baserri.  We’ll open two wheels each month (until that last precious month where we’ll only have one!) to taste as the cheese ages and evolves, savoring all of the changes along the way.

Hope to see you at the Barn Dance on Saturday, so we can celebrate on our Sonoma Farm together!

Sam


The Linden Street Brewery Growlers are Here!

Did you know that Oakland was once famous as a mega-player in the national brewing scene, with over 40+ breweries pumping out beers for their residents? The beers they were making were unique to the Bay Area and truly a fresh, local, and artisan product. With this in mind,  Adam Lamoreaux founded Linden Street Brewery in 2009 to recapture a lost Oakland tradition.

Looking like a proud father

BFB: Brewery Fresh Beer

The brewery is situated in a historic 1890’s brick warehouse in the Port of Oakland, where Adam is tasked with leading this Oakland beer renaissance. Adam’s beers are a brewed in tribute to the styles and brewing methods that originated in the Bay Area during the Gold Rush days. He uses lager yeasts but ferments at warmer ale temperatures, just like the early immigrant gold seekers trying to recreate European lagers in the warm Bay Area climate. What’s emerged is their first and flagship beer, the Urban People’s Common Lager. It’s malt forward with a nice hop finish, naturally carbonated and unfiltered; the Common Lager bursts onto the palate with a crispness and freshness that screams “handmade in small batches!”

Linden Street Brewery is committed to serving its local community so it’s only been available on draft at restaurants (in SF you can find it at Delfina, Flour & Water, Range, Piccino and some other greats). That is, until now.  We’ve partnered up with Adam and Linden Street to bring you the Urban People’s Common Lager, fresh brewed and delivered twice a week to maintain the freshness.

I used to live in Oakland and have always admired Linden Street beers and their mission; now I’m very proud to be able to offer it at Bi-Rite.


Simon

Diggin Deeper: Slow Burn Summer

The summer is finally kicking in and it seems that Sonoma is once again one of the cooler growing regions in the Bay Area.  This can be frustrating when our 1,500 tomatoes plants (of 12 different varieties!) are waiting patiently for a heat wave to start the ripening process of all their green fruit. However, this constant game with Mother Nature is one of the exciting challenges of farming. The cool weather has helped the quarter acre of specialty potatoes, especially the Purple Vikings and French Fingerlings, which Eddy and the chefs are using in our Potato and Green Bean Salad with Heritage Bacon in the deli.

Each growing season, farmers have to decide which crops to “go big” on and which crops to cut back on.  This isn’t easy, because you might cut a crop or variety that you really love to grow for business reasons; other times, the weather hasn’t cooperated the past few seasons, bringing into question whether you’re in the right region for that specific crop. The other factor that comes into play is the market demand and price for that crop.  For example, Andy at Mariquita Farm was the first farmer in the area to plant the Pimiento De Padron pepper, and now over 10 growers in the area are planting Pardons.  This means that Andy has to make sure that there still market demand before he plants the seeds in the spring.

Our one acre plot, planted with tomatoes

The Bi-Rite Farm has a very unique situation when it comes to marketing the vegetables we grow, because we have a deli that uses so much of the produce.  Most of the veggies we grow are for our deli’s seasonal menu, and the rest we highlight in the produce department and at 18 Reasons events.  Bi-Rite Farms are just under an acre and a half, which isn’t much if you’re trying to grow crops to supply a menu of prepared foods that will last our kitchen 2-3 months. This year we decided to grow fewer varieties of vegetables, and plant more of the crops that have done well the past few seasons and are perfect for deli dishes.  A crop that has been especially enjoyable to grow is rainbow carrots: it’s amazing how many varieties of carrots are out there,  each with its own sweetness and texture.  The benefit of growing your own food is that you can harvest it when you want and it’s always as fresh as possible.  So if you want to roast carrots whole when they’re baby and extra tender, you have the option–or you can let them fully mature and develop their entire sweet flavor!

Potatoes are another crop that are fun to harvest at different times of the season.  In early July the potatoes had a very delicate skin and super sweet flavor; as they’ve matured they’ve gotten bigger, with a greater yield and tougher skin which lengthens their storage life.

We also grow 6 varieties of summer squash for our soups and pasta dishes. The eggplants are looking great and just started to produce; specialty varieties like the Orient Charm and Rosa Bianca are so flavorful and tender when they are harvested a bit smaller, and can be prepared in many ways.

Last but not least is the tomato crop.  This year we decided to increase our tomato planting by 100%, hoping to supply the kitchen with enough tomatoes for deli dishes and Sergio’s Famous Gazpacho.  We also have 600 “sauce variety” tomato plants that we’ll turn into our own roasted tomato sauce to sell by the jar.  The plants look healthy and the fruit is setting up–we just need them to ripen! Stay tuned…

We recently added our first chickens to the Sonoma farm, and can’t wait for them to start laying eggs. The thirty chickens are 4 ½ months old; they’ll start laying around 6 months.  We’ve been feeding them culled squash and other bruised/unsellable veggies–quite the life they’re leading in the chicken coop we built them! We have 3 breeds of chickens: Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, and Barred Rocks.  At the moment 30 birds seems like a lot, but once they start producing eggs they we will probably only lay 18-20 eggs a day, or 10 dozen a week.  This will not be enough to sell at the Market on a continuous basis, but gives us the opportunity to better understand egg production and gain a greater appreciation for all the hard work our ranchers do.


Eat Good Food Book Recipe Preview: Sergio’s Gazpacho

I’ve been waiting until the heirloom tomatoes started popping to release the first recipe from our book, Eat Good Food, which comes out October 18th. This is one of our deli’s best selling items in the summer. You can also use any combination of Roma and heirloom tomatoes.

Makes about 7 cups.

2 cups extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling (see Note below)

1/4 cup Sherry vinegar, more as needed

1 tsp. Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

1/2 a medium red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/2 a medium cucumber, trimmed and cut into large chunks

Leaves from 6 large sprigs flat-leaf parsley

Vanessa's classy sign for the deli case

Leaves from 4 large sprigs fresh basil

1 large clove garlic

Kosher salt

4 medium Roma tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks

3 medium heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks

Put the oil, vinegar, and Tabasco in the bowl of a blender and blend briefly. Add the onions, cucumbers, parsley, basil, garlic, and 3 tsp. salt and blend until smooth. With the blender running, add the tomatoes a few at a time. When the blender is about 3/4 full, pour out half of the liquid into a medium bowl. Continue to puree and add the tomatoes a few at a time until all the tomatoes are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Pour the blender contents into the bowl and stir to blend.

If you want a super-smooth texture, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Whisk to blend, then taste and add more salt or vinegar as needed.  Garnish each serving with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Note: Two cups may seem like a lot of oil, but the soup really doesn’t have the same rich flavor with any less (we tried). You can, of course, reduce the amount if you like. For best results, use an oil that is not too peppery, or else it will overpower the soup. A Spanish Arbequina olive oil would be good. You can also substitute up to half of the extra virgin olive oil with a mild or neutral oil, if you like.

Reprinted with permission from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food by Sam Mogannam & Dabney Gough, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.


Two New 18th Street Wines: Zinfandel & Chardonnay

Meet the newest members of the 18th Street Wine family; a Mendocino Chardonnay and a Sonoma Zinfandel. That makes a total of 3 whites and 3 reds in our custom wine portfolio! As always, 18th Street Wines are food friendly, value-oriented wines made by world-class winemakers and hand selected by the Bi-Rite wine team. We rigorously taste through dozens of barrel samples looking for the right wines to bear the 18th Street label. Stop by the wine aisle to ask us more about 18th Street Wines; we’ve got a bottle to suit everyone’s palate!

18th Street Wines 2010 Mendocino Chardonnay $14.99
Our Chardonnay is not in the oaky, buttery style that people so often associate with California Chardonnay. Instead, we went with a more austere style made in stainless steel tanks with only partial malolactic fermentation. This results in a Chardonnay with bright fruit flavors of pineapple, citrus, and granny smith apples, along with a zesty, refreshing finish. Our Chardonnay was made for us by longtime Bi-Rite friends Robert Perkins and John Lancaster of Skylark Wines and Boulevard Restaurant.

18th Street Wines 2009 Sonoma Zinfandel  $14.99
The latest vintage of 18th Street Zinfandel is easily our best Zin ever, thanks to the winemaking skills of Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars. You’ll find a pleasing balance of ripe blackberry flavors and spicy pepper notes with a sensible alcohol level so you can actually drink more than a glass! We think this is the perfect wine for one of our pre-marinated steaks in the deli refrigerator; it’s a welcome addition to any barbeque.


Our New Weeknight Wine Stash

The wine team understands how challenging it can be to find great new wines for the everyday weeknight dinner. You don’t want to lower your standards for a bottle of wine that will do your dinner justice, but you also can’t splurge every night (gotta save some pleasures for the weekend!). So we’ve decided to make it easy for our guests by finding great tasting wines at the best possible price and putting them in one can’t-miss-it location.

We’ve officially named our new section, located on the end of the shelves across from the deli (just turn around while you’re waiting for your sandwich!), the “Weeknight Wine Stash”. We’ll always have 4 different wines here, from which you can choose 3 bottles  for $25 (or 6 for $45!)  The selections will change monthly to keep it exciting and new. Take a peek at this month’s offerings:

Kila Cava n/v – Cava is the Champagne of Spain and Kila Cava has the pedigree of the finest sparkling wine in the world. Made from traditional Cava varietals Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarello, and aged 12 months on the lees, this wine has bright fresh fruit flavors with creamy, toasty notes.

The first four weeknight wines in the stash

Closerie de Lys Rouge 2009 – The Closerie de Lys wines are the second label of famed Languedoc producer Domaine Antugnac. This red is a well-crafted field blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot with notes of black fruits and smoke with a smooth, elegant finish. Great for roast pork or a rack of lamb.

Closerie de Lys Rosé 2010 – Rosés are the perfect summer wine because they go with everything. These days they’ve moved beyond the old stereotype of being over-sweet; instead we come across dry, complex and satisfying rosés. The Closerie de Lys Rosé is made from Syrah, Cinsault, and Grenache. It has beautiful flavors of watermelon and cherries, and finishes with salty, mineral notes. Amazing with a roast chicken or a Caprese salad.

Tarima Monastrell 2009 – The Jumilla region in Spain offers some of the best wine value in the world. The Tarima, made from 100% Monastrell grapes (that’s Mouvedre in France), is sourced from 25-35 year old vines. With beautiful aromas of blueberries and herbs and  plenty of savory fruit and earth notes on the palate, this full-bodied wine will go great with steaks or the summer BBQ.


Late Summer Catering Specials

Corn, berries, eggplant, melon, peppers… we had no choice but to update our catering menu with August’s bounty!

Party Platters

Party Platters are not hot at the time of pick up and are made to be served at room temperature.

Mozzarella Bocconcini and Cherry Tomato Skewers with Basil Dip  (30 pcs) $55

Cucumber Cups with House-Smoked Salmon Salad, Lemon, Chives and Dill (30 pcs) $70

Savory Tartlets with Summer Corn, Goat Cheese, Piquillo Peppers and Fresh Marjoram  (30 pcs) $55

Focaccia Finger Sandwich with Porchetta, Stone Fruit Mostarda & Provolone (36 two-inch pieces) $60

Focaccia Finger Sandwich with Grilled Eggplant, Tomato, Cucumber, Harissa and Tahini Sauce (36 two-inch pieces) $60

Salads and Sides

Serve 12 to 15 ; made to be served at room temperature.

Late Summer Fruit Salad to include Berries, Melon, and Plums   $50

Bi-Rite Farm Potato and Green Bean Salad with Padron Peppers and Heritage Bacon   $60

Farro, Corn and Peach Salad with Sweet Peppers and Red Onion-Sherry Vinaigrette   $55

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Garbanzo Beans and Cucumbers   $55

Summer Corn-Tomato-Cucumber Salad with Bell Peppers, Red Onion and Sherry Vinaigrette   $55

Lebanese Lentil Salad with Grilled Haloumi Cheese, Cucumber and Harissa Vinaigrette   $55

Desserts

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcake with Spiced Pecan Buttercream
Chocolate Midnight Cupcake with Mint Chip Buttercream

All cupcakes are available in Full Size ($30/dozen) or Mini ($20/dozen); One Flavor Per Dozen

Chocolate Crinkle Cookie Sandwiches with Vanilla Buttercream (per dozen) $20

Seasonal Fruit Buttermilk Upside-Down Cakes: 6-inch $20, 8-inch $30, 10-inch $40


Simon

Si’s August Produce Outlook

August is going to be the most bountiful local produce month of the summer. The end of July is usually the time of year when local farms are the busiest and all of the hot weather crops are in full swing.  However, this year everything is three weeks behind, which means the big harvest will happen in August.  Matt and I spend nine months of the season with  limited options with regards to tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, melons, and grapes; then all of a sudden there are multiple varieties of each to celebrate!

Fruit

Local Apples have started to come in, and like always the first apple of the season is the Gravenstein. Nana Mae Orchard in Sebastopol is one of the only orchards in the area who have continued to grow this symbol of Sonoma’s agriculture history.  First planted in Sonoma in 1811 by Russian trappers, this versatile apple is wonderful for eating fresh, cooking into sauce or baking in apple pie. The Gravenstein has a crisp texture and a sweet and tart juice. We also carry Nana Mae’s apple cider in the grocery section.  Hidden Star Orchard, located in the foothills of the Sierras, will start harvesting their Gala apples in the beginning of the month, which we’ll have through the New Year.

The local berry season has been great so far this summer, but some varieties, like Swanton’s Chandlers, will slow down. We’ll still have plenty of Mariquita Farms‘ flavorful Albion strawberries for the entire month, and we’ll bring in other specialty strawberries like the Seascape from a handful of local growers. Yerena Farm will continue to supply us with their plump and juicy raspberries.

Frog Hollow in Brentwood just started harvesting their Dapple Dandy Pluots, so full of juice!  Their stone fruit season lasts through September, after which we’ll rely heavily on Marchini Orchard in Placerville to keep the California stone fruit season alive.  Marchini has been supplying us with the most flavorful and juicy fruit of the season; the long growing season in the Sierra Foothills really adds to the flavor of the fruit.

Melon, Melons and Mo Melons! Melons rely on hot weather as much as any crop.  Full Belly Farm has become our main melon grower over the past few seasons; Dru Rivers and her team really know how to harvest them when the sugars are at their peak.  Look for the unique orange-fleshed Orchid Watermelon and yellow-fleshed Yellow Doll Watermelon. They also grow a wide variety of musk melons and other specialty varieties.  By the end of August we should see the Piel de Sapo (aka “the skin of the frog”), which has an amazingly sweet and crisp yellow flesh.

The second rounds of figs are ripening on the trees and should be on the shelves by mid-August.  Everyone can’t wait for Capay Farm to start harvesting their delicious Candy Strip figs with their jam-like flesh.

Veggies

We are too lucky to have so many amazing tomato growers in the Bay Area! Our staple growers like Happy Boy, Full Belly and Mariquita Farm are going to be knee-deep in heirloom and cherry tomatoes for the entire month of August.  One of the really cool things about working with growers from different regions throughout Northern California is that they grow many of the same varieties, but the flavors vary depending on the weather and the harvesting technique.

Mariquita's Tomato Fields

On our own Sonoma farms we have 1,500 tomato plants of 12 different varieties that should ripen up by the middle of the month.  They’ll be the backbone of Sergio’s Gazpacho in the deli and on our new late summer menu!

Peppers are awesome right now, and we have a wide selection from sweet to hot.  Andy at Mariquita was the first farmer in the area to grow the Pimento Padron; he harvests them at the perfect time so that one out of ten peppers has a little heat (amazing for tapas!) Andy will be our Monday Night Farmer in front of the market on August 15th serving them up.  We also have Jimmy Nardello sweet frying peppers and Flamingo peppers.

Eggplants seem to be a vegetable that people either love or hate, and the globe eggplants available for a majority of the year are not a great representation of how tender and flavorful eggplants can really be.  Between our Sonoma Farm and Full Belly, we can offer 6 varietiesthe Italian Rosa Bianca, the purple and white striped Listada and long Asian varieties.  Look for these on our new Grilled Eggplant ‘Shawarma’ Sandwich!

Oh Yeah –I can’t forget to mention the wonderful organic sweet corn from Catalan Farm in Hollister that will be available through the end of September.

And I’m spent!