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Easter Basket Alert: Peep These Chocolates!

Boy will we be lucky if this coming Easter Sunday is as beautiful as the day we’re having right now! It’s supposed to be, so we’ve stocked our shelves with heaps of adorable AND tasty Easter chocolate for your springy spread. Here are just a few to get the basket-making juices flowing:

easter1Vosges Goose’s Golden Eggs: Redefining bacon and eggs, five dark chocolate half-eggs nestle in a straw-filled pink gift box, each filled with soft bacon caramel.

easter3Vosges Alice’s Rabbit Lollipop: For those who love to imagine chasing their own white rabbit, this pop is available in either 45% dark milk chocolate with peanut butter and pink Himalayan Salt or 62% dark chocolate with caramelized puffed millet.

easter 4Fran’s Milk or Dark Chocolate Foil Bunny: In single-origin 65% Venezuelan solid dark chocolate or single-origin Venezuelan solid milk chocolate.

easter2Vosges Barcelona Floppy Eared Bunnies: This deep milk chocolate bunny will win you over at first bite with its exotic interior of hickory smoked almonds and grey sea salt, enrobed in a custom blend of milk chocolate with just a touch of dark to deepen the flavor.

 

 


Interview with Tipu’s Chai Founder Bipin Patel

Tipus 1

Bipin with his popular brew

We asked Bipin Patel, the founder of Tipu’s Chai, a few questions to learn more about his story and the process behind his amazing Chai tea blends.

Tipu’s Chai is a new product for us at Bi-Rite Market. Where does your chai recipe come from and what makes it so unique?

I was born and raised in a large Indian family in Uganda. I grew up drinking my grandmother’s masala chai. She brought it with her from her native Gujarat in northwestern India. Our chai recipe uses several ground spices like ginger and cardamom, which we specially blend with a strong organic black tea, such as Assam, to create a rich, spicy and robust flavor.

Can you tell us about your newest Chai products?

We offer a variety of quick-brew chai products for chai lovers on the go or for relaxing at home. All the products are made using all-natural ingredients with no preservatives. They are also certified kosher and most are organic.

  • All You Need is Water is our quick-brew chai tea latte made with black tea, organic spices, organic non-GMO soy milk powder, organic evaporated cane juice and ginger. This product is also vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, certified kosher and includes four grams of protein per serving. Chai fans simply add hot (or cold) water for a chai tea latte on the go.
  • The Simple Life uses soluble microground Black Chai tea without sweeteners or milk products. It is pure black tea, organic spices and ginger.

tipus2What prompted you to start your own chai company?

In many ways, it came naturally. I opened a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Missoula, Montana called Tipu’s Tiger (named after Tipu Sultan) in 1998, using mostly family recipes, one of which was my grandmother’s chai recipe. We used to make between 10-15 gallons of chai every day. Before long, local cafes and restaurants wanted to serve it to their patrons, so we developed various chai products to serve their needs. Tipu’s Chai was born! A few years ago, I sold the restaurant to focus on the chai business.

So, Indian chai vs. coffee?

Well, chai definitely has more healthy ingredients, and the tea offers more anti-oxidants. Chai is also easier on the digestive system and has lower levels of caffeine. All the spices we use in chai have a health value. For example, ginger helps with digestion; cinnamon increases circulation; and cardamom is known to benefit the lungs and heart.

What are some new trends you are seeing in this category?

I believe strongly that people will continue to want authentic and natural/organic products. As people travel the world more and taste authentic chai in India they will search for companies locally that are creating this same experience. Also, today’s consumers are looking for food and beverages made without artificial ingredients or preservatives, and we definitely do this!

Visit us for a taste of Tipu’s authentic Indian chai this Saturday, January 19th from 10am-1pm: meet Mark Lannen from Tipu’s Chai and learn more about this exciting new company from Montana!


Peanut Butter on a Mission

Sometimes, our producers do the giving with us! Project Open Hand’s Peanut Butter is an outstanding example of a delicious, local product that makes a difference to many members of our extended community. Project Open Hand has been providing “meals with love” to neighbors in need since 1985. They offer daily cuisine and nutritional services to people living with serious illnesses and to seniors in San Francisco and Alameda, serving on average 2,600 meals a day!

As a way to bring in extra funds for their programming, Project Open Hand’s staff and volunteers make fresh ground peanut butter daily, and we’re proud to carry this awesome nut butter on our shelves.  One hundred percent of the sales of the peanut butter go back to Project Open Hand, directly supporting their mission and assistance to people in need. This peanut butter is made only from peanuts–no salt, sugar, or anything else–and has a thick consistency and great taste. The way I see it, why not have your peanut butter budget work double time?

 


Teaching the Eat Good Food Pantry at 18 Reasons

I was out to dinner with a few Bi-Rite friends the other night and the discussion turned to our pantries. We debated which products we stock at home, how we use them, and most importantly, why we choose to purchase particular brands and products over others. We all concluded that we have what some might consider “dream pantries,” filled with multiple oils and vinegars, several types of soy sauce, mustards and salts, and more grains than you’d find in the kitchen at Café Gratitude! I loved hearing which products my coworkers select, and at the end of our debate we concluded that while we might have over-the-top supplies, you don’t need much to have a complete, well-functioning pantry.

I’m thrilled to be leading a two-part pantry stocking class this April, as I’ve tasted through hundreds-maybe thousands-of pantry items while working at Bi-Rite. This lesson will guide you through the basics of building a functioning pantry, plus you’ll learn the back story of WHY I choose the particular products for Bi-Rite and my own pantry and HOW to apply them in flavorful, quick meals. While there are countless resources and lists on creating a well-stocked pantry, in this class you’ll have the unique opportunity to TASTE through the pantry items that I’m highlighting, allowing you to pick your own favorites and determine which items you’re missing from your own stock.

Come to this class if you want to enhance your current pantry with sustainable ingredients, learn about our favorite items on the shelves at Bi-Rite, or strengthen your week-night cooking skills. Regardless of whether you have an empty cabinet or a dream pantry, you’ll learn important skills to keep your stock exciting, delicious, and functional!

Class dates: Mondays April 2nd & 30th, 6:30-9PM
Registration–don’t wait, the class will sell out! www.brownpapertickets.com/event/230709

Eat Good Food teaches us how to select jackpot pantry items, like this page on good quality canned fish!

 


Community Jam: Calling our Guests to Support INNA’s Growth

We like to geek out on a lot of things here at Bi-Rite, and one of them is enlisting the support of one group in our community for another. I want to share with you an opportunity for our guests (and entire Bi-Rite community) to pitch in on a campaign to ensure that one of our producers, INNA Jam, is able to make delicious jams for years to come.

One of my favorite producers to work with as a grocery buyer here is Dafna Kory, who founded INNA Jam. She and I met two years ago, right when I started at Bi-Rite, and I knew immediately that her jams would be a success in our store, as she works along many of the same principles that we do. She sources all of her organic fruit from within 100 miles of her home base in Berkeley, she creates only single varietal jams in order to celebrate the unique flavors of rare fruit, and she delivers them in person (often on bike). You’ll often see her in front of Bi-Rite sampling her jams to our guests, or volunteering at 18 Reasons, or teaching jamming classes around the Mission.

INNA Jam has grown tremendously in the past two years, and Dafna has finally made the huge leap to move into her own kitchen! As you can imagine, this is an exciting, daunting, and expensive venture, and Dafna is asking for support through a kickstarter campaign. Check out Dafna’s informative video about the campaign–I’m sure you’ll be convinced to contribute towards her kitchen!

I’d like to call on our guests to help fund her cause, which I feel so strongly benefits our community: if she raises her goal of $25,000, Dafna will be able to work with more local farmers, provide more jobs in the food industry, and produce more of her incredible jams (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was bummed that her apricot jam lasted only a few weeks this year!).

The crazy thing is that this project will only be funded if at least $25,000 is pledged by Tuesday Mar 20, 6:00pm EDT. As of me writing this, she’s raised $11,257–almost halfway there. Please join us in pushing her over the hump!


Tasting San Francisco Through Our New Honeys

Kyle and I are apparently very proud.

It seems that honey’s been moving up in the world, with more and more people putting in bee hives and appreciating the flavor nuances of different honeys. I couldn’t believe the headline I read today about Chicago’s O’Hare Airport installing a 2,400 sq foot apiary on their property!

On that note, we’ve found room for 5 new local honeys in our assortment.

We’re very excited to bring in honey from Bay Area Bee Company, started by a husband and wife team (Rokas and Kelli Armonas). Rokas came to the US from Lithuania and studied beekeeping under Spencer Marshall of Marshall’s Honey and decided to start his own company. They do not use any artificial products or chemicals when caring for their bees and processing their honey, and they tend to all their hives themselves. We’ve stocked three of their honeys:

  • Potrero Hill: Lighter and fruity with a hint of fennel, indicative of the flowering fruit trees and backyard blossoms in the hillside gardens of Potrero.
  • Tenderloin: Fruity with warm floral tones, expressing the diverse flora in the Civic Center and Tenderloin neighborhoods.
  • Bay Area Blend: Perfect honey for baking–more structured and well-balanced blend of SF and surrounding Bay Area hives.

Another new honey producer hitting our shelves is Robert McKimmie’s City Bees. We currently have two of his honeys:

  • Glen Park: Beautiful honey with light citrus notes and subtle flavors of vanilla and lavender. Trac says it tastes like coconut to him.
  • Potrero Hill: The darker of the two honeys, with rich notes of fennel, sage, rosemary and jasmine with subtle baking spices.

Robert is also the beekeeper who’s taking care of our own rooftop hives (which he says he’s harvesting soon, stay tuned!)


Memorial Day Inspiration: Danish Brunch

With Alder Lane Eggs, Katz Sauvignon Blanc Vinegar, St. Benoit Yogurt and Black Pig Bacon I brought home from Bi-Rite, I recently went about returning to my happy place;  I highly recommend it to fill the luxurious time of a Memorial Day Weekend at home.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Denmark. You know, that place somewhere over there in Scandinavia, where people ride bikes, sport trendy blond haircuts, lounge on designer chairs, and drink schnapps. Nope, not Sweden. I’ve heard all sorts of crazy rumors about Denmark, and have spent years trying to debunk the myth that Cheese Danish is the national breakfast of the Vikings. It’s herring on rye bread washed down with a Carlsberg. duh.
All kidding aside, my absolute favorite part of Danish culture is their fascination with brunch. I’ve always been a fan of breakfast, and I was ecstatic to find a whole culture that may be slightly more obsessed than I am! I spent most of my weekends in Copenhagen discovering the breakfast gems of the city, and had a meticulous method of ranking an outstanding brunch. You see, there are many, many factors to a delicious Danish brunch.

Alder Lane eggs: taste the rainbow!

First of all, the Danes are serious when it comes to cafes. I’ve never been more comfortable, cozy and content while lounging around with friends; the neighborhood restaurants provide board games, down blankets, candles, and near-perfect music. Cafes are open from the wee hours of the morning until…the wee hours of the morning! You can have a beer at 10 AM, or a coffee at 3 AM. Anything goes! Most importantly, Denmark is the land of “hygge,” or coziness, and it shows in their hospitality. It’s all about spending meaningful time with friends, and I certainly did my share of that over brunch.
The second most important factor in Danish brunch is understanding the simple notion that humans don’t like to make too many decisions, certainly not before they’ve had their stor latte, and certainly not about their food in the early morning.  In Denmark, you don’t have to. Sweet, savory, salty, spicy, crunchy, cold, hot, pickled… you name it and it makes an appearance on the danish brunch plate. YES, all on the very same plate. In fact, the Danes make it simple for you: order either the “meat brunch” or the “vegetarian brunch” and you’re good to go. None of this American tradition of substitutions.
Having moved to San Francisco from Copenhagen, I attempted to introduce Americans to my new found love of the all-inclusive breakfast. My friends tried to reason that it’s just called “brunch” here, and that I didn’t know what I was talking about. “Oh no,” I’ve argued,”It’s different.”  My only solution has been to recreate my own Danish brunch, almost every weekend, and get as many friends on board as possible.
I’d like to think that my homemade brunches rate high on my personal BGS (brunch grading system). The key criteria of a successful brunch can be divided into many categories, including Quality of Ingredients, Variety of Product, Presentation, Uniqueness, and Experience (hold up: I need to clarify that this is a system that I personally invented. It’s not a Danish thing, it’s an Alli thing. Don’t go quizzing your Danish friends on their knowledge and opinions on the BGS).  In fact, I’ve shared a few photos from my most recent brunch so that you can judge for yourself! I’d say that it fairs pretty well, but was lacking an essential piece of cheese and rye bread, and could have used some pate and cornichon, or some grilled vegetables. It’s all about diversity on the plate, mind you.

My trusty co-chef Ian, ready to dig in

I hope that you’ve gathered some inspiration for your long weekend, and that you’ll find me in the market to talk about breakfast ideas, Arne Jacobsen, or even The Little Mermaid (who knew that was originally a Danish fairytale? A very dark one, in fact). Go on, light some candles, get cooking and let me know how it goes!


Bees buzzing on our roof means honey’s on the way

It certainly feels like Spring here in the Mission; we’re finally selling more beverages than broths, more chips than pasta, and we just can’t keep Chicharrones around for more than a few days! The weather’s been beautiful, and we’re seeing the effects of it as our neighborhood is absolutely pulsing with energy. Another sure sign of Spring for us is the constant buzzing of bees in our back patio here at Bi-Rite. While it may make some people nervous, the moving bees tell us that we can be looking forward to our Rooftop Honey as we move into the summertime.

We’re lucky to have partnered with Robert MacKimmie from City Bees this year; he’s a talented beekeeper who has been nurturing San Francisco hives since 1996. He successfully relocated a swarm of bees onto our roof a few weeks ago (as seen in this crazy picture), and since then we’ve seen a ton of activity. Robert shared an update with me earlier this week, reporting that the bees are “building up and starting to bring in nectar,” meaning that we can expect our rooftop honey to be available before we know it. Robert excitedly told me that he’s seen more activity from his bees this year than the past several years, a great sign for our delicate local bee populations.

Robert has hives all over the city, with each location producing a uniquely flavored honey dependent on the flora surrounding the hives.  I had the opportunity to sample almost a dozen of his honeys a few weeks ago and was amazed by the striking variation in taste between the different locations.  We realized that we just had to carry his honey on our shelves, and are excited to bring in not only our Rooftop Honey, but several of his San Francisco varietals moving into the summer time. Look out for his amazing honeys hit our shelves in June!


Caffeinated Bliss with Good Food Awards Coffee Week at 18 Reasons

Last Thursday, I had the rare opportunity to try fifteen different coffees from nine different roasters and six different countries, back to back. Teamed with Alex from Ritual Coffee Roasters, Amber from Ecco Caffe, and Elaine from Barefoot Coffee Roasters, plus Suzy, Larissa and Olivia, our amazing 18 Reasons volunteers, we put together quite the caffeinated event!

The coffees ranged tremendously in flavor profile, from sparkling with acidity to round, earthy and mellow . I heard the expected descriptors such as “chocolaty, nutty, floral, bright, creamy” and was intrigued to hear comparisons to “oozing chocolate covered cherry cordials,” “fresh olive oil,” “smoky beef jerky,” and “toasty popcorn.” Both sessions were abuzz with sniffing, slurping, and scribbling cupping notes, all in an attempt to rank each coffee.

Interestingly enough, one coffee stood out as the favorite amongst both tasting groups: the Equator Nekisse, from Ethiopia, which exploded with flavors of blueberry and cherry, in a sweet, clean cup. I’m extremely pleased with the blind tasting results; as Bi-Rite’s coffee buyer, I am always encouraging customers to try out African coffees, and wish more people would give Equator a try–they have some of the best coffees on our shelves!  Perhaps even more remarkable, however, was that although this had the highest ranking in both groups, it was also was ranked as the lowest more than any other coffee in the cupping. To me, this emphasizes how drastic African coffees can be; People either love or hate the intense fruit bomb flavors of a coffee from the Sidama or Yirgacheffe regions of Ethiopia.

For those of you who attended the event and were a little too jittery to write down all of the coffee names once we revealed the roasters, here they are, broken down into the first and second sessions:
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What I’m giving for Christmas

Still struggling for last minute gift ideas? Check out some of my personal favorites below, and put your shopping worries aside. Warning: if you are related to me, you might want to stop reading this post until after Christmas.

  1. For the coffee lover in your life (aka My Dad), put together an assortment of fantastic caffeine-themed goodies. My picks would be a bag of Sightglass or Four Barrel Coffee, a gorgeous Bee House ceramic dripper & filters to match, plus a magazine like Meatpaper, or Culture, to peruse while enjoying their coffee break.
  2. Not a coffee fan? Try a tea themed gift with our delicate Red Blossom Teas. They come ready to gift in beautiful red canisters. Pair that with a Bee House teapot or Red Blossom tea cup, add a jar of Bi-Rite Sonoma Honey, and you’re good to go!
  3. I find that alcohol works well as a gift for almost anyone in my family- one of my current favorites is giving a bottle of Mitchter’s Bourbon, a bottle of Carpano Antica Vermouth, and a jar of decadent Luxardo cherries. These three ingredients will make anyone into a Manhattan lover.
  4. This year, my older brother will be receiving  a pasta kit, which is perfect for sending long distance: a bag Rustichella Pasta (the Casareccia is hands-down the best dried pasta I’ve ever tried), a jar of capers, Pomi tomatoes, a generous hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, anchovies, a bulb of garlic, and a few little Baci balls to end the meal. I wrapped it all up inside a Bi-Rite cotton shopping tote, and I have to say I’ll certainly be assembling this gift again in the future. I would have also added a bottle of Olive Oil, perhaps the Katz Olio Nuovo, if I hadn’t been paying for shipping!
  5. My Grandmother always makes beans for New Years, saying they’re good luck, so she’ll be getting a copy of the wonderfully useful Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans Cookbook. I’ve also picked out a few bags of dried beans to include in the package (I’m doing the Cannellinis and the Eye of the Goat beans), plus their unique Crimson Popping Corn. I’m sure she’s going to love it.

Good luck on your gift giving, and remember to ask us if you need recommendations or help!

Have a warm and healthy holiday,

Alli