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Kiko’s Food News 9.30.11

Cooking is fun! Mark Bittman made a big statement in his NY Times Op Ed challenging the notion of junk food being cheaper than real food; by this argument, the primary obstacle to healthier eating is people’s resistance to cooking at home: (full story)

For your own cooking inspiration, you might try black pepper and these other hot “new” ingredients next time you’re whipping up a dessert: (full story)

CUESA sent a photographer to get an inside view of Catalán Family Farm, and turned it into this great photo story (our produce section wouldn’t be the same without the veggies and fruits that Maria and Juan send us!) : (full story)

They also announced the launch of the California Agricultural Almanac, a “central hub for information about vegetable, fruit and nut specialty crops in California. ” (full story)

Outlets that specialize in quick and cheap daytime meals have been experimenting with adding high-margin alcohol to their menus to combat the rough economy, but the logistics have been prohibitive and customers just aren’t reaching for a Cabernet with their Whopper: (full story)

Those Dutch are always pushing the innovation envelope: the new Park Supermarket will stock everything you’d find in a typical grocery store on 4,000 acres of agrarian land in Holland’s largest metropolitan region; instead of plucking your assorted vegetables and rice off a shelf, you’ll get them fresh out of the ground! (full story)

In a case of widespread food distribution spun out of control, the deadliest food illness outbreak in more than a decade has led to 16 deaths and many more sick from possible listeria traced to Colorado cantaloupes that were shipped to a laundry list of 25 states: (full story)

And the U.S.D.A. recalled 40,000 lbs. of frozen ground beef products shipped to Georgia because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. The frozen meat was produced by Palo Duro Meat in Amarillo, Texas, and shipped to two warehouses in Georgia for further distribution to institutions, including six public school districts: (full story)



Early Fall Menu 2011

Seasonal Sandwich Specials

Roast Beef with Fried Onions, Horseradish Aioli and Arugula on an Acme Deli Roll $ 8.99

Vietnamese Banh Mi with Lemongrass-Ginger Marinated Hodo Soy Tofu, Spicy Aioli, Pickled Carrots and Cilantro on an Acme Baguette (vegetarian) $ 8.99

Grilled Eggplant ‘Shawarma’ with Tomato, Cucumber, Harissa and Tahini on an Acme Sesame Seed Bun (vegan) $ 7.99

From our Deli Case

Sergio’s Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Gazpacho with local EVOO $5.99 / pint

Willie’s Heirloom Tomato Salad with Garbanzo Beans and Cucumbers $ 8.99 / lb

Farro, Grilled Chicories, and Roasted Pear Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette $ 8.99 / lb

Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad with Mariquita Farms Romanesco Broccoli, Cherry Tomatoes and Toasted Garlic $ 7.99 / lb

Red Beet Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette and Grilled Balsamic Onions $7.99 / lb

From our Self-Service Case

Lebanese Lentil Salad with Grilled Halloumi Cheese, Armenian Cucumbers and Harissa Vinaigrette $6.99 / each

Summer Corn and Heirloom Tomato Salad $5.99 / each

Grilled Salmon with French Lentils, Seasonal Vegetables and Meyer Lemon Compound Butter $10.99 / each

Rancho Gordo Baked Beans with House-Smoked Ham Hocks $5.99 / each

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Grilled Chicories $8.99


Marion Nestle and Vandana Shiva: Different Paths to Similar Conclusions

Last week I had the honor of hearing two heroines of the food movement speak to live audiences about the issues they’re most focused on. Marion Nestle and Dr. Vandana Shiva spoke from very different [albeit both scientific] backgrounds, but told complimentary stories.

Marion Nestle, the picture of American domesticity and health!

I’ve known Marion Nestle as a scholar of food politics for years; her original background is in nutrition, and she has written many books, most recently finishing one about calories. Accordingly, she opened her speech at University of California, Berkeley (part of Michael Pollan’s Edible Education course series there) with the simple statement that excess calories are the challenge of our food system. The big irony about calories on a macro level is that, according to Nestle, about as many people are food insecure (i.e. going hungry) as are obese.

I was interested by what Nestle isolated as the three “deregulations”, which all happened right around the time I was born, and have since caused Americans to eat more calories:
1. Deregulation of agriculture: starting in the 70’s, restrictions on growing food were replaced by subsidies for commodity crop production
2. Deregulation of Wall St.: shareholders now held the power, and pressured business to grow; to do this, food companies had to sell more product to the same amount of eaters
3. Deregulation of food marketing, beginning in the early 80’s

One often repeated sound byte around here is how it’s less expensive to buy a box of fruit loops than it is to buy a piece of fruit–and think about all of the labor, manufacturing, packaging and transportation costs that went into that box! Nestle cited the advertising budget for the Fruit Loops  brand in 2009: $20 million! Then, taking the case further, she showed a box of Fruit Loops with the claim “2 grams of fiber!” brandished across the front. Sure, she argues, 2 grams of fiber is better than zero grams, but does just being better for you mean it’s good for you? She would argue not.


Whereas Nestle channels her fighting words towards food companies that market products to children, Dr. Vandana Shiva directs her fight against industrial agriculture. She opened her talk at Dominican University in San Rafael with the image of trees being bulldozed in the Amazon, and sighed “that’s not how farming was supposed to be. That’s how war was supposed to be.” Going further she asserted, “fertilizer should never have been allowed in agriculture; I think it’s time to ban it. It’s a weapon of mass destruction. Its use is like war, because it came from war.”

Vandana Shiva, warm yet serious

Yes, Dr. Shiva brought an element of drama to this discussion; she was enchanting! Pointing to an amaranth plant next to her podium, drooped with the weight of its deep purple flowers, she said, “It’s not just one part of the plant you use–it’s the leaves and all. That’s the beauty of biodiversity.” (This notion certainly resonates with me, given my personal mission of eating every part of vegetables and plants, from squash skin to melon rinds to radish tops.)

She discussed the history of hunger, which has existed for centuries but, she would argue, differently than it does today: Whereas traditionally hunger was a natural, localized result of war or drought, today it’s a global problem resulting from global agricultural economies. “All that industrial agriculture is doing,” she said, “is producing more commodities and monoculture–not more food.”

Putting the heat on huge global packaged goods companies, she quoted a press release from Nestle [the multinational food company, not Marion!] that said “there is no way to feed the planet by going straight from farm to table.” Her face revealed her incredulity towards that statement, which suggests the opposite of the productivity she’s witnessed researching centuries-old farming cultures in India and the rest of the world.

Like Nestle, Dr. Shiva is “pro” food labeling. She’s throwing her weight behind the work being done to require that foods made with GMO products be labeled as such. When asked what regular people can do to push her cause forward, she said, “we need to turn our gardening work into seed saving work. We need an outrage against the ownership of life.” Most immediately, Dr. Shiva peaked our ears with a heads up on a False Promises Report that she’s going public with on October 6th; it will be a culmination of many years of her work. Stay tuned!

Register Recipe: The Mitchell

One of my favorite parts about eating locally and seasonally is how often my favorite food changes.  Four times a year California transitions from season to season and my appetite fancies something new.  Autumn, winter, spring and summer offer something spectacular every year, which means every year I have four new favorite foods.  What I enjoyed one winter isn’t the same as the previous winter.   I admittedly talk about the vintage of fruits and vegetables: remember the ’09 dry farmed tomatoes?  Such a great year for tomatoes, that 2009.

Piel de Sapo melons

The late summer of 2011, however, is all about the melons, who are making a tremendous come back after a so-so harvest last year.  If you haven’t had one yet, now is the time as they are at the peak of their harvest.  We have a fantastic melon display in our produce section, which I find myself staring at quite often, day dreaming of each kind.  Simon and Matt, our produce buyers, have sourced the best varietals:  the firmer, buttery Piel de Sapos, the lightly sweet yellow watermelons, and oh, the complex Haogens! (to name a few.)  Just lift a melon up to your nose and you’ll discover how fragrant they are.  The ’11 melons are the best in years.

Haogen dessert melons

A few weekends ago, my fellow cashier Rebecca and I decided to go out dancing on a fairly warm Saturday afternoon.  In order to inspire our feet to do some festive shuffling, we prescribed ourselves some tequila.  I’ve been really fond of the Fortaleza tequilas that we carry here at Bi-Rite.  They’re very traditionally made: the agaves are all grown on-site, horses still drag a heavy, stone tahon which crushes piñas, or agave hearts, to release their sugars and the bottles are all hand blown and decorated with  hand-carved wooden piñas.  The entire operation is completed in one plantation, producing an authentic, high-quality tequila.

We carry Fortaleza’s entire trifecta: the young blanco, slightly aged reposado, and the mature añejo.  Those who like to sip tequila should try the añejo, with its creamy mouth feel and cinnamon-filled nose.  The reposado can make for a killer margarita since it imparts a subtle vanilla flavor.  The blanco, however, is perfect for mixing with those floral melons I wrote about earlier.  Fortaleza Blanco adds just enough agave without overwhelming the taste of the melons.

The Mitchell

1 Full Belly Farm Charantais melon

1/2 Full Belly Farm Cantaloupe (note: sub any melons you like in this recipe!)

3 oz. Fortaleza Blanco

½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice

One dash of Angostura Orange bitters

Sprigs of fresh mint (for garnish)

Halve the melons and remove any seeds.  Scoop the melons’ flesh either into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Add lime juice, tequila, bitters, mix.  Serve in a highball with a mint garnish.*

*A few notes: Let me first admit that Rebecca and I ended up adding a bit more tequila than just 3 ounces, so feel free to taste and adjust as desired.  We also served the cocktail at room temperature, but if you’d like something chilled I’d suggest crushing about half a tray of ice to mix with the drink.  Lastly, I did not name the drink after myself: I left this decision up to my coworkers who chose its name (I favored the name “The Canta-Loopy.”)

Kiko’s Food News: 9.23.11

Have you heard the phrase “hypermarket”? It’s a new term for a supermarket plus department store; check out this shocking chart about just how “hyper” these can be: (full story)

Speaking of Wal-Mart, this is more consumer culture than food news per se, but too funny. Wal-Mart is being called a “magnet for American mayhem”; did you know that Sarah Palin once officiated a wedding at her hometown branch?(full story)

And as for the fate of a few chain (but not hyper) markets, the United Food and Commercial Workers union confirmed Monday that they had reached a three-year labor contract with Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons, averting a grocery strike that would have idled more than 54,000 workers across Southern California. If the strike had gone forward, many shoppers may have fled to the competition (and stayed there) as they did in 2003-04 strike: (full story)

Can the food industry and government work together to solve epidemics of obesity and chronic disease? The International Food and Beverage Alliance participated in U.N. meetings this week, but Marion Nestle illuminates how their intentions might have been more to prevent the U.N. from issuing a statement that says anything about how food marketing promotes obesity and related chronic diseases: (full story)

The federal government has mandated a healthier menu, and state and school officials are trying to figure out how to absorb the added costs. The U.S.D.A. plans on giving a reimbursement of six additional cents per lunch to those schools that offer more fruits and vegetables; will federal aid cover only the beginning of the program? (full story)

The Alameda Point Collaborative Urban Farm, a one-acre farm growing a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs, honey, is an example of public benefit communities can reap from former military lands. In urban areas with less potential for growing food, base closings free up large swaths of land which can be used for farming: (full story)

Finally, a report card for food activists: Michael Pollan discusses how the food movement can claim more success in changing popular consciousness than in shifting political and economic forces. But since our government is subsidizing precisely the sort of meal for which they’ll have to pick up the long-term tab (in health costs), advocates of food system reform may appear in unlikely places: (full story)


My 4 Step Plan for a Perfect SPOT Bagel

One of my favorite things for breakfast, ever since I can remember, is a bagel with cream cheese and lox. Talk about comfort food! So when we started carrying SPOT Bagels, I had to put them to the test…

SPOT Bagel is located just south of San Francisco in Burlingame. Their variety of flavors is amazing: in addition to traditional flavors like onion, garlic, poppy and plain, there are some more exotic flavors, such as Date & Green Walnut and the “Frida” (with jalapenos and pumpkin seeds), which I instantly gravitated towards. With a namesake like that, you’re destined for greatness!

And a great gastronomic experience it was. Toasted just right, it was both crunchy and soft with just enough jalapenos for flavor without being overwhelming. My cheese of choice: Andante Dairy’s fresh chevre, so bright and creamy. The lox: our own smoked salmon, wild, sustainable, sweet and so good. Topped with thinly sliced red onion, et voila! What a treat!

Vanessa's SPOT sign/masterpiece (with our housemade schmear coming soon!)

Come to the deli and we’ll prepare the Spot Bagel of your choosing, just the way you like it. Here’s how:

Step 1: Pick your bagel (located across from the deli)

Step 2: Decide if you want it toasted

Step 3: Take a number and place your order from the following options:

Add butter or cream cheese for $2.50

Add our house made smoked salmon schmear for $5.99 (coming soon!)

Add cream cheese and hand sliced house smoked salmon $7.99
Step 4: Savor the moment!


Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur Menu

Available Tuesday 9/27 – Sunday 10/9

Matzo Ball Soup with a Rich Chicken Broth $8.99/ quart

Chopped Chicken Liver with Caramelized Onion and Egg $3.99 / half pint

Potato & Early Autumn Squash Latkes $3.99 each

Homemade Apple Sauce $3.00 / half pint

Pear-Buttermilk Kugel with Maple Syrup $8.99 / pound

Smoked Whitefish Salad $13.99 / pound

Kosher Smoked Salmon $29.99 / pound

Sephardic Zucchini Frittata with Feta, Fresh Mint and Dill $3.99 / slice

Green Beans Almondine with Meyer Lemon Oil $8.99 / pound

Bi-Rite Farm Rainbow Carrot Salad with Lemon–Honey Vinaigrette & Mint $8.99 / pound

Five Dot Ranch Pomegranate Braised Beef Brisket $16.99 / pound

Raw Meats

Emigh Ranch Boneless Leg of Lamb $16.99 / pound

Emigh Ranch Pomegranate-Marinated Boneless Leg of Lamb $18.99 / pound

BN Ranch Beef Brisket $8.99 / pound

Five Dot Ranch Beef Brisket $5.99 / pound

Free-Range Chicken Livers $1.99 / pound

For a Sweet Celebration

Selection of Hidden Star Orchards Organic Apples

Selection of Local Honeys

From our Creamery Bakeshop

Challah $3.99 / loaf

Round Raisin Challah Only for Rosh Hashanah $4.99 / loaf

Almond or Coconut Macaroons $4.99 / bag of eight

Printable Menu (PDF)

To order, please call 415-241-9760 or order in person at the store.  Pre-orders must be placed 48 hours in advance.  All other orders are available on a first come, first serve basis.

Kiko’s Food News 9.16.11

18 Reasons has officially moved into its new space next door to the Creamery! The Bay Citizen interviewed Rosie about the kind of programming it will allow for: (full story)

In the coming months, 7-11 stores will become drop spots for Amazon orders, which will be delivered to public lockers instead of left on doorsteps; what if the same system could be set up for CSA boxes? (full story)

A recent study on global forces that have created our “obesogenic environment” highlights how since 1900, the energy requirements for daily life have decreased substantially, while the food industry has made it easier for people to consume more calories throughout the day: (full story)

Sure school cafeterias can make their menus healthier, but if students react by choosing to buy “lunch” from snack trucks instead, where does it get us? (full story)

The US and the European Union announced a bilateral agreement to combat illegal fishing; this will be a hard one to track, since (due to its very nature) no one knows how much illegal fishing there even is! (full story)

Would you try meat grown in a science lab? In vitro meat might someday be an option for people with carnivorous inclinations who aren’t wild about the idea of killing and eating real animals: (full story)

Countdown to October 24th: Food Day will be a new, nationwide holiday (modeled after Earth Day). In response to what can often feel like a fragmented national food movement, organizers hope that “if we all host fairly simultaneous events and campaigns about food-system issues it will be clear that these issues are connected.”: (full story)


Diggin’ Deeper: Bringing Home the Bounty

Sometimes the stars just align, and this past Saturday was one of those sweet days at the Bi-Rite Farm.  18 Reasons’ Farm Summer School came to an end with a harvest party that brought in the most produce we have ever culled from our fields in one day!  We got oodles of Marvel Stripe tomatoes (get ‘em now in our produce department!), and  pounds and pounds of mixed heirlooms landed in Sergio’s hands for his famous gazapacho. We also picked our new favorite shelling bean, Tongues of Fire, awesome cucumbers, summer squash, rainbow carrots, and fingerling potatoes.

Driving back into the city felt great: the green pick up was laden with boxes (and my regular pickup of butter from Vela), our bodies were tired from picking veggies, and our stomachs were probably a little too full after Sam cooked the Farm Summer School graduates a feast to celebrate their hard work and contribution to feeding our community.

There are loads more tomatoes to pick, many of which will become Morgan’s roasted sauce; their rich flavor will get us through the winter months when there is nary a good tomato in sight.  We’ve also got more eggplants, peppers, and basil to pick.  And since a farmer’s work is never done, in early October we’ll be putting winter crops in the ground– while there may not be a Marvel Stripe in December, we still want to offer you fresh veggies grown by us all year round.  Broccoli and escarole anyone?

Kids Rule: Youth Programming at 18 Reasons

18 Reasons ran our first ever youth camp this July, and it was one of the real highlights of the summer for us.  Over the course of one week, our eleven campers took care of sheep and chickens in the mornings and in the afternoons learned to make pizza from scratch. From milling their own flour that they later kneaded into dough, to pulling mozzarella and making tomato sauce, the kids made everything we needed to throw the best pizza party ever on Friday afternoon.

Teaching kids proved phenomenally rewarding for us; it allowed us to fulfill our mission in whole new, rich, and powerful ways.  “Deepening our relationship to food and each other” is our calling, and watching these 9-11 year-olds master new cooking skills, care for animals, and get excited about food allowed us to help them do just what our mission prescribes.  It was rad! So much so, that we are doing a lot of youth programming, starting this fall with Peanut Butter and the Pen, a creative food writing after school program on Wednesdays.  Students will tackle letter writing, autobiography, fiction, and basic grammar skills all while writing about (and tasting) food.  We’re also developing some camp ideas for school vacation weeks; we’ll keep you posted!

As part of our efforts to expand our youth programming, 18 Reasons is also reaching out to the garden coordinators, teachers, nutrition counselors, and parents who teach our children.  We’ve worked with the Green Schoolyard Alliance and the Nutrition Education Project to identify needs in the education community that 18 Reasons is equipped to address.  As a result, we’ve planned two new programs: First, we’ll be holding furlough day workshops on how to cook and teach in edible school gardens; these classes will help facilitate teacher comfort using outdoor classrooms to teach all sorts of skills and subjects.  Second, 18 Reasons is hosting quarterly support and community building sessions for garden coordinators working in San Francisco schools.  We’ve got the space to bring people together, and we cannot think of a better group of people to get in the same room and share skills than those who are teaching the City’s kids.

As always, thank you for your support of 18 Reasons as our programming evolves. Your ticket sales and membership dues support all of this exciting new work, and we honestly couldn’t do it without you.