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Kiko’s Food News 10.14.11

Campaigns for the labeling of food containing GMOs are gaining momentum, and polls show overwhelming consumer support for labels.  Still, neither Congress, the FDA, nor the USDA have been willing to respond, even though Obama was caught on camera promising to label GMO food (unprecedented for a sitting president)! (full story)

One of the campaigns, called “justlabelit”, debuted this parody of a family blindly eating a dinner they can’t tell what’s in: (full story)

Sesame Street is airing a special episode on hunger in America; in it Lily, a new 7-year-old girl muppet, talks about growing up in a home where there wasn’t enough food, helps Elmo and friends plan a food drive, and visits a community garden with new pals Elmo and Rosita to see how food can be grown locally: (full story)

A Huffington Post column debates the hypocrisy of anti-Wall Street protesters welcoming free Ben & Jerry’s pints, and eating McDonald’s and other “corporate” food; should we just be happy that this movement questioning economic justice means activists who may also push the envelope with food system issues? (full story)

Not your standard champions for the local food movement: Indie-singer Karen O was commissioned by Chipotle’s Cultivate Foundation to create a viral music video raising awareness about the economic hardship family farmers face in our industrialized  agriculture system: (full story)

Can the TOMS Shoes business model work with organic food? A New York food company is giving away a dozen eggs for every dozen sold: (full story)

Community Action Marin FoodWorks, a small batch co-packing company, is helping Marin farmers turn their produce into jellies, jams, sauces and salsas, giving them a shelf life far beyond the growing season and a value-added product to take to the farmers market in the winter time: (full story)

A new study that looked at indicators of impatience for the same population determined that impatient individuals are more likely to be obese than people who are good at waiting: (full story)

P.S. Want to see what Kiko’s up to when not writing food news? Etsy thought my “leave no leftover behind” mantra was worth blogging about: (full story)


Making it Easier for Wild Salmon to Swim Upstream

Today, 100% of sales of raw salmon from our fish case and grilled salmon filets from our deli case will go directly to Salmon Aid.  Kenny Belov, who runs  Two x Sea (the amazing Sausalito-based sustainable seafood source that hooks us up with some of our favorite locally sourced fish), brought us on board to help spread the word about supporting wild salmon.

Wild salmon need our support–these legendary fish are in trouble! They face problems migrating upstream – dams block their path, climate change is warming their waters, and the rivers themselves are being diverted from their natural paths. Farmed salmon operations, meanwhile, are polluting the oceans and making it harder for wild salmon to successfully spawn.

We hope you’ll support our first-ever “Dine Out for Wild Salmon” event! The money we raise will be used by Salmon Aid to increase awareness about the plight of West Coast salmon and the rivers they depend upon. This will educate the Bay Area public about the importance of protecting wild salmon, why they’re in trouble, and how we can work together to save them.

Kenny will be in front of the Market from 4:30 to 7:00 today teaching our staff and guests about Wild Salmon–come by and pick his brain, he’s a complete wealth of information on any question you have about salmon or any other seafood catching, sourcing and eating!


Si’s October Produce Update

Scott feeling Fallish

This is the time of year that makes San Francisco such an amazing place to live! There are not many places in the country where you can eat a big bowl of local strawberries and raspberries on your stoop while carving your Jack O Lantern pumpkin in the hot October sun. Throughout the Bay Area harvest festivals like the Hoes Down at Full Belly Farm (Sam and I went with our families this past weekend!) are a great way to kick off the fall season.


Matt our produce buyer is working hard to keep California stone fruit on our shelves through the month of October. We just started a new farm direct relationship Hunter Orchards Stone Fruit. John and Kirsten are very passionate organic growers who farm on 10 acres, at 3,000 ft above sea level. Their farm looks on to views of Mt. Shasta and the surrounding mountain ranges of Northern-most California. The stone fruit they grow is tree ripened, which equals amazing flavor and sugar. We will also be getting their pears, apples, and prune plums soon!

Al from Frog Hollow is still supplying us with two slamming Pluots. The Flavor Treat is a large piece of burgundy fruit with sweet and juicy flesh, and the Emerald Beaut has unique light green skin and extra sweet flesh! When local stone fruit officially disappears we’ll have yellow peaches and nectarines from the Northwest through the end of the month.

Local berries are still coming in strong! Swanton’s Chandler strawberries are some of the sweetest and most delicate berries of the season, and Yerena Farm in Watsonville continues to amaze us with their raspberries. Andy from Mariquita says that his strawberry plants still have a bunch of flowers and should produce plenty of fruit throughout October. Berry season in the Bay area can continue into November as long as we don’t get hit by any major rain storms, so keep your fingers crossed. Happy to say that these early rains didn’t hit the berry growers, so stay tuned!

Fall figs are poppin’ right now! The Adriatics from Maywood, filled with an amazing “jelly-like” flesh, are the figs of choice amongst the Bi-Rite staff. In the middle of October we will be harvesting Brown Turkey figs from our ranch in Placerville and also getting some super ripe Black Mission figs from a small orchard in Sonoma.

Local apple season is going off right now and we have new varieties coming in every week. At the moment the Mutsu apple from Devoto in Sebastopol is ridiculously sweet and crispy, with an enjoyably dense flesh. Devoto always brings us great cooking apples; at the moment it’s the Sierra Beauty. The Northern Spy and Hawaiian (they have a taste of the tropics!) apples are two new heirloom varieties that were just delivered. Hidden Star Orchard is harvesting the September Wonder apple, the biggest apples ever to hit our shelves–usually Matt and I as buyers shy away from apples that are the size of melons, but these are delicious. We also have Granny Smith and Galas from Hidden Star, with their tasty fresh-picked flavor and texture.

Autumn really doesn’t hit our fruit section until local persimmons and pomegranates arrive. Balakian Farm grows some of the most beautiful and best tasting pomegranates ever! Ginger lets the fruit ripen up nice on the tree, and the seeds and juice are perfect. They’ll start harvesting them in mid-October and we’ll have them through Thanksgiving. Balakian also grows Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons, which start ripening up in mid-October. We pride ourselves on buying fruit when the flavor is perfect, and not just because some farms decide to harvest early to be the first to the market place. Balakian always starts its Persimmon harvest with their jumbo fuyu that can eat like an apple.


The Early Girl Tomatoes from Two Dog in Davenport are out of this world! They should be harvesting them throughout October, unless we get hit with any big rains or cold weather. All of the other tomatoes are still eating well, and the tomatoes at Bi-Rite Farm in Sonoma are still coming on strong–just try Sergio’s Gazpacho!

Andy at Mariquita Farm says that the field workers are in “full tilt boogie” trying to harvest the last of the summer crops and plant their fall crops. Mariquita will be bringing us their amazing Padrons for the entire month of October, so get your tapas on! The escarole that Andy grows is truly incredible, and the heads are nicely blanched and very tender. Escarole is a great substitute for romaine in a Ceaser salad. Mariquita also has a huge field of Broccoli Romanesco and Cheddar Cauliflower to harvest all month long.

Full Belly Farm has started harvesting a wide variety of winter squash, and they already taste great. Their wonderful organic Jack-O-Lanterns have seeds that are so yummy when roasted with a little salt. Their unique heirloom pumpkins will start arriving toward the end of October when the cold weather sets in and it’s really time to make soup.

Fall weather is the best growing conditions for greens, and all of the local growers are taking advantage. Blue House Farm in Pescadero has nice cool conditions for growing extra tender kale and rainbow chard. We are very excited to get our first ever organic brussels sprouts on the stock from Blue House. Brussels sprouts are very challenging to grow organically because of all the pests that love to call them home.

Our good friend Martin in Salinas is going big on his arugula and little gem lettuce plantings for October. These greens are perfect for fall salads, especially when you add pomegranate seeds and persimmons. We’ll be getting mixed baby lettuces and bunched carrots from Freewheelin’ Farm in Santa Cruz all month long.

As for other specialty veggies we’re excited about, sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes) have arrived; these tubers from the daisy family are great added to a roasted veggie dish. Chanterelles from the Northwest are coming on strong and should be around through Thanksgiving. Autumn veggies offer so many unique flavors–when in doubt, just roast em’ up with a little olive oil and salt!


It’s GOATOBER! Try a Spicy Goat Tagine for No Goat Left Behind

This month we are excited to be taking part in Heritage Foods’, No Goat Left Behind project. The project is intended to introduce goat as a viable meat product in the United States, while simultaneously aiding dairy farms that have little need for male goats.  Although goat is the most widely consumed protein in the world it is rarely found on our dinner plates.  This is the perfect time to make October your Goatober!

You can start your month-in-goat by trying one of my favorite goat recipes:

Spicy Goat Tagine

2 lbs diced goat meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
salt and fresh ground pepper
2 ½ tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 leek, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger (or ½ tsp ground ginger)
1/8 tsp saffron
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp grated nutmeg
4 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 quart veggie stock
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch ‘fingers’
3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
¼ cup dark honey
½ cup raisins
2 medium zucchini, cut into 2 inch ‘fingers’
1 can cooked garbanzos, drained
couscous for serving

1. Season goat with salt and pepper. Using a large heavy-based pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the meat a few bits at a time until well browned – about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a large heavy pot.

2. Add the butter to the lamb in the heavy pot. Over medium heat, add about 2/3 of the chopped leek, the ginger, saffron, ¼ tsp of cinnamon, turmeric and nutmeg. Tie the parsley and coriander sprigs together and add to pot. Stir in the stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the carrots and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

3. While this is cooking, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a large heavy-based pan over medium heat. Stir in remaining 1/3 of leek and cook until golden. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon; add the chopped tomatoes, honey and raisins. Raise heat slightly and cook until all the excess liquid has evaporated. About 15 minutes.

4. Stir the tomato mixture into the meat mixture; add the zucchini and chick peas. Heat to boiling and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook 25 minutes with lid on.

5. Serve the tagine on a bed of couscous (prepare as directed), topped with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

The Month We’ve Been Waiting For: Eat Good Food is Coming to Town!

We’ve been counting down the days to October 18th for many months, and can’t believe it’s within reach! Two weeks from today, Eat Good Food will be available online and in bookstores across the country. I have to say it’s a weird sensation to think this is the first time readers will be able to bring Bi-Rite’s philosophy to their own kitchens and shopping baskets. My greatest hope is that readers will use the information I’ve learned from life in the grocery aisles to become more confident shoppers, and thereby inspired to cook more at home!

I’m honored to be speaking about Eat Good Food at a handful of events in San Francisco and other cities over the next couple of months, and hope that you will join me. Below is a list of the events we have planned; please click on the link to view our google calendar, which has more details about each event and how to reserve your spot.

Our full event calendar, with details on how to register

If you follow us on twitter and facebook , we’ll be sharing updates on new events.  Hope to see you in person over the coming months!


Celebrating the Life of Joe Dressner

Legendary wine importer Joe Dressner of Louis/Dressner Selections died on September 17th at the age of 60 after a long battle with brain cancer. Since the days when Sam did our wine buying himself, wines from Louis/Dressner have always been an integral part of Bi-Rite’s wine program; these were not just wines to drink thoughtlessly, but wines that told a story about the land they grew on and the people who made them. Joe not only imported wines, he influenced our understanding of authentic, natural wines in traditional European winegrowing regions through his impassioned writing. Though most of us had only met Joe on a handful of occasions, we will still miss his wry humor, biting wit, and his fervor for real wine.

To learn more about Joe and his tremendous influence on the wine community, see Jon Bonne’s tribute in the Chronicle as well as Eric Asimov’s tribute in the New York Times. If you’re curious about some of Joe’s imports, we have many of his French and Italian selections currently on our shelves. A few of the latest releases are detailed below.

Domaine de la Pépière “Clos des Briords” Muscadet Sevre et Maine
Vigneron Marc Olivier makes some of the best wines in Muscadet, an often overlooked growing region where the Loire River meets the Atlantic. This special bottling is from an old plot of Melon vines dating from the 1930s. For those who look for white wines with intense minerality rather than fruitiness, this wine is a real treat. Joe Dressner championed the wines of Muscadet at a time when they were not at all fashionable or even known outside of France. With growing accolades, however, these wines still remain tremendous values.

Alice and Olivier de Moor “Les Vendangeurs Masqué” Chablis
In the staid world of Chablis, Alice and Olivier de Moor were just the kind of mavericks that Joe Dressner was drawn to; fully biodynamic viticulture, ambient yeasts, and no filtration or fining of any kind. This non-interventionist approach carries its risks, but also its rewards in the form of a pure expression of Chablis, unadulterated by cellar manipulation. This negociant bottling is less expensive than the de Moor’s estate wines, but still reflects the minerality and finesse found in all of their wines.

Occhipinti SP68 Rosso
Known primarily for his French porfolio, Joe Dressner began exploring Italy more recently and in a short time, assembled an impressive lineup of exciting Italian wines. Foremost among those producers is Ariana Occhipiniti, niece of Giusto Occchipiniti of COS, a pioneering Sicilian winery. Ariana also works with Sicilian grapes, and her entry level blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, called SP68, has something of a cult following. After Locanda began pouring this by the glass, we’ve had trouble keeping it on our shelves. You’ll love the light body, floral aromatics, and balanced acidity in this eminently food-friendly red.