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Archive for July, 2012


Introducing Community Corner

Meeting with our friend Adrian Williams, a community leader in our new Western Addition Neighborhood

In our new “Community Corner” blog series, I’ll be giving monthly updates on the Bi-Rite Family’s work to build community through food and service. I hope that by sharing these, you’ll have a better idea of what our mission of “Creating Community Through Food” means to us and hopefully be inspired to get more actively involved in your community.

July Highlights:

  • We’re partnering with the Southeast Food Access (SEFA) Food Guardians to increase access to healthy food in their neighborhood by teaching corner stores in Bayview-Hunter’s Point how to procure and merchandise fresh produce. With the help of the Food Guardians, we’re working with store owners who want to purchase equipment and learn more about sourcing, culling, rotating and merchandising fresh fruit before the start of the school year. Shout out to our produce buyer/farmer Simon for his energy and guidance!
  • We provided 3 weeks’ worth of fresh, seasonal produce to Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, a local non-profit dedicated to empowering girls through music, creativity and collaboration. Shout out to Maria on our produce team for her awesome volunteer work as a BAGRC camp counselor!

Get Involved with Organizations we Support:

  • La Cocina needs volunteers for the San Francisco Street Food Festival. Click here to find out how you can help the event organizers and small businesses in need; I’ll be there with Anne and Kris from the Creamery (along with salted caramel ice cream and fruit popsicles) on Saturday, August 18th!
  • MEDIATE Art Group is looking for a volunteer event photographer for their exhibitions and Soundwave Festival. Build up your portfolio and email lauren@me-di-ate.net to learn more about this cool opportunity.
  • Mission Graduates is looking for a few good mentors for two of their K-5 After-School programs, starting August 20th. Email aaron@missiongraduates.org to sign to up. Our lovely cashier Makda is a graduate of this awesome program!
  • We coordinated a donation for the “Right to Know” Campaign, a group of advocates working to get the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act passed in the November 2012 CA election. Stay tuned for our next steps about getting support behind this important legislation!


The Story of Baia Pasta: Traditional Italian Pasta Made In Our Own Backyard

I asked Renato Sardo, the founder of Oakland’s Baia Pasta, to share the story of how their amazing organic brass-extruded pasta came to be. Here’s what he had to say:

Baia's Oakland shop

I had the idea of starting Baia Pasta a couple of years ago, walking along the dried pasta aisle of a local store. It seemed to me crazy that all of the boxes of artisanal pasta were coming from Italy, when I knew that the provenance of most of the wheat (at least 50% of it) comes from North America. With some notable exceptions (Mancini, Fabbri, Martelli and few other small producers) all of the good pasta available here was made with grains that have traveled across the Atlantic twice.

I was born and raised in Italy, eating good dried pasta practically every day – fresh pasta is generally eaten on special occasions or weekends when you have big meals with the whole family – and I thought it strange that in the Bay Area I could find the same brands as at my grocer in Piemonte. At the same time, the only dried pasta produced in the States I could find was bland, made with industrial flours that are probably produced very efficiently, but that are not very flavorful.

Last year I decided finally to try to start  a truly artisan American pastasciutta company. I teamed up with a good friend of mine (Dario Barbone – a San Francisco resident) who is better than me with machines and with social media…I spent some months in Italy on a real pasta pilgrimage…and after months spent looking for the right spot, we finally opened our production space in Jack London Square in Oakland this February.

We are producing all of our pasta using only organic flours from North America; for the moment we offer pasta in durum wheat (the classical semolina flour), whole durum wheat, spelt and whole spelt. The production follows the practices and techniques of the Italian artisans: we use brass dies which scratch the surface of the noodle, causing it to suck up more sauce; cold water in kneading; and low drying temperature. We are able to produce noodles in a dozen different shapes. Some of them are real regional Italian classics like the gnocchetti sardi (sardinians), the maccheroni (macs) or paccheri (pac-macs), and others are more unusual, like the creste di gallo (mohawks) or the gigli (lilies).

Our goal for the next couple of years is to start selling a line of gluten-free pasta, to make longer noodles (for which more expensive equipment is required) and above all to start collaborating with local farmers to grow durum wheat, kamut, or spelt grains for our pasta in order to achieve full traceability on the flours.

Bi-Rite was the first grocery store to approach us and confirm their support, and since bringing our pasta to Bi-Rite, we’ve sold about three times as much as we’d projected when we first met with Raph and Sam. Bi-Rite’s customers have been the real patrons of Baia Pasta. I want to thank enormously all of you for the wonderful support you have shown in these first months of our existence. Without you buying our pasta in flock it would have been much harder for me and Dario, and we would not be able to move forward with plans for expansion.


Kiko’s Food News: 7.27.12

Highlighting the near-impossible economics of small farms, Soul Food Farm announced that they’ve decided to close the farm and stop raising their pastured chicken and eggs; they can’t make a living given soaring prices for chicken feed and don’t want to continue raising their prices: (full story, SF Chronicle)

Good Eggs, an SF food/tech start-up, just launched an e-commerce platform for consumers to find and buy food directly from nearby farmers and food makers; some are calling it an Etsy for local foodies: (full story, Wired)

EcoScraps, a Utah company, takes leftover food from 96 retail stores, turns it into compost, and sells it; they receive 100 tons of food waste every day and sell their compost at over 400 retailers: (full story, Venture Beat)

The current no-growth environment for many grocery chains makes managing costs and competing for market share crucial; this explains why labor relations in this business can be so testy and why so many small grocery chains aren’t around anymore: (full story, Wall Street Journal)

Credibles, a new web project of Slow Money, looks like Kickstarter and other crowd sourcing sites but is about an equal exchange: the amount of money that you put forth for a restaurant or food business is the amount you’re credited to make a purchase: (full story, Tasting Table)

Sunbud Bakery Buckwheat Cookies: From One Bi-Rite Guest to the Rest (with Love)

When you’re standing in the aisles of Bi-Rite Market, looking at the faces of guests to your left and right, do you consider that you might be looking at the very producers of the food you’re buying? Well, you should! Turns out many of our guests have over the years become producers of the food we sell (just like many of our guests have become staff members). The list goes on: Michelle Manfredi’s SFQ BBQ sauce, Michelle Pusateri’s  Nana Joe’s Granola, Cristina Widjaja’s Hey Boo Jams, Josie Baker’s Bread….and the newest on the list, Atsuko Watanabe’s Sunbud Bakery Buckwheat Cookies!

Atsuko, the founder of Sunbud Bakery, lives a few blocks away in Noe Valley and has been visiting Bi-Rite several times a week for years. My guess is that a lot of those visits were spent musing over her future cookie line, because these cookies are the result of many years as a pastry chef and food marketer. After training at the Cordon Bleu and working in Parisian pastry kitchens, she moved back to the US and managed the marketing for Donsuemor, famous for their French Madeleine Cookies.

But she always wanted to create her own cookie, so after tasting her way through bakeries around the world, it was her characteristically Japanese attention to detail that led her to test hundreds of batches and endless recipes before landing on the right cookie. What’s neat about Atsuko’s cookies is that she chose buckwheat as the main ingredient not because it’s gluten free (although that’s a bonus!), but because it tastes so good! Atsuko’s ties to buckwheat run deep, from the soba she grew up eating in Japanese dishes to crepes she made as a pastry chef in France. Buckwheat is a super source of protein and magnesium, and we love it for its nutty, earthy, toasty goodness.

To the buckwheat base she adds almonds and dried unsulphered apricots (for the apricot cookie) or dried unsulphured currants, unsweetened chocolate and organic cacao nibs (for the chocolate currant cookie).  For sweetness she uses agave nectar and coconut palm sugar (low glycemic and hinting of caramel), and she uses coconut oil, which is high in healthy lauric acid.

Atsuko and Jennifer, her Sunbud partner, will be here to share their cookies with other Bi-Rite guests on Sunday August 12th from 2-5. Come by for a taste of Sunbud—with rich almonds and tangy dried fruit, you’ll see and taste her wholesome ingredients taste in each bite.

Urban Farming: What Is It Good For?

Is it possible to feed a city from within its own borders, or is large scale agriculture the way to feed the world? With San Francisco’s new Urban Agriculture policy approved and $120,000 earmarked in the city budget for an Urban Agriculture plan, this questions is sure to evoke many responses.

On one hand, since it’s not possible to feed entire cities solely from within, large scale production outside of urban areas is the practical solution. On the other hand, there is more to urban ag than simply growing, processing and distributing food within an urban environment. There are educational, community, and health benefits that food trucked in from even just outside the city limits cannot replace. And what about “peri-urban” farming?

To help work our way through this thorny debate, 18 Reasons is hosting Jason Marks from Alemany Farm for a dinner conversation on Wednesday, August 1st. Over a vegetarian dinner sourced from Alemany Farm, we’ll discuss  the implications of large-scale agriculture, limiting food deserts, building community, and environmental education.

Alemany Farm is an urban farm located in San Francisco that grew from a dumping ground and now encompasses 4.5 acres. The farm is volunteer-run and produces up to 200 pounds of produce every week. Jason Mark, one of the managers and farmers of Alemany Farm, is also a writer for the Earth Island Journal.

Click here for more information and tickets for the event.



Matt R.

Celebrating Grenache

Grenache: one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, yet hardly among the most widely recognized. Grenache is the primary grape in many iconic wines from around the world (Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Priorat, and Banyuls to name a few) and is now popping up in regions other than its traditional homes in the Southern Rhone and Spain. This week we’re celebrating Grenache with three different Grenache-based wines that are helping to strengthen the reputation of this often overlooked grape.

But first, a brief background for all you history buffs out there. Grenache (or Garnacha as it’s called in Spain) is thought to have originated in the area of northern Spain known as Aragon. In fact, it is sometimes called Tinto Aragones (red of Aragon) in parts of the Iberian peninsula. It then spread along the Mediterranean coast and found a comfortable home in the southern Rhone Valley as well as parts of southern Italy (where you may know of it as Cannonau) and the Mediterranean islands. Somewhere along the way, it mutated a number of times, producing grapes with various color berries. Today we have Grenache Noir (or simply Grenache) and Grenache Blanc, the white skinned variety. Typically, Grenache is a rigorous grape and can have high yields that can produce wines with little structure and a high alcohol content. With that in mind, the best Grenache wines are those from old vines with low yields that are often planted on poor soil in dry areas. The more the Grenache has to struggle to produce fruit, the more character the resulting wines will retain.

2011 Donkey and Goat Grenache Noir ‘El Dorado’  –  $26.99

In 2001, Tracey and Jared Brandt quit their tech day jobs and went to France to study winemaking with the iconic Rhone producer, Eric Texier. They’ve since become local winemaking stars with their hands-off approach to winemaking. They work closely with various growers around California to source grapes grown to their specifications: no chemicals, no irrigation, and minimal intervention in the vineyard. They produce a variety of wines, different each year, out of their small warehouse in Berkeley using traditional techniques like stomping the grapes, fermenting with only native yeasts, aging in neutral barrels, and using little to no sulfur. This latest release of their Grenache is from a small plot in the Sierra foothills and is blended with a small percentage of Mourvedre. Bright cherry and fresh strawberry aromas lead to a more savory palate with flavors of herbs, spices, and smoke. Medium bodied with great acidity. Perfect Pairing: Merguez sausage with pepper relish 


2010 Yves Leccia Vins de Pays de L’Ile de Beaute  –  $22.99

The wines of Yves Leccia have often been referred to as the “Rolls Royce” of Corsican wines due to their consistent elegance and sophistication. Born and raised in Patrimonio (Corsica’s northern coast), Yves worked as a young boy in the cellar helping his father make wine. Today, Yves still makes wine expressing the unique terroir of Patrimonio. He’s extremely meticulous and does all of the vineyard tending and cellar work by himself. His last name, Leccia, is Corsican for oak, which is ironic since none of his wines see any oak at all. This bottling is a blend of mostly Grenache with a small percentage of Niellucciu (the native clone of Sangiovese). Spicy and peppery aromas are followed by scents of tart cherries. It’s medium bodied with a long and elegant finish; and tastes way more expensive than it is! Perfect Pairing:  Heirloom tomato and gruyère tart 

2011 Broc Cellars Vine Starr White  –  $24.99

Chris Brockway is another one of our Bay Area winemaking celebrities. He has a hands-off approach to winemaking, similar to Donkey and Goat, using very little modern equipment, native yeasts, and little to no sulfur. His winemaking philosophy is that one does not get to choose the style of wine one wants to make. Rather, the site from which the grapes come (and all aspects of that site: soil, slope, climate, farming technique) determine what the resulting wine will be like. Chris chooses vineyard sites that are located in what some would consider marginal climates, but he believes the vines should struggle a bit in order develop true character and complexity. This new release of his Vine Starr White is a blend of 85% Grenache Blanc and 15% Picpoul (a high-acid grape from the Languedoc) from a vineyard in Paso Robles. Light floral and stone fruit aromas are followed by flavors of white peach and a lightly salty minerality. This mid-weight white is sure to stand up to heavier dishes.  Perfect Pairing: Grilled whole trout and romano beans


Jamming My Way Through the Food World

Three years ago this month, I ventured into the crazy world of food start-ups in San Francisco. My goal? To claim world domination through delicious, jewel-colored jars filled with fresh fruit, sugar, lemon and a whole lotta love. With a hint towards my production methods and a not-so-subtle nod to my favorite music genre, Slow Jams was born. With the help of La Cocina, I garnered a fair amount of attention, grew my business, and even made it to national TV. Not bad for a Harlem-raised girl who didn’t taste a fresh apricot until her first visit to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market.

And then my life completely changed.

Along with being quite the foodie, I’m also a really big nerd. It turns out that the US State Department recognized said fact and I was awarded a prestigious 1-year Fulbright fellowship to attend the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. Selected to earn my Master’s degree in Food Culture and Communications, I tried to ready myself for copious wine tasting, olive oil sniffing and the consumption of ungodly amounts of cured pork products.

Alas, I had to say goodbye to Slow Jams and the momentum I had gained. But last year was incredible, from learning about traditional cheese-making in a hut atop the Dolomite mountains, to getting schooled by nonnas in the art of making tortelli pasta, to having thoughtful conversations about food sustainability with professors from around the world. Not to mention making my way through daily life in our tiny town with my Tarzan Italian (“Me want the cappuccino there now please!”).

However, in my heart, canning and preserving never went away. As I immersed myself in Italian food culture and traditions, I began to see parallels with our food culture here in the Bay Area. Throughout my travels, I sought ‘kindred canners’ and bonded across language barriers. I discussed sugar content and troublesome label-makers with a small-jam producer in Emilia. I learned secrets of mostarda in Reggio and discovered a native pumpkin only used for its pectin. I also taught “the American way” of canning for bemused audience of old and young Italians.

Earlier this year, I returned to the Bay a certified gastronome trying to find her place again in the food world. I knew canning and preserving would be a part of my life, as would my deep commitment to food systems work. So I asked my favorite dreamer-entrepreneur-foodie Sam if there was a place for me at Bi-Rite. As a new member of the Bi-Rite family, I now wear a number of hats. I’m working as our Community Coordinator, continuing our support of so many San Francisco organizations that need our help, and forging new programs that aim to increase access to healthy food across our city’s neighborhoods. I’m hosting our Sunday cooking classes at 18 Reasons (tickets are available for my blackberry-palooza on August 5th!) And as our in-house canner, I now work with our farmers, grocery and produce teams to make small-batch, seasonal preserves out of our Bi-Rite kitchens right here on 18th Street.

Macerating the peaches for my Bi-Rite PUBLIC Label jam

It would only make sense that pairing my jam expertise with the best of directly-sourced fruit from our farmers would yield some delicious new additions to the Bi-Rite shelves. Combining my trademark New York obsession with top quality, my commitment to preserving our Bay Area produce bounty, and a new hint of Italian flair, I’ve come up with several tasty preserves that we’ll offer in our new Bi-Rite PUBLIC Label line. Leave no cream scone untopped by my Summer Berry Jam; it’s clean, bold and fruit forward, bursting with fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. And be on the lookout for the Santa Rosa Plum Preserve I’ve made from the tart and sweet plums we harvested from our Sonoma Farm.

We’ll be sharing tastes of our new PUBLIC Label releases throughout the summer; swing by and say hi, I’m looking forward to seeing some new and old faces! I have lots more up my sleeve and am pumped to have my Bi-Rite fam on my side.

Jam on!

Kiko’s Food News, 7.20.12

The cottage cheese available these days is blowing the stuff of decades past out of the water; using milk from grass-fed cows, stirring and cutting the curds by hand and adding cream for zing, cheese makers are upping the ante (you’ve gotta try the Cowgirls’!): (full story, MSNBC)

Looks like we’re not the only ones with a Gleaning Project: Amber Balakian has taken over her family farm and launched programs that will add new revenue sources (their Spring Lady Yellow Peaches are so juicy right now!): (full story, CUESA)

Maine lobsters are selling 70% below their normal price–a nearly 30-year-low–due to an unseasonably warm winter which created a supply glut throughout the Atlantic lobster fishery: (full story, Wall Street Journal)

Proof that city policy can change behavior: a study found that New York City diners consume 2.4 fewer grams of trans fat per lunch on average two years after the regulation prohibiting restaurants from serving food prepared with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil went into effect: (full story, Los Angeles Times)

Farmhopping, a website launching next month, aims to create a new framework for financing small-scale farming by connecting farms with backers who pay a small sum to invest in a farm for rewards and a say in how it’s managed: (full story, GOOD)

The Bronx has joined the growing list of municipalities working with corner store owners to put fresh fruits and veggies front and center: (full story, New York Times)

Announcing our new product line: Bi-Rite PUBLIC Label

Wow, do we ever have a creative, engaged and VOCAL community! When we reached out to ask for your input on a name for our new line of private label products, we had no idea we’d get hundreds of responses from our guests and staff. It was too much fun going through all of your ideas (we actually found good minds thinking alike with several of the names, usually the ones involving “Rite”!). Without further ado, we’ve chosen a name for our new line of private label products…

Bi-Rite PUBLIC Label

Bi-Rite PUBLIC Label redefines what a store line can be by sharing WHERE your food is from, WHO produced it and HOW it was made…and letting you taste before you buy, so you know it’s GOOD!

We want to turn the “private” in “private label” upside down. Our line is all about transparency: we’re sourcing the ingredients from farmers we have direct relationships with, partnering with kitchens in the Bay Area that have the capacity to can and jar larger quantities than we can, and providing the recipes ourselves. And we want to share the whole process with you. It’s part of our constant challenge to dig deeper and learn more about how food is made, minimize food waste, and make tasty foods the old fashioned way.

We’d love to hear what you think of the new name. Meanwhile Kristine, our store artist, is busy coming up with new graphics and labels for our shelves!

Join us Sunday in front of the Market from 2-5 to taste three of the first items in our Bi-Rite PUBLIC Label line:

Shakirah’s Mixed Berry Jam: Made by Shakirah Simley, Bi-Rite’s Community Coordinator and the founder of Slow Jams. Bursting with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, and lower in sugar than most berry jams, it’s great paired with cream scones and Devonshire cream, or mixed with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, mint and sparkling water for a minty berry summer lemonade.

Our zingy Kohlrabi Kraut--you know what they say about colorful eating!

Kohlrabi Kraut: Made from Mariquita Farm’s Kohlrabi cabbage and Catalan Farm’s red cabbage, this bright, chunky kraut has notes of citrus and a kick from ginger and chili pepper. Kohlrabi is a stout cultivar of cabbage that will grow almost anywhere; it’s packed with nutrients and antioxidants, with a unique magenta coloring.  The thick pieces of Kohlrabi in our Kraut are delicious on sandwiches, burgers, tuna salads, egg salads, or out of the jar. Available in a very limited quantity!

Strawberry Balsamic Sauce: Inspired by our Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream, Shakirah’s Strawberry Balsamic Sauce will bring the sweetness of Mariquita Farms berries into your pantry year round. With bright berry flavor and an exotic hint of brown sugar, black pepper and lime, we love this on top of vanilla ice cream, French Toast, or Bellwether Farms Ricotta.

Matt R.

Hooray, Gamay! Reds for the Summer

A little fog has certainly never stopped us San Franciscans from getting in the summer groove. We are really good at denying the reality of our ‘summer’ and still gather outdoors despite the wind and cold to grill, picnic, and even head to our frigid beaches. So what can we drink to both celebrate summer and help stay warm? Gamay!

We’ve never been shy about showing our love for Gamay here at Bi-Rite, and we think summer is one of the best times to drink it. We’re not talking about the mass produced Beaujolais Noveau style that arrives every November and is often the only Gamay many people have ever drunk. No, we’re excited about the wide variety and elegant styles of Gamay available from many different wine-growing regions, light and drinkable on their own or versatile with food. If you’ve only ever had a Beaujolais Noveau, we strongly urge you to pick up one of these beautiful bottles of Gamay sometime very soon!

2010 Edmunds St. John ‘Bone-Jolly’ Gamay Noir  –  $17.99

Edmunds St. John was started in 1985 by husband and wife team Steve Edmunds and Cornelia St. John. Their founding mission was to focus on creating wines in an old world style that truly expressed the character of a place. They have always purchased grapes from other sources and have helped to influence local growers into looking beyond the standard Cabernet and Merlot that has become so ubiquitous here in California. They’ve definitely championed the use of more Rhone varietals like Syrah and Grenache as well as Gamay Noir, the noble grape of Beaujolais. This Gamay, from the Sierra Foothills, has a lively nose of bright cherries with a bit of spice. Light to medium body, it has flavors of cherry and brambly woods.
Perfect Pairing: grilled eggplant stuffed with goat cheese

2010 Quastana ‘L’Insurge’ Gamay  –  $18.99 

While typically found in the Beaujolais area of France, Gamay can now be found in the Loire Valley and has produced exciting wines from this region. Jérémy Quastana is a young producer who studied with Olivier Lemasson (who in turn studied with Marcel Lapierre, the renowned Beaujolais producer). Needless to say, there’s a lot of tradition and knowledge that’s been passed down to Jérémy, and his wines prove that fact. This Gamay is Jérémy’s first vintage from his small two hectare plot in Touraine; his 50 year old vines produce a wine that’s juicy and concentrated with red cherry and light earthy aromas. Those tart cherry flavors carry through on the palate along with rhubarb, fresh currants and a bright acidity.
Perfect Pairing: Moroccan spiced grilled chicken 

2010 Debize Beaujolais ‘Tete de Cuvee’  –  $27.99

Bruno Debize has been farming his small 5 hectare plot in Beaujolais biodynamically since 1999. In fact, he is certified biodynamic by Demeter International. Started in 1928, Demeter is now the largest certification organization for biodynamic farming. It is widely regarded as the highest grade of organic farming in the world, maintaining very strict standards and requiring annual inspections and renewal on the part of the farmers. How does this translate to the wine? Well, Bruno’s wines are made with great care and maintain a subtle elegance. This Gamay has light floral qualities and bright cherry and red berry aromas. In tasting, it has a little more depth with fresh red fruit flavors and a little bit of licorice and spice with a long finish.
Perfect Pairing: summer vegetable ratatouille or seared tuna with plum sauce