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Young Food Writers Bring Litcrawl to 18 Reasons

Connor kicked off the show

Emma anchored the young author lineup

Connor, Emma, Helena and Eli did themselves, their families and “Take My Word For It!” proud on Saturday night when they presented their writing at LitQuake, in honor of Kris and Anne’s Bi-Rite Creamery cookbook, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones. Reading in front of a rapt audience at 18 Reasons these four brave young writers joined the ranks of practiced authors who participated in San Francisco’s city-wide festival of the literary arts.

Here’s Helena so eloquently delivering her story about the enjoyment of ice cream:

And Eli read us a story about a curmudgeon named Harold who decides he can’t deny his inner child and hunger for the sweet frozen stuff!

After the young authors were through, Anne and Kris read a passage from their book (did you know our White Chocolate and Raspberry swirl flavor led to a romance between one of our bakers and a guest?!)

Thanks to Sondra Hall for partnering with 18 Reasons to offer her “Take My Word for It” food writing curriculum to young writers in our community!

Potato, Parsnip and Celery Root Soup: SF Mom takes on Eat Good Food Recipe

San Francisco local Heather Knape moderates our 18 Reasons Food Lit Book Club and writes a blog called Eating Dirt about growing, cooking and eating food with her family. We invited her to try a recipe from Eat Good Food to see how cooking it would fit into her lifestyle as a busy mom and how it went over with the kids! She shared her experience with us:

Spring has sprung, sort of. The snap peas my kids and I planted last year are flowering on the deck, early asparagus is in the market and citrus is reaching its peak for the year. But the time for a dinner celebrating the commencement of bountiful growth hasn’t quite arrived – lamb is good, yet the price of asparagus is still high and there is no rhubarb in sight. About the only harbinger of Spring I can reliably find in good supply is green garlic- though that in itself is a much awaited treat.

Sam’s Potato, Parsnip and Celery Root Soup is an especially good recipe for this anticipatory time of year. It straddles the seasons deliciously, relying on winter holdovers of potato and parsnip as a base, with the brightness of celery root and green garlic to highlight the season. In addition to providing a great opportunity to talk to kids about how garlic matures from a stalk to a bulb, it gives those of us living where greens grow year round a gustatory glimpse into the warming of local soil, like crocus pushing up through the snow in colder climates.

Served with salad this soup makes a great dinner. To entice younger eaters in my house I float tiny meatballs on top; they eat it up. A thermosful also makes a great take-away lunch, both for parents and first graders. Good with homemade croutons, carrot sticks, an apple and a spoon packed alongside.

Potato, Parsnip and Celery Root Soup (adapted from Eat Good Food, p122):
1 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
2 large waxy potatoes, peeled and diced (yukon gold are good)
2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced (or rutabagas or turnips)
1 medium celery root, peeled and diced
2 stalks green garlic, chopped
1 t ground mustard
4 large sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup dry white wine (leave this out if you want to send it to school)
4 cups chicken or veggie broth (homemade or storemade)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cream
1 T lemon juice
1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.

2. Add the leeks, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 6-8 minutes. The leeks will become translucent, be careful not to let them brown or burn. Add the potatoes, parsnip, celery root and garlic. Cover the pot and let it cook gently for 10 minutes or so, then add the mustard, thyme and bay leaf for a couple more minutes.

3. Add the wine now if you are using it, then cook until it has evaporated.

4. Add the broth, cover the pot partially and increase the heat to medium high. Bring just to a boil, then lower the heat to keep it simmering gently. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are starting to break down.

5. To finish, remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf. Then puree the soup, either with an immersion blender, or by letting it cool and then blending it in small batches. Stir in the cream and lemon juice and season to taste with salt. Serve with chives and homemade croutons on top. To make the croutons, cut bread into cubes, then sauté in butter and sprinkle with salt.

Playing our Part in Promoting the Right Kind of Packaged Food

When I think about small-scale, responsible food production these days, I picture a river flowing with greater and greater momentum by the day. More and more people are talking about artisanal, traditional food ways, food made by hand, meat raised outside of the industrial farm system, and jars/boxes/bags of food packaged in a kitchen instead of a factory. Here at Bi-Rite, we’re lucky enough to be riding the river’s current every day!

One thing’s for sure: succeeding with a small food business, especially, a new one, is not easy. So the big question I ask our team at Bi-Rite is how we can best support this growing deluge. Here are some ways we’ve played a part so far:

  1. Partnering with organizations in our own city that are making it possible to start small, sustainable food businesses. The amazing resources that La Cocina provides to entrepreneurial food makers who operate out of their incubator kitchen has inspired us for years and led us to join them in their fundraising and events. What’s exciting is that their work is getting mainstream exposure, and the kind of small-scale, traditional food production they foster is now poised to influence larger food corporations. At this year’s NASFT Fancy Foods Show at the Moscone Center, La Cocina had its own area to showcase their products; clearly, retailers across the country are increasingly interested in selling packaged food that feels homemade and supports a greater mission.
  2. Selling products with a purpose here at Bi-Rite. Whether it’s Tracy’s Granola whose profits support an urban gleaning organization, Project Open Hand Peanut Butter which donates proceeds to their meal and nutrition services, or the many coffees we sell from local roasters who source fair trade beans, many retailers these days are considering the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) when choosing what product to sell.
  3. Being transparent about how we as retailers choose what products we sell and what makes a product successful in our store. Our grocery buyer Alli Ball was recently interviewed for CHOW about her tips for small aspiring food businesses; we’re always up for sharing our systems and learnings with others.
  4. Recognizing the people working hard to do it right. The two year old Good Food Awards celebrate outstanding American food producers and the farmers who provide their ingredients; I’ve served as a judge and advisor in the startup years and think the influence of this organization could be huge.

And this brings me to my next bend in this gushing river of support for small food businesses: I was recently asked to judge the Next Big Small Brand contest! Self-described as “a friendly food fight between San Francisco and New York”, myself and a small group of judges will review submissions from both coasts (up until now it’s only been New York—let’s show ‘em who’s boss!), and anoint one grand prize winner as The Next Big Small Brand. This Sunday, February 5th is the last day to submit your favorite small food brand to the contest; don’t miss this chance for us all to celebrate a small food producer bringing an exciting product to market! And if you’ll be in New York on March 27th, join us for the live judging!

A Grocer’s Role in Feeding Us is Complicated: Let’s Discuss!

Join Us for a Discussion About a Grocer’s Role in Feeding a Community

The Commonwealth Club of California Presents


On Wednesday November 2, the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco will host a discussion examining the grocer’s role in feeding our society. Behind the displays on supermarket shelves is a web of politics, economics and strategic marketing that influences product placement and, ultimately, consumer purchasing decisions. Caught in the middle are American eaters.

Bi-Rite owner Sam Mogannam has assembled a diverse group of experts to examine key questions about the complexities of food distribution and the empowerment available to the consumer. As he did in recently published Bi-Rite Market’s: Eat Good Food, Sam will share his insights about the American food system from the point of view of a neighborhood grocer committed to creating and feeding a community.

Joining the discussion will be Rex Stewart, CEO of New Leaf Market, along with Michael May from Harvest Hills Market. Food Policy consultant Naomi Starkman will moderate the conversation.

Panelists will discuss the path that food takes to get to our table and the role that grocers play in feeding us. They will also explore alternative models and ways to inspire change in supermarkets; what they sell, where it comes from, how it arrives to them and how they choose to merchandise it. Can grocers say “no” to business as usual and “yes” to responsible farmers, ranchers, and small producers?

Secure your seat today for the panel on November 2; reception begins at 5:30 and program begins at 6:00. More information is available on The Commonwealth Club’s web site.

Digesting our Fall Staff Dinners

Don’t see any better way to share what makes our fall staff dinners so special than telling it straight from the horse’s mouth. Sam cooked dinner for all of our hundred-plus Market and Creamery staff over the course of several Mondays this fall–always with a steady flow of wine. Here’s what some of us had to say about it:

“Drink in hand, I walk into that vast space of sheen and awe, the kitchen. Sam’s there tossing together the remainder of the meal, doing it oh so effortlessly, as he does with everything. He turns to me and asks how I came to where I am, why food. Sam always manages to take time to know the people who help make it all happen. There is nothing quite like the Bi-Rite family and all of the relationships we build together. As for the food, his risotto is out of this world. Its the lightest and most perfectly seasoned risotto that I’ve ever tasted.” –Jaymi (produce)

“The annual staff dinners are the epitome of why working at Bi-Rite is extraordinary. Whenever I get to brag about how much we all love each other, how well we’re treated and how well we’re fed, this is my favorite story to tell. It’s amazing too because it’s OUR produce! Simon grows it, and Sam cooks it. Sam is not just a pro, he cooks with love!” –Rebecca (cashier)

“I spend all year thinking about Sam’s carrot salad that appears at the staff dinner. I love that Sam gets so emotional about having the staff all together and celebrating food that he can hardly give his toast. It’s so inspiring to eat food that was grown on Bi-Rite’s farm. You can’t get more local than that. I love hanging out with people from all different departments.”–Alli (grocery)

“Always an honor to gather together with the family, the passionate folks I truly respect….to open yourself up, like a fine wine….a little chance to breathe and hit full flavor.  As for the chef, the food, the space, the farm, the preparation, the service, the celebration…has always felt so right”– Matt (produce)

“I have never lived in such a “melting pot”, with so many unique and amazing people, delicious foods, and a backdrop unlike any other; this city is truly one of a kind. Nor have I ever had the pleasure of working with the “cream of the crop”. I am amazed by the wealth of knowledge, passion for food, and unwavering kindness that the staff provides on a daily basis for the guests of the market. The opportunity to sit down at a table and share an incredible meal, lovingly prepared by a most genuine soul, surrounded by these people was an absolute honor!”–Jon (cashier)

“There are so many great things about staff dinner — it’s fun, it’s delicious, and it’s amazing to share a family-style dinner with co-workers who really feel like family. But above all, it is truly an honor to be fed by Sam. Not only is his cooking phenomenal, it’s also overflowing with such sincere gratitude, big-heartedness and love.”–Maria (grocery)

“As a brand new employee to Bi-Rite this experience was the ultimate welcome to the team. Seeing Sam cook for everyone and walk around excited to see us being the ones fed was a really humbling experience. And to taste the quality of food and the amount of food and wine was mind blowing. Really showed how much the staff of Bi-Rite means to Sam and to Bi-Rite as a whole. It was also a wonderful experience because everyone who works at Bi-Rite is really fun and full of character. The Rum punch was delicious! Oh and the dish with the peppers…and the pasta…i could go on…”–Sarah (cheese)

“Dinner made with love, enjoyed with beautiful people, and served with a seemingly endless supply of beverages, two of which were hand-crafted by Michael and Linh. All of the components for a truly memorable evening!”–Tina (catering)

“I love serving the staff dinner. I like giving back to staff since they all help out 18 Reasons so often. I like seeing them put their feet up, drink a glass (or 20! ) of wine and just relax as friends. It is amazing to help make that happen.”–Rosie (18 Reasons)

“The staff dinner is so special for me because it not only gives us a chance to enjoy Sam’s delicious cooking and learn about his family’s recipes, but it is a time specifically allocated for all of us to come together to learn more about each other. It is so fun to be sitting next to someone that embraces the same passion and excitement of what Bi-Rite is and what it means for our community, while learning more about their own specific passion and what specifically brought us all together to make-up the Bi-Rite family.”  –Kylene (cashier)

“Sam truly knows how to bring people together and have them socialize on another level. The food was great, as well as the conversation, music and art. I really appreciate the fact that Sam gets satisfaction out of pleasing others and not just himself. It really proves to me that Bi-Rite is very family (community) oriented. I loved the carrots in tahini but I was in love with the Creamery’s mint chocolate ice cream cake. Thanks everybody and shouts to Sam and Morgan for cooking a great dinner. Spread the love.” –Asif (grocery)

“Socializing makes me nervous.  Bosses make me nervous….I peek into the kitchen and see a few platters of food waiting to go out.  Calvin is helping Sam with stuff.  He greets me with that wonderful smile and hello of his and thanks me for making it.  I tell him, ‘Thank You! for this!’  I am so humbled to see the two of them working their buns off for all of us.  Sam notices me as he takes a moment away from whatever is bubbling on the stove and roughly goes through all the hostly greetings that Calvin just did.  Again i say thanks.  He sees the beer in my hand, grabs his own, and comes over to clink bottles with me.  I liked that.  I respect the hardworking blue collar sensibility that our place has.”–Yayoi (grocery)

Thank you, Sam!

Eat Good Food is here!

Eat Good Food is officially on our shelves and in stores across the country–I can’t believe the big day is here! The work we’ve done would not be possible without all the input of everyone in our community– the dedication of our staff, the passion of our producers and the commitment of our guests who support us.

The authors having a good read!

I’m encouraged that many venues are excited to have me come speak and share our tips for better shopping and eating. My book tour won’t take me to every audience I’d like to speak with (I could spend a year doing that full time!), but to a few places that are dear to my heart.

First, a couple of panel discussions that I hope will help consumers realize how much influence they have over the food choices available to them at supermarkets. In New York, I will be at the Brooklyn Kitchen moderating a panel of local retailers, farmers and distributors discussing the challenges of getting food from farms to our shopping baskets.  Here in SF, I will participate in a discussion at the Commonwealth Club on the same topic, moderated by Naomi Starkman.  Whether you live on the East Cost or in the Bay Area, please consider joining me at one of these events.

I will also be heading up to Portland to cook a dinner with Cory Schreiber, an old friend who put Northwest cooking on the map, at the Portland Culinary Institute. The event is a fundraiser for the Sauvie Island Center, a non-profit that educates youth about food, farming and the land (similar to some of our work at 18 Reasons). While in Portland I will also do a signing at my favorite grocery chain in the country, New Seasons Market. If you have not gone there, you need to check them out—they are amazing supporters of their community and promote the hell out of good food in a manner that is accessible to all. From Portland, I will be heading to Seattle to do a dinner conversation at the Pantry at Delancey—a venue that was inspired by Bi-Rite as a model for positive community involvement.

I invite you to join me at any of these events; even if you can’t make it, I hope the book will stand on its own and become a frequently-referenced part of your kitchen library.

The Month We’ve Been Waiting For: Eat Good Food is Coming to Town!

We’ve been counting down the days to October 18th for many months, and can’t believe it’s within reach! Two weeks from today, Eat Good Food will be available online and in bookstores across the country. I have to say it’s a weird sensation to think this is the first time readers will be able to bring Bi-Rite’s philosophy to their own kitchens and shopping baskets. My greatest hope is that readers will use the information I’ve learned from life in the grocery aisles to become more confident shoppers, and thereby inspired to cook more at home!

I’m honored to be speaking about Eat Good Food at a handful of events in San Francisco and other cities over the next couple of months, and hope that you will join me. Below is a list of the events we have planned; please click on the link to view our google calendar, which has more details about each event and how to reserve your spot.

Our full event calendar, with details on how to register

If you follow us on twitter and facebook , we’ll be sharing updates on new events.  Hope to see you in person over the coming months!

Kiko’s Food News 9.9.11

Quite a list today, but some very juicy stuff if you’ll bear with me!

Interesting ingredient alert: tomato water is the newest spinoff of the summer staple, showing up in kitchens across SF: (full story)

Google’s been a lot of things to a lot of people, but a food authority? Yesterday they acquired Zagat: (full story)

If you’re like me, you love the sound of a friend biting into a crisp apple; if you have misophonia, that sound probably makes you panic: (full story)

Researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute have found a causal relationship between critically high food prices and social unrest; when a certain price point for food is crossed, citizens begin to look at their rulers differently: (full story)

Two Stanford d.school students have launched Culture Kitchen, a culinary school where women (or more specifically, grandmothers!) share their family recipes and insight into their cultural backgrounds: (full story)

Speaking of diverse cultural influences, this Forbes article suggests that Trader Joe’s has gained a competitive advantage in a crowded space by embracing the “immigrant perspective”: (full story)

And as for that crowded space, traditional supermarket chains are faltering, squeezed by expensive purveyors of organic, local and artisanal products on the high end and discounters like Costco and Wal-Mart on the low end. Fresh N’ Easy from British chain Tesco is not yet profitable stateside but has ambitious expansion plans in this space in SF and beyond [Sam is quoted in this one!]: (full story)

Beyond the romantic notions the phrase “locally grown” has come to elicit, in Eastern Kentucky vegetable growing is a means of feeding people who have trouble affording standard groceries from the store: (full story)

Vineyards across Sonoma County are emerging as a threat to the coho salmon, as a dwindling number of coho must contend with water-hungry vines and a frost-prevention method that can suck smaller tributaries dry: (full story)

And Sonoma’s Gravenstein Apple is another victim of the region’s emerging monoculture; the crop is threatened since land is more profitable when used to grow wine grapes: (full story)

Why say the words when you can sing them (that’s my motto at least)? A non-GMO anthem is music to our ears, “We don’t want your GMOs, we don’t want your beans. We want to grow our food with unaltered genes.”: (full story)

If you’re in North Beach, you now have your own “mini Bi-Rite”: (full story)


The Marvelous Codfish

Understanding how to salt and preserve the Atlantic Cod gave rise to an industry that fueled the age of European imperialism.  Cod fed the armies and merchant marines of the entire continent, and its production made world powers out of Portugal and Spain.  The promise of new fisheries across the North Atlantic accelerated the technology of shipbuilding as demand increased.  Soon huge fleets of fishing vessels would cross the sea towards the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and down the coast to the Gulf of Maine.  In fact, they did such a good job that as fishing technology advanced over the next 100 years, the cod fisheries of the north Atlantic had basically collapsed and with it, entire communities were devastated.

Nowadays the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Fishwise have listed the Atlantic Cod as a “red” or unsustainable choice.  And unfortunately for us, most of the high quality salt cod that is available these days is still made from Atlantic Cod.  So several months ago I went to work to better understand the process of making our own salted fish in house.  I started taking all of the sustainable white fish that we sell here at the market–pacific true cod, petrale sole, flounder and halibut–and experimented with salt content and drying times.  After getting the recipe down and product rotation into full swing, we’ve discontinued using Atlantic Salt Cod and now use only our house made product!

You can taste our house-salted cod in our brandade, available in our self-serve prepared foods case, or buy the fillets to make your own.

As Close As We Can Get

This summer has brought us closer to where our food comes from than ever before. I’m so grateful for the hard work of all our staff and the passion of our committed producers who have brought us under their wings, inspiring and teaching us about the food we sell in the Market.

Our produce buyer and farmer, Simon Richard, has been keeping busy on our Sonoma Farms and as a result we have hired another farmer, Riley Nowicki, to help us manage the day to day operations. We recently built a chicken coop, added 30 hens and a lone rooster for good measure, and can’t wait for them to start laying eggs next month! We have 3 breeds of chickens: Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, and Barred Rocks. The 10 dozen or so eggs they will lay each week won’t be enough to sell as refrigerated eggs, but look for them in our prepared foods as a garnish on salads, in sandwiches or just simply boiled for a quick, nutritious snack. We are excited to have the opportunity to better understand egg production and gain a greater appreciation for all the hard work our ranchers do in providing us with amazing pastured eggs.

This summer, our farm operation grew to 1-1/2 acres; the original half-acre that we have been farming for the past 3 years, plus an additional acre we rented about 5 miles south behind the Fremont Diner (killer grub if you haven’t tried it yet). The new acre is part of Circle JR Ranch, six acres owned by Richard and Joanne Andreotti. The other five acres have been pasture for our first two cows, a partnership we developed with Rich to naturally maintain growth of his wild grasses and an opportunity to be part of raising our own cows and seeing them all the way to your plate. Chili, our head butcher, has been beaming with excitement. This is his first opportunity to work with and sell meat from livestock that we had a hand in raising. Rich has been super-supportive and really excited to see his parcel being used for something so productive.

We’ll also be making burgers from the two black angus, 100% grass fed and finished steer for this Saturday’s 18 Reasons Barn Dance Barbeque and Fundraiser (tickets still available!), which will take place on the same land they were raised on! Once the barn dance is over, three more cows will be raised on the land so we can continue learning about this process.

That same land has also been host site for a dozen students in the 18 Reasons Farm Summer School. During the past few months, they have planted, tended, and learned all about the eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and beans in the ground next door to the grazing land. Talk about getting to know where your food comes from!  We have already started harvesting and using these veggies in our summer menu at the deli. Our tomatoes should be popping soon and with that harvest we plan to can our roasted tomato sauce again and to keep you all supplied with Sergio’s delicious gazpacho.

As an added treat, here is the recipe for Sergio’s Famous Gazpacho that will be our deli mainstay over the next couple of months. This is one of the 90 recipes in Eat Good Food, the book Dabney and I wrote that comes out October 18th. You can see a copy of the book at the cashier counter. Just ask!

Rich has also been gracious enough to let us put beehives on the property as well. Two are already in and two more will be coming in the next week or so. Spencer Marshall, of Marshall’s Honey fame, will be tending those hives in addition to the hives he has managed on our other plot. Spencer is really excited and says that area produces some of the most exquisite honey he has ever had. We will have three sets of hives now, and plan to harvest the original two (one of which is on our market’s rooftop) in the next couple of weeks, so look for it on our shelves soon.

Finally, Anthea and our cheese team have developed a relationship with cheesemaker Marcia Barinaga of Barinaga Ranch who graciously allowed us to buy an entire day’s make (21 wheels) of her limited production farmstead ewe’s milk cheese, Baserri.  We’ll open two wheels each month (until that last precious month where we’ll only have one!) to taste as the cheese ages and evolves, savoring all of the changes along the way.

Hope to see you at the Barn Dance on Saturday, so we can celebrate on our Sonoma Farm together!