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Kiko’s Food News 2.28.14

For the first time in over 20 years, the FDA has announced proposed changes to nutrition labels! The new label will emphasize calories and added sugars, remove “calories from fat”, and increase most required serving sizes to reflect how much of a food we actually eat: (CNN)

A Humane Society video pulled back the curtain on the brutality of a huge Kentucky hog operation, where workers were shown gutting dead piglets and puréeing their intestines; the mix is fed back to mother pigs to immunize them against a diarrhea epidemic that has killed millions of piglets: (New York Times)

Small scale, organic growers are discovering that the FDA regulations which have been proposed to curtail food poisoning outbreaks would curtail many of their common techniques, including spreading house-made fertilizers, tilling cropland with grazing animals, and irrigating from open creeks: (Los Angeles Times)

A secret society of super-rich diners has been leaving shockingly huge tips for bar staff and food servers across the country; I see this as not only human generosity, but as compassion for victims of our country’s systematically low wages for restaurant workers: (BBC)

Restaurants are using cheap deals on oysters to get customers in the door so they will buy something else at full price; this is made possible by the rapid growth of oyster farms on the East and West Coasts: (New York Times)


Raph

Join Us in Welcoming these New Products!

I’ve brought in numerous new products to both our 18th Street and Divisadero Street Markets recently, and I to encourage you to come by and explore them! They’re highlighted in displays marked “New and Exciting!” But if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask any of our Staff to help you and to share a taste–we’re all really thrilled to welcome them to our shelves.

Some of the new items about which I’m the most excited include:

bianco shelfBianco DiNapoli Whole Peeled & Crushed Tomatoes

Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes are organically grown and harvested on Cliff Fong’s family farm in Yolo County, California. Within hours of harvest, these plum-shaped tomatoes are washed, steam-peeled and hand selected at the Olam Tomato Processors cannery in Williams, California.  The tomatoes resulted from a partnership between Robert DiNapoli and Chris Bianco, a James Beard award-winning chef and founder of the acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona.

These are organic tomatoes at a great price. Chris’s inspiration has always been working with fresh product from local producers, and in this case he just wanted to make a darn good tomato. The whole tomatoes are good for any kind of sauce or soup, while the crushed tomatoes are great for heavily-seasoned or spicy dishes.

moonshadow

Moonshadow Grove California Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Moonshadow Grove is located in Oroville, Butte County and is one of California’s historic premier organic olive groves. The organic and sustainably-grown olives on this grove are all hand-picked and sent to the mill within twenty-four hours of harvesting, resulting in their one-of-a-kind Ascolano Olive Oil that is very floral and aromatic with hints of stone and tropical fruit. The Miscela Blend is a custom blend of Mission, Manzanillo, and Ascolano olives; it has a buttery texture and notes of bitter greens and green olive, followed with flair by a peppery finish.

jam shelvesJams from The Jam Stand

The Jam Stand is Brooklyn’s happiest food company.  It began when two best friends breathed life into their concept to create a food company that’s a true reflection of themselves and their community.  They push the limits of what jam can be by combining unique flavors like blueberry and bourbon, Sriracha and peach, and banana and lime with a splash of rum.  Using fresh fruit from local farms, Jess and Sabrina’s jams are vibrant and can be used in many applications. 

C&B's

C&B’s Old Fashioned Tonic

Founder Erin Cochran makes this wonderful tonic in San Francisco’s Mission District, not far from our 18th Street Market.  It’s made with Cinchona bark (the natural form of quinine), pure agave nectar instead of corn syrup or cane sugar, and loads of citrus and lemongrass. C&B’s is perfect for cocktail enthusiasts, pairing delightfully with most base alcohols, while also standing on its own as a perfect substitute for an alcoholic beverage. Its complex flavor alone will whet your palate, and it will enliven any spirituous drink.

Bagels from Authentic Bagel Company

Breakfast-time guests on our grocery floor know that we make the most delicious bagel sandwiches in the Mission. In our quest to make them even better, we’ve recently switched bagel suppliers to Authentic Bagel Company. Authentic was recommended to us by several members of our staff and several of our longtime guests, so we requested some samples and found that everyone was blown away by their taste and texture.

Authentic was started by brothers Jason and Mark Scott, who have been working closely together in the food industry for ten years. While helping pack up their childhood house for their family’s move out west from the East Coast, the brothers stumbled upon a recipe handwritten by their grandmother for a bagel with a starter dough (a dough full of natural leavening yeasts and delicious fermentation that creates complex, flavorful, crusty breads). The brothers have added their own personality to their grandmother’s recipe by using a San Francisco sourdough starter, marrying the two coasts they call home to create a unique taste of their own. With its chewy crust and ideal density, and for only $0.99 for each bagel, this is a great bagel at a great price. And perhaps most exciting of all, Bi-Rite is the exclusive retailer/market to sell these bagels in the Bay Area. So stop in, grab one and ask our friendly Deli staff to use it to make you a sandwich!

hot cake shelfHot Cakes Preserved Meyer Lemon Salted Caramel Sauce

I’ve had a great time getting to know Hot Cakes founder Autumn Martin, who is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. And to top it off, Hot Cakes makes an absolutely fantastic product–one of the best caramel sauces you’ll ever try!  Made with lots of love in very small batches, the flavors of this caramel sauce are perfectly balanced–not an easy feat when marrying complex citrus with the sweetness of caramel.  Autumn has built a brand that is committed to supporting local and organic farming through the creation of fine, innovative desserts, and she has spent many hours volunteering on farms both locally and abroad to understand the true meaning of sustainable agriculture. Her commitment to building relationships with farmers, friends, customers, and purveyors is inspiring.

This luscious caramel sauce has perfectly-balanced flavors and a phenomenally pleasing texture. Putting it on top of vanilla ice cream would be an obvious choice, but for a decadent indulgence, I’d also suggest trying it with Bi-Rite Creamery‘s Honey Lavender, Vanilla, or Ginger Ice Creams, all available in our ice cream case.


Raph

New Nana Joe’s Chef’s Blend–Featuring Sam Mogannam!

Local granola producer Michelle Pusateri of Nana Joe’s is a great friends of ours, and she makes wonderful products that we really love and are huge favorites of our guests.  Based here in San Francisco, Michelle exemplifies the small, hands-on, community-oriented approach that we admire when producing her outstanding granola. We’ve been stocking Nana Joe’s since they first opened their doors, so we’re very excited to have collaborated with Michelle in a new way to produce a great new granola.

Nana Joe's michelle

Michelle of Nana Joe’s

Each month, Michelle collaborates with a San Francisco chef to create a special Chef’s Blend Granola. She’s already worked with some of the best chefs in San Francisco, and now we can add our very own Sam Mogannam to that list. Sam is not just the founder of Bi-Rite Market, he’s also my brother! He’s also a fixture in and passionate supporter of the local food community, and a mentor for budding food entrepreneurs. Before founding Bi-Rite, Sam was a chef at his own restaurant, and co-author of Eat Good Food, the grocery buyer’s guide that is available on the shelves at our Markets.

sam_guide

Sam Mogannam

We’re honored to have Sam join the distinguished ranks of San Francisco chefs who have created granola recipes for Nana Joe’s Chef’s Blends. We’re thankful to count Michelle and the crew at Nana Joe’s as friends and grateful that we get to stock their granola on our shelves. Says Sam, “I wanted to work with Nana Joe’s because I know the quality and integrity of the final product is guaranteed to be GOOD. The ingredients I chose are an inspiration from my Mother and a blend of my favorite Mediterranean flavors. Enjoy!”

Nana Joe's shelf

Sam’s granola recipe includes certified gluten-free oats, along with the following organic ingredients: toasted almonds, Grade B maple syrup, extra virgin olive oil, dried apricots, Medjool dates, toasted sesame seeds, crystalized ginger, fennel pollen and Maldon Sea Salt.

Sam’s Chef’s Blend will only be available temporarily, so make sure to get some soon. You can pick it up at either of our Markets. It’s not to be missed!


Not All Parmigiano-Reggiano is Created Equal

Did you know that Parmigiano-Reggiano is our best-selling cheese here at Bi-Rite Market?  There’s a lot of Parmigiano-Reggiano out in the world, but here at Bi-Rite we’re on a mission to celebrate our Parmigiano-Reggiano in particular–and remind ourselves that not all Parmigiano-Reggiano is created equal.

caldera house

Daniele’s house and workspace

For one thing, we know our cheesemaker’s name! Most of the wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano that we sell come from one farm and are made by Daniele Caldera. Daniele runs the farm, raises the cows, and also makes cheeses. The room where he makes cheese is right downstairs from the one in which he lives. It houses just three copper kettles and Daniele never makes more than six wheels of cheese a day. And (how fun is this?) ­–each day, Daniele bevels the wheels of cheese made the night before and mixes the cheese scraps with eggs for his breakfast. What a way to start the morning! Our wheels are aged for a minimum of twenty-four months, though usually they are closer to twenty-eight months. With a big wheel of this kind, a longer aging process allows for the development of deeper, more complex flavor.

Parm_Cutting_Gif

Click this image to watch a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano get cracked open right before your eyes!

Parmigiano-Reggiano’s status as our best-selling cheese allows us to buy it in whole wheels–these large beauties are 80 pounds!–and break them down at each store using the traditional Italian knives. Every week we look forward to Wednesday, when we crack new wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s a magical moment as the cheese splits and is revealed, exposing it to air for the first time in twenty-four to twenty-eight months. When you’re buying whole wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cheese ages as long as it’s kept whole, and the quality of flavor from a freshly cut wheel is one of the most exciting things to a cheese-lover. In Daniele’s cheese this flavor is brothy and bright with notes of fruity pineapple, and the finish is long and deep.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a wonderful grating cheese and perfect with the arrival of spring’s first asparagus, but it’s a cheese too beautiful to be relegated solely to the role of an ingredient. Add a wedge to your next cheese plate and drizzle it with a little bit of aged balsamic for a decadent, hearty treat!


Simon

Asparagus is Here!

asparagus At Bi-Rite we love to celebrate local, organic crops, and one of the most exciting vegetable crops of the late winter and early spring is asparagus. Around this time of year asparagus gets highlighted in lush bunches and fanciful dishes at markets and restaurants throughout the Bay Area, and the shelves at both Bi-Rite Markets are no exception.

Asparagus is a flowering perennial that can be a tricky crop to grow – once it starts producing, it needs to be harvested every day so that the stalks don’t get too long. One producer who gets it just right is Full Belly Farm of Yolo County, California. Because we work with Full Belly, we are able to offer our guests extra-fresh asparagus from the end of February through May, which makes this the ideal time to stop by and pick some up.

Why is extra-fresh asparagus so exciting to us? Asparagus is high in dietary fiber and is a good source of Vitamin B, K and C.  It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities which make it a great cancer-fighter.  And in addition to being one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, asparagus can be prepared in many different ways. Try pairing it with other spring veggies like spring onion, peas and tarragon to make an amazing omelet. On its own, it’s perfect dressed with olive, grilled and topped with shaved Pecorino Romano.

photo

Beautiful asparagus and fresh Burrata proudly stand shoulder to shoulder at our Markets

But for a real treat for the palate, try pairing this excellent asparagus with the fresh Burrata available in our Cheese Department. This Italian cheese is a study in contrast in itself, combining the texture of solid mozzarella with a decadent, pleasing filling of cheesy cream. But when paired with asparagus, the combinations of flavor and texture are enthralling, and since the asparagus we have in right now has superior flavor and texture, the combo is all the better. You can find asparagus and Burrata placed conveniently side-by-side in the produce sections of both of our Market locations. Come by and let us show you how healthy, fun and gratifying this pairing can be!


Kiko’s Food News, 2.21.14

Obama announced the formation of seven “climate hubs” to help farmers and rural communities adapt to the fires, pests, floods and droughts that accompany climate change: (Huffington Post)

Bitcoin, the popular cryptocurrency, is inching its way into the food industry; small businesses consider it a welcome alternative to credit cards, which charge a 3% merchant fee for each transaction: (NPR)

Aronia, Gac, Monk and Buffaloberry are the funky names of the latest and greatest superfruits–check them out: (Los Angeles Times)

Some famous French chefs are cracking down on customers who take photographs of their food; I think the most compelling reason is the sad reality that people are capturing their dishes for posterity instead of the people they’re dining with! (BBC)

Another victory for the pressure of consumer demand, Chick-fil-A announced that within five years it will no longer sell products containing meat from chickens raised with antibiotics: (New York Times)

 


St. George Spirits’ California Agricole Rum–Drink Recipes!

StGeorgeRumHeader

It’s my pleasure to announce our latest Featured Spirit: St. George Spirits’ California Agricole Rum. Established in 1982, St. George Spirits, located just across the Bay from us in Alameda, CA, was founded on the principles of Old World eau de vie distillation. Be it vodka, absinthe, liqueur, or brandy, every release from St. George is expertly created in small batches in copper pot stills, with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. The distillery incorporates organic, locally-grown fruit, vegetables, herbs, and grains into their products whenever possible, and every ingredient is used in its entirety to maximize the aromas and flavors of the spirit.

Their California Agricole Rum is made from fresh sugarcane grown in the Imperial Valley of Southern California. This unique-tasting rum features earthy notes of grass, ginger, and caramelized banana, and is great with Coke and lime! Or try it in the recipe below for the Castle Harbor Special, developed by expert barkeep Jonny Raglin of Comstock Saloon, located in San Francisco’s historic North Beach neighborhood.

Castle Harbor Special
by Jonny Raglin of Comstock Saloon
1-1/2 oz St. George California Agricole Rum
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Small Hands Pineapple Gum
1/4 oz Small Hands Grenadine
Lime wedge

Shake the first 4 ingredients for 20 seconds, and double-strain over ice. Garnish with lime.

Mexicali Libre
2 oz St. George California Agricole Rum
Mexican Coke

Pour California Agricole Rum into a tall glass filled with crushed ice, top with Mexican Coke and a squeeze of lime.

 

 

 


Chili

Heritage Foods USA: Providers of Our Rare and Heritage Breed Pork

I’m proud of all of the beautiful, truly special and delicious, sustainably-raised meat in our Butcher cases at Bi-Rite 18th Street and Bi-Rite Divisadero. The cases themselves, and our amazing Deli and Butcher staff who stand behind them, are the hearts of our stores.

redwattle_piglet

a Heritage Red Wattle piglet and a friend

Our cases feature meat from suppliers we know and trust, and one of my favorites is the great folks at Heritage Foods USA. Heritage is a meat distributor that provides us with center-cut pork chops, Porterhouse pork chops, boneless pork chops (great pan-seared with roasted fingerling potatoes for the perfect cold-weather dinner), St. Louis-style pork ribs, smoked hamhocks (an essential component for making the perfect split-pea soup) and slab bacon. These products are exceptional because of the thought and care that Heritage puts into their operation from top to bottom.

duroc_pig

a Heritage Duroc pig

Heritage understands the value of preserving rare and heritage breeds. Factory farming places a dangerous emphasis on cheaper breed uniformity, and the hands-on care that family farms take in raising rare and heritage breeds results in animals that live healthier, happier lives and produce really flavorful cuts of meat. I love that these are not commodity animals; they’re no longer part of our regular food system because they’re neither easy nor efficient to raise. They’re nothing like what you would buy from a chain grocery store. This ultimately produces a safer food supply, since breed diversity helps buttress the supply chain against novel pathogens that can sometimes wipe out whole breeds and lead to food shortages.

I also like that I have a truly personal relationship with Heritage. None of the animals we sell are butchered until I place an order. And I can be sure that the animals are being cared for and slaughtered humanely, because I’ve personally visited four family farms with whom Heritage works, as well as the processing facility that handles the animals. Since I’m the last step in the chain before the meat gets onto your table, I like to know exactly what takes place at every step behind me, and Heritage have always been supportive in showing me how their operation runs. The farms they work with are small, run by families across generations: hard-working individuals committed to producing pork that’s miles above the supermarket options that get marketed as “the other white meat.”

goat_grazing

Heritage animals feed and mate naturally at their own pace

Heritage believes firmly in the value of allowing their animals to feed and mate naturally. They support family farms that don’t use artificial growth hormones or antibiotics. Heritage does the kind of business we love at Bi-Rite–the kind that supports communities, nurtures a stable and bountiful food supply chain and produces great-tasting food.

You can use Heritage pork to make this great recipe from the book by Bi-Rite Founder Sam Mogannam, Eat Good Food. Come by either of our Market locations to get everything you need for this recipe!

Pan-Fried Pork Cutlets with Bing Cherries (serves 2)

¾ cup Bing Cherries (about 18 cherries)

6 center-cut, ½-inch-thick boneless pork chops (aka cutlets, about 14 ounces total)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon cider or red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage

1 cup salt-free chicken stock or salt-free broth (see Note)

Pit the cherries and cut half of them in half. Set aside.

Season the pork with ¾ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper and let come to room temperature.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add as many pork chops as will fit in a roomy single layer and let cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. When the first side is golden brown, flip and cook until just firm and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer the pork to a plate, cover loosely with foil, and repeat with any remaining chops.

Lower the heat to medium and add the shallot and half the butter. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots start to soften, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar, Dijon, sage and a good pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are soft and the pan is almost dry. Add the stock along with any juices that have accumulated under the cutlets. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the cherries and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to one-fourth of its original volume, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove from the heat, season with more salt if desired, and swirl in the remaining half of the butter. Pour the sauce over the chops and serve immediately.


John Herbstritt

Vineyard Dispatch Part 3: Are there groundhogs in France?

contemplating our future

contemplating our future

This piece was meant to be more timely. Unfortunately it’s harder than previously estimated to write blog posts while road-tripping around foreign countries. But it’s still February, right? On February 2, 2014, Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow and retreated back into his burrow, indicating that there will be six more weeks of winter. Thankfully, in America, we have traditions like these to guide us through treacherous territory: weather can be unpredictable and nasty. Other countries aren’t so lucky.

France, for instance, has no groundhogs, which is probably why they were ill-prepared for the harsh growing seasons of 2012 and 2013. 2012 brought multiple bouts of frost in April and May and poor weather during flowering, which means that many flowers didn’t bloom properly. Then there were hailstorms throughout the summer and, in many places, rains during harvest. Luckily the combination of flower loss and fruit loss from hail can lead to extra-concentrated fruit, but unfortunately also to an extremely reduced harvest. More on that later.

In 2013 it was unseasonably cold until June, and there was a devastating hailstorm in May that ravaged much of the Western half of the country. Once again, a reduced harvest. Many barrel samples that I tasted while travelling were vibrant and exciting, so still pretty excited about the wines. The worst thing about giant hailstones is that they not only ruin your crop for the current vintage but also extend their icy fingers into the proceeding one. How, you ask? When vines grow their canes during the Spring and Summer, sprouting leaves and flowers and tendrils, the budwood for the next year’s growth is already present on those canes, and when vintners prune their vines during the winter for the next year’s crop, they choose the best cane to keep from the previous year’s growth with which to continue on. So when entropy comes in the form of hail to ruin all of their careful preparations, vintners must make do, choosing inferior or partially damaged canes during pruning as they must.

hail-damage-189529_640

hail-damaged fruit

Of course, hail is very spotty. For instance, in 2012, the villages of Pommard and Volnay in the Southern part of Burgundy saw an 80% crop reduction due to hail, while the Cotes de Nuits just to the North was relatively untouched. I read this little tidbit in an article by Jancis Robinson in the Financial Times published on January 17, 2014: villages in the South of Burgundy are reportedly considering installing cloud-seeding cannons on the hills above their vineyards in order to mitigate hail damage. Depending on how you look at it, this seems either very futuristic or very retrograde – but wine is usually both of these things at once, isn’t it?

Which brings me to my final point. I had the privilege of tasting through barrel samples of 2012 Burgundies from some of the most famous names in Burgundy yesterday at a trade tasting at the Hotel Vitale. The tasting included great producers like Armand Rousseau in Gevrey-Chambertin, Domaine Christian Moreau in Chablis, Olivier Leflaive is Meursault, Jacques Prieur, and Domaine Faiveley. Big names. Across the board the wines were concentrated and intense, reflective of reduced harvests and a spell of warm weather in August and September that finally ripened things up. Speaking broadly, there were some Chardonnays whose intensity was rather jarring. The best wines were able to take this concentration and match it with clarity and minerality. Also, prices went through the roof this year for Burgundy. Perhaps this is the most boring sentence ever written, but of course rationales are about reduced harvests with the incentive that 2012 will also be a solid vintage in terms of quality. Of course, great Burgundy will still fetch great prices no matter what the vintage, but what about the rest of the country? Hard-working winemakers from Gaillac or Muscadet can’t simply make up for reduced harvests by increasing prices. They don’t make the market like the bigwigs in Burgundy. You’ll have to excuse the metaphor, but they’re like vines in a hailstorm: and crop insurance is expensive.


Kiko’s Food News, 2.14.14

Times are beyond tough for Cali farmers affected by the drought–especially organic farmers whose barren pastures and skyrocketing organic feed costs are forcing them to truck in supplemental feed from faraway states, or consider bowing out of farming altogether: (Food & Environment Reporting Network)

And with California’s reservoirs containing only 39% of their combined capacity, wine grapes are one of the most impacted crops; too much heat and not enough water leads them to develop off flavors, higher alcohol levels at earlier stages, and high susceptibility to sunburn and disease: (Huffington Post)

Co-ops popping up in gentrifying neighborhoods are highlighting social tensions through their signature policies; the requirement that members work a minimum number of hours might place community members on a level playing field, but the requirement to join can be prohibitive to people not used to paying for entrance to the grocery store: (New York Times)

If you’re going to NYC you might want to hit one of the awesome-sounding classes offered by the League of Kitchens, a new social enterprise that offers cooking workshops in immigrant chefs’ kitchens–tough choice between Lebanese, Bangladeshi, Greek and more! (League of Kitchens)

An insect-resistant type of corn is on the verge of being approved by the European Union; it would be only the third genetically modified crop to be authorized for cultivation in the 28-nation bloc: (New York Times)