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Archive for September, 2012

18 + 2: Our Whole Systems Approach to Cooking

Our newest 18 Reasons “18 + 2” video takes a look at our hands-on cooking classes, with a focus on knife skills classes. We offer a whole systems approach to all of our classes, teaching about culture, nutrition, policy and technique. In our latest knife skills class we tackled fish filleting with a focus on using fish that’s affordable and caught sustainably. Check out our video and let us know what you think!

Our Fall Harvest Catering Menu

What?!  Fall is around the corner? Already?

Don’t worry, we have the regularly scheduled San Francisco Indian Summer to enjoy first. Plus, we’re offering new fall catering specials to overlap with this late summer weather!  With amazing seasonal produce from both summer and fall to celebrate (crisp local apples are rolling in, juicy tomatoes are still going strong), we’re calling this our “Harvest” Peak of the Season menu.

Our new Fall Harvest Menu is available for orders! A few highlights:

Focaccia Flatbread with Figs, Caramelized Onions, Ricotta, Feta and Fresh Thyme

Savory Tartlets with Caramelized Apple, Bacon, Onions and Goat Cheese

Rancho Gordo Bean and Quinoa Salad with Roasted Poblano Peppers, Cumin and Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette

Mini Ciabatta Sandwiches with Tomato Marmalade, Basil, Arugula and Farmer’s Cheese

Whether it’s a family gathering, picnic in the park, or a dinner with friends, our platters are perfect for any event you want to make a little easier on yourself.  You can pick up at the store, or we can deliver right to your doorstep.  And, as always, if you need more than just food, we can also provide full-service catering with custom menus, all your needed rentals, full bar, and charming staff who are dedicated to serving your guests as if they were our own.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or want guidance planning an event!



Si’s September Produce Outlook

Gina & Adriana from Tomatero, in front of the Market sharing their juicy, sweet dry farmed Early Girls

Yes it’s September and that theoretically means fall, but with this Indian summer we’re having (and a Dry Creek Orchard yellow peach in hand) one might think it’s the middle of July! We have so much fun this time of year bringing in all the fresh produce from our favorite farms, many of which are overflowing with crops like tomatoes, giving us the opportunity to spread the love and offer some really amazing deals. Here’s a quick look at all the inspiring small farms that take time in their day to deliver fresh goodies to Bi-Rite’s door.

Tomatero Organic Farm is located on several different plots of land from the coast of Watsonville to the valleys of Hollister. They’ve been a Bi-Rite rock star this summer, with their produce quality so top-notch.  We have great deals on their dry farmed Early Girls and heirloom varieties like the Cherokee Purple, Marvel Stripe and Brandywine. We’ve tasted a lot of local tomatoes this season and these are by far the most flavorful!

Mariquita Farm in Hollister has done a terrific job keeping their ripe Albion Strawberries on our shelves all summer long.  This is not an easy task considering how the hot weather ripens them extra quickly and the cool weather slows them down, but Farmer Andy seems to have his green thumb on it.  And their Spanish Padron peppers never get old!

Yerena Berry Farm in the rolling hills off the coast of Monterey is the raspberry king! From little berries that pack a sweet punch to the large, plump, juicy ones that melt in your mouth, Yerena has a berry for everyone.

Capay Farm = Candy Stripe Figs; the flavor and texture get better with each delivery.

Apple season is in full swing right now and we are very fortunate to have three farms that help us celebrate the season:

  • Coco Ranch, an organic certified ranch between Winters and Davis, grows a lot of cool heirloom varieties that are hard to find, along with others like the Sommerfeld (a cross between Gala and Fuji). 
  • Devoto Gardens in Sebastopol is another orchard that grows heirloom varieties like the Jonathan; with its crispy texture and sweet/tart flavor, it eats great out of hand and is one of the best baking apples of the season. The crunchy green Mutsu will be ready for harvest by the end of the month.
  • Hidden Star Orchard has been the backbone of our local apple selection for the past five years and they are just about to harvest a new “September Sweet” Fuji.  We also have their wonderful Gala on the shelves and are expecting the NY Special (Braeburn crossed with Gala) by the end of the month. Johann also grows a bunch of different grape varieties; the Princess Grape is perfectly sweet right now.

Local pears from Frog Hollow Orchard are just around the corner, and Farmer Al always starts off the pear season with the sweet and buttery Warren Pear. This is one of those pieces of fruit that, when you bite into it, make you think you’ve never had a good pear before. Frog Hollow also grows the Taylor Gold pear, which will battle the Warren for “local pear of the year”.

Full Belly Farm masters the art of growing everything well! Most of their land is dedicated to vegetable row crops but they also have plenty of orchards.  Their peaches have been eating so well this year, and they have a couple more varieties that will come later this month, so stay tuned.  Full Belly has become our specialty melon grower; they do an amazing job harvesting sweet ripe melons that still have that firm and sometimes crunchy texture we look for.  For those of you thinking fall, they just started harvesting Butternut and Acorn squash!

All of this summer fruit can sometimes take the spotlight away from the coastal growers who keep all the greens coming! Free Wheelin Farm in Santa Cruz grows the best baby lettuce south of the city. Twice a week they drop off multiple varieties of baby lettuces; their full sized Red Butter lettuces aren’t too shabby either. And Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero is another group of young farmers taking advantage of their growing climate and growing big, tender bunches of Rainbow chard and Lacinato kale.

Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma, one of our newer farm-direct relationships, has been one of the first farm partners on our new Public Label line. In the spring, Farmer David asked me whether there were any crops we would like him to grow for us (talk about great service!). So we went for it, and Oak Hill just harvested 2,500 lbs. of “pickling” cucumbers over the course three weeks, soon to be released as a jarred pickle under our new Public Label.

Oh yeah, one last thing!  Although not grown locally like everything I mentioned, Keitt mangoes from Southern California are the bomb!  This is the only mango variety from California that makes it to the Bay Area, and it’s usually the best of the year; silky-smooth, creamy goodness that’s only around for about a month.

Three Ranchers We Love

Don Watson

This fall we have some amazing opportunities to meet the ranchers we love working with at Bi-Rite.

The first on September 19th is a one-two knock-out series with Don Watson, our favorite sheep guy. Did you know he lends his wooly creatures to mow lawns across the Bay Area?  At the first class, watch Bi-Rite Butcher Zane Clark break down a whole lamb into primal and sub-primal cuts, then explain the best way to cook each cut of meat. To inspire your palate we’ll be serve up a lamb snack and beer. Tickets are $25 for members and $35 for the general public.

The following week on September 26th, meet Don in person over dinner and wine. Don and his wife will join us for a five course meal featuring his beautiful lamb prepared by Bi-Rite chef Wyatt Sandberg. For a delectable meal, wine and a talk with the rancher,  tickets are $50 for members and $60 for the general public.

Bill Niman

If you buy tickets to both you’ll get a discounted ticket price! If you can only come to one, that’s ok, too. Choose the class you prefer and sign up quick! Tickets for both Don Watson events are here.

Inspiration from our Farm Tour Series has led us to hit the road again on October 13th, this time heading north to BN Ranch to meet Bill & Nicolette Niman and Devil’s Gulch Ranch to meet Mark Pasternak and Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak. Mark will be whipping up lunch for us, cowboy style. Tickets for members are $40, for the general public $50. Tickets and more information about the ranch tour are here.

Mark Pasternak

Bill Niman is a pretty famous name around here for his beef production. His latest project, under the BN Ranch name, has shifted his focus on maturing beef to enhance flavor and texture. They are a grass based ranch that raises pasture raised cattle, heritage turkeys, and (sometimes) goats. They never use pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizers on their land, use no irrigation, ground water or municipal water, and never administer hormones or antibiotics on their animals.

Devil’s Gulch Ranch, a diversified family farm located in Nicasio, Marin County, produces rabbits, pigs, sheep, premium wine grapes and asparagus for retail customers and direct sales to high-quality restaurants. Sustainable, humane agricultural practices and organic farming are utilized whenever possible.
What are you waiting for? Put on your favorite jeans and boots and join us!


So You Think You Can Write?

Announcing our 1st annual Edible Story Writing Contest, brought to us by “Take My Word For It!” and 18 Reasons!

You ready (and under age 12)? Here goes:

“Life is just a bowl of cherries”

Rewrite this idiom telling the story of what you think life is just a bowl of (500 word limit)

Please e-mail your story to us at sondra@takemywordforit.net no later than Sept. 8th!

Hard, but tasty, work: Peanut Butter and the Pen at 18 Reasons

Two lucky winners will have their piece published online and will each receive a 50% discount on this Fall’s after-school creative writing class, “Peanut Butter and the Pen”, beginning 9/12. All of the young writers in the class will have the opportunity to share their work at a reading for parents and friends at the end of the session. We also proudly post student writing on our blog. And as an extra perk this year, students will have a chance to read their writing at LitQuake with Anne and Kris from Bi-Rite Creamery! More info on this workshop is available here.

Since 2005, Take My Word for It has been teaching their innovative curriculum in after-school and community-based creative writing programs. Designed especially for young authors, our classes challenge and inspire our students to stretch their imaginations.




The Daphne Zepos Teaching Award: From One Cheese Dreamer to the Rest

As many of you know, in July the cheese community mourned the loss of Daphne Zepos, one of our greatest educators.  She touched everyone she met with her unrivaled passion and fostered a deeper appreciation of cheese and its history among the growing ranks of cheesemongers.  Daphne co-owned The Cheese School of San Francisco and lived in the Mission.

To continue her quest for education and learning, a group of cheese retailers and educators from across the country (including our own Sam!) have founded the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award (DZTA) which will be awarded annually, beginning in 2013, to a cheese professional to travel and share their knowledge at the annual American Cheese Society conference.  The foundation was set up to help turn Daphne’s dream and vision for this award into reality; she conceived of the award, so now we as her cheese community are trying to make it happen. The founders have set a goal of raising $250,000 by the end of this year so that the award can be offered in perpetuity.

Photo of Daphne courtesy of Chester Higgins, Jr./NY Times

Being a cheesemonger is a delicious, fascinating field but not necessarily the most lucrative. Accordingly, few cheesemongers can afford travel to where cheese is made, to witness the old traditions and share in the sense of place. I know that if I hadn’t had the chance to go to the Jura mountains (where Comté is made), for example, I wouldn’t be able to share the passion the cheesemakers there have for their craft. The winner of the DZTA will have the opportunity to choose from a range of places to visit, or they can create a unique experience just for themselves.

We’re donating 25% of our sales of Essex St. Comté and L’Amuse Gouda (both cheeses that Daphne selected, imported and introduced to our selection) from September 1st – December 31st to the campaign.  Our ambitious goal is to sell $20,000 worth of these two cheeses over the next four months (that’s an average of 1 wheel of Comté and 3 wheels of L’Amuse per month!) so that we can donate $5,000 to the DZTA fund, helping to continue the educational work of our late friend and neighbor Daphne.   We need assistance from all of you: if you haven’t tasted either of these amazing cheeses, come by for a taste!

Comté in the aging caves, courtesy of Essex St. Cheese Co.

Comté: The first cheese Daphne imported through Essex St., hand selected from among  the 60,000 wheels slowly and coolly aging in the caves at Marcel Petite Fort St. Antoine. Herbaceous, fruity, and kissed with deep, heavy cream, it’s delicious in sandwiches or served simply with fruit, nuts, and bread.

L'Amuse Gouda, courtesy of Essex St. Cheese Co.

L’Amuse Gouda: This two year old aged Gouda, made at the Cono cheese making facility in the Netherlands, is a great example of the flavor that comes from aging at a higher temperature (as opposed to a cooler temp that suppresses bacterial activity), and a testament to the art of affinage.

If you want to honor the memory of one of the greatest cheese educators in America this century, but can’t make it into the Market, please consider donating online. By donating we ensure that 100% of your money (minus credit card fees) will go to the endowment. The endowment is managed by a president and board of directors from the cheese industry who are volunteering their time. All of the endowment’s funds are safely invested and their annual returns fund the scholarship.

Thank you!


Get Those Reusable Shopping Bags Ready: One Month to our New SF Bag Law

Have you heard that city governments are being charged with putting less trash into our waste system? More and more cities across the country are mandating that retailers and consumers throw out less, and one way San Francisco has done this is by banning plastic bags at checkout.

Well about a month from today, beginning October 1, our city is also requiring that all retail stores charge 10 cents for every paper shopping bag used, to incentivize people to bring reusable bags instead. So yes, when we double-bag your heavy groceries, we will have to charge for both of those bags. We’ll continue to take 5 cents off your bill any time you bring your own bags, as we always have. The legislation does not apply to the small bags used for bulk items, produce, nuts, grains, candy, meat, fish, meat, or the paper bags we use to separate your delicate produce to prevent damage.

Now and in the future, we offer two options for re-usable bags if you forget to bring your own. Our trusty Bi-Rite recycled canvas shopping bags are just $3.99 and made of reclaimed post-industrial organic and natural cotton scrap. Beyond those, have you noticed the hook on the wall at the end of the registers? It’s a stash of bags that people have brought in from home that you can take for free and use any time!

Our recycled canvas shopping bags, just $3.99 and built to last!

More change is coming down the line: as of October 2013, the city will require a 10-cent charge on compostable plastic bags as well.
Full info about the new bag law is available here

Consider yourself warned!