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Jon Fancey

Cheese Trek Travelogue: Morrow from Mount Gildead, Ohio

MorrowThe sixth stop on the Bi-Rite Cheese Trek take us to my home state of Ohio.  Many things come to mind when the Buckeye State is mentioned, and fine sheep’s milk cheeses are not on the list.  My mom was the first person to mention Kokoborrego Cheese to me – she noticed their stand at her local farmer’s market and asked me if I had ever heard of them.  I had not. Most cheese made in Ohio comes from large cheese plants or very small artisan producers, and none of it really makes its way here to California.

Kokoborrego Cheese is one part of Sippel Family Farm, a 77 acre organic farm in North Central Ohio.  Ben and Lisa Sippel grow organic vegetables and apples, and raise sheep on pasture.  Ben and Lisa purchased the farm in 2004 when they were only 23 years old, and they’ve been making cheese for a handful of years with the assistance of cheese maker Ben Baldwin.

Morrow2Ben mainly focuses on crafting rustic tomme-style cheeses with raw sheep’s milk – sturdy cheeses that can be matured and sold throughout the year.  Morrow is the youngest cheese he makes: a small cube of dense sheep’s milk cheese that’s been dusted with ash.  It develops a light, bloomy rind after a week; the flavors are fruity and sweet with notes of green garlic and grass.  Morrow is Kokoborrego’s most sought after seasonal cheese – they only make it for a couple of months during the summer.  Enjoy it with a glass of sparkling wine on a warm summer day.

Up next on our Cheese Trek is a visit to the ‘Catherdral of Comté’ to select a very special wheel of cheese that will be available in the Markets the first week of August!


Trac

Tequila & Mezcal: Your New Fun Friends

The popularity of tequilas and mezcals in San Francisco is amazing right now. With hot restaurants like Loló and La Urbana focusing their bar program on Mexico’s agave plants, it doesn’t seem to look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. For the novice though, mezcals and tequilas seem like the same spirit. This is true in that they are both made from the agave plant, but their production method and their varieties of agave are very different.

So, what are the differences between tequilas and mezcals? There are three major differences:

  1. Regionality: Tequila has to be made in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Tampaulipas, with the majority of tequila production happening in Jalisco. Mezcal can be produced in most Mexican states, with Oaxaca being the main production center.
  2. Agave: Tequila can only be made with Agave Tequilana Weber, aka Blue Agave. Mezcal, however, can be made from over 30 different varieties, including Espadin and Blue Agave. Because of this, mezcals vary in flavor much more than tequilas do.
  3. Process: The agaves used in tequila are baked in steam ovens, or what is essentially an industrial pressure cooker. With mezcal, the agaves are roasted in an underground pit filled with wood and volcanic rocks, which gives mescal its distinct smoky flavor.

Because summer is synonymous with porch sitting and park picnic-ing, we asked our resident bartender, Kitty Galisia, to create two seasonal cocktails to celebrate these special spirits.  A seasoned bar veteran and mixologist, Kitty learned the art of mixology at the hands of local cocktail legends like Thad Vogler, Erik Adkins, and the team at NOPA (where Kitty tended bar for nearly a decade). Kitty’s cocktail philosophy is to make each drink its own, so that every sip takes you to a special time and place. Visit our recipes page to keep your summer weekend vibes rolling with these two agave-inspired cocktails, and picture yourself out with your friends,  sipping these fun, flirty drinks.

Bit of a bartender yourself? Check out our favorite tequilas and mezcals in the Markets:

MezcalVagoEnsamble*Mezcal Vago Ensamble en Barro Bi-Rite | $99.99*
Our first-ever exclusive mezcal made for us by Mezcal Vago in limited quantity! This is one-of-a-kind ensemblage (blend) made with three agave sub-varieties. They are roasted, fermented and distilled together in Olla de Barro (clay pots) to produce a wonderfully complex mezcal.

Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal | $74.99
One of the top villages in Oaxaca, Chichicapa shows beatutiful vegetal notes with flavors of green citrus rinds, pepper, and smoke.

Cimarón Reposado Tequila | $21.99
Single estate agave from one of Jalisco’s largest and renowned farmers means the best value in traditional tequila. Three to six months in white oak barrels takes the purity of blanco and splashes it with the nuance of age.

Tequila Ocho Blanco | $54.99
Tequila Ocho are vintage designated tequilas that come from a single estate with its own micro-climate, making these the most terroir-driven tequilas in the market. Pair this with Combier Triple Sec for a top shelf margarita.

 

 


Jon Fancey

Cheese Trek Travelogue: Schapenboerderij De Zeekraal from Terschelling, Holland

The fifth stop on the Bi-Rite Cheese Trek takes us Terschelling, one of the Frisian Islands off the northern coast of Holland.  I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in Holland visiting farms and enjoying great cheese.  My hosts were Betty and Martin Koster, the owners of Amersterdam’s Fromagerie L’Amuse.  The Kosters select and mature Dutch cheeses which they either sell in their shops or export.  Their L’Amuse Signature Gouda is a mainstay at Bi-Rite, but their selection and passion goes beyond aged cow’s milk Gouda.  Betty was excited to take me to Terschelling to visit one of Holland’s most inspiring farmhouse sheep’s milk cheesemakers.

Terschelling1Our day started with a drive from Amsterdam to the port town of Harlingen, where we boarded a boat for a windy and rainy crossing of the Wadden Sea.  When we finally arrived at Terschelling, we were greeted by Jolanda and Gerben Bakker of Schapenboerderij De Zeekraal.  Gerben grew up on the island and now spends his days milking sheep and maintaining an organic farm; his wife, Jolanda, makes cheese and ice cream with the milk and runs a charming farm shop on their property.  We made it to the Baaker’s farm just in time to see their 200 Frisian sheep being milked for the evening and we also spent quite a bit of time with the new born lambs out in the pasture.  We enjoyed the couple’s cheeses for dinner and were treated to an off-road excursion to the eastern tip of the thin island to watch the sunset (at 10pm!).  After spending the night in yurts on the farm, we woke to the sounds of the animals and cups of coffee with fresh sheep’s milk.

TerschellingJolanda is one of only three cheesemakers on the island – and the only one using organic milk.  Her signature cheese is a small wheel of sheep’s milk gouda named for the island.  I first tried this cheese a few years ago and was intrigued by its rich flavors of nuts and caramel that accompanied its smooth & dense texture – the wheel I tasted from had been selected by the Kosters and matured to export to the United States.  I appreciate the cheese even more after visting the Baakers and tasting younger wheels of their cheese on their farm – Terschelling is a unique cheese that reflects the commitment this couple has to their animals and land.  I recommended enjoying the cheese on its own encounter all the complex flavors.  Betty Koster is also passionate about tea and encouraged me to enjoy her selections with Jasmine Tea – the pairing was unexpectedly wonderful.

The next destination on our Bi-Rite Cheese Trek is my home state of Ohio for a taste of an extra-special seasonal sheep’s milk delight!


Chili

SF Summer Grilling: “Chills-n-Grills”

Also known as “Cookin’ Hog in the Fog” or “Wearin’ Beanies while Cookin’ Weenies.” San Francisco summer is here and it means school is out, the days are longer, sometimes the sun actually breaks through the fog so let’s say that it’s a great time to spark up the grill!  This summer our butcher team added several new grill-friendly items to our grab-and-go prepack cases, featuring the sustainably-raised meat you know and love, seasoned and marinated with some of our favorite recipes and flavors.  All you have to do is grill:

  • SummerGrillingSemi-Boneless Mary’s Organic Chicken, seasoned with Omnivore Limone + Garlic & Herb Compound Butter: All the work for a classic brick chicken has been done for you, just throw it on the grill and add a brick (or heavy cast iron skillet)!
  • BN Ranch Korean Marinated Beef Short Ribs: A butcher case classic and staff favorite, now conveniently ready for you to grab-and-go. Serve it over rice, noodles, or just stand over the grill and eat ’em, they’re that good!
  • Five Dot Ranch Top Sirloin Beef Steak seasoned with Omnivore Salt + Garlic & Herb Compound Butter: An easy go-to value of a steak, perfect for weeknight meals, or a quick-and-easy impress your date dinner.
  • Niman Ranch Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin: Pork on pork action for the pork lovers out there.

We’ve also added a couple of new sausages from our talented butcher team, to spice up our already hot lineup:

  • Jalepeno & Cheddar Pork Sausage: Tamara put together this spicy, cheesey winner of a sausage, sure to warm you up on a cold, foggy summer night!
  • Beulah’s Old Fashioned Chicken Sausage: Another sure shot!  Juicy, lemony and herby inspired by Chris Timm’s Grandmama’s recipe and still going strong three generations later.

Our new lineup of pre-marinated meats make weeknight dinners and weekend grilling that much simpler: just grab-and-go, whether you’re grilling at home or hitting the road in search of sun! For your foggy summer nights, try pairing your grilled delights with Zinfandels, hand-selected by our Alcohol Buyer, Trac, to complement the meat while still summery and sippable.

Not sure what to grill? We’ve teamed up with Angelo Garro’s Omnivore Salt to stock our butchers with his amazing salts, so our butcher team can season your meat to your exact specifications – let us do the work for you, so all you have to do is impress your dining companions.


Trac

The Prodigal Zin Returns!

Summer is here, which means it’s time to dust off the grill and get ready for some backyard bbqing (even with all this fog). Along with rosés, no other wine complements baby back ribs, hot dogs, or steaks better than Zinfandels. However, Zinfandels are not known to be food friendly, because many of them are huge and monstrously powerful wines. The blast of rich, sometimes pruney fruit can be overbearing, and the hammer blow of the alcohol can be unpleasant. Zinfandels now commonly reach past 15% alcohol, often conveying an impression of sweetness that, combined with a thick texture, tends to blot out food. Sometimes they are actually sweet.

So why would we recommend Zinfandels with food then? Well, it is a uniquely American wine and nothing is more American than backyard bbqs. We want to feature the producers who we believe are making a more restrained style of Zins, lighter in body and lower in alcohol. This is often called the claret style, and we are celebrating these producers who are bringing Zinfandels back into the spotlight.

While you’re grabbing provisions for your summer grilling, check out these Zins to warm up those foggy grilling nights:BrocZin

Broc Cellars “Vine Starr” Zinfandel  Sonoma County, CA 2014 | $29.99
Chris Brockway has redefined what’s possible with Sonoma Zin. The Vine Starr shows the fresh and elegant side of Zin, with flavors of raspberry, pink peppercorns, and thyme. A Zinfandel that’s more like a fresh summer market than opening a jar of jam.

DasheZinDashe Les Enfants Terrible “Heart Arrow Ranch” Zinfandel Mendocino, CA 2015 | $24.99

Mike and Anne Dashe use organically grown grapes for their les Enfants Terribles series. This Zin is from a single-vineyard in Mendocino and complements its inherent fruitiness with rocks and wild herbs. Excellent with grilled meats.NalleZin

Nalle Zinfandel Dry Creek, CA 2014 | $39.99
This wine is a step back in California time with dusty Dry Creek roads, candied violets, and potpourri on the nose, followed by cherry pie, molasses, and orange rind on the palate.