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Proud to Be A Gleaner!

Mariquita Farms Pickled Green Garlic

As an extension of the Food Waste Challenge we kicked off earlier this year, we’re proud to be redefining the age-old practice of Gleaning. In biblical times, farmers would leave part of their harvest to be gathered by the poor in their community, who could then feed their families. Now it is often our farmers who need the support of their community. Every year our farmers plow under almost 50% of what they grow when market conditions make them unprofitable to harvest, pack and ship.

Mariquita Farms Green Garlic Pesto--I've had it in my fridge and have been putting it on EVERYTHING

We’re bringing the members of our food community together to “glean” this fresh produce, so it doesn’t go to waste. This is a collaboration with our local farmers alongside Bay Area community kitchens like Happy Girl Kitchens and Community Action Marin (CAM) Foodworks.  Applying the creativity of our chefs, we hope to help farmers extend their season, sustain their businesses and bring you delicious produce-centric foods! Together, we are bringing you the best of each season, all year long.

As the seasons progress, we will be producing a range of pickled, fermented, preserved and canned delights for you to cook with. Since we’re coming up with the recipes ourselves and tasting every batch, you can be sure the taste and quality of our Gleaning Project “value-added” products (as they’re called in the food and farming world) will be just as good as everything else we make here at Bi-Rite. This is what a store’s private label brand should be!

Stay tuned to our blog, where we’ll announce each new Gleaning Project item when it arrives at the Market. And keep your eyes open at the store, where we’ll be sharing them in our produce section, deli and grocery shelves. Each new product will come with some simple, tasty recipes that you can prepare at home.

Join us in our new mantra: “PROUD TO BE A GLEANER!”



Grange Brew: Tapping into Beer’s Agricultural Roots

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 one of our favorite local brewers, Almanac Beer Co., in the CUESA newsletter. Cheers, Brie!

Wendell Berry has said that eating is an agricultural act, but what about drinking beer? A thirst for fermented beverages may have inspired the world’s first farmers to plant crops some 13,000 years ago, yet today beer is rarely part of the larger conversation about where our food comes from.

A handful of local craft brewers are starting to tap into that primitive connection. Taking up the motto “Beer is agriculture,” Almanac Beer Co. works directly with local farmers to source specialty ingredients for their seasonal brews. “For most people, beer is what shows up in the bottle or can,” says Almanac brewer Damian Fagan. “We’re trying to create a foundation that beer is rooted deeply in agriculture.”

Fagan founded Almanac with Beer & Nosh blogger Jesse Friedman last year, after they met in a home-brewing club, where they traded brewing experiments. (“I’d show up with a fig beer or a puréed turnip beer. Not always great ideas,” Fagan admits.) The two instantly bonded over their interest in San Francisco’s farm-to-table food culture. “We saw a real opening to think and talk about the brewing process using that same vocabulary and ideology,” says Friedman.

Jesse Friedman, Almanac Brewer. Photos courtesy of Almanac Beer Co.

No stranger to farmers markets, Friedman launched SodaCraft last summer, offering naturally carbonated sodas using fresh produce from his fellow vendors at the Ferry Plaza. He has since sold the business to turn his attention to Almanac, where his sourcing and brewing ethos remains the same. “Both businesses were born out of the idea that you can take farmers market produce and make something special out of it,” says Friedman.

From the Farm to the Barrel

While the term terroir is usually reserved for fine wines, Almanac has found creative ways to “infuse a sense of time and place in each brew,” as Friedman says, by integrating fresh produce into the mash.

Since last summer, Almanac has collaborated with Sebastopol Berry Farm, Twin Girls Farm, Hamada Farms, Marshall’s Farm Natural Honey, and most recently, Heirloom Organic Gardens. For each of their beers, made in small batches and released seasonally, Friedman and Fagan meet with the farmer, tour their farm, and feature it prominently on the bottle’s label and Almanac’s website.

Like the Farmers’ Almanac, each brew serves as a record of the season. The Autumn Farmhouse Pale Ale celebrated the last of Twin Girls Farm’s fall plums, while the Winter Wit preserved the end of December at Hamada Farms, with a mix of Cara Cara, navel, and new blood oranges. “If we’d brewed two weeks earlier or later, the mix of oranges would have been different,” Friedman notes.

Fennel at the ready for Biere de Mars. Photos courtesy of Almanac Beer Co.

Their most recent release, Bière de Mars (March beer), is a French-style farmhouse ale highlighting baby fennel from Heirloom Organic Gardens. While fennel might sound like an unexpected choice for beer, farmer Grant Brians thought it made a lot of sense when Almanac approached him. “The flavors in fennel are carried in an oil and slightly alkaline base,” he explains. “It’s perfect to mix into the brewing process.”

The goal with each brew is to provide a distinct but subtle accent that does not dominate the flavor profile, but adds depth and pairs well with seasonal dishes. “We want the ingredient to be an integrated part of the beer,” Friedman insists. “It should not be a fennel cocktail.”

How’s the finished result? “It’s good!” says Brians. “I’m generally a wine drinker, but I enjoy full-bodied and well-balanced flavors in beers. And it was nice to taste the end result of our collaboration.”

Bottlenecks for Local Brewers

While Almanac has sourced some local grains for their brews, including wheat from Massa Organics, brewing a truly Californian beer is fraught with challenges when it comes to hops and barley malt. “Unfortunately, the beer world is defined by the big American brewers,” says Friedman.

Photos courtesy of Almanac Beer Co.

California was once home to a thriving hops industry, but by the 1950s, the mechanization of hops harvesting, outbreaks of downy mildew, and changing beer tastes wiped hops growers out. Today, the majority of U.S. hops are grown in Washington and Oregon.

Sourcing specialty malt poses another obstacle, since there are no malt houses in California, and out-of-state industrial malting facilities prefer to work with large brewers. “You can grow high-quality barley here, but the issue is malting,” says Ron Silberstein of Thirsty Bear Brewing Company. “Part of the problem is that local growers are competing with commodity growers who can grow and malt their barley very inexpensively.” Organic malt from locally grown barley is even rarer.

San Francisco’s first and only brewery to carry the California Certified Organic Farmers seal, Thirsty Bear experimented with brewing a 100-percent local and organic beer in 2010, collaborating with Eatwell Farm in Dixon and Hop-Meister in Clearlake. Since there are no local malt houses, Eatwell had to ship its barley to Colorado Malt Company, which hand-malts in small batches.

In launching the Locavore Ale, Silberstein had hoped to enlist more local craft brewers to commit to purchasing organic malting barley from Eatwell Farm, but the buy-in wasn’t there, and Eatwell has since abandoned the project.

“You have to get enough brewers who want to tell a story, who want to have an heirloom varietal of the barley, and who are willing to pay a premium for that,” Silberstein says. He is hoping to build momentum to start a small artisan malting facility, which would make local, small-batch malting more feasible.

While the process of reconnecting local brewers and beer drinkers with local farms still has a long way to go, Silberstein and Friedman are optimistic that the farm-to-bottle movement is growing. “We need to build larger systems to support local brewing, and that’s a challenge we’re excited to tackle,” says Friedman. “In the meantime, we’ve contented ourselves with highlighting specialty ingredients from local farms.”

We currently carry Almanac’s Winter Wit and Bière de Mars, each $16.99 for a 750 mL bottle.

Kiko’s Food News: May 18, 2012

The US Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamp program) provides about $4.44 per day per person to purchase food, and Mario Batali’s bringing attention to how unrealistic healthy eating can be on this allocation; a couple weeks into living off this amount, he says he’s “f***ing starving”:  (full story, Huffington Post)

Food waste becomes art through cool photography revealing its revolting beauty: (full story, NPR)

I was fascinated by this personal account of why black woman prefer to weigh more than what may be considered healthy; the author calls on black women (for whom it is appropriate) to commit to getting under 200 pounds or to losing the 10% of body weight that often results in a 50% reduction in diabetes risk: (full story, New York Times)

Here at Bi-Rite we talk about Creating Community Through Food; creating business deals through food is a new opportunity for businesses that host client meetings in their kitchen instead of a boardroom: (full story, Fast Company)

I loved reading about Bittman’s encounter with Wendell Berry; when asked what city folks can do to turn around our agricultural system, Berry answered “realize that country people can’t invent a better agriculture by ourselves. Industrial agriculture wasn’t invented by us, and we can’t uninvent it. We’ll need some help with that.” (full story, New York Times)

A new study links fast food ads with obesity, suggesting that young people who recognize many fast-food brands-like McDonald’s golden arches and KFC’s logo-out of context are twice as likely to be obese as those who recognized only a few: (full story, Huffington Post)

Shrimp workers at a Thai factory that supplies Walmart have over many weeks been protesting their dismal conditions; since shrimp is America’s top-selling seafood and Walmart our biggest grocery retailer, we can add labor abuse to shrimp’s laundry list of problems: (full story, Grist)

Finally, despite the tremendous interest in food these days, there’s still not enough interest in the people that pick it: (full story, Civil Eats)


May Wine Blitz is ON!

Our annual May Wine Blitz kicks off today and runs through this Sunday. We’re so excited, it’s almost like Christmas in summer! We hope you’ve been making your blitz-list and checking it twice because 20% off 12 bottles or more is amazingly nice.  But just in case you need a little help figuring out which bottles to snag, here are a few of our favorites for the summer.

2010 Domaine Pellé Menetou-Salon Morogues Blanc  –  $19.99  –  Blitz Price: $15.99

The AOC of Menetou-Salon lies directly to the west of the famed AOCs of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. While Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé have become famous for their beautiful and mineral-driven Sauvignon Blancs, the region of Menetou-Salon has remained lesser-known despite housing some amazing producers. Domaine Pellé is a third-generation producer that has been making wines in the small village of Morogue since the early 20th century. Their organically farmed Sauvignon Blanc is everything you’d expect from a great Sancerre but without the price tag.  Clear aromas of citrus and white flowers lead to crisp melon and grapefruit flavors and a long mineral finish. This is a great pairing for all those summer grilled vegetables or some fresh goat cheese!

2011 Domaine Robert Sérol “Les Vieilles Vignes”  –  $15.99  –  Blitz Price: $12.79

Domaine Robert Sérol is located in the Loire Valley, in a newer appellation called Côte Roannaise.  One of France’s newest AOCs, this area is dedicated entirely to the Gamay grape.  The estate has been passed down through five generations and they first started bottling and selling their wines in the 1970s.  They are certified biodynamic producers and produce a wide range of gamay styles.  The “Les Vieilles Vignes” comes from 35+ year old vines.  Bright raspberry and pomegranate aromas lead to fresh red fruit flavors with a subtle spicy minerality.  Serve this lightly chilled for a perfect summer sipping red.

2007 Clos Marie “l’Olivette”  –  Was $22.99  –   Now $16.99  –  Blitz Price: $13.59

Clos Marie is considered one of the top producers in the Languedoc and the Domaine has been farmed using biodynamic principles since 2000.  Their 2007 “l’Olivette” is a blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 20% Mourvèdre. We can’t believe how amazing this wine is for the price. The nose smells of juicy blackberries and dried herbs. The texture is lush and elegant with flavors of dark fruits, licorice, and spice.  Medium body, savory flavors, and great acidity make this the perfect wine to have on hand for all those impromptu summer barbecues!


Sweet Treats for Mama

Mother’s Day is Sunday, just around the corner!  We have some delicious treats in stock, this week only and while supplies last, that would make special gifts for Mom.

We suggest:

Robert Lambert Mother’s Day Fruitcakes, $34.99/16 oz: This cake is much like the Winter Fruitcake that we carry for the Holidays, but with a few substitutions in the lineup of fruits and nuts. Walnuts instead of hazelnuts, and a decidedly tropical turn with dried pineapple and mango added to the cherries and nectarines, all plumped in papaya and guava nectar. Yuzu (Japanese lime) and Celebes papeda (a kind of pommelo) peels join Meyer lemon, Rangpur lime and blood orange peels  for a citrusy kick.  The batter is similar to the White Fruitcake, but with papaya and guava nectar instead of orange juice, and scented with cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla.  And finally, the soaking cognac is infused with the rare, fragrant Shekwasha citrus peel. Topped with a beautiful spring flower, this fruit cake is sure to banish all thoughts of cedar boughs and holly!

Chocolat Moderne Unconditional Love, $14.99/5pc clear round available in white or dark chocolate and $39.99/12pc coral box available in dark chocolate: Thank Mom for all her years of unconditional love with this truffle collection.  Assortments include combinations of the following:

  • Soft passion fruit caramel infused with a hint of cardamom
  • Poire Williams pear and Eau de Vie caramel
  • White chocolate ganache with Japanese matcha green tea
  • White chocolate ganache with coconut milk, toasted shredded coconut dark Haitian rum
  • Crushed, toasted pistachios with white chocolate and rice crisps
  • Crushed, toasted macadamia nuts blended with white chocolate and candied ginger

Michael Recchiuti Butterfly Motif Box, $19.99/8pc: Eight of Recchiuti’s signature burnt caramel truffles decorated with whimsical butterfly images that are sure to delight Mom.

Michael Mischer Mother’s Day Box, $16.99/6pc or $29.99/12pc: Give Mom the gift of Michael Mischer’s blissful truffles.  The Mother’s Day collection includes lavender, salted caramel, dark chocolate, cherry, hazelnut, and coconut truffles.

Maison Bouche Macarons, $14.99: Inspired by the classic French pastries, this collection boasts interpretations in flavored chocolate arranged as a quartet (eight halves) in an embossed basket-weave box.  Available in either dark chocolate strawberry or milk chocolate peach & rum.

Theo’s Spring Confection Collection, $18.99/8pc: Featuring flavors that suggest the freshness of the season, Theo’s 8-piece spring collection contains both ganache and caramel confections: award-winning Pearl Jasmine Ganache, Honey Saffron Caramel, Lime Coriander Ganache, Lemon Ganache, Mint Ganache, Pink Salted Dark Caramel, and Coffee Milk Caramel.

Vosges Mama’s Chocolate Craving Kit, $24.99/9/.5oz bars: This gift set provides a chocolate bar to match every mother’s needs – savory, spicy, sweet, salty, sour, energy, digestive and Indian.  Here’s how those flavors break down: Red Fire (cinnamon), Naga (curry), Black Pearl (ginger), Barcelona (almonds), Oaxaca (guajillo & pasilla chili peppers), Mo’s Milk Bacon (Applewood smoked bacon), Amalfi (lemon zest + pink peppercorns + white chocolate, Bapchi’s Caramel Toffee, Woolloomoolo).

Vosges Petite Clementine & Ginger Botanical Toffee, $11.99/4oz: Sweet buttery toffee laced with ginger confit, lime & rooibos tea, enrobed in dark chocolate and garnished with clementine.


Early Bird Gets the Bottle!

You’ve waited patiently for our first Wine Blitz of the year, and it’s almost here, kicking off Thursday, May 17th and running through Sunday, May 20th. Now let us help you shorten the wait!

Here’s what we can do: if you come in for your case early this time around–the three days before the Blitz–we’ll throw in a complimentary bottle of our 18th St. Syrah along with the Blitz standard 20% off your case purchase. Not to mention the real plus, beating the Blitz crowds to have your pick of our wine selection! Visit us Monday, May 14th through Wednesday, May 16th, mention the word “WELLS” to our wine team, and we’ll make your case a baker’s dozen.

If you haven’t tried our 18th St. Syrah recently, it’s tasting great right now! Crafted by renowned winemaker Wells Guthrie of Copain Cellars in Sonoma, the 18th St. Syrah shows wonderful notes of smoke, blackberry, and pepper spices. Try it with lamb, venison, or grilled veggies; it might become an everyday staple.

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 me with any questions or special orders. 

SF Made Week: Yes, We Still Make Things Right Here in SF!

Of all the organizations Bi-Rite is a member of, there may be none that feels as close-knit as SFMade, a group of San Francisco businesses who bring locally produced products to fruition, banded together as champions of our city’s vibrant manufacturing sector. Just today I was talking to a caramel maker (and SFMade member) who works out of a shared kitchen in the Dogpatch; she proudly listed off other small food artisans who work around her and how thankful she is to be surrounded by their productive energy every day. Given the challenges of operating a successful small business that can compete with larger, national (or international) ones, I probably shouldn’t be surprised to witness the enthusiasm of fellow SFMade members for the support of organization.

We (the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses) and other SFMade member businesses will be celebrating annual SFMade Day on May 12th, and SFMade Week from May 7th-13th. The organizers are giving us so many ways to celebrate local products and the people who make them:

  • Might I interest you in a cocktail party for 15, including appetizer platters and wine, catered by Bi-Rite Catering and delivered to your door? You can bid on that and more in SFMade’s Online Silent Auction.
  • Party at Speakeasy Brewery for their Ramp it Up! Poured, Shaken and Stirred speakeasy themed celebration of local artisanal beverages.
  • Take a tour of some of SF’s most well-known manufacturers–Ritual Coffee, Anchor Brewing, Timbuk2 and more.
  • Meet local sweet makers–Cocoa, Kika’s Treats, and Barbary Brix–and taste the Mission’s newest brewery, Southern Pacific Brewing (I can’t keep away from their gorgeous space, you’ve gotta check it out!)
  • Shop SFMadeDay: on May 12th, “keep your cash in the community” and shop with a local retailer selling SFMade products (here’s a map of participating businesses). We’re donating ten percent of our sales from that day (up to $500) to SFMade’s programs for local manufacturers.

The more SF Made businesses you’re able to support next week, the more you’ll be witness to our motto: “Yes, we still make things right here in San Francisco!”