Archive for September, 2015
One of the most exciting times of year in the Bay Area is when the local farms start harvesting tomatoes in early June. By the time September rolls around, the local tomato season has hit its peak. All the local farmers from the Pescadero Coast to the Sierra foothills have vine-ripened tomatoes that offer different flavors depending on the growing practices and climate. Throughout September in at both Bi-Rite Markets, we are celebrating the Tomato Triple Play, which highlights three different tomato crops— Heirloom, Cherry, and Dry-Farmed Early Girls. All of the tomatoes we sell during the season come straight off the field to our shelves, allowing our growers to let them stay on the plant a little longer and develop that perfect flavor before picking. Be sure to check out our recommended pairings to make the most of your tomatoes–just visit our store on Instacart.com for a shopping list, and even order everything you need online for delivery in San Francisco in under an hour!
Heirloom Tomatoes are an open-pollinated variety that have been circulating among farmers and backyard gardeners for more than 50 years—and many of the varieties were introduced before 1940! Heirlooms are not only important because they offer us so many different shapes and sizes to cook with, but they allow us to maintain genetic diversity in the agricultural world. The Cherokee Purple Tomato is one of the most popular. With its thin skin and meaty texture, the juicy, acidic flesh offers a rich, old-fashioned sweet flavor. They take BLTs and Caprese salads to the next level of enjoyment.
We are currently getting Cherokee Purples from Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero and Mariquita Farm in Watsonville. Another popular heirloom is the Brandywine Tomato. Farmers love them because they get huge on the plants and the meaty flesh doesn’t break down easily when ripe. Don’t let the large size fool you! These are one of the sweetest tomatoes out there. The Green Zebra Tomato is a small variety that starts out green but turns yellow with green stripes when it’s ripe. The sweet/tart flavor works really well with salsas and salads.
Our guests really get excited about tomatoes when the Dry-farm Early Girls hit our shelves! About 10 years ago we started selling these tomatoes from Two Dog Farm in Davenport. They’re the first farm in Northern California to grow these Early Girls, and over the past 5 years more farms have made the effort. Dry-farming is a farming technique used in a lot of climates where there’s not much rain. The roots of the plants can tap into moisture in the soil and go through the entire growing season with no irrigation. Two Dog Farm grows on the coast, getting moisture from the fog and the high water table in the soil allowing them to never water. The resulting tomatoes are usually smaller and lower in yield, but they pack pleasantly intense flavor and a dense, firm texture.
Unfortunately, Two Dog Farm lost a majority of its crop this season due to the heat wave that hit the Bay Area. Crops grown on the cool coast can’t handle the heat! But we’ll have plenty of the tasty Dry-farm Early Girls from Live Earth Farm, Bluehouse Farm, and Tomatero Farm for the rest of the season.
When Heirlooms and Dry-farm Tomatoes are in full swing the Cherry Tomato varieties just don’t get the same amount of love. Cherry Tomatoes might be one of the easiest plants to grow, but keeping up with the daily harvesting and their delicate nature can make them a challenging crop for farmers. Similar to Heirlooms, there are a ton of different varieties but only a handful of them make sense for the retail marketplace. The Sweet 100 Tomato is one of the most popular for farmers to grow because they are a classic red tomato, extra sweet, and keep producing large clusters of fruit for most of the season. The Sun Gold Cherry Tomato is the most popular non-red tomato out there, with their sweet-but-tart flavor that explodes in your mouth.
The Yellow Pear Cherry Tomato is a teardrop-shaped tomato with tangy flavor and low acidity. You can get them along with our Sweet 100 and Sun Golds combined in a mixed baskets. Cherry Tomatoes are not only a perfect snack for kids, but they can add a flare to pasta dishes and almost any salad. They’re especially wonderful in cucumber salads!
One of the best parts of having all these local tomatoes at the Bi-Rite is that we get use them throughout the Family of Businesses—from the world-famous Gazpacho in the Deli to the Mozzarella and Cherry Tomato Skewers on the Bi-Rite Catering Summer menu. We also have an endless number of grocery items that enhance the tomato experience like the Public Label Tuscan Style Olive oil, Pt. Reyes Mozzarella, and Josey Baker’s Breads. Do you know which tomato variety is your favorite? If not, this is the perfect time to swing by one of the Markets and ask for some tomato samples so you’re better prepared for tomato season next year. Enjoy!
When Nicole Chanrion started her career in winemaking in the 1970s, women winemakers were very rare in the vinous world. Through her hard work and talent, Chanrion is now considered as “La Patronne de la Côte” or the Boss of La Côte. Needless to say, we’re so excited to get this older vintage of her wines. The ’06 shows wonderful texture and complexity, with notes of black fruits, tea, and earth.
Domaine Chanrion Effervescence 2010 | $26.99
A rare blanc de noirs from Beaujolais, as most crémant from this region is made from Chardonnay. Made with Gamay, the sparkling is full in texture with notes of dried herbs and fruits (apricot and melon) with touches of black pepper and a dusty minerality. Although she uses a non-vintage label, all of the fruit for this wine is from the 2010 harvest. Try it for an aperitif with a plate of gougères!
Bow & Arrow Gamay Noir 2014 | $22.99
Scott Frank is making some of our favorite wines in Oregon right now. He takes inspiration from the Loire Valley and this Gamay is spot on. It’s dark fruit forward with spicy and peppery notes and a soaring acidity. Perfect for your late Summer/Autumn feasts.
Domaine Robert Sérol Côtes Roannaise Vieilles Vignes 2014 | $19.99
In this oft-forgotten corner of the Loire Valley Gamay rules. This wine is made from a combination of parcels with vines that are an average of 40 years old. Their fruit is concentrated and dark with notes of dried flowers. Roasted herbed chicken with new potatoes?
…And now for Cheese Pairings with our Cheesemonger Rose!
As the summer grilling season starts to wind down, now is a great opportunity to revisit some of our forgotten seafood favorites. Paella has always been one of my favorite dishes, as it can really highlight a diverse array of the ocean’s goodies. I like to think of shrimp, mussels, clams and squid as my flight attendants on my culinary flight to Spain’s Mediterranean coast.
The key to really tasty seafood paella is choosing the best quality seafood that you can find. At Bi-Rite, not only are our offerings incredibly fresh, they are also impeccably sourced. For ten years we have partnered with FishWise, a sustainable seafood consultancy that promotes the health and recovery of ocean ecosystems through environmentally responsible practices, which has led us to being much more informed about the sourcing of our offerings. As much as we like to consider ourselves experts in all aspects of meat and seafood, we realize that we are constantly learning and developing a greater understanding of the ever-evolving world of responsible sourcing and sustainability. Over the last ten years FishWise, in addition to frequent communication with our seafood partners, has been an integral part in advancing our understanding of the seafood industry. They have also helped us better develop ways to convey the challenges of thoughtfully purchasing seafood to our guests.
This week (September 13 through 20) also happens to be Sustainable Seafood Week- San Francisco, a national program that advances the sustainability conversation in American cities with a rich seafood history. So visit us at the Markets (or shop our Paella recipe from our online store at Instacart.com) and celebrate some delicious seafood that you can feel good about. Now is the perfect time for a Paellapalooza!
This week for the wine blog I wanted to introduce some new members to our wine team from both stores, and have them share the wines on the shelf that they are excited about. I’ll hand over the keyboard now. Stay tuned next time for “Gamayzing!”
“I was born in Bordeaux, reared in Brooklyn, and fell in Love with San Fran 17 years ago. I attended fashion school and worked in that industry until I discovered my passion for wine. My goal is to become first black female Master Sommelier – not an easy task. I really enjoy talking to guests about wine while on the floor at Divis. When someone loves a wine I recommended, it tickles me pink.
I love watching documentaries with a glass of Austrian Riesling in my hand, but as of late I have been drinking more Old World reds. My new favorite wine on the shelf is the “Les Hauts de Valcombe” from Chateau de Valcombe. This is an exciting and enchanting wine from the Southern Rhone. Just east of the famed Châteauneuf du Pape, the Coteaux de Ventoux is a hidden gem. The cuvee is Syrah dominant (rare in the South), but comingles with the Grenache effortlessly. Timid upon opening, the elegant red fruit of Grenache shines through as this wine blossoms. The Syrah gives it a smoky depth and herbaceous structure. Every sip is a joy. This wine makes me go MMMMMMMM.”
“I grew up in rural, sleepy western New York – not far from the colorful Walter Taylor’s historic Bully Hill winery – in an old farmhouse with pet goats and rabbits, and a big family vegetable garden. I’ve spent the last 25 years working in restaurants and wine shops in New York City and the Bay Area. I have also spent those years quietly reading, playing the cello, listening to Jazz and shooting pool, but I am happiest cooking, eating, and drinking with friends. For me, each bottle of wine is a fascinating reflection of a particular time and place, a seemingly magical confluence of sun, water, vine, and soil in a constant state of evolution, and the perfect complement for a tasty meal.
I am excited to be living at a time when so much wine is available to us all from all corners of the world, and I am particularly fond of French wines – especially whites and roses. Right now at 18th, I’m happy to be selling and drinking Marc Ollivier’s Domaine de la Pepiere ‘Clos des Briords’ Muscadet – a pure, elegant, and refreshing wine for any occasion. I also strongly recommend the honest and earthy Côtes Catalanes Rouge from Domaine de Majas, as well as the Athénaïs Bourgogne Épineuil ‘Valnoirs’ from Chateau de Béru, a tart, juicy Pinot Noir with a fine mineral finish.”
“I first moved to San Francisco in December of ’07 for a six-month culinary internship at Farallon Restaurant. When I returned to CIA I decided to extend my wine knowledge by enrolling in an advanced wines course. It was in this classroom setting that I first realized how much fun wine can be (aside from its intoxicating effects). Its vast range of aromatics, flavors, and textures opened a new world of experiences waiting to be explored. As a chef and food lover, I understood that food and wine become something more when experienced side by side. Since I moved back to San Francisco, I have only fallen deeper into the rabbit hole. To me there is nothing more fun than asking a question and getting to research and dig for an answer. The information found becomes a reward, something you’ve earned. Wine is a never ending quest of learning and the rewards are limitless.
The wine on the shelf I am most excited about right now at Divis is the La Marea Albariño. I love this grape and the wines made from it. For a long time I’ve been looking for a domestic Albariño that I’m happy with. To me, they either have the aromatics but the body and acid aren’t there, or they have no aromatics and the body and acidity are where they should be. I think the reason for this comes down to terroir. There are not a ton of places in the world like the Rias Baixas. But I think the chalky/clay hill above the Salinas River in Monterey County where this Albariño comes from is pretty damn close. It’s minerally and bright, like licking a rock, but in the best sense!”
Lots of new faces in the wine section. Say hi next time you’re in, Dear Reader, and be sure to ask for a recommendation.
Your friendly wine guy,
PS: my current favorite is the Exilé Pétillant Naturel from Lise and Bertrand Jousset. Sparkly, peppery and juicy Gamay from Montlouis. Yes please!