Home 2012 October

Archive for October, 2012


The Label as Site of Intervention

A visual icon Americans have shopped for for decades

As 18 Reasons’ curator, my mission is to weave together the visual arts with the shopping, eating and cooking experienced in our Market, Creamery, and Farm. In that vein, I’m struck by the opportunity we have this month to begin shifting the visual culture of food shopping from the commercial to the behavioral—public health intervention through design.

In 1955 Berkeley, beat-poet Allen Ginsberg wrote his legendary poem, A Supermarket in California. In it, Ginsberg uses a fictional account of a visit to the supermarket as a metaphor for his dissatisfaction with issues such as economic materialism, domestic life, commodification, and sexual repression. Because I don’t have the space to properly divulge into such issues in this short post, I’d like to focus solely on the poem’s second line and bring its relevance into the present time.

Ginsberg writes, “In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket…”

What a tragic tone he casts—a society grown so estranged from its food sources that it is left to shop for images, simulations of food. But in 2012 a similar statement can be made regarding our grocery shopping habits. Shopping for images, for better or worse, has become the primary way in which many consumers hunt and gather their food today. Removed from the source and reliant on the package, labeling has become one of the main places where we meet the story of our food.

As we walk down the grocery aisles, visual identifiers such as slogans, logos, distinguishable colors, fonts, and buzz words jump off packages in an attempt to grab our attention and increase product sales. We seek Chester the Cheetos Cheetah because he is familiar. We seek words like “natural” and “fresh” because they have subconscious ecological, social, and health-based connotations. Although this detached relationship to our food is unfortunate, and largely caused by the predominantly industrialized food system, this vision-based form of harvesting remains a central part of our grocery shopping experience.

A visual icon we may be able to shop for more often if Prop 37 is passed

But here in California, in 2012, we have an opportunity to reimagine this visual relationship as more than just a marketing strategy, to reimagine our food packages as more than a place for a company to sell consumers its products. The label can become a site of intervention.

Prop 37, the initiative to mandate labeling of genetically modified foods, if passed, affords us this chance. By voting Yes on Prop 37, consumers get one step closer to having full, transparent disclosure regarding their food products.  Voting Yes on Prop 37 does not mean you are casting a vote on whether or not GMOs are good or bad; voting yes simply declares that we as consumers have a right to know how our food is produced. Voting Yes declares that we as consumers crave conscious choice.

The importance of voting with our forks has been stressed, but many times before the food reaches our forks, we must vote with ours eyes at the supermarket. And in order to accurately vote with ours eyes, we must vote at the polls.

Groceries as Communities for Change

It’s been a year since Occupy Oakland. Despite the momentum some might have felt at that time, our communities’ social and economic problems remain. But the movement did illuminate a very important sentiment: People want to have a meaningful role in creating greater social equality and economic resiliency in their communities.

I partnered with Brahm Ahmadi of People’s Grocery last week to submit a piece about how grocers can be a locus for change to the San Francisco Chronicle’s op-ed desk.

Brahm is the founder and CEO of the People’s Community Market, a start-up grocery business in the lower-income neighborhood of West Oakland that faces many of the same challenges seen here in the Mission 20 years ago. Although it has yet to open its doors to the public, People’s Community Market is using a local solution for citizen action – a grassroots community investment campaign. The campaign enables people of all economic backgrounds – including the 99 percent – to actively participate in their local economies by becoming shareholders in this business. This is not a donation. This is real investment, creating community ownership, in a business whose primary purpose is to make a positive impact on the well-being of the community, and bring its shareholders a modest return.

The project is an outgrowth of 10 years of community work by the People’s Grocery. Their campaign, enabling people of all economic backgrounds–including the 99 percent–to actively participate in their local economies by becoming shareholders in this business, needs our help!

Click here to become an investor in People’s Community Market-the sooner they raise the needed capital, the sooner their doors will open and offer healthy food to a neighborhood that now does not have access.


Community Corner: October

Our October recap on the Bi-Rite Family’s work to build community through food and service.

We sponsored CUESA's Sunday Supper so our catering manager Michael and his lovely wife Lisa enjoyed our two spots at the table!


  • A quick survey found that our staff volunteers at over 40 different organizations across the Bay Area – nice work everyone! Favorite causes included the arts, youth, sustainable food, LGBT rights, recreation, and helping animals in need.
  • We hosted a group of Mission High Pie Ranch Interns looking to learn the “inside scoop” on running a food business; they’re now interested in working with us more at 18 Reasons. A BIG shout out to Anne, Tammie, Simon, Alli, Michael, Sergio, Olivia and Kiko for your warmth, wisdom and awesome answers!
  • We strengthened our work with Southeast Food Access with a visit to Naif, a corner store owner in the Bayview. Simon provided info and resources on maintaining and merchandising fresh produce.
  • We supported People’s Community Market, an initiative working to bring the 1st full-service grocery store to West Oakland. Sam will speak at their kick-off campaign event on Thurs, October 25th from 7– 9pm.
  • We provided a donation to North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association for their annual Halloween Festival, creating a safe and fun space for costumed kiddies in the Western Addition.
  • We sponsored CUESA’s 2012 Sunday Supper, raising funds to develop their Schoolyard to Market program.
  • We hosted a GMO Primer October 20th at Oliveto restaurant, discussing GMOs on their effects on our health, crop-diversity, cultural heritage, and the environment.
  • We’re supporting organizations loved by our staff, including Oasis for Girls, LYRIC and Streetside Stories (thank you Charlie, Steffan and Chris!).

Get Involved with Organizations We Support:

  • YUMChefs needs your help teaching healthy cooking classes to kids at famer’s markets and after-school programs. Email Leah Brooks (LeahBrooks@yumchefssf.org) to sign up!
  • Arriba Juntos needs volunteers for their “La Posada” Christmas Toy Giveaway. Help give more than 1,000 toys to kids in the Mission this holiday season by calling G Gomez at 415-487-3243.

Know of great volunteer opportunities? Spending some quality time at a worthy local organization that could use Bi-Rite’s support? Let Shakirah know!

Organizations we’ve donated to this month:

Mission Preparatory School
Bay Area Video Coalition
Dolores Street Community Services
Arab Cultural and Community Center
Farms Reach
Lamplighters Music Theatre
Neighborhood Playgarden
Thomas Edison Charter Academy
Mission SRO Collaborative
Monroe Elementary
St. Paul’s Parish & School
Positive Resource Center
Media Center at Mission High School
Glenridge Coop Nursery School
Homeownership SF
Women’s Audio Mission
People’s Grocery
San Francisco NAACP
The Marsh
Mission High School Athletics
People’s Community Market
Access Institute

Matt R.

Cooking with Curds: Broiled Polenta with Poached Eggs and Piquillo Pepper Sauce

Me 'modeling' the Caciocavallo

To me, polenta is just fancy grits. And who doesn’t love fancy grits with some eggs? This classic breakfast combination is always hearty and fulfilling. Breakfast is also one of my favorite meals, so I’m always looking for ways to mix up its traditional ingredients to serve at all hours of the day.

This dish takes regular polenta and incorporates Caciocavallo cheese, a stretched curd cheese from Italy with flavors somewhere between provolone and mozzarella. I then let the polenta set up, and cut it into chunks to broil. I top those with peppery arugula, poached eggs, briney Castelvetrano olives, and a savory piquillo pepper sauce that is a snap to make. Breakfast for dinner has never tasted so good.

Broiled Polenta with Poached Eggs and Piquillo Pepper Sauce

Serves 4

For the red pepper sauce:
– 1 cup roasted piquillo peppers (1 10-ounce jar in liquid)
– 1 clove garlic
– 1 small shallot
– 2.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 3.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the polenta:
– 8 ounces Caciocavallo cheese, grated
– 1 cup polenta
– 2 cups whole milk
– 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
– 1 teaspoon salt
– two handfuls baby arugula, washed and dried
– 8 eggs
– 6 ounces Castelvetrano olives, pitted and sliced
– extra virgin olive oil


To make the piquillo pepper sauce
Drain piquillo peppers of their jar liquid and rinse off. In a food processor, combine the peppers, garlic, shallot, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt. Puree until smooth and set aside. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

To make the polenta
Lightly brush or spray a 9×13 pan with extra virgin olive oil. In a medium pot, combine the milk, broth, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Once the pot reaches a boil, pour in the polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly as you pour. Let the pot return to a boil, stirring, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Stir constantly to avoid having a lumpy polenta. The polenta will thicken gradually and eventually start to pull itself away from the edge of the pot. This could take 30 – 40 minutes, but once this starts to happen, the polenta is done.

Transfer the polenta to your prepared 9×13 pan, gently pat it down into an even layer, and set aside. The polenta can be prepared up to a day in advance and kept covered and refrigerated. If you need to use it immediately, place the pan in the fridge uncovered for about an hour until it is set up to a solid consistency.

Preheat the broiler. Once the polenta is set up, remove it from the fridge and cut it into triangles. Place these on a well oiled baking sheet. Broil for a few minutes (2-3) on one side until brown and crisp and remove from the oven. Flip each over and broil the other side until brown and crisp. You may have to broil these in batches depending on the size and type of your broiler. Set finished polenta triangles aside, covered in foil, until all are ready to serve. Poach the eggs, and lightly toss the arugula in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. To plate, place two or three polenta triangles on the plate, spoon over some of the piquillo pepper sauce, add a handful of arugula, top with two poached eggs, and sprinkle with olives. Enjoy!

P.S. Sharing recipes and photos of cooking victories is something I do often on my own blog–check it out: www.missionkitchensf.com

Kiko’s Food News: 10.26.12

Updates from our Yes! On Prop 37 campaign:

Check out the new California Right To Know ad–we need to share it widely to counter the millions spent by Monsanto and huge food conglomerates on TV-ads!

Alice Waters’ chefs’ petition in support of Prop 37 has been endorsed by over 100 top notch chefs including Dan Barber, Mario Batali, Jacques Pépin, Joyce Goldstein, Charles Phan, and our own Sam Mogannam–spread the word! (full story, New York Times)

An encouraging study demonstrated a decreased need for chemicals in agriculture, showing that longer crop rotations produced better yields of corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88%, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold, and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent: (full story, New York Times)


A lot of working women are still rushing home from work each night to cook dinner; a study indicated they spend more than twice as long (35 minutes) as working men (15 minutes) whipping up meals and cleaning up afterwards: (full story, NPR)

I’m inspired by the domino theory of public health–how one city or state’s putting a stake in the ground on an issue will influence others; our neighbor cities Richmond and El Monte have put the soda tax on their Nov. 6 ballot! (full story, New York Times)

Just when we thought the Rome police had better things to do than to stop people from eating a sandwich, a new ordinance outlawed eating and drinking at the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and other areas of historic, artistic or cultural value in Rome’s center: (full story, New York Times)

Only a few decades ago, many doctors and nutritionists warned that nuts should be eaten on special occasions and only sparingly, but have since revised their recommendations; here’s a breakdown of how our favorite nuts stack up health wise: (full story, LA Times)

Matt R.

California Staycation

This week I’ve been entertaining my family visiting from the east coast, where I grew up. This is my mother’s first visit to the west coast since 1975! Of course, I had a long list of things to see and do. We took a few days to explore California, including the Russian River and Sonoma Coast, and I must say that I loved being able to take the time to explore my own ‘backyard’. My mini ‘stay-cation’ reminded me how much I love California and the wines we produce here. As a result, this week’s newsletter is a tribute to some of the new California wines hitting our shelves. Grab a bottle tonight and enjoy exploring California anew.

And don’t forget to mark your calendars for this year’s two Wine Blitzes, where you save 20% off 12 or more bottles (mix-and-match) with free delivery in San Francisco:

Wine Blitz #1: Thursday, November 8th – Sunday, November 11th 

Wine Blitz #2: Thursday, December 6th – Sunday, December 9th 

2010 Unti Dry Creek Valley Segromigno  –  $25.99; Blitz Pricing  –  $20.79

While Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma may be best known for Zinfandel, Unti Vineyards is focused on Italian and Rhone varietals. Mick Unti and his father George founded Unti Vineyards in 1997 and have sought to express their Mediterranean heritage in this corner of Sonoma by planting Mediterranean varietals that thrive in this area. Segromigno is the name of a village in Tuscany where Mick’s grandfather was born and where he and George still have family. The blend is mostly Sangiovese with Montepulciano and is a tribute to Rosso Piceno, a traditional blend found in Tuscany. Unti’s Segromigno is one of our favorites every year. Lively red cherry and dried herb aromas are followed by equally bright red fruit flavors, chocolate, bright acidity, and mid-weight tannins. This is the perfect red for a variety of dishes, especially Italian food!

Perfect Pairing: Roasted brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds and pecorino


2011 Arnot- Roberts Luchsinger Trousseau  –  $32.99; Blitz Pricing  –  $26.39

Winemaking pair Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts are producing some of California’s most exciting and sought-after natural wines. They consistently produce interesting and elegant wines from a variety of vineyard sites throughout California. Nathan is himself a trained cooper and produces all the barrels they use for aging. This bottling is 100% Trousseau, an obscure red grape from the Jura, France, that is making quite the impression on the California wine scene. This unusual grape produces very light red wines with aromatic and savory qualities. The Luchsinger vineyard is located near Clear Lake on volcanic and geothermal soils. The color is a light ruby, almost like a dark rosé. It has layered aromatics of orange peel, strawberry, and pomegranate. What you think will be a light palate actually has more gripping tannins with flavors of fresh cherries, tart citrus rind, and savory herbs. Only 4 barrels were produced so get it while you can!

Perfect Pairing: Roasted salmon with dill; arugula and persimmon salad


2010 Onward Hawkeye Ranch Pinot Noir  –  $39.99; Blitz Pricing  –  $31.99
After working for years in the wine industry, Faith Armstong Foster launched her own brand in 2009. She has long, deep relationships with two growers in the Anderson Valley and Mendocino and, so far, produces wines entirely from Pinot Noir, her personal favorite to drink and work with. This bottling is 100% Pinot Noir from Hawkeye Ranch at the north end of the Redwood Valley in Mendocino. The cool climate here and Faith’s hands-off winemaking technique result in a wine of great elegance. It has aromas of soft red fruit, a light floral quality, medium-bodied palate, and great acidity. Thanksgiving wine anyone??

Perfect Pairing: Turkey roulade and sweet potatoes


Cheese of the Week: Pecorino Di Rocca

Many of us don’t realize that Pecorino is a blanket term for any Italian sheep’s milk cheese. Italy produces a wide variety of Pecorinos ranging from piquant and peppery to more subtle and nutty. Pecorino di Rocca is a pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese from Tuscany. It’s on the less peppery, more sweet and nutty end of the spectrum with a slightly crumbly texture. It’s perfect at the end of a meal or paired with a Tuscan style red like the Unti Segromigno.


Don’t Miss These Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons:

Thursdays, every week, 6-10PM, Drop-in: 18th Hour Cafe

Friday, November 2, 6-8PM, Drop-In: Thanksgiving Wine Blitz Preview Tasting

Friday, November 9, 6-8PM, RSVP and Drop-In: Rioja Tasting with Bi-Rite and K&L Wine

Wednesday, November 14, 7-9PM, Ticketed: Producer Dinner: Bucklin Winery

Holiday Guide & Menus 2012

Click here to view and print our Holiday Guide! We’re taking pre-orders now, give us a call at 415-241-9760 x 3.

We’re so excited to bring you our first ever Holiday Guide, your one stop shop for a tasty holiday, Bi-Rite style. Inside you’ll find:

-Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah menus

-Turkey options: pre-order yours today!

-Holiday Wine Blitz details

-Sweet Weeks details

-Catering ideas–platters or full service

-Cheese platter tips and our favorites for the holiday

-Pies, holiday ice cream and other sweets from Bi-Rite Creamery

-Gift ideas: 18 Reasons classes, gift boxes, chocolates, special occasion booze, and more…

-Ordering info and deadlines for holiday pre-orders



Kiko’s Food News: October 19, 2012

California’s Central Valley, the world’s largest patch of class one soil where the 25-degree daily temperature swing is ideal for growing and the sun shines nearly 300 days a year, is our greatest food resource. So why are we treating it so badly? (full story, New York Times)

A neglected icon of Cali agriculture, most raisins available today are devoid of seasonal pizazz, but special varieties like the Thompson, Diamond Muscat and Princess–freshly harvested and processed by small growers–are beginning to show up at farmer’s markets: (full story, LA Times)

CUESA explored the GMO labeling debate by interviewing farmers & food makers at their Ferry Building Farmers Market, many whose produce & foods we sell: (full story , CUESA)

Speaking of knowing what’s in our food, here are eight ingredients to avoid if you see them on a nutrition label: (full story, Today)

And speaking of GMOs, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of a federal court ruling Monsanto won against an Indiana soybean farmer; this is exciting as no farmer has ever won a court case against Monsanto: (full story, Grist)

We’re keeping our eyes on Craig Ramini, a former Silicon Valley consultant turned buffalo mozzarella producer who’s working to produce the Italian cheese on his new farm and facility 69 miles north of SF; we’ve been tasting batches as part of his journey towards the traditional ideal! (full story, New York Times)

Tech investors have recently bought a $20 million controlling stake in Blue Bottle Coffee, a large stake in Stumptown Coffee, and an investment in Sightglass Coffee…but for reasons they see as far from “an exercise in the vanity of wanting to be in the restaurant business”: (full story, Wall Street Journal)

Through Slow Money’s efforts, more than $20 million has flowed to over 170 small food enterprises over the past two years; now the Soil Trust is focusing that money at the root of the issue: the dirt! (full story, Soil Trust)

Non-GMO Month at Bi-Rite: Two Opportunities for Conversation

We recommend voting YES on Prop 37 November 6th. But this isn’t about politics (yes genetically modified organisms are bad vs. no they’re not). It’s about transparency.

Transparency has been the foundation of Bi-Rite since the beginning, and it hinges on our ability to answer questions from our guests. It’s why we source direct, and work independently with hundreds of producers—so that we know the people who make the food, and there’s no middle man that’s a barrier between us and the information. So if we don’t have an answer, we know who to go to to get it. We want our guests to feel confident and comfortable and trust that what they’re buying at Bi-Rite is what they want.

We’ve been doing all we can to spread awareness around the big vote on November 6th–we want Californians to know that this is our opportunity to make a change at a state level that could go on to affect national policy as other California initiatives have. So we’ve organized two events that will happen in these last three weeks before the vote, and want to make sure you join us if you want to learn more about the complicated issue of GMO’s (or if you just think a scoop of non-GMO Caramel Apple Ice Cream sounds tasty!).

GMO Primer Discussion

This Sunday, October 21 from 1-3PM, 18 Reasons is hosting Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now! and Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety, for a conversation about GMOs and their affects on our health, environment, culture, and crop-diversity.  Oliveto Restaurant, 5655 College Avenue, Oakland (Right next to Rockridge Bart stop!); Register here: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/281022

Scoops for the Right to Know

We’ve partnered with Straus Family Creamery, true leaders in responsible dairy practices and champions of the campaign to require labeling of GMO foods, to spread the word about the vote on November 6th. Anne and Kris at the Creamery have come up with a special non-GMO ice cream flavor–Caramel Apple, so fall right now–which we’re scooping all the way through November 6th. The clincher is that the weekend before the vote, Saturday November 3rd and Sunday November 4th, we’re offering scoops of this flavor for just 37 cents!

The best thing about the upcoming vote is that it’s sparking conversation about what’s in our food, and our staff, guests and producers are all learning about the ins and outs of GMO’s together. Please share your thoughts in a comment!








Matt R.

Welcome to Gamay-ville

In case you hadn’t noticed yet, fall is showing itself (if not by our hot days then by our early nights)! Time to break out the decorative gourds and chug pumpkin spice lattes by the gallon! We even had our first hints at San Francisco’s rainy season last week with KarlTheFog being unusually aggressive for October.

The transition to fall also means Rosé City in the wine section has been replaced with Gamay-ville! We’re not at all shy about showing our love for Gamay. We think it makes the perfect fall wine – either as a glass to sip on its own on a crisp fall night or to enjoy with a wide range of autumn food, even pumpkin.

Lastly, fall means Wine Blitz season! Mark your calendars for this year’s two Wine Blitzes, where you save 20% off 12 or more bottles (mix-and-match totally cool) with free delivery in San Francisco:

Wine Blitz #1: Thursday, November 8th – Sunday, November 11th 

Wine Blitz #2: Thursday, December 6th – Sunday, December 9th 


2011 Clusel-Roch Coteaux du Lyonnais ‘Traboules’  –  $16.99; Blitz Pricing  –  $13.59

Domaine Clusel-Roch is located in the tiny AOC of Coteaux du Lyonnais, which as the name suggests, surrounds the town of Lyon just south of Beaujolais. One of France’s newer appellations, it sits above the northern Rhone with soil and climate very similar to the Rhone valley. The primary grape here is of course Gamay. Having more Rhone-like soil and climate qualities, including the schist and black mica that the nearby Côte-Rotie is known for, this wine has flavors somewhere between Gamay and Syrah. Fresh red berry and black currant aromas lead to soft fruit flavors with a hint of peppery and herbal depth and a long medium-bodied finish. It’s fun and serious all at once!
Perfect Pairing: Oven roasted root vegetables with Herbes de Provence


2011 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Cheverny Rouge  –  $19.99; Blitz Pricing  –  $15.99 

Brothers Jean-Marie and Thierry Puzelat are icons in the natural wine world, having pioneered many of the natural winemaking practices in the Loire Valley. Their family has been making wine here since the 1960’s using organic practices – they’ve never had to convert to organic since that’s all they’ve ever done! This bottling is a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay from their small 5.5 hectare plantings. It has aromas of bright strawberry and cherry with similarly bright and lively fruit qualities on the palate. It’s light in body with a great mineral depth and light herbal quality. They produce very little so grab some while you can!
Perfect Pairing: Red Kuri squash and curry soup

2010 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorees Brouilly  –  $22.99; Blitz Pricing  –  $18.39
Jean-Paul Brun is one of the most well-regarded producers in Beaujolais. He has vines in a variety of the Crus of Beaujolais and all of his wines are known for their great purity and depth. The area of Brouilly is known for its steep slopes on Mont Brouilly covered in blue and green granite, a soil type particularly well-suited for producing Gamay. This bottling comes from 50 year old vines and has incredible complexity for the price. Lively red fruit aromas up front are followed by layers of dark berries, smokey minerals, and bright acidity. One of our favorites every year that is both drinkable now and age worthy!
Perfect Pairing: Seared duck breast with pomegranate reduction


Don’t Miss These Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons!

Thursdays, Every week, 6-10PM, Drop-in 18th Hour Cafe

Friday, November 2, 6-8PM, Drop-In Thanksgiving Wine Blitz Preview Tasting

Friday, November 9, 6-8PM, RSVP and Drop-In Rioja Tasting with Bi-Rite and K&L Wine