Bi-Rite Blog


 
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.



 
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