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Simon

Your Berry Best Friends are Back

BlueStrawBlackFINALMid-Summer in the Bay is the peak of local berry season.  The last of the local blueberries will be harvested through July and the blackberries and raspberries are starting to taste really good.  Strawberries have the longest season of any of the local berries, with the harvest lasting from April to October depending on the weather. Summer strawberries can be the sweetest with the cool coastal nights and warm days, but farmers are always wary of a heat wave that melts the berries in the fields! Berries always taste the best when they are harvested ripe and eaten as soon as possible, and we are so fortunate to get all to get all of our summer berries straight from the farms within 24 hours after harvest. With all of these sweet treats coming on at once, it can be hard to decide which berry to choose!  So we’ve decided to make the decision simple with our mixed berry 3-pack, so you can enjoy the best of them all!

The organic red raspberry market has been monopolized by Driscoll’s over the past 15 years, making it very difficult for small farmers to compete with the low costs.  With the resurgence of folks who want to know where their food comes from and consumers’ desire for high-quality fruit, we are starting to see more small growers planting raspberries in the Northern CaliforniaYerena Farms, located in Watsonville, is a family-operated farm growing berries on around 13 acres.  Poli Yerena and his brother came to the states to work in the Driscoll’s fields in the early 80’s, and after 12 yrs decided to start their own farm.  We are so lucky to work with a small farm like Yerena, who know how to grow a perfect organic raspberry and are committed to bringing the local raspberry market back to the small farmer.  Yerena’s neighbor in Watsonville, Live Earth Farm also grows raspberries are known for their organic gold raspberries.  Gold raspberries are an extremely delicate berry with super sweet flavor and a hint of tartness.

berry pedigrees largeBlackberries grow like weeds throughout the Bay Area! However, the flavor and texture of the wild blackberries doesn’t quite compete with some of the varieties the local farms are growing.  Toby at Free Spirit Farm in Winters grows the “Triple Crown” blackberry, a thornless berry plant with super juicy fruit that is sweet when ripe.  We love these berries so much that we are making our Public Label Blackberry Jam with them this month!  There are some pedigrees of berries that are very similar to blackberry like the Boysenberry and Olallieberry.  We get these varieties from time to time at the market, but they are so delicate and juicy it’s hard for the farms to get them to us before the turn to mush.

Throughout the summer we get strawberries directly from over 10 different farms.  Live Earth Farm and Swanton Berry Farm are a couple farms who have mastered the art of strawberry growing.  Learn more about strawberries at Bi-Rite here. Whatever your pleasure, your locally-grown berry best friends are back for summer!


Waverley

Go 4th & Celebrate with Good Food!

It’s that time of year when the grills are hot, the beer is cold! 4th of July is just around the corner and whether you’re traveling afar or celebrating at home, our Markets and Creamery have what you need to fete the 4th with ease.

Fire up your grill because we have a hot deal on Niman Ranch Baby Back Ribs ($7.49/lb, normally $8.99/lb) through July 4th. Smaller and leaner than traditional St. Louis ribs, these little guys pack a punch on the grill! Pro tip? Pair your meats with our incredible selection of marinades and condiments! Season your meats with local favorite SFQ, the original San Francisco-style bbq sauce and staff favorite Omnivore Salt.  Swing through the produce aisle for some sweet summer corn, mixed-berry three packs, watermelon, stone fruit, and more. Stop by the Markets for all of your snacks, dips, pickles, and accoutrements, or shop our Summer Favorites aisle on Instacart and have everything delivered!

For those SF-livers with no space for grilling, our chefs have pulled together the perfect combination of Americana classics and new favorites in our House-Made 4th of July menu. From fried chicken to cole slaw, cornbread to 7-layer dip, we’re cooking up the best of your favorite comfort foods, ready for all of your 4th festivities.

MixedBerrySquareIt wouldn’t be a patriotic meal without pie! Bi-Rite Creamery’s Strawberry & Blueberry Pie is the perfect partner for our seasonal ice cream flavors, like Balsamic Strawberry and classic Vanilla. Our bakers have also created a special Blueberry Buttermilk Cake for the occasion!

Our Alcohol Buyer, Trac, has selected some perfect summer sippers to round our your bbq.  If you’re mixing up cocktails, try a Moscow Mule with organic and non-GMO corn-based vodka from Dogwood Distilling. For those of you who love a cold brew, we’ve got a special on Firestone Walker Brewing Co.‘s “Easy Jack” 6-packs (only $9.99!). For the wine lovers, try our food-friendly featured Zinfandels.

Go 4th and celebrate with Good Food!


Jon Fancey

Cheese Travelogue: Condor’s Ruin from Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia

CondorsRuin1The fourth stop on the Bi-Rite Cheese Trek takes us to a newer farm in Chattahoochee Hills Country – a swath of undeveloped Georgia countryside that’s a short drive from Atlanta.  This area is the last rural area near Atlanta to prevent suburban sprawl with the hopes of preserving the natural beauty and agricultural traditions of the region.

Ross and Rebecca Williams started Many Fold Farm in 2009 with an ambitious mission to craft meat and cheese products on a piece of land that adhered to natural systems, while also educating the public about sustainable farming in the South.  200 sheep and 800 chickens live on Many Fold Farm – ewes are milked to produce cheese, lambs are slaughtered for meat, and the hen’s eggs are sold at the nearby farmers’ markets.

I first tried Many Folds Farm cheeses while at a conference three summers ago and they definitely stood out from other cheeses I tried that week.  There aren’t many cheeses made in the South, let alone French-inspired small format sheep’s milk cheeses.  Ross and Rebecca also stood out as a couple – they were young, energetic, and engaging.

CondorsRuinFarmersIt has taken a couple of years for Many Folds to increase their production and meet demand for their unique cheeses; they are just now beginning to appear on the West CoastCondor’s Ruin is my favorite from Many Fold – a delicate sheep’s milk cheese inspired by the French classic Valençay.  The ash coated pyramid develops a beautiful white rind along with well-balanced lactic flavors with notes of grass & garlic.  This impressive effort speaks to the quality of the sheep’s milk and the care given during the cheese making process.  The velvety and dense paste of Condor’s Ruin is best enjoyed with a dry white wine or a complex sparkling wine.

The next stop on our Cheese Trek takes us to an island off the coast Friesland for one of Holland’s rarest farmhouse cheeses that will be available in the Markets on July 7th. Ask our mongers how you can join the Cheese Trek and #cheeseyourownadventure!


Jon Fancey

Cheese Trek Travelogue: Alp Blossom from Doren, Austria

The third stop on our cheese journey takes us to the small village of Doren in Austria’s Bregenz Forest.  Doren lies in the Alpine region where the corners of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland meet – a region known for aged cow’s milk cheeses.

AlpBlossomCheeseMakingStudents

Cheesemaking students at Sennerei Huban

Sennerei Huban was founded in 1901 as Austria’s first cheese vocational school and sources milk from a cooperative of 34 dairy farms.  The cooperative members have 15 cows on average, mainly Brown Swiss, that are on pasture all summer and are fed alpine hay when there’s snow on the ground.  The dairy mainly makes cheeses that are consumed in the region – their production is focused on Emmentaler and Bergkäse.  Alp Blossom is the dairy’s most special cheese, an aged wheel of cow’s milk cheese coated in herbs and flowers from the region.  This style of cheese is seasonally available in Bavaria and the Bregenz but is rarely exported.

AlpBlossom

Maker: Sennerei Huban – Doren, Austria

I discovered this beautiful cheese while attending Slow Food’s Biennial Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy.  It was a warm day in the middle of last September and I bumped into Norbert Sieghart, the exporter of Alp Blossom.  Norbert selects the best cheeses from the Bavarian and Austrian Alps and operates some of the best cheese stalls in Berlin’s Market Halls.  Norbert promised me cold beer and tastes of several of his newest cheese finds.  Alp Blossom stood out more than any offering at his booth – the blanket of purple and yellow flowers really grabbed my attention.  The paste of the cheese was silky smooth and the flavors were long and rich.  The coating of flowers and herbs not only made the cheese visually stunning, they imparted an herbaceous essence to the paste.

It’s been over 8 months since I first tasted this cheese and am excited I was able to secure a few wheels for our Cheese Trek adventure.  I’d recommend enjoying Alp Blossom with any Bavarian beer – I first tasted the cheese while drinking a Pilsner.  A bottle of Riesling would be great, too, as Rieslings always pair well with aged cow’s milk cheeses from the Alps.

The next stop on our Cheese Trek is the Chattahoochee Hill Country of Georgia for one of the most coveted sheep’s milk cheeses being crafted in America.  Look for this next exciting cheese on the Market’s shelves on June 23rd. Visit the Markets and talk to a cheese monger to see how you can join the Cheese Trek and #cheeseyourownadventure today!


Simon

Summer Lovin’: Stone Fruit Season

Bi-Rite Crew at Balakian

Bi-Rite team at Balakian Farms

The month of May is all about local cherries, but as they start to slow down in the middle of June, crops like peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, and pluots start to taste really good.  Bi-Rite’s selection of stone fruit during the summertime is a showcase of the many different local varieties and the world-class farmers who grow them.  There’s truly nothing better than sinking your teeth into a peach that was picked at the perfect ripeness so that sugars have developed into the sweet juicy goodness that makes us nostalgic for summers from childhood.

This spring the Bi-Rite Produce and Marketing teams took a field trip into the heart of Central Valley to visit a few of our favorite  organic farms, and learn more about what it takes to grow amazing organic fruit!

Mas Masomoto

Mas Masumoto, Masumoto Family Farm

Located just over 200 miles south of San Francisco in the heart of California’s conventional, industrial agriculture there are three family farms doing their best to keep organic stone fruit alive. Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, CA is a beautiful, 80-acre orchard of land purchased by the Masumoto family in 1948. A third-generation farmer and celebrated author, Mas Masumoto has mastered the art of building soil to support the growth of his trees.  The Masumoto family is in love with the tang of the yellow flesh fruit and seeks a sugar and acid balance that screams WOW! They’re just about to start harvesting the Flavorcrest Peach, a popular variety for conventional growers who like a firm piece of fruit that can ship.  Next up is everyone’s favorite, the freestone Sun Crest Yellow Peach, a large peach with a red blushed skin and juicy texture – this is the peach that put the Masumoto Family Farm on the map.  The last variety of stone fruit we will see from the Masumoto is the clingstone Le Grand Yellow Nectarine.  The Le Grand is a large piece of fruit with a rich sweet flavor and firm flesh which makes it awesome for making nectarine ice cream.

Peaches and nectarines are categorized in two ways, freestone and clingstone. When the flesh of the fruit is attached to the pit you have a clingstone variety. They can be the best to eat but are harder to work with in the kitchen. The meat (flesh) freestone varieties are completely detached from the pit which makes them easier to work with for canning, freezing, and cooking.

Stella Balakian

Stella Balakian, Balakian Farms

Stella Balakian moved to Reedley from Boston almost 50 years ago, and she is the heart and soul of the fourth generation Balakian Farms. For the past 15 years the Balakian family has been driving 3 ½ hours one-way to deliver fresh-picked stone fruit to the doors of Bi-Rite Market. The Balakian’s farm sits on just over 40 acres. They have diversified to grow one of the best pomegranates, which we celebrate in the Markets every fall. As far as stone fruit goes, Balakian focuses largely on early season stone fruit , but keep an eye out for the Flavor Grenade Pluot.

One of the biggest challenges facing these organic stone fruit grower in Central Valley is the limited local market for them to sell their premium organic fruit. These farms rely heavily on the markets in the Bay Area to bring them the financial return needed to survive as a small farm and pay their workers a living wage.  Most of the farms that grow us all these amazing fruits and veggies that we see at Bi-Rite are in low-income communities that can’t afford the prices for specialty organic fruits and vegetables.

Blossom Bryce and Dad

Ted & Bryce, Blossom Bluff Orchards

Blossom Bluff Orchards is located on a “bluff” overlooking the King River in Reedley, CA, and it’s one of the most stunning landscapes in the area.  As we walked the orchard it was so good to see all the wildlife taking advantage of the diversity on the farm.  The Loewen family farms on about 80 acres and grow a wide variety of stone fruit, citrus, and persimmons.  Bryce and his father, Ted, operate the farm together and they have so many different fruit varieties that Ted has to keep a little black book just to remember the locations of the each varietal.  Two of the crops the Loewen’s have mastered is plums and pluots, which are just getting underway. We are finishing up the last of the unique Black Splendor Plum with its dark purple/red skin and meaty flesh, which will be followed shortly by the Yellow Dolly Plum with perfect, yellow skin and juicy flesh.  Soon after the Dolly, the Catalina Plum will be harvested, with its dark amber skin – it is one of the sweetest plums of the season and just a taste of what you’ll see at Bi-Rite from Blossom Bluff Orchards this summer.

If biting into a sweet and juicy piece of stone fruit doesn’t get your taste buds fired up, we have a terrific recipe for Peach Cobbler from our Pastry Chef Keri,  and of course Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop is taking advantage of all of the amazing stone fruit to create all sorts of summer treats like Masumoto Peach Ice Cream and Peach Frangipane Galettes.

StoneFruit_Recipe_web


Trac

Say Yes to Riesling!

Americans love sweet things – from Frappuccino to Coca Cola, we can’t get enough of them. But when it comes to wine, we turn our noses up at it, always wanting something “dry.” And that’s too bad, because anyone who dismisses Riesling is missing out on what just might be the most versatile and complex white wine in the world. This grape can be made completely dry with racy acidity or with rich, full bodied nectar that can stand up to steak, which is why it’s an incredibly easy wine to pair with any cuisine, whether it’s Sichuan or delicate seafood.

Finding the right Riesling for your taste can be tricky because Riesling labels can be hard to read, especially the German labels with ripeness level classifications like Kabinett (light and fresh) to Auslese (high in sugar, usually for dessert), which can take months to study.

We’re here to help! If you want a dry Riesling, look for the work trocken on German bottles or pick up an Alsatian or Austrian Riesling, as most are generally dry. Look for alcohol percentage on the bottle: if it’s 12.5% or higher, 99% of the time it will be a dry wine.  Don’t hesitate to ask folks on our wine team, who’re on a mission to make Riesling more widely quaffed.

Here are some of our favorites you can shop at the Markets:

Domaine Ostertag Riesling “Vignoble d’E” Alsace, France 2013
Made by revolutionary Alsatian producer, André Ostertag, this cuvée is made to express the essence of Riesling in Alsace instead of terroir. It’s delicate with notes of white flowers and peach, and delicious with shellfish and fish.

Tatomer Riesling Vandenberg Santa Barbara, CA 2014
Winemaker Graham Tatomer shows us that Rieslings can shine in California. Having studied at one of the best wineries in Austria, Tatomer’s Vandenberg Riesling has rich fruits with pure mineral notes.

Von Hövel “Hutte Oberemmel” Spatlese Riesling Saar, Germany 2014
A family-owned estate now operated by seventh-generation winemaker, Max von Kunow, has some of the best vineyards in the Saar region of Germany. This classic Spatlese has typical Saar notes of savory herbs like mint and tarragon with a long and juicy apricot finish. Try this with a Peking duck – stunning!