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Archive for October, 2012


Kiko’s Food News: October 12, 2012

Michael Pollan argued that what is at stake in the Prop 37 vote is not just the fate of genetically modified crops but the public’s confidence in the industrial food chain: (full story, New York Times)

Food prep for the vast majority of supermarkets today is done off-site to reduce staff size and labor costs, and this leads to a (frankly) horrifying amount of waste; this article investigates some of the strategies that could improve the situation, from bargain shelves to “sell by,” “best by,” and “use by” labeling to help reduce consumer confusion: (full story, National Resource Defense Council)

Hog farmers are under increasing pressure from animal rights groups and corporate pork buyers (Dunkin’ Donuts, ConAgra and Chili’s new to the list this week!) to put sows in group housing pens instead of gestation crates, a challenge as many farmers find the crates more profitable and easier on the pigs: (full story, New York Times)

For many years, breeders and seed companies have been breeding tomatoes for everything except taste, but as American palates get more sensitive, complaints about grocery-store tomatoes are leading agribusinesses to pour millions into efforts to hike up the flavor: (full story, Wall Street Journal)

Looking for snacks to serve at your upcoming Halloween or holiday parties? Get a load of what Pringles has cooked up: holiday pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon sugar, and white chocolate peppermint potato chips! Man oh man: (full story, Grist)


Matt R.

Wines for Every Occasion: Long Lost French Varietals

Last week we launched a new newsletter series highlighting ‘Wines for Every Occasion’ across three different categories: ‘Everyday Wine’, ‘Dinner Party Wine’, and ‘Special Occasion Wine’. As experienced wine buyers ourselves, we’re more than happy to share advice on how to manage your home wine-buying!

This week we want to share long lost French varietal Wines for Every Occasion. Never heard of Picpoul, Menu Pineau, or Gringet? Don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone. These are white grapes that are very much off the beaten path but are well worth the time to seek out and explore.

 

Everyday Wine: 2011 Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet  –  $12.99; 6 or more  –  $11.69

Picpoul is a grape native to the Languedoc whose name translates to mean ‘lip stinger’. This white grape has long been used in the area and is known for its biting acidity. Winemaker Claude Jourdan has three small vineyard sites in the Langeudoc and is skilled at taming this ‘lip stinger’ of a grape. The Felines Jourdan is from a single vineyard site of 25 year old vines planted on Jurassic gravel soils. It has aromas of fresh melon and apples, with a hint of anise. It’s light, crisp and bone dry with a pleasant tart apple acidity. Traditionally paired with seafood, this white is comfortable alongside anything from prawns to a picnic in the park.

Perfect Pairing: Grilled prawns with fennel fronds

 

Dinner Party Wine: 2011 Frantz Saumon Menu Pineau  –  $17.99; 6 or more  –  $16.19

Frantz Saumon is quickly becoming one of our favorite Loire Valley winemakers. We’ve featured some of his other wines in the not too distant past. This bottling is 100% Menu Pineau, which is a grape native to the Loire Valley. It’s not used much any more other than as a blending grape and is in fact nearly extinct. However, it is the only grape permitted in Vouvray other than Chenin Blanc. This bottling has fresh lemon and melon scents followed by slate and chalk. It’s medium-bodied with flavors of juicy melon, ginger, and a mouthwatering minerality. Think Chenin Blanc, but a little more exotic!

Perfect Pairing: Pan-seared cod with grilled chicories

 

Special Occasion Wine: 2010 Belluard ‘Le Feu’  –  $44.99; 6 or more  –  $40.49

We’re also big fans of the wines of Domaine Belluard in the Savoie with their unique bottlings of the nearly extinct grape, Gringet. This grape is native to the Savoie, and Dominique and Patrick Belluard own most of its remaining plantings. This bottling, ‘Le Feu’ translates to ‘The Fire’ and refers to the iron rich clay soils of this vineyard which dye the earth a fiery red color. This vineyard is also the Belluard’s best site with a steep south-facing slope and their oldest vines. The nose gives aromas of singed herbs, lemon, white flowers, and almonds. The texture is mouth-coating with layered flavors of white peach, dried herbs, and a lingering stone-like minerality. Extremely rare and limited!

Perfect Pairing: Chicken braised with apples and kale

 

Don’t Miss These Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons:

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

Friday, October 12, 5:30-8PM, RSVP and Drop-in: Back to the Future Wine Tasting

Monday, October 15, 6:30-8:30 PM, Ticketed: Alto Adige Tasting Seminar

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


Anne and Kris

Recipe: Bi-Rite Creamery’s Salted Lavender Cookies

The Marin Headlands Center asked us to donate sweets to serve at their auction in June, so we came up with a recipe for Sea Salt and Lavender cookies–they were a hit! Since these cookies were created after our cookbook was published, they never made it into those pages (maybe the next one!) so we want to share it with you now.

 

Salted Lavender Cookies

1/3 oz dried lavender
7 oz sugar
1lb butter-room temp
1 lb 6oz all-purpose flour
1t vanilla
1t baking soda
1t cream of tartar
5oz powdered sugar
2 eggs

For rolling the cookie:

1 cup turbinado sugar
1T maldon sea salt

 

In a food processor grind your lavender and sugar until the lavender is very finely chopped. In a Kitchenaid with paddle attachment place all of the other ingredients and mix until well mixed. (This cookie is like a shortbread cookie, where you do not have to cream your butter and sugars. Super easy to mix, we like to call them ‘dumpers’!)

Chill dough in fridge for at least 4 hours. Scoop cookies (about 1 oz size or a rounded tablespoon) and roll them in the salted sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes,  turning the pan at the half way mark.


Kiko’s Food News: October 5, 2012

Guess who Chiquita has chosen to run their fruit and vegetable business? A former cleaning fluids CEO (and we wonder how huge food companies end up prioritizing profit over the well being of the people they feed!): (full story, Wall Street Journal)

The number of farms around the country has risen over the past decade (4% from 2002 to 2007), the first increase since the Great Depression pushed Americans into the fields in the 1930’s: (full story, Washington Post)

With millions of Hong Kong consumers worried about the safety of fruits, veggies and meats coming from mainland China, more are tending plots on rooftops and balconies; organic food stores are opening across the city, and there are about 100 certified organic farms in Hong Kong (vs. zero organic farms seven years ago): (full story, New York Times)

A study revealed that the only improved yield attributable to GMO crops is pesticide yield; genetically engineered crops led to a 404 million pound increase in pesticides between 1996 and 2011: (full story, CA Right to Know)

The White House announced that César Chávez, the late United Farm Workers founder, will be honored with a national monument named for him; Obama also declared March 31 to be César Chávez Day last year, both a welcome celebration of a champion for farm workers rights: (full story, Tucson Sentinel)

 


Matt R.

Italian Reds for Every Occasion

We love to discover the wide range of styles and varieties that a simple grape can produce in wine as much as you do. But most of us can’t afford to drink $100 bottles of the best stuff on a daily basis. This week, we’re helping you manage your wine buying by featuring Italian reds in three different categories: ‘Everyday Wine’ (priced for weeknight enjoyment), ‘Dinner Party Wine’ (a little more special for anything from date night to a casual dinner party), and ‘Special Occasion Wine’ (to impress a wino in-law, or toast one of life’s sweet moments). Stick to our plan and you’ll be well stocked for any occasion!

 

Everyday Wine: 2011 Bibi Graetz ‘Casamatta’ Toscana  –  $12.99; 6 or more  –  $11.69

Bibi Graetz, an artist turned winemaker, studied at the Accademia della Belle Arte in Florence and soon after took an interest in oenology. Today, he’s one of Tuscany’s most iconic and eccentric winemakers, using ancient vineyard techniques like planting the vines super close together. This limits their production and concentrates flavor, while also making it impossible to harvest any other way than by hand. And Bibi still paints – his abstract art can be found on his wine labels. The ‘Casamatta’ is 100% Sangiovese from vineyards throughout Tuscany. Lighter in style, it has aromas of black cherry and blackberry, with flavors of plum, tobacco, and spice. Juicy and oh so easy to drink!

Perfect Pairing: Fresh tomato and fennel bruschetta

 

Dinner Party Wine: 2010 Monsecco ‘Barbatasso’ Vespolina –  $19.99; 6 or more  –  $17.99

Vespolina means ‘little wasp’ in Italian, as this grape native to the Piedmont can have a bit of a sting due to its naturally elevated levels of acidity. It takes the craft of a skilled winemaker to tame this ‘little wasp’ of a grape, and the folks at Monsecco, whose estate dates back to 1872, have a lot of experience. While Vespolina is generally used only in blends, this bottling is 100% Vespolina. It has a bright nose with scents of flowers, white pepper, and red cherries. The acidity is well tamed, but balanced enough to stand up to acidic food like tomato-based dishes. It has flavors of lush dark cherries, and an earthy and elegant texture.

Perfect Pairing: Gnocchi with grilled eggplant and arugula

 

Special Occasion Wine: Tenuta Sella 2005 ‘I Porfidi’  –  $44.99; 6 or more  –  $40.49

Tenute Sella, an estate dating back to 1671, produces wines from the DOCGs of Lessona and Bramaterra. Located near Barolo and Barbaresco, Bramaterra is known for lighter, more delicate styles of Nebbiolo. And unlike Barolo and Barbaresco, Bramaterra and Lessona permit the use of other native grapes besides the classic Nebbiolo. The ‘I Porfidi’ is from a single vineyard plot with vines that are on average 77 years old. It is mostly Nebbiolo with Vespolina and Croatina blended in and is aged for 3 years in Slovenian and French oak barrels. It reminds us of a rustic Burgundy with aromas of violet, leather, and tobacco and a very elegant texture with soft tannins.

Perfect Pairing: Roasted game hen with wild mushrooms


Simon

Si’s October Produce Outlook

I’ve been buying produce for a long time, but this is by far the most excited I’ve ever been about apples!  We’ve been working really hard for the past ten years to source a wide selection of local apples to celebrate the fall season.  This year it’s all really coming together…with the addition of OZ Farm as a new farm direct relationships, the apple selection is complete. At least for now!

OZ Farm is a beautiful orchard located near the coast of Mendocino County in Point Arena. The farm became certified organic in 1990 and has around 17 acres of heirloom apples. I’ve heard about them for years but had never figured out a way to get a steady supply of their apples to Bi-Rite.  Luckily Rachel Hooper, daughter of the farm owners, lives in San Francisco and recently expressed interest in bringing down apples every Tuesday!  OZ has over 15 varieties of heirlooms and they’re just starting to ripen up, so they’ll be available through the beginning of November. We just got in three new varieties to add to our “House of Vintage Apples”:

  • The Belle De Boskopp is one of the most popular russet varieties on the market, both a great eating apple and, due to its crispy dense flesh, a wonderful cooking apple. It originated in England in the 19th century and has yellow skin with a red blush, tart to mild sweet flavor, and is highly aromatic.
  • Then there’s the Russet  (no relation to a Russet potato but the skins do look similar). Russet indicates a fruit with slightly rough greenish-brown skin that usually tastes a bit nutty and sweet. The amount of russeting can be caused by a number of factors like weather, disease and pest issues.
  • The Cox Orange Pippin  is one of the finest dessert apples, with a very unique orange-red colored skin.  It originated in England in the 19th century and the flavor is a complex mixture of pear, melon, orange and mango, making any other apple you taste alongside it seem one-dimensional.
  • Finally, the Hudson’s Golden Gem  first surfaced in Oregon around 1930, and is an excellent eating apple due to its extra-crisp sweet flavor.

Another new farm direct relationship that has stocked us with awesome heirloom apples is Epi Center Orchard in Aptos.  Mainly an avocado seedling operation, they’ve found time to tend to their 1- acre orchard of apple trees.  We have a handful of their varieties on our shelves right now:

  • The Suntan  is a cross between Cox Orange Pippin and Court Plendu Plat.  Its creamy yellow flesh is very firm and fairly juicy. These give me flashbacks to my youth and the sweet flavor of a pack of “Now and Later” candies–they’re that sweet!
  • The King David is a chance seedling that sprouted up in Arkansas in the 1890’s. The parents are thought to be the Jonathan apple and either the Black Arkansas or the Winesap apple.  These are versatile for eating, cooking and juicing.
  • The Wickson Crab is a cross between two other crab apples, but that’s where the comparison to crab apples stops. Unlike most crab apples, the Wickson is unusually sweet and still has a little acidity. The Wickson was developed in the early 20th century in Humboldt County by Albert Etter, an apple enthusiast.

Hidden Star Orchard and Devoto Gardens, our tried and true favorite apple growers, are also having amazing seasons.  Johan at Hidden Star is the master of growing all of the varieties that larger commercial growers don’t do justice.  His Fuji, Granny Smith and Pink Ladies Apples are so firm and crispy while containing delicious juice.  This year, Hidden Star will also be treating us to their new crop of Honey Crisps, which have been the most popular variety the past few years.  Stan at Devoto Gardens in Sebastopol is one of the premier apple growers in the North Bay. He’s been witness to numerous orchards being torn down and replaced with wine vines (more lucrative!), but Stan keeps it real by growing a bunch of heirloom apples like the ones he’s sending us:

  • The Jonathan,a classic American apple with a perfect balance of sweet/tart flavor.
  • The Spitzenburg, which has been around since the early 1800’s and was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple.  It has a rich, sharp flavor which gets better after sitting in storage for a little while.
  • The Mutsu may not be an heirloom, but this hybrid from Japan is one of the tastiest green apples on the scene.

Apples may be the highlight of the month but there’s a lot of other fruit that deserves a little hype:

Figs have been out of this world!  There’s nothing like a tree-ripe fig; they’re one of those crops that always taste better when they come from a small farmer who gives them the attention they need.  At the Bi-Rite Farm in Placerville, Sam’s mom does an amazing job tending to her three figs trees and it shows with each sweet, rich fig you pop in your mouth.

We have Warren Pears and Bosc Pears from Frog Hollow Orchard and are waiting on the buttery Taylor’s Gold to arrive later this month. Farmers Al’s pears are hands down the best in the Bay Area. Asian Pears from Gabriel Farm have been eating great. Oh yeah, I can’t forget about the sweet lil seckel pears from Oregon, a perfect dessert fruit.

The pomegranates from Balakian Farm in Reedley have finally arrived and will be on our shelves to help us celebrate all of the upcoming Holidays.  Also, Balakian’s jumbo fuyu persimmons (aka. the apple of persimmons) will be harvested any day now (Rosie and Kiko are particularly excited about this)!

Yes, we still have plenty of local berries from our favorite farms; they’ll be around until the first cold rains fall.

Stay tuned for next month’s produce outlook when I talk about the other half, veggies!

 


Ian

Register Recipe: Benton’s Old Fashioned

Despite the recent string of San Francisco Indian Summer days, fall is definitely here. The nights are cool and clear and the light is changing. In the Market stone fruit has been replaced by an array of apples and pears in every color, texture and flavor. Brussels sprouts, chicories and winter squash are coming in as well, and in every department we’re helping our guests with fall recipes. With all this in mind I thought I’d offer a seasonally appropriate cocktail, something a little stronger and with all the right flavors of harvest to compliment an early fall night…

This recipe is borrowed and modified from Jim Meehan’s PDT Cocktail Book, one of the year’s best reference books from Meehan’s New York bar. Mixologist Don Lee created the beverage to bring together one of his favorite pork products with one of his favorite spirits.

Allan Benton is a famous producer of traditional hickory-smoked hams from Monroe County, Tennessee. His bacon is prized for its rich, smoky character and has earned such accolades as “World’s Best Bacon” from Esquire Magazine. In the cocktail, the hickory smoke complements the spice of the bourbon and the rich sweetness of maple syrup; it’s a terrific play on the original elements of an Old-Fashioned.

Lee uses Four Roses Bourbon, but I’ve substituted the more economical Bulleit Bourbon which I’ve found to be a fine stand-in. Preparing the bourbon is simple and well worth the modest effort, and once prepared it’s shelf-stable!

The next time you wake up to a chill in the air and the desire to cook I hope you’ll enjoy this world-class bacon for breakfast and this perfect fall cocktail by the time the sun goes down (which is earlier, after all…)

 

Benton’s Old Fashioned

2 oz. Benton’s Bacon Fat-Infused Bulleit Bourbon (recipe below)

.25 oz. Mead & Meads Grade B Maple Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass with one large cube. Garnish with an orange twist

 

Benton’s Bacon Fat-Infused Bulleit Bourbon

1.5 oz. Benton’s Bacon Fat

1 750-ml bottle Bulleit Bourbon

On low heat, warm the bacon fat in a small saucepan until it melts, about 5 min. Combine liquid fat and bourbon in a large, non-reactive container and stir. Infuse for 4 hours, then place container in freezer for 2 hours. Remove solid fat, fine-strain bourbon through a cheesecloth, and bottle.