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Let the Blitzing Continue! Preview Wine Tasting Tonight at 18 Reasons

Our final Wine Blitz of the year is fast approaching–next one won’t be until May of next year! Starting Thursday, December 8th and ending Sunday, December 11th, purchase of any 12 or more bottles of wine will be 20% off – we even offer free delivery anywhere in San Francisco. This is a great opportunity to stock up on bottles for holiday gift giving and Champagne for the New Year celebration. We have a wide array of wines that is perfect for everyone on your list, from the casual weeknight drinkers to the wine geek connoisseur, so be sure to ask any member of the wine team for suggestions when you’re picking out your cases.

Need a taste before you buy? Join us today at 18 Reasons from 6-8pm for a preview of some of the new wines we’re excited about. It’s an opportunity to ask us questions about our wines, and also a chance to avoid the Wine Blitz crowds by placing a pre-order. We’ll have about 20 wines at the tasting, including bottles from favorites DeForville Nebbiolo, Pavelot Pernand Vergelesse, and from importer Louis/Dressner. You can also try our new weeknight red from Urbanite Cellars and taste the new Cotes du Rhone from legendary Hermitage producer, Jean-Louis Chave.

Admission is $10 for members and $15 dollars for non-members. 18 Reasons is located at 3674 18th Street between Dolores and Guerrero Streets.

Looking for a wine that we don’t carry? Let us know! We’re happy to place special orders for the Wine Blitz – the sooner we hear from you, the easier it is to source that hard-to-find case of wine! Email Trac or Mel with any questions or special orders or call 415-241-9760.

Heritage Turkeys for a New Breed of Eaters

Our friend Brie Mazurek is the Online Education Manager at the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, which operates the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. She gave us the green light to repost this article she wrote about Heritage Turkeys in the CUESA newsletter. Gobble Gobble, Brie!

“Heritage” has become a buzzword for discriminating home cooks wondering what bird should grace their Thanksgiving dinner table this season. But while conventional supermarket turkeys cost about $1.50 per pound, heritage turkeys can fetch up to $10 per pound, a considerable price difference that raises eyebrows for many shoppers. So, what’s all the fuss about?

Bill and Nicolette Hahn Niman of BN Ranch in Bolinas, California, have made a point of educating eaters about the value of heritage turkeys, as well as the hidden costs of commodity turkey farming. “I want people to understand the difference and why it costs more,” says Nicolette Hahn Niman, who is also an environmental lawyer and author of the book Righteous Porkchop. “Obviously, they can make their own choice, but it’s an informed choice.”

To understand why heritage birds command a higher price, you have to know that it’s not just a different breed you’re paying for. It’s the additional time and care they take to raise and the fact that heritage turkeys tend to be raised more humanely than conventional turkeys, with space to roam and access to pasture.

According to the USDA, Americans eat about 45 million turkeys for Thanksgiving each year, 99 percent of which are Broad Breasted Whites. These birds have been bred for a heavy breast and rapid growth. As a result, they experience a myriad of health and mobility issues as they mature, including the inability to fly and, in some cases, walk. They cannot mate naturally, so breeders must use artificial insemination for reproduction. In short, if left to nature, the modern turkey would not survive.

Your typical Thanksgiving turkey is raised in a high-density confinement facility, in which it endures overcrowding, poor sanitation, and lack of access to outdoor space. The waste from these industrial operations places a heavy environmental toll on the surrounding landscape. But a growing number of ranchers are raising birds in a more sustainable way.

Back to Nature

At BN Ranch, the turkeys have room to roam. The Nimans have been breeding pasture-raised turkeys for the last five years, after acquiring heritage stock from Good Shepherd Poultry in Linsborg, Kansas. Their flock consists of Bourbon Red, White Holland, Spanish Black, Narragansett, and Standard Bronze, with a fair amount of cross-breeding. In contrast to the Broad Breasted White, heritage turkeys are older breeds, closer to turkeys found in the wild. They are able to reproduce naturally and are healthier, leaner, and more active birds, well-suited to an outdoor environment.

Norman Gunsell of Mountain Ranch Organically Grown in Calaveras County began raising turkeys at age 15, when his family moved to Mountain Ranch to take over a turkey farm. They raised thousands of turkeys free-range, but, because they were in a contract with a large corporation, they did not control which breeds of birds they raised.

Nowadays, Norman and his wife, Aimee, breed their own small flock of pastured Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, and Narragansett turkeys. The birds coexist with wild turkeys that find their way onto the property. “Our turkeys intermingle with them on occasion, but they prefer to roost in our barnyard every night,” Norman says.

Price vs. Value
Breeding turkeys and raising them on pasture requires more labor and hands-on care, which adds to the grower’s costs. “We’re very intimate with the turkeys throughout their life,” Norman says. (You can learn more about the Gunsells’ turkeys here.)

There are additional expenditures associated with raising heritage turkeys. Since traditional breeds grow more slowly than Broad Breasted Whites, they can take twice as long to reach full size, doubling the costs of overhead and feed. In addition, the Gunsells’ birds are certified organic and thus eat only organic, GMO-free grain, which is more than twice as expensive as conventional feed.

Both the Nimans and Gunsells process their birds at small slaughterhouses and opt for air-chilling, a slower (and costlier) but more sanitary process than the chilling baths used by industrial processors. Water-chilling dilutes the meat’s flavor, since water can comprise up to 12 percent of the finished turkey’s weight. In contrast, air-chilling preserves the meat’s richness and makes for better brining.

While health, animal welfare, and conservation are factors for choosing humanely raised heritage birds, for many eaters, the ultimate motivator is taste. “I would say the flavor is richer, and the meat is a finer grain,” says Gunsell. “And they’re juicy and delicious as can be.”

The Nimans realize that not everyone can afford to pay a premium for heritage, so they offer some Broad Breasted Whites, raised the same way as their heritage birds. They’ve witnessed the genetic challenges of these birds first-hand. “We see that these turkeys are not built as well as the heritage turkeys, even when you give then all the advantages of good husbandry,” Niman notes.

As consumer awareness and demand grows, the Nimans hope to focus exclusively on heritage birds. “If you really make good use of the all the meat and bones, it’s not as big an expenditure as it seems,” Niman says. “Think of it as something really special that you’re not going to have every day.”

Photos:  Marin Sun Farms, BN Ranch, and Mountain Ranch Organically Grown, respectively.

Here at Bi-Rite we have Bill Niman’s Heritage Turkeys still available for this Thursday’s feast–give us a call at 415-241-9760 to reserve one!

From Young Moms to You

Thanksgiving preparations have you running around a bit? The students at Hilltop High have an easy, nutritious, and delicious soup to fuel your list making and table setting.

On Tuesday 18 Reasons went to Hilltop High for our third cooking class, co-organized with HeartBeets. Everyone was either sick or otherwise in need of some good nourishment, so we made this roasted butternut squash soup. It takes a little over an hour, but most of that time is spent roasting your vegetables.  This means you can check things off that to-do list while dinner makes itself.  The girls at Hilltop all loved it, especially once they knew they could add as much hot sauce as they liked!  We served it with melted cheese sandwiches, but it would be equally good paired with a chicory salad smothered in a poached egg. Also feel free to trade out the Moroccan-inspired spices for others.

We hope this soup helps you take care of yourself so that you can take care of others this holiday season!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Moroccan Spices (Serves 6-8)

1 medium butternut squash (our favorite Rugosa from Mariquita Farm would be excellent)
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
2 carrots
1 parsnip
1 tsp cumin seeds or cumin powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2-1 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 C chopped tomatoes
1 can low sodium garbanzo beans, drained
2-4 C water or low sodium chicken/vegetable stock
olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 limes

Pre heat oven to 400 and adjust one rack to the middle of oven. Liberally oil a baking sheet with olive oil.

Cut squash in half the long way. Scoop out seeds and place squash cut side down on baking sheet.

Cut onion into four pieces (do not peel). Peel and chop carrots and parsnip into four large chunks. Put onions, unpeeled garic, carrots and parsnip on baking sheet with squash. Pour on more olive oil, enough to coat vegetables all the way. Roast for 45 minutes or until squash skin is blistered and light brown, stirring occasionally.

Remove vegetables from oven and let cool until easy to handle.

Peel skin off of onions and garlic and chop roughly. In a soup pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add onions, garlic, all spices, and salt. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add tomatoes and while that cooks, scoop meat out of squash. Add squash flesh, carrots, and parsnip to soup pot.  Cook 5 minutes. Add 2 C water and garbanzo beans.  Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 5 min.  Crank pepper mill a couple of times into pot. Taste for seasoning.

Using an immersion blender or your regular blender, puree soup until smooth.  Add more water until soup is as thick or thin as you like. Taste one more time for salt and pepper.

Serve with fresh lime juice and some chopped cilantro.

Register Recipe: Pear Rosemary Cocktail

If you haven’t heard, local celebrity chef Danny Bowien (of Mission Chinese fame) recently made an appearance on the  Martha Stewart show. Ever since watching this clip, my love for Martha Stewart has been rekindled. Legal troubles aside, nobody does the holidays quite like Martha.

After browsing her website, I encountered a delicious cocktail—pears, rosemary, vodka, some sparkling water. It sounds like the perfect drink to serve before your Thanksgiving dinner, but would we really expect any less from the mistress of entertaining?  Just one caveat: some of the preparations must be done a few weeks in advance, meaning if you’d like to serve this cocktail, get started now! While the pears infuse a vodka-filled mason jar, make them a part of your home’s holiday décor. We just blogged about seckel pears in Simon’s latest blog post about November produce. They make a beautiful decoration—and that’s certainly a good thing.

Pear-Rosemary Cocktail (taken from Martha Stewart’s Website)

(makes 8 cocktails)

  • 6 to 10 Seckel pears
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) vodka
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 12 sprigs fresh rosemary plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) pear nectar
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) sparkling water


  1. Put enough pears into a 48-ounce glass jar to fill. Add vodka. Seal jar, and let stand at room temperature 2 weeks (up to 2 months).
  2. Heat sugar and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add rosemary; remove from heat. Let stand 30 minutes. Discard rosemary. Let cool completely. Syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 month.
  3. Fill 12-ounce glasses halfway with ice. Add 4 tablespoons vodka, 2 tablespoons syrup, and 3 tablespoons pear nectar to each. Top with 1/2 cup sparkling water. Serve garnished with rosemary sprigs.

Kiko’s Food News, 11.11.11

A neat example of how one culture’s unique cuisine can be enjoyed within the framework of what we know about healthful eating today: the Oldways African Heritage Diet Pyramid  has a prominent layer devoted entirely to collards, chard, kale and spinach! (full story)

What passes for honey in many grocery chains may not have the health benefits, as the majority of samples in a recent test had all of the natural pollen removed before bottling: (full story)

Occupy Big Food has created a petition to tell Butterball–the number one producer of turkeys in the US–that Americans are no longer going to purchase turkeys that are inhumanely treated; this Civil Eats article breaks down the truth about turkey production today: (full story)

A recent study at UC Davis found that people’s visits to fast-food joints increased along with their incomes, and that poor people were spending fewer dollars on fast food than lower-middle and middle-income Americans: (full story)

The idea that food may be addictive was barely on scientists’ radar a decade ago, but a growing body of medical research suggests that processed foods and sugary drinks aren’t simply unhealthy–they can hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to cocaine, nicotine and other drugs: (full story)

A former food marketing exec who spent over 15 years at companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco talks about how the processed food industry is trying to grow and defend their business by relying on self-serving research and other tactics: (full story)


Si’s November Produce Outlook

Full Belly's dried bouquets were just delivered!

Daylight light savings has brought the darkness upon us, but local farms are still shining bright! Thanksgiving is just around the corner–we’re smack dab in the most exciting time of year at the Market.   Matt and I as produce buyers are dedicated to bringing in as many tasty local veggies and fruits as possible, giving you the opportunity to whip up the best side dishes and desserts you can imagine.

Balakian Farm in Reedley has been driving over 250 miles each way over the past 9 years to supply us with their pomegranates and persimmons for the holidays.  Everyone should have at least a few of the “Wonderful” pomegranates as a center piece on their table–they’ve been eating so well this year!  The Fuyu persimmons are nice and tree-ripe, eating great out of hand. The Hachiyas take a while to ripen, so we take it upon ourselves to start this process for you, hoping to sell a good amount of them extra soft and ready to make persimmon bread.

Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood always has the best pears for fruit platters and baking; the Warren and Taylor’s Gold are perfect pears for a fruit platter, their silky smooth flesh and sweet flavor always a treat.  The Bosc is probably the best cooking pear from Frog Hollow, and has good sugar even when firm. And our little friend the Seckel pear will be the first goodies you see when you enter the store, so grab a handful and enjoy.

Apple pie time!  DeVoto Gardens in Sebastopol is just finishing up their harvest; Stan promised us that he’ll have plenty of their fresh picked Rome apples for Thanksgiving week, which are great for pies.   Hidden Star Orchard in Linden just started bringing us their beautiful Pink Ladies, and we have a good supply of Fuji and Granny Smiths.
We’ve worked hard in recent months to build a new farm-direct relationship with Vincent Family Cranberries in Oregon, a small family farm that harvests amazing cranberries to sell fresh and as bottled cranberry juice.  Cranberries are one of the crops that have been taken over by large companies like Ocean Spray, and it’s really challenging to know where most of the cranberries we consume come from.  This holiday season, Vincent’s fresh cranberries will be ingredients in both the Creamery’s desserts and our deli’s seasonal menus, as well as sold fresh in our produce department.  We’ll also be carrying three of Vincent’s Cranberry juice blends!

Black Sphinx dates are back! These little nuggets of creamy caramel-like goodness are a perfect complement to any Thanksgiving feast.  Also, for the first time we are getting farm-direct  bulk organic medjool dates from County Line Farm. And Capay Farm will start harvesting Satsuma Mandarins in mid-November, just in time for turkey day.


Chicories are a great way to spice up your feast; Mariquita Farm in Watsonville specializes in Italian varietals, and always grows the most tender and flavorful bitter greens.  Andy’s escarole has been unreal this year–each head makes up to 2-3 salads.  Escarole leaves are the least bitter of the endive family, very tender and sometimes a bit crunchy. Escarole is perfect in a salad and really delicious when braised or added to a soup.

Mariquita Farms' escarole, so tender!

The Rainbow Chard and kales growing on our Sonoma farm are just getting big enough to bunch, so we should have a good supply for Thanksgiving week.  We also have a few plantings of arugula that are coming on just in time!  Look for beautiful greens from Tomatero Farm in Hollister and little gem lettuces and arugula from Martin’s Farm in Salinas.

This will be the first Thanksgiving that we’ll have over 500 pounds of local organic brussels sprouts from Rodoni Farm in Santa Cruz.  Brussels are very challenging to grow organically in the Bay Area due to pests, so get them while you can. As for root veggies, we’ll have plenty of parsnips, rutabagas and turnips, and Mariquita is about to start harvesting and their extra-sweet yellow and orange Chantenay Carrots.

David Little’s dry farmed potatoes are freshly dug up in Petaluma, and always the most flavorful potato of the season.   The dry farming really makes the Yellow Finn and Mountain Rose potatoes sweet; they’re great roasted or mashed. The Red French and Yellow Laratte fingerlings have less starch, and are perfect for roasting.  We’ll still also have a big display of Russets from Noonan Farm in Oregon.

This year we’ll be highlighting three varieties of sweet potatoes (not to be confused with less-flavorful yams, to which they’re not even related!) from Doreva Farms in Livingston: the dark red-skinned Beauregard, Red Garnet, and the light skinned Hannah Sweets.   All three offer classic flavor and texture; don’t be afraid to cook them up together!
Wild mushrooms are always a nice addition to your holiday gravy.  We’ve been getting a steady supply of Yellow Chanterelles from the Northern California, and  we’ll have plenty of Far West Fungi’s Shitakes.

Last but not least is everyone’s favorite winter veggie, the winter squash. Full Belly Farm and Happy Boy Farm have been harvesting all kinds of perfectly ripe winter squash, from the Delicata that roast up so well (skin and all) to the Butternut, a staple in our kitchen for their butternut and apple soup.  Also look for Blue Hubbard, Kabocha, Spaghetti and Red Kuri–we have your every squash need covered!


All You Need to Know for this Week’s Wine Blitz

We hope everyone had a great time at the Wine Blitz tasting last Wednesday at the new 18 Reasons. There were as many empty bottles at the end of the evening as there were opinions on favorite wines. If you haven’t made it out to 18 Reasons’ new digs yet, there’s still space for the upcoming Oliver McCrum Italian Wine tasting this Wednesday evening.

In case you’ve any doubt, the November Wine Blitz begins in earnest this Thursday –
any 12 or more bottles of wine will be 20% off until Sunday! The November sale is easily the kookiest, wildest, zaniest sale of the year, due mostly to some American food-related holiday rumored to occur at the end of this month. We’ve got loads of suggestions for pairings, both traditional and outside the box, so come in early and beat the rush!

As always, we offer free delivery of your cases anywhere in San Francisco. If you can’t physically make it in, give us a call to place a pre-order
! You can reach us in the store at 415-241-9760 or by email.

Here’s a couple highlights from last week’s tasting to whet your palate:

2008 Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage $27.99 Sale Price: $22.39 Save $5.60!
Amazing northern Rhone Syrah with power and elegance.

2008 Mietz Cellars Pinot Noir $19.99 Sale Price: $15.99 Save $4.00!
Delicious Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, at an amazing price.

2005 Chateau Chamboureau Cremant de Loire $19.99 Sale Price: $15.99 Save $4.00!
Vintage sparkler made from Chenin blanc, great wine to toast for the holidays.

Kiko’s Food News, 11.4.11

The government has proposed the first changes in 15 years to its $11 billion school-lunch program, such as decreasing the starch and salt content in lunches; food companies including Coca-Cola, Del Monte Foods and the makers of frozen pizza and French fries have a huge stake in the new guidelines and many argue that it would raise the cost of meals and call for food that too many children just won’t eat: (full story)

Well, at least one school district is full speed ahead: the Chicago Public Schools announced that its main food-service company will begin buying and serving chicken drumsticks from birds raised in the local area without antibiotics. The deal will bring 1.2 million pounds of chicken to 473 schools per year, and makes Chicago the nation’s largest district to endorse feeding kids chicken that is antibiotic-free. (full story)

A study released this week revealed that U.S. children and teenagers are seeing far more soda ads than before, with blacks and Hispanics being major targets as marketers have expanded online. Black children and teens saw 80 to 90 percent more ads than white children, Hispanic children saw 49 percent more ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks on Spanish-language television, and Hispanic teens saw 99 percent more ads: (full story)

Mark Bittman aimed his discussion this week at those who think eating locally is an “elitist plot”. To counter those who believe they’re entitled to eat any food any time, Bittman argues that to grow what you can close to where you live and eat what you can grow is nothing new, certainly not elite, and necessary: (full story)

The New York Times highlighted a swarm of new butcher shops that are turning around the way meat is bought and sold in the US, including that of our friend Patrick Martins whose Heritage Meat Shop seeks out breeds of cattle or hogs other than those favored by industrial meat packers: (full story)


Fall Menu 2011

Seasonal Sandwich Special

Roasted Yam, Goat Cheese, Pickled Onions and Cilantro Pesto on an Acme Rustic Baguette $7.99

From our Deli Case

Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Salad with Winter Squash, Roasted Fennel and Coriander Vinaigrette $8.99 /lb

Pasta Salad with Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Pistachios and Preserved Meyer Lemon $7.99 /lb

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

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

Apple and Radicchio Salad with Point Reyes Blue Cheese & Pecans $8.99 /lb

Roasted Cauliflower with Currants, Fried Capers and Garlic $8.99 /lb

French Lentil and Celery Root Salad with House Made Pancetta and Grain Mustard Vinaigrette $8.99/ lb

Maple Glazed Delicata Squash and Shaved Fennel with Pomegranate and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds $8.99 /lb

From our Self-Service Case

French Lentil Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Truffle Oil $8.99 each

Curried Potato and Celery Salad $5.99 each

Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts with Caper Lemon Vinaigrette $8.99 each

Arugula and Chicory Salad with Fall Citrus, Ricotta Salata Cheese and Sherry Vinaigrette $5.99 each

Spinach Salad with Persimmon, Pomegranate Seeds, Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese, Candied Walnuts & Balsamic Vinaigrette $6.99 each


The New Bi-Rite Creamery Chocolate Bars

At long last, Bi-Rite Creamery chocolate bars are back and better than ever!  After a months-long collaboration with German-born, Oakland-based chocolatier Michael Mischer, we are proud to introduce these new and improved additions to our chocolate shelves. Thanks to Michael for all your hard work and patience!

We’ve reformulated a tried & true favorite and developed exciting new flavors.  We streamlined their look and, in keeping with the Creamery’s retro character, changed their shape to reflect a more “classic” candy bar shape and feel.  The quality ingredients that we sourced under the masterful care of Michael have resulted in what is a superior tasting bar.  We love these new bars and hope you will too.

Which one will be your favorite?

  • Rocky Road: fluffy marshmallows, crunchy California almonds and dark milk chocolate
  • Salted Caramel: the Creamery’s #1 ice cream flavor is the inspiration for this bar; silky-smooth salty-sweet caramel in perfectly-paired dark chocolate
  • Peanut Butter Caramel: A classic peanut butter chocolate pairing: nutty Project Open Hand peanut butter and silky sweet caramel in rich dark milk chocolate
  • Dark Milk Chocolate: because the chocolate alone is just that good!

Bi-Rite Creamery bars are a great San Francisco gift idea, just in time for the holidays.  Let us know how you think they measure up against the chocolate bars we’ve had in the past!