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Archive for July, 2012

Sarah F.

Cooking with Curds: A Sweet Spin on Caprese

When Anthea told me we would be featuring California cheeses this month, I was instantly excited because one of my all-time favorite cheeses is made here. Since fresh cheeses don’t travel well, I’m thankful that some California cheesemakers have begun making burrata.  My favorite domestic burrata is made in Southern California by Vito Girardi of Gioia Cheese, who hails from Apulia–the birthplace of burrata–and uses a traditional Italian recipe to make his cheese.

I found a quote that really resonated with my thoughts on the cheese:

“Essentially, burrata is nothing more than mozzarella stuffed with mozzarella — the outer skin is the same pasta filata curd, and the filling is a rough mix of unfinished curd and heavy cream. But that nuts-and-bolts description doesn’t begin to do the cheese justice. Burrata is to mozzarella as foie gras is to chicken liver.”
~Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times

Burrata is especially enjoyable at this time of year because it pairs so nicely with tomatoes! Normally my favorite way to eat it is simple: fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, my favorite olive oil (personally I am swayed by McEvoy), salt, pepper and maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. For this month’s Cooking with Curds recipe, I came up with my own spin on this classic: let’s go sweet instead of savory, and enjoy the peak of summer stone fruit!

A Sweet Spin on Caprese

(serves approx. 4-6 as an appetizer)

2 4oz bags of Gioia Burrata
4 nectarines
2 peaches
2 plums (any combo of stone fruit is great–taste your way to your favorites in our produce section!)
2 springs fresh mint
½ cup hazelnuts
peel of 1 lemon
Bi-Rite rooftop honey (whatever quantity your heart desires!)
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F to toast hazelnuts.
  2. Slice assorted stone fruit into 6-8 wedges each.
  3. Pick mint leaves from stems.
  4. Put hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast, about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Zest lemon (if you don’t have a zester, peel the lemon skin and finely julienne).  Be careful not get too much pith since it can be bitter.
  6. Cut burrata into large pieces (about 4 per 4 oz bag) and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Remove hazelnuts from oven and roughly chop.
  8. Place stone fruit on a large plate, cutting board, or platter evenly distributing the different varieties.
  9. Sprinkle burrata in different areas as your artistic side sees fit
  10. Season the dish with salt and pepper (very important to make sure to season the burrata and the entire dish)
  11. Scatter mint leaves and toasted hazelnuts across the dish.
  12. Drizzle honey over the entire dish, making sure to cover the burrata.
  13. Sprinkle crushed chili flakes.
  14. Garnish the burrata itself with the lemon zest.
  15. Grab a bottle of rosé or sparkling wine and share with friends.  Cheers!


Register Recipe: The Mexican Shandy

Last October, I made a pact with two of my friends that we would take a trip to Mexico to explore the world of mezcal. (Of course this was made after a few flights of the very traditional, very Mexican spirit.) I’m proud to say we realized our drunken plans last month: I spent two very exciting weeks in Mexico City and Oaxaca. Needless to say, we drank a lot of mezcal.

This is me petting one of the horses that push the big stone

To many, mezcal is some weird, smoky, worm-containing cousin of tequila. But in fact, tequila is a specific type of mezcal. There are many different types of maguey (or agave) that grow all over Mexico. A specific one is grown in Jalisco and turned into tequila. The other 25 or so varieties of maguey are also fermented and distilled, but called ‘mezcal’. Because Mexico contains many different climates, regions, and varieties of maguey, mezcals greatly vary in nose, body, and taste. From dive bars to high-end restaurants, mezcal is always sipped at room temperature and accompanied by slices of orange, dusted with a powder of chile and roasted larva (it’s delicious).

However, the best part of our trip was visiting mescal distilleries (palenques) an hour outside Oaxaca City. It felt like Sonoma or Napa—off-the-road palenques freckle the major roads. You drive up, explore the fabrica, and sample at the tasting room. We saw horses pulling huge stones to crush the magueys, the earthen ovens where the hearts (piñas) are roasted, the huge barrels where the maguey ferments (naturally—they don’t add any yeast), and the copper pots where the wine of maguey (pulque) is distilled into mezcal.

The best part was going to a remote pueblo where the citizens don’t speak Spanish, but instead still speak the indigenous language. We met a woman who is called “the mother of mezcal”. Common in Oaxaca City, restaurants buy mezcal from distilleries and bottle it as their own brand. Quite a few high-end restaurants source mezcal from this particular woman. She and her four lovely daughters toured us around her facility and fed us tortillas made with agave syrup. After tasting a few of “the mother’s” mezcals, we quickly realized why she earned such a title. Each was incredible—some rich and smokey, some smooth and light. I admit we bought quite a lot from her to bring back, but most was gone by the time we returned to the US.

Mezcal is quickly gaining popularity here in the United States. Quite a few new palenques are appearing in Mexico, and these fabricas are much like those of tequila. They’re ignoring their domestic audience and have plans to solely sell to the US. (It’s amazing how many very familiar brands of tequila we didn’t see in Mexic; mezcal may have the same fate.) However, mezcal is still a Mexican spirit. We enjoyed mezcal is all forms—sipping it on its own, enjoying delicious and well-balanced mezcal cocktails, and even pounding some mezcal frappes on a very hot afternoon (alright, maybe a few hot afternoons).

Here at Bi-Rite, we carry two types of mezcal. Del Maguey is a company that imports mostly single-origin mezcals from pueblos in Mexico. We stock their Chichicapa ($72.99/750ml), from a pueblo two hours south of Oaxaca City. It’s light and has a nice minty smokiness on the nose with a long finish. We also carry the “Vida” ($39.99/750ml). This blend is a little heavier, with notes of sandalwood, citrus, and smoke.  Matthew Fleeger, husband of our very own Marika from the deli, is an incredible bartender. He has concocted a perfect summer cocktail with mezcal. The drink also serves as a great introduction for those who have yet to try Mexico’s finest spirit.

The Mexican Shandy

1 ½ oz. Del Maguey Vida
1oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ oz. agave nectar
Blue Star beer
Pinch of salt
Rosemary (for garnish)

Combine ingredients over ice, shake, and strain into a 12 oz. Collins glass. Top the glass with Blue Star and stir. Garnish with rosemary.


Kiko’s Food News, 7.13.12

Diplomacy through food: under Hillary Clinton’s reign as Secretary of State, state visits to Washington now include dumpling and shortbread making, and a program that links chefs in embassies around the world is in the works: (full story, New York Times)

I’ve got to hand it to the British Airways marketing team: in an effort to beat stigmas against heinous airplane food, they’ve launched a new “Height Cuisine” campaign which uses videos about how altitude affects taste, plus at-home experiments on how taste changes at 35,000 ft.: (full story, Tasting Table)

The Arctic Apple, a genetically engineered apple that does not turn brown when sliced or bruised, could become one of the first genetically engineered versions of a fruit that people directly bite into; is this really the way to increase apple consumption? (full story, New York Times)

The man is watching your eyes in the grocery aisles: to find out what really nabs shoppers’ attention, companies like Procter & Gamble are combining 3D simulations of product designs with retina tracking cameras that can determine which designs got noticed in the first 10 seconds a shopper looks at a shelf: (full story, Wall Street Journal)

Large corporations increasingly own the organic food industry, as agri-food giants like Coca-Cola, Cargill, General Mills and Kraft have gobbled up most of the smaller brands. How much do you know about it? Take this (challenging!) quiz to find out: (full story, New York Times)

On that note, is the organic movement a victim of its own success? As corporate membership on the board that controls organic certification has increased, so, too has the number of non-organic materials (i.e. carrageenan) approved as organic: (full story, New York Times)

Celebrating the Cheeses of our Great State

We’ve chosen July as our annual ode to California cheese; it’s always such a wonderful reminder of how much we have to celebrate in our own backyard!  This month we’re featuring some longstanding favorites alongside  newcomers that we’re excited to introduce to you.

We have access to some truly wonderful fresh cheeses, which is definitely not something to take for grandted.  Cowgirl Creamery Clabbered Cottage Cheese is a perennial favorite of mine (in fact, I included it on a list of my desert island cheeses a few months ago), and I’ve really been enjoying it for breakfast recently alongside ripe juicy peaches and nectarines.

Burrata oozing with cream, amazing with summer stone fruit or tomatoes

If you’re not a cheese-for-breakfast person, fear not: lunch and dinner are excellent times to enjoy burrata or fresh mozzarella with roasted stone fruit, tomatoes, or just a simple drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. We have two LA area burrata options to choose from: the Gioia burrata tends to be bright and creamy, while the Di Stefano burrata, with the addition of Italian panna, is richer and sweeter.  We’ve been lucky enough to receive Pt. Reyes Farmstead mozzarella on an almost weekly basis, and love its milky character.

For those of you Tomme Fraiche diehards, we’ve brought in the Carabiner from Weirauch Farm and Creamery. Inspired by an Alpine style of cheese, the Carabiner is made with raw milk and aged for a minimum of five months.  Shepardista from Seana Doughty of Bleating Heart Dairy is making its first seasonal appearance on our counter. Just over 60 days old (raw milk cheeses must be aged for a minimum of 60 days), it’s young and lively!

Bleating Heart's Raw Milk Shepardista

Toward the end of the month, we’ll have our first taste of 2012 Baserri from Marcia Barinaga.  She’s elected to age her first wheels of the season to three months before releasing them this year—we’re waiting with bated breath!



Announcing Sean Thackrey’s Cassiopeia Project Pre-Order

If you’ve ever delved a little bit deeper into the world of wine, you may have heard about various grape “clones” used in the winemaking process. Even for single varietal wines like Pinot Noir, viticulturalists choose from a dozen or more slightly different clones when planting a vineyard. The resulting wines are therefore blends of different clones which the winemaker assembles in various proportions depending on the characteristics sought in the final product.

Sean Thackrey, the winemaking maverick behind the popular Pleiades blend, wants to invite wine drinkers to explore this clonal selection process that was once privy only to winemakers or those lucky enough to attend a barrel tasting. His Cassiopeia Project is an ambitious 6-bottle set of Pinot Noirs showcasing individual clones from the River Block at Wentzel Vineyard, an organically farmed site in Anderson Valley. Included in the set are 4 bottles of different Pinot Noir clones and 2 bottles of the final Vineyard Blend. Though the Vineyard Blend will eventually be available individually, the only way to taste the clone bottlings is through this 6-pack. This is a fascinating and rare opportunity to explore the different clonal expressions of Pinot Noir and to get a peak into the inner workings of the winemaking process. Normally $50 per bottle, we’re offering this 6-pack for only $250. That’s getting one bottle for free! 

2010 Sean Thackrey “Cassiopeia” Pinot Noir 6 Pack  –  $250 + tax 

  • Clone 114
  • Clone 115
  • Clone 667
  • Clone 777
  • 2 bottles of the final Vineyard Blend

All four Dijon Clones were planted in the summer of 2001. Root stocks, trellising, soil composition, and cellar treatments were identical to maximize the individual expression of each clone. During our staff tasting, we were surprised by the differences apparent in each of the clonal bottlings. While each retained its identity as distinctly Pinot Noir, there were different levels of acidity, fruit presence, and other secondary nuances in all four clones. The tasting provoked a lively discussion among the wine team over our individual favorites in the lineup; we’d love to hear about your experiences once you’ve tasted through these amazing wines!

Cassiopeia 6-packs can be purchased any of the following ways:

1. Email me with your name, phone number, and number of 6-packs desired.

2. Call the store at 415.241.9760 and ask to speak with a member of the wine team.

3. Come visit us in person and order with a wine specialist.

All orders must be placed by Friday, July 20th and will be available for pick up after Wednesday, July 25th.  


Si’s July Produce Outlook

Summer is finally here, and this beautiful weather really has things growing fast on the local farms.  All of our favorite summer crops–tomatoes, melons, corn–have arrived on our shelves.

Local Stone Fruit season is going to hit its peak production in July!  I’ve been buying produce for Bi-Rite for the past 10 years and this is probably the most flavorful stone fruit I’ve ever experienced! It’s hard to explain in words, you’ve got to taste it! Our favorite growers Blossom Bluff, Balakian, Frog Hollow and Full Belly Farm will be delivering a unique selection of fruit throughout the summer months:

  • Full Belly is really excited about their crop of June Pride Yellow Peaches, which should be ready in mid-July.
  • Frog Hollow just started harvesting their Suncrest Yellow Peach, already a front runner for our “best piece of stone fruit in the store” prize.  Farmer Al will be harvesting this variety through mid-July, followed by the Zee Lady Yellow Peach.  He will also have Ruby Diamond Yellow Nectarines in mid-July.
  • The apricots have been ridiculous and should be around for most of the month.
  • Marchini Orchard in Placerville grows super yummy mountain fruit and will start harvesting in July.
  • Yes! We still have local cherries from Hidden Star Orchard in Linden CA, but they’ll only be around until mid-July.  Then we’ll be getting cherries from the Northwest.

Stone fruits are like bananas: they continue to ripen after harvest.  The goal is to harvest the fruit when it has full color and still is a bit firm.  Most to the firm stone fruit we offer will finish ripening in 1-3 days at room temp and will hold 6-7 days in the refrigeration.  I think stone fruit tastes better when it’s out of the fridge for 1-2 days before eating.

Local berries are in full swing and the flavor has been amazing!

  • Swanton has been sending us sweet and delicate “Chandler” Strawberries and are looking forward to a bountiful July.
  • Andy Griffith at Mariquita Farm is very enthusiastic about his 5 acre plot of strawberries.  The plants have a bunch of flowers, which means there will be plenty of “Albion” strawberries, smaller but sweeter than Chandlers.
  • Yerena Farm still continues to surprise us with their extra-special local raspberries and blackberries.
  • Blueberries from Hidden Star Orchard are awesome right now; we’ll also have blueberries from Mom and Dad Mogannam’s Placerville Orchard throughout the month.

Local tomato season is knocking on the door and we can’t wait to let it in!  Happy Boy, Mariquita, Balakian, Tomatero and Full Belly Farm will have specialty varieties of cherry and heirloom tomatoes starting in July:

  • Cherry tomatoes are usually the first local tomato to ripen up, and are a perfect way to get the taste buds going. We just got our first hit from Happy Boy Farm in Freedom, CA.
  • Balakian Farm in Reedley (just south of Fresno) has delivered their first harvest of Cherokee Purple tomatoes and will bring more varieties throughout the month.
  • Full Belly has 4 plantings of tomatoes on 12 acres, but they’re growing slowly; their plan is to start harvesting the heirlooms by the end of July.
  • The 1,200 tomatoes on our own Farm in Sonoma are 3 ft tall, and growing about 6 inches a week.  We probably won’t harvest them until mid-August, but when we do, they’ll be extra vine-ripe.

The local melon scene is gaining speed! Full Belly has become one our favorite growers, and has over 10 varieties in the fields this year.  Yellow Doll and Orchid watermelons offer unique flavor and texture, a far cry from the commercial red seedless watermelon.   Some of the other varieties to keep an eye out for are the Galia, Goddess, Honeyloupe and Charentais.  All of these melons have amazing flavor and juice, perfect for a big bowl of melon salad.

Corn is a very challenging crop to grow organically, as the moths love to lay their eggs in the top of the ear, and worms love to eat its way down the cob. Large conventional growers use crop dusters to spray chemicals and eliminate the insects. Organic growers have two main ways to cut back on the number of worms in their corn: crop rotation, and bacillus thuringiensis (BT) bacteria (which is harmless to humans, but produces toxin that kill certain insects.) We’re lucky to have Catalan Farm in Hollister and Full Belly in Guinda on the forefront of the local organic corn movement; they both just started harvesting.

One of our favorite small farms is Free Wheelin’ Farm, just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1.  The young farmers there work 9 acres on the chilly coast and farm soil that was abused in the past, limiting what they can grow.  Over time they’ve figured out which crops grow best in these conditions; they now supply us with some of the most amazing local lettuces we’ve seen.

Can you say “local organic apples in three weeks”?? Johan from Hidden Star Orchard can! He’ll start harvesting his Gala apples in mid-July, and will continue to supply us with a wide variety of specialty apples for the duration of the year.  Johan is also a master table grape grower; his crop was slowed down by the cold weather in May, but we should see them come in around the end of the month.


Support Bi-Rite Divis: Thursday July 26th at City Hall

GOOD NEWS: We’ve been assigned a date from the SF Planning Department for our conditional use hearing before the SF Planning Commission for the new Bi-Rite on Divisadero. The date is Thursday, July 26th, room 400 at City Hall: 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, at 12 noon.  We’d love your support at City Hall that day if at all possible; if you follow us on facebook and twitter, we’ll be sending updates once the agenda is posted about what time exactly our project will be discussed.

Having a group of neighbors and friends present and willing to share their support will help our efforts to get approval for our project so we can open as quickly as possible. If you can’t be there in person on July 26th, please consider sending a letter of support to the commissioners so we can include your voice. Please copy us on any correspondence if you can.

If you have any questions or concerns about the project, we would love to hear from you in advance of the hearing. We will be sharing our building plans for the new store at two upcoming neighborhood association meetings. You can catch us at the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association meeting at Café Oasis on July 19th at 7pm, and at the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association meeting at Chateau Tivoli on July 23rd at 7:00pm. Calvin and I (co-partners of Bi-Rite Divisadero) will be on hand to answer any questions you have.

Want us to present at another community meeting that we might not know about? Can’t make it to the meetings but have some thoughts to share? Let us know.

We’ve received a lot of questions and feedback from our fellow neighbors, business owners, non-profits, and community leaders about our opening – please, keep it coming. Your insights and suggestions are always welcome.

We’re especially looking forward to growing our community of staff, guests, and producers. We are excited to serve a new neighborhood and to growing our staff as we hire 50 new people (hopefully many that live close to the new store!). And with two stores, our producers—the farmers, ranchers, bakers and food artisans we support and whose products feed all of us—will have another market to sell their goods, which will help them to grow and sustain their businesses.

We hope to see you at the hearing on July 26th! And if not, see you in the neighborhood.

Scott on our produce team drew this--our new store is the "gift"!


Celebrating Ice Cream Month with our New Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones Gift Box

I’ve always been a sucker for food holidays–national peanut butter day is my favorite, and vegan pizza day ranks high up there too. But the only food holiday I celebrate for an entire month is for ice cream, which happens right now: as if we needed another excuse to eat an abundance of ice cream for no good reason, July is National Ice Cream Month!

What better way to celebrate a month of frozen indulgence than to release our new Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones gift box? Designed for the pint-a-day passionate ice cream lover, that sweet toothed friend we can always count on for our afternoon sugar rush, the faithful Creamery line companion…or for that nice little reminder that we do in fact eventually get a summer here in San Francisco.

This box includes a copy of Bi-Rite Creamery’s ice cream cookbook Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones (signed by Anne and Kris) plus our favorite fixins for an ice cream sundae bar: Edward & Sons Organic Sugar Cones, Michael Recchiuti Burnt Caramel Sauce, Fudge is My Life Dark Chocolate Sauce, Sweet & Sara Mini Marshmallows (vegan), Mitica Marcona Almonds, and a bag of Bi-Rite Creamery’s fresh baked cookies to crumble on your sundae.

Let us take you back to those youthful summer days of sitting in the sun, indulging in a mile-high piled ice cream cone, and worrying only about whether you can power through the brain freeze before it melts all over your hands! We’ll have these gift boxes ready to grab and go at the market for a limited time, so come by to check it out in person! (After that, this box will be available for order along with our other gift boxes.)

And stay tuned for the festivities we’re planning around National Ice Cream Day on Sunday, July 15th!

Kiko’s Food News, 7.6.12

Old models for how food is sold and farms get financed are being reworked, and more predictable revenue streams are creating an economic argument for local farming that used to be more of a lifestyle choice: (full story, NY Times)

Isn’t the dialogue that’s been sparked around the health of mega soda exciting? The soft-drink industry has launched an aggressive campaign to fight New York City’s proposed restrictions, introducing a radio ad featuring “Noo Yawk”-accented actors proclaiming, “This is about protecting our freedom of choice”: (full story, NY Times)

I’m rooting for the success of Hayes Valley Bakeworks, a new nonprofit bakery and cafe that goes beyond baked goods to offer a culinary training program for disabled, homeless or at-risk employees: (full story, SF Weekly)

A predictive report on where Americans will be buying groceries in the future if current trends continue forecasts less time in the grocery-store aisles, more in the dollar store or online: (full story, Forbes)

After eight years of debate and diplomacy, a consortium of environmental organizations and commercial fishing executives has developed the first comprehensive global standards for salmon farming, which specifies 100 fish-farming standards to be implemented later this year by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council: (full story, NY Times)

18+2: Introducing 18 Reasons’ New Video Series

“18 + 2” is 18 Reasons’ brand new video series. The idea behind it is to spread the word about what we are up to and continue our mission of educating people about food. This first video is an introduction to who we are, as one of the members of the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses. As an education center, 18 Reasons hosts a wide variety of classes in our space on 18th Street in the Mission.

From hands-on cooking classes, such as America’s Other Fruit Desserts: Buckle, Crumble, and Crisps, to Dinner Conversations with local producers, like Pacific Brewing Laboratory and Alemany Farm, to an Urban Gardening School, to community service work with local youth organizations, our programs teach essential skills for growing and cooking your own food.  Our goal is to bring people together to deepen our relationship with food and each other; 18+2 will show you how we do it!