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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!


Eat Good Food Book Recipe Preview: Sergio’s Gazpacho

I’ve been waiting until the heirloom tomatoes started popping to release the first recipe from our book, Eat Good Food, which comes out October 18th. This is one of our deli’s best selling items in the summer. You can also use any combination of Roma and heirloom tomatoes.

Makes about 7 cups.

2 cups extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling (see Note below)

1/4 cup Sherry vinegar, more as needed

1 tsp. Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

1/2 a medium red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/2 a medium cucumber, trimmed and cut into large chunks

Leaves from 6 large sprigs flat-leaf parsley

Vanessa's classy sign for the deli case

Leaves from 4 large sprigs fresh basil

1 large clove garlic

Kosher salt

4 medium Roma tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks

3 medium heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks

Put the oil, vinegar, and Tabasco in the bowl of a blender and blend briefly. Add the onions, cucumbers, parsley, basil, garlic, and 3 tsp. salt and blend until smooth. With the blender running, add the tomatoes a few at a time. When the blender is about 3/4 full, pour out half of the liquid into a medium bowl. Continue to puree and add the tomatoes a few at a time until all the tomatoes are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Pour the blender contents into the bowl and stir to blend.

If you want a super-smooth texture, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Whisk to blend, then taste and add more salt or vinegar as needed.  Garnish each serving with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Note: Two cups may seem like a lot of oil, but the soup really doesn’t have the same rich flavor with any less (we tried). You can, of course, reduce the amount if you like. For best results, use an oil that is not too peppery, or else it will overpower the soup. A Spanish Arbequina olive oil would be good. You can also substitute up to half of the extra virgin olive oil with a mild or neutral oil, if you like.

Reprinted with permission from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food by Sam Mogannam & Dabney Gough, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.


Raising Lucca and Palermo: The First Two Cows from our Farm in Sonoma

This one is Lucca!

This is as close as we can get: in our quest to get closer to where our food comes from, we embarked on a partnership with Rich Andreotti of Circle JR Ranch. For the past year and a half, we have been renting an acre of farmland from Rich to grow various veggies. You might have tasted the super sweet broccoli di cicco, tender potatoes, little gem lettuces and soon to arrive tomatoes in the deli. The other five acres of pasture have been the home and foraging ground of Lucca and Palermo (also the towns that Rich and his wife Joanne come from in Italy), two 100% black angus steers that we’ve watched roam and lovingly fed broccoli stalks and fennel! They’re 100% grass fed and finished, never treated with any antibiotics or synthetic hormones,  and as local as we can get (raised only 40 miles from SF).

A well marbled New York steak

The cows were processed at Rancho in Petaluma and are now being aged at Golden Gate Meats in Santa Rosa. Jim, Jonni and Jeff of Golden Gate Meats gave Morgan and I a tour of the plant and walked us through our first whole steer cut sheet! We were pretty excited to see that our beef was wonderfully marbled, which is difficult to attain in grass fed beef. The Golden Gate Meats team actually told us they’re a couple of the prettiest carcasses they’ve ever seen.

Morgan looking over the hind quarter with Jim, owner of Golden Gate Meats

Once they have finished dry aging for 24 days, we will have them available in our butcher counter, by the week of August 8th at the latest.

We’ll also be making burgers from the chuck for the 18 Reasons Barn Dance Barbeque and Fundraiser (tickets still available) that will take place on the same land they were raised on! I can’t wait to taste it.…and once the barn dance is over, we’ll bring 3 more cows to raise on the land over the next couple of years!

Our Mogannam Father’s Day Tradition: Mom’s Stuffed Grape Leaves

When I was growing up, my dad’s Father’s Day wish was simple: to be surrounded by his children (me, my sister, and two brothers) at the table on that June Sunday. And, as obedient first generation children, we obliged. We loved our dad, of course, but the promise of a feast made by our mom certainly didn’t hurt the proposition. Her stuffed grape leaves–perfectly timed since the leaves are at their most tender in summer–were always the star of the show and one of our favorite dishes.

If you’ve never made them, you may not realize how labor-intensive stuffed grape leaves are to craft, which is why they’re usually reserved as a special occasion food. Starting early in the morning, my mom would prepare the stuffing—a mixture of ground lamb, rice, onions, and allspice–filling the house with sweet and spicy aromas. She would then spend a chunk of the day rolling the grape leaves, one at a time, each leaf nurtured, filled, and rolled to uniform perfection. The dish took eight hours of work, start to finish, and our hands would be in the pot before it even hit the table. When the grape leaves were finally served, silence and the occasional grunt would be all you would hear. The dish was always obliterated in a matter of minutes. You’d think that would have frustrated my mother, but it actually fulfilled her. She knew we were happy and she savored that moment when my father would finally look up, and, seeing his wife and children around the table, simply sit content with a smile on his face.

Father’s Day is still the same in our household. We still celebrate at my parents’ house, and my mother still makes grape leaves, but now my wife and daughters celebrate the day with us. The meal is still devoured in minutes, although my girls tend to linger a bit on the grape leaves, now their favorite dish as well.

My dad is even happier now as he gets to share the day with his daughter-in-law and granddaughters. And as a father myself, I now completely understand that smile my father exuded at the end of each meal. He was celebrating one of life’s simplest and most important pleasures, one we don’t commit to often enough—family unity. When my family is together around the table, we focus on each other and the meal, share memories and jokes, and catch up on weeks past. They are moments to appreciate each other, and to celebrate. It is a time without distractions–no TV, no cell phones, no video games.  My father taught me to value family and to value the food we have been given. Together, my parents taught us to love and I will be forever grateful and savor every minute I get to share with them.

Thanks to Ali Slagle of The Recipe Club for getting me thinking about how special this tradition has been to me and my family!

Moroccan Lamb Meatloaf
Serves 8 to 10

This is no ordinary meatloaf. A hefty dose of fresh herbs and dried spices means it’s packed with flavor; the yogurt, tahini, and rolled oats help keep it moist. We developed this recipe as a deli sandwich special, but it’s just as delicious eaten on its own. For best results, try to get ground lamb with 15 to 20 percent fat content; ground shoulder usually falls in this range. Meat from the leg is too lean and will result in a dry end product.

1 large onion, minced (2 cups)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground toasted cumin (see below)
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 1/2 tablespoons harissa (see Note)
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick liner and set aside. Combine the onion, oats, cilantro, mint, yogurt, tahini, garlic, allspice, cumin, paprika, and cayenne in a large bowl, along with 4 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Mix well to blend. With your hands, break the lamb into small chunks and add to the bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly; overmixing will make the meatloaf tough and dry. When all the ingredients are evenly combined, transfer to the baking sheet and shape into a flat loaf about 13 by 6 by 1 1/2 inches.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 150°F at the thickest part of the loaf, 55 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the harissa and tomato paste in a small bowl. When the meatloaf is done, brush the mixture over the loaf and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until the internal temperature reads 165°F. Let the loaf rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing (longer is better, as the pooled juices will be reabsorbed into the meatloaf).

Note: Harissa is a chile-and-spice paste that hails from North Africa. For a slightly different effect, you could substitute Asian chile-garlic sauce.

Toasted, Ground Cumin Seeds
To toast cumin seeds, heat them in a small skillet over medium-high heat until aromatic and slightly darker, about 2 minutes. Let cool and grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder or use the bottom of a sauté pan against a cutting board.

Eat Good Food research visit to Firebrand Artisan Breads

One of the best parts of working on our book Eat Good Food was going on “field trips” to meet and photograph some of the producers whose fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, and other products we sell at the Market. Our goal in doing so was not just to put a face to these products, but to explain what exactly makes the products so good. This video was taken on one such visit, when we went to Firebrand Artisan Breads’ facility in Emeryville, CA.

It was amazing to watch owner Matt Kreutz working with naturally leavened dough (i.e. no commercial yeast used) and a wood-fired oven. He works by hand in small batches, and really “babies” each loaf, giving it more or less time in the oven depending on what it needs. In this video, you’ll hear Dabney and I asking him questions in the background, and you’ll also see our photographer France off to the side. (She’s also the one with the accent, if you couldn’t guess.)

The real treat came at the end, when he gave us some of his incredible brioche rolls to take with us – the perfect thing to sustain us on our journey!

Our book has a cover, now on to the final edits!

We’re down to the wire:  Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food book is almost done. We got to see first round galleys this week and it looks awesome. We had to increase the page count by 48 pages to make room for all of the rich information we want to share.  I am most excited about the cover, which took a lot of back and forth (who knew it would be so challenging?) but we ended up with the perfect balance of image and graphics, just enough of a teaser to lure you in. I feel it looks and feels Bi-Rite, but let me know what you think. Email me and let me know.

Last week we filmed a video about the book, which was a lot of fun. I took Melanie, a Bi-Rite neighbor, shopping in the Market and then we cooked up a recipe from the book together. Peter and Sarah from Belle Creative caught the action on film, and we all learned a lot. Stay tuned!

The next few weeks will be busy with final edits and design layouts so we can get the manuscript off to the printer by the end of May.  There is still a lot of work to do in order to have books in hand by October—which I know will be here sooner than I can blink (in the meantime, you can pre-order a copy here). Our 18th Street world will be exposed to the whole world; I’m nervous, and a bit anxious, but mostly excited to get the book out there.  It has been two years in the works, but really a lifetime if you consider that all the info included spans from my childhood to now.  The experience has been wild and has exceeded all of my hopes and expectations.

I am hopeful that Eat Good Food will inspire change, empower more people to question where their food comes from, and give them the confidence to ask more questions wherever they shop.  But more importantly, I hope you have fun reading it and get a clearer understanding of what makes us tick. We’re a nutty bunch. We’re crazy about food and are passionate about feeding people. We love what we do, have a ton of fun doing it and hope you do too.

Put your bacon where your mouth is

This winter, we found out that our best-selling bacon, Vande Rose Farms Applewood Smoked, was made of pork from hogs raised in confinement. We have our friends at Food Democracy Now to thank for tipping us off to Vande Rose’s use of confined housing for their sows, which led to our decision to stop selling the product. Because of the stand we’ve taken to avoiding selling meat from animals raised in confinement, we had no choice but to take Vande Rose bacon off our shelves .

We replaced it with Benton’s, which was easy to do given how delicious Benton’s is (when we had a blind bacon taste test at 18 Reasons last year, it was a top pick). Allen Benton (who our friend Ari Weinzweig in his book Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon refers to as “seriously one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, in the food world or out”) makes this super smoky bacon in Eastern Tennessee. Smoke, salt and sweet all come through, and the pork bellies come from sustainably raised Berkshire hogs.

Nothing is black and white in the meat world. The more we learn, the harder it gets to do business.. The nuances of where animals are housed, what they’re allowed to eat, and how they are processed aren’t easy to put into buckets, so we do our best to evaluate each on a case by case basis to make the best decision possible. Even though these decisions might not be the best for business, we still take a stance, voting with our dollars, with the hopes of improving food production in our country.