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Bienvenue French Cheese Month!

There are some mornings when I round the corner of 18th St. and Guerrero on my way to work, and think I might be in Paris.  The scent of baking butter, the sight of dogs nestled against café tables and the sounds of mugs and morning chatter set the scene.  Sooner or later, the roar of the #33 bus brings me back to San Francisco, but not before I’ve had a few moments to long for France.

Fortunately, a few steps away, we’re savoring the flavor of cheeses from France this month at Bi-Rite.  France’s cheeses are legendary for the quality, range and diversity of cheeses produced.  France’s geography includes mountains, grassy cool lands where cows thrive, a giant plateau and plenty of sheep, a Mediterranean climate where goats rein king, and rich Roman roots.

le puits d' astier

A delicious donut of Le Puits d’ Astier

I’m particularly excited about a few cheeses from the Auvergne, France’s agricultural heartland.  Fourme D’Ambert in its industrial incarnation can be a boring and insipid blue. Ours, aged by Tours-based affineur Rodolphe LeMeunier has a supple yet creamy texture, and a flavor that dances between fennel, hay, and a sweet, cooked cream finish.

If blue cheese isn’t your favorite, fear not — look to the Andante Selections Cantal instead. A giant drum of a cheese, this 80# wheel is sometimes written off as French cheddar. Though its crumbly texture and lactic character share some common ground with cheddar, its subtle milkiness and grassiness set it apart.

Finally, the dramatic donut-shaped Puits d’Astier, whose rustic and colorful rind hides a fairly delicate paste, is rich and round in a way unique to sheep milk cheeses.

Come by both Markets to taste some of our French favorites!


Simon

Si’s April Produce Outlook

Springtime is always exciting around Bi-Rite Market, but this spring is particularly exciting because for the first time I can say, “springtime is exciting around both Bi-Rites.” With the one-month anniversary of the new Bi-Rite Divis just days away, we are busy building up our local seasonal produce displays in both stores.  After a winter full of amazing citrus, apples and greens, the tastes of spring have arrived.  All of our local growers continue to fine tune their farming skills, and every year the spring crops come earlier.

Veggie Madness

The early spring vegetable selection is my favorite! Winter crops like chicories and brassicas really kick in as the days get longer and the air stays cool.  Spring alliums, green garlic and artichokes start sizing up and add wonderful flavors to our produce section.

Full Belly Farm (Yolo County, CA) takes advantage of the early spring and is one of our featured farms this time of year:

  •  Full Belly’s asparagus is so fresh when it arrives at Bi-Rite that you don’t have to cook it to enjoy its tender, sweet and grassy flavor.  We’ll have the local grass until the end of May.spring asparagus
  • Their spring cippolini onions and green garlic are always extra flavorful and taste great paired with spring veggies.
  • The red leaf and romaine lettuce is super tender with a nice, crispy heart. Early spring can be a challenging time to source head lettuce.  Most of the larger organic lettuce growers are switching from Southern CA plots to land in Central Valley, so the market price is high. Local growers like Fully Belly have a limited supply but offer fresher lettuce at a better price.Keep an eye out for specialty bunched greens like arugula, mizuna and spinach that come and go all summer long.
  • I can’t forget to mention Full Belly’s amazing organic flowers. The Ranunculus bunches have a million colors, the Tulips are bright, and the Anemones are reminiscent of snorkeling along a coral reef.  Look out for beautiful, seasonal bouquets!
  • There are plenty of other small farms harvesting delicious veggies:
  • Tomatero Farm (Watsonville, CA) has big and beautiful bunches of Lacinato, Green and Red Russian Kale.  These tender leaves are great raw in a salad, sautéed or added to a super juice.
  • Our good friend and local farmer Martin supplies both stores with his SF famous arugula.  Even with the arugula and lettuce ‘capital of the world’ just south in Salinas, Martin always bring us the freshest product we can find.
  • Willey’s Farm’s (Madera, CA) super successful crop of baby artichokes is going strong until May.
  • Catalan Farm (Hollister, CA) continues to be the “Brassica King” with their tender sweet broccoli, big heads of cauliflower and crisp cabbage.
  • Happy Boy Farms (Watsonville, CA) harvests plump and juicy Little Gem lettuce and delicate greens like rapini greens and watercress.  Only a handful of growers consistently pull off high-quality greens like these – Happy Boy nails it!
  • The sugar snap peas from John Givens Farm (Santa Barbara, CA) are perfect and will be in until May. The English peas just started up down south; they’re surprisingly big, sweet and starch-free.  Most of the local growers will get going later this month.

DSC_2897During spring, all of the wild-foraged crops sprout up throughout the country.  Two veggies that we love to bring in for our creative cooks are ramps and fiddlehead ferns fronds.

Ramps are wild, pungent baby leeks with a tender, edible green.  Due to their strong flavor, you only need a few to spice up a dish.

Fiddlehead fern fronds
are the baby shoots of a fern tree; they have a crisp texture and nutty flavor.

The first organic rhubarb of the season usually comes from Washington in the first weeks of April.  Just in time for the start of local strawberry season!

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Fruit For Thought

  • Swanton, Tomatero and Yerena Berry Farm (Watsonville, CA) are our main berry growers this season.  These farmers grow varieties that work well in their climate, such as the “Albion” and the “Chandler”.  Our farmers always harvest a perfectly ripe berry that stays fresh for our guests.  Come try the first “melt in your mouth strawberries” today!
  • California citrus is still juicy and delicious; both Markets have over 15 different varieties. 
  • The Pixie tangerines from Jim Churchill in mountains of Ojai, CA, are sweet like candy and a nice treat for the little ones — enjoy them until the beginning of May.
  • Many varieties of specialty citrus are winding down.  If you want to enjoy the Moro blood oranges, Cocktail grapefruit, Murcott mandarins and the Cara Cara pink navels stop in soon!

Matt R.

April Winery of the Month: Teutonic Wine Co.

Barnaby and Olga Tuttle are a husband and wife winemaking team crafting some truly Old World style wines in Oregon. Barnaby is a native Portlander who worked his way up from a job as a dishwasher to wine director, and now, wine producer. Olga hails from New Jersey and started working in wine after meeting Barnaby. Teutonic Wine - The Tuttles

We love the Tuttle’s approach to winemaking. They are heavily influenced by the great wines of Germany, Austria, and the Alsace. When Barnaby worked at the restaurant, he had an ‘aha! moment’ after meeting Portland-based wine importer Ewald Moseler and tasting Ewald’s amazing selection of cool-climate, high-acid, low-alcohol, German and Alsatian wines. It was that moment that Barnaby realized he wanted to pursue winemaking and try to emulate those old world styles in Oregon.

In 2005, Barnaby and Olga planted a small vineyard on a friend’s property in Alsea, Oregon, where you can still smell the sea air – just 22 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean! They took a chance being the first to plant vineyards in such a cool and coastal area of Oregon, and the risk paid off. They grow only cool-climate varietals and source fruit from a handful of vineyards with grape varieties unusual for Oregon, like Chasselas, Müller-Thurgau, and Pinot Meunier. Their vineyards are lush with cover crops, honeybee hives, and other plants and insects that help to maintain a natural balance – eliminating the need for the use of chemicals. They let their grapes sit on the vines longer, something only possible in cool growing areas, and ferment their wines only with native yeasts. The results are stunningly complex wines with high-acidity, low-alcohol, and a true sense of place.

Here’s just a sampling of what we have from Teutonic – come visit us at either Market to check out more!

2012 Teutonic Wine Company Pigs and Swords  –  $21.99teutonic wine - pigs and swords

This white blend is from David Hill Vineyard in the Willamette Valley and is 70% Pinot Noir blended with 30% Müller-Thurgau (a cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale). David Hill Vineyard has quite a history and was first planted in 1904. The vines were ripped out during prohibition but replanted in 1965 by Charles Coury, one of the first ‘wine pioneers’ to seek out cool climate vineyard sites in Oregon. Even though this is primarily Pinot Noir, don’t be fooled! This is actually a white wine – nearly all grapes have white juice regardless of skin color. The texture is lush with bracing acidity and notes of white flowers, herbs, and minerals – great with anything from goat cheese to fish!

 

teutonic wine - chasselas2012 Teutonic Wine Company Chasselas Doré  –  $27.99

You may remember us writing about Chasselas a little while back, an obscure grape that is hardly ever seen outside of Switzerland. Yet it was planted by Charles Coury in 1965 in the David Hill Vineyard and rediscovered by Barnaby and Olga. In the tradition of Swiss Chasselas, it has a mid-weight texture with bright floral aromas and flavors of citrus, minerals, and a touch of white-peachy sweetness. We can see this refreshing white being a perfect pairing with a variety of spring and summer fare. We don’t have very much of it, so grab some while you can!

 

2010 Teutonic Wine Company Bergspitze Pinot Noir  –  $44.99

teutonic wine - bergspitze

What happens when you combine an already cool climate with the highest elevation plantings of Pinot Noir in Oregon? Bergspitze happens. From 50-year old vines (again planted by Charles Coury!) sitting at an elevation of 1250 feet, this Pinot Noir seems to be a culmination of everything Barnaby and Olga have sought out to accomplish in their wines. It has great minerality and bright acidity, with flavors of tart cherries and notes of herbs and licorice. It comes from only 3 barrels worth (51 cases!) of wine that they intentionally aged longer, with remarkable results. It’s a perfect match with roasted quail or pheasant (hence their logo!).

 

Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons:

TONIGHT: 18th Hour Cafe: Thursday, April 4th, 6-10PM – Tonight come taste Teutonic wines with our Revel Wine rep Matthew Plympton!


Shakirah

From Your Yard to Our Shelves: PUBLIC Label Meyer Lemon Preserves

spreading meyer lemon preserveWe all know the old adage of when “life gives you lemons”, but when our guests enthusiastically answered our call for Meyer lemons, we went beyond the “lemonade” route. With a little help from our neighbors Kristy, Carolyn, Denise and OneTree.org, we’re proud to feature two new additions to our PUBLIC Label line: Backyard Meyer Lemon Preserve and Rooftop Honey Lemon Marmalade.

Over the course of two months, we received over 130 lbs. of beautifully fragrant, ripe Meyer lemons grown in the backyards of our guests. Even our friends in Berkeley got in on our social experiment; we received lemons from Michael Pollan and his wife, Judith Belzer. All were jazzed to support our ‘urban gleaning’ effort to tackle local fruit waste. As a professional preserver, I love the inherent community and connectivity in canning; my conversations with our gang of urban growers ranged from methods of preserving to maintaining lemon trees.shak eating jam

The preserves I created for this PUBLIC Label project will start your morning with a zing and add brightness to many a recipe. Our Rooftop Honey Lemon Marmalade is sweetened with honey from the beehives on the roof of our 18th Street Market. With lovely, honeyed ribbons of tender peel, this marmalade is sweet with serious, citrusy bite. The Backyard Meyer Lemon Preserve is a bit different than marmalade; it’s thicker and richer, well-balanced by the tang of the lemon peel and sweetness of organic cane sugar. This preserve only has two ingredients (lemons and sugar) and little goes a very long way.

Pair each of these delicious preserves with a nutty alpine cheese and crusty sourdough bread for the best grilled cheese EVER or baste on chicken halves for a lovely glaze. Or, try my favorite remedy for springtime sniffles – a spoonful in a piping cup of earl grey tea.

Now we’re excited about this radical way to connect folks to their food by functioning as a small scale retail outlet for urban agriculture—stay tuned for more like this in the future!

 


Carrotmob: Funding Scholarships to All Plant Parts Summer Camp

carrot-mob-poster-small-web

What’s a Carrotmob?

It’s a “buycott” in which people spend money at a business and in exchange, that business takes an action that the people care about.

This week, Carrotmob is helping us create a scholarship program for at-risk and low-income kids to attend our All Plant Parts camp. Here’s the deal: If people buy Carrotmob vouchers to become members of 18 Reasons, we’ll dedicate 100% of the proceeds to fund camp scholarships to help kids learn about nutrition and create healthy meals.

Our 18 Reasons team is partnering with Slow Food SF and the Sanchez School for the second year of All Plant Parts Cooking and Gardening Camp to teach kids about healthy eating. All Plant Parts is an interactive program focusing on the science and art of growing and cooking edible plants. At camp, the kids will get their hands dirty, learning how to harvest veggies from the garden and prepare healthy meals. We’re proud of this partnership with these two organizations and Carrotmob, and think they’re great examples of how many facets of the food system in San Francisco can come together to make a difference.

You can buy a Carrotmob voucher now to become a member of 18 Reasons and help empower young people, regardless of background or financial ability, to learn the importance of eating well. As a member of 18 Reasons, you get access to our community offerings such as tastings and exhibitions by local artists, discounts to classes like beer brewing and cheesemaking, and special perks like gift cards to Bi-Rite Market & Creamery, Tartine Bakery, Pizzeria Delfina, and discounts at Dolores Park Café and other local businesses.

Join us this Thursday, April 4th from 6pm-10pm to celebrate this campaign at 18th Hour, and enjoy an evening of music, art, bites and drinks!