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Register Recipe: Fennel, Blood Orange & Toasted Almond Salad

We cashiers face the produce department’s imposing “wall of citrus” every day, which may explain why we have yet another great recipe that featuring wintry citrus to share.  Coming from Tom Hudgen’s The Commonsense Kitchen, this is a fantastic salad that is simple to prepare.

½ C whole almonds, toasted

3 T extra virgin olive oil

½ lemon

1 fennel bulb

2-3 blood oranges

Chop almonds coarsely, toss with olive oil.  Shave fennel thinly (using a mandolin if available) and toss with a squeeze of lemon.  Zest one blood orange, collecting zest on a plate.  Use a paring knife to slice blood oranges into half moons, removing skin and pith.  Toss all ingredients together, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Peanut Butter and the Pen

Last Saturday we at 18 Reasons paired up with Take My Word For It to offer a creative writing workshop with 3rd-5th graders. Since Valentine’s Day was around the corner, the children wrote love letters to their favorite foods.   I thought I would share some photos since they show the awesomeness of the morning much better that I could describe it!

Dear Lovely Pesto

All in a Hard Day's Work

A Room Full of Children, Food, and Creativity!


A letter from Gleason Ranch to our guests

Nancy from Gleason Ranch offered to write a letter to our guests explaining the lack of their chickens in our meat case over the last few months.  Talk about one of our amazing producers trying to connect with our guests in the most direct way they know! I hope you’ll take a moment to give it a read–it gives such a great picture of the challenges faced by the ranchers who work hard to bring food to our tables day in and day out. The good news is that we also have Gleason Ranch pastured pork, which is a great way to support them while they work on their poultry supply!

Dear Loyal and Faithful Customer,

First of all, we would like to thank you for discovering our family ranch and supporting our efforts towards preserving a tradition over 150 years and 6 generations long. Raising grass-fed meats has simply always been a part of life in our family, even back when we were a dairy operation, and our philosophy and methodology are those passed down to us through the generations.

We know that many of you make a special trip to Bi-Rite Market with the specific intent and expectation of being able to purchase our pastured meats. Recently, you may have noticed that for several weeks we have not had a consistent supply of our Gleason Ranch Pastured Chicken, which we are perhaps best known for. We would like to share with you some of the recent challenges we have faced this winter, which have had a profound impact on our supply.

Our first big hit actually happened towards the end of last August when we were struck with a severe heat wave with temperatures souring well above 100. Chickens simply don’t do well in this kind of extreme temperature. We learned that even the large commercial operations, with their temperature- controlled housing, were loosing thousands by the hour, much like us. Then, not but a few weeks later, the rainy season began…and it kept coming! The unrelenting downpours not only affected the birds that were out in pasture, but it inhibited us from releasing birds from the brooders as soon as we normally would. We were confronted with a catch-22 as indoor brooder space became more and more premium. We then reduced the number of birds we were receiving from the hatchery in order to control over-crowding. Now we encountered a processing issue.Whereas Fulton Valley Farms (which closed last June) would take just 60 birds if we had them, we now must drive 3 hours to the nearest USDA processing plant, which won’t process anything less than 300! On top of it all, our family received a huge blow with the sudden passing of our father in late August. Since, every fence that is busted, piece of machinery that breaks,pipe that bursts, addition that needs to be built… you name it, has fallen upon my mother, sister, and I. Needless to say, the three of us combined are no match for my father, even on his worst day!

If we were raising the fast-growing Cornish Cross breed, our recovery time would be much faster. However, we do not believe in raising this genetically engineered commodity breed, which grows at an unnatural rate and to unnatural proportions. Instead, we raise the heritage Freedom Rangers that take twice as long to grow, nearly three months.

As we get closer to our consumers, and you get closer to the source of your food, not only a new understanding happens, but also a new relationship is formed. In order for us to continue doing what we do, we must ask and rely on you to weather the storms with us. We are truly working as fast, diligent, and efficient as we can; twelve to fourteen-hour days without weekends, holidays, or vacation, in order to get our product back in the market on a consistent basis. We ask you to simply bare with us.

We would like to especially thank the good folks at Bi-Rite Market who have been so incredibly supportive and patient. It is no easy tasks to do what they do, actually walking their talk by working directly with farmers & ranchers, remaining faithful while meeting such supply challenges. Lucky for us, we are a diversified farm and have other Gleason Ranch products to offer in the meantime (just like our grandparents would have had to do!). While we work on improving our poultry supply, please try our Gleason Ranch Pastured Pork, which will be featured throughout the month of February, and look for some of our other products as well.

Again, thank you for your continued support. We owe the future of our legacy to you!


Nancy Prebilich, Gleason Ranch


Santee and the Winter Sun

Fog on the bridge to Sonoma

Over the past few winters, I’ve headed up to Sonoma to escape the city fog and to see my gardens covered with weeds enjoying the hot North Bay sun!  My only plan this past Sunday was to measure the dimension of the fields, so that I could start my crop plan for the spring.  When I arrived in Sonoma, I was fortunate to get some time in the fields with Sam, Bi-Rite’s owner and most passionate farmer. Sam loves to eat veggies at all stages of growth–he’ll take a bite from the time baby lettuce is sweet and tender, to the hot days of the summer when it turns bitter. Sam always finds pleasure in the different flavors that come throughout the grow season.

This is our second season growing asparagus and we’ve yet to harvest one spear!  However, these 3 yr old crowns from Maine finally shot up a few spears this weekend.  With this spring-like winter, most the crops in the Bay Area are ready to grow and local asparagus will probably be on our tables very soon.   Asparagus spears just shoot out of the ground in about a day’s time, and there is nothing as sweet and tender as homegrown asparagus freshly harvested. We have only a few beds of asparagus on our  Sonoma plot, so it will probably never make it to the shevles of Bi-Rite; rest assured each spear cut will be enjoyed to the fullest!

By far the most amazing part of this beautiful day was when Sam and I headed over to our new one acre farm plot to take some measurements. Half of the the acre is coverd in a soil-building cover crop and the other half has a bunch of overgrown beets, flowering brassica plants and over-weeded green garlic. To my surprise a couple rows of Santee purple sprouting broccoli that i had planted back in late August was now starting to produce florets. I couldn’t believe it– I had given up on this crop and thought I planted it too late in the season! Luckily, the warm weather of January and February got the plants back on track.  First thing that came out of Sam’s mouth was, “Eddy can use it!” Eddy is Bi-Rite’s head chef, who loves surprise 75 lb harvests of purple sprouting broccoli randomly dropped in his walk-in cooler. Please come by the market one of the next few nights and see how the Bi-Rite cooks whip up the Santee and serve it in the deli.

A new arrival from Croatia

Cheese might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Croatia, but I’m beginning to think it should be!  We’ve just received our first wheels of Paski Sir, a Croatian sheep’s cheese made on the windy island of Pag.

It’s really quite different than any other cheese that I’ve tasted.  Paski Sir has a tropical quality in the nose, like pineapple, that gives way to bright, fruity notes that are complimented by a rich roundness, so characteristic of sheep’s milk cheeses.  The cheese also has a distinct and pleasantly salty nature, that keeps its complex flavors well-balanced.

It is great to snack on by itself but would also be great shaved into a winter salad.  Come by for a taste!


The Case of the Red Wattle

Drawing by Sara Bloomberg

“You are what you eat!” It’s an old adage that encourages us to make healthy choices about the food we consume. A donut? Or a banana? One will give you energy and the other will slow you down. But for a pig, such decisions are irrelevant. No, I’m not talking about someone who stuffs their face with processed junk. Hogs will slop down just about anything. And for the Red Wattle, what they eat determines the experience our taste buds have when we grill up a chop.

While most pork consumed in the U.S. is the result of many years of selective breeding for qualities that are prized for mass production and a standard flavor, many small farmers have preserved so-called “heritage” breeds, including the Red Wattle which has come close to extinction, except for the efforts of passionate farmers who raise them.

Heritage breeds all maintain unique qualities such as markings, sizes, fat content and flavors- just like the heirloom tomatoes we go crazy for during the fall. Unlike the short local tomato season, pork can be enjoyed year round. We are proud to carry Red Wattle pork from Heritage Foods USA, a collective of small farms in the Midwest using natural, humane techniques for raising livestock. Try one tonight and see what flavors you can detect… Maybe sweet corn? Or nutty wheat berries? Wait a minute, is that chocolate cake? Well, maybe not.

Bon appetit!
Sara  (from the Deli!)

P.S. Right now we’re carrying Red Wattle Heritage Porterhouse Pork Chops ($8.99/lb) and Red Wattle Heritage Center Cut Pork Chops ($10.99/lb)

P.P.S. To read more about the Red Wattle breed, visit Heritage Foods or Slow Foods USA.


Join us in supporting the right kind of seafood practices

I’m proud to say that as of last week, our Greenpeace score reached 87%–the second highest score amongst any FishWise partner retailer!

You  might have recognized the photo of our fish case in the great SF Magazine article on the new wave of knowledge in sustainable fishery practices. We’re inspired by what Kenny Belov of Fish Restaurant in Sausalito is doing to influence how restaurants make their fish sourcing decisions.

Recently, as part of our work with FishWise, we signed on to a number of online petitions with the aim of improving ocean health and promoting sustainable seafood. Below is a brief summary of each of the initiatives we now support. Join us in supporting the right kind of seafood practices!

Petition to Protect River Herring and American Shad from Ocean Bycatch

The populations of these fish are at historical lows primarily because they are being caught as bycatch in squid and mackeral fisheries and discarded at sea. Offer your own support here

Petition to Stand Strong on Rebuilding U.S. Fisheries

The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides scientifically sound, sustainable fishery requirements that benefit fishermen, seafood lovers, the ocean and its fragile ecosystems. We want to make sure the legislation remains as robust as possible. Offer your own support here

Ask Politicians to Tackle ‘Pirate’ Fishing

Pirate fishing, the illegal, unregulated and unreported catch of fish is a serious problem worldwide. We want to support the development of a global record of fishing vessels. Offer your own support here

Support the Development of Marine Protected Areas in Southern California

The California coast is very dear to us and the introduction of marine protected areas will ensure that it is fully preserved. Offer your own support here

Support Responsible Aquaculture

Fish farming, or aquaculture, now accounts for more than 50 percent of the world’s seafood consumption. We now have an opportunity to pass strong national fish-farming standards that will protect our vast and valuable ocean and the wildlife and people that depend on it. Offer your own support here

Wasting food- sounds simple, but we keep doing it.

Have you heard about the simple thing we can all do to REALLY help the environment (let alone our pocketbooks)? Throw less food away! Less glamorous than driving a car fueled by cooking oil, or even composting, being mindful of the food we don’t end up eating is something we all need to do a lot more of. It might be as simple as shopping for groceries more often so you don’t buy as much, which means less food goes bad in the fridge. Or this idea can extend to eating all parts of an animal, not just the classic popular cuts.

We’re excited about American Wasteland,  a book that came out last Fall (you’ll find it for sale in our book section). This article in NY Times gives a good overview of some key ideas from the book.

Post a comment about what you’re doing personally, or with your family, to waste less!


How we get the meat we eat

Another great video: Nicolette Hahn Niman of BN Ranch on how to change our Industrial Food System. Also, don’t miss the article she wrote last week for the LA Times
about America’s Good Food Fight.


Celebrate the season!

It may be the middle of winter, but the Bay Area local farms continue to grow and harvest amazing vegetables.  Full Belly Farm, Mariquita Farm, and Happy Boy Farm deliver their fresh-picked goodies to us twice a week!  

Full Belly Farm is harvesting tasty Nante and Atomic Red carrots perfect for a winter stew.  These farming gurus are also supplying us with beautiful Green Garlic in January (it’s usually an early spring crop).  Mariquita’s farmers  are the masters of growing Italian vegetable varieties. Try their sweet, tender heirloom Broccoli di Cicco or flavorful  chicories like Castelfranco Radicchio and Escarole, which are the perfect substitute for Romaine lettuce in a Caesar Salad. Matt’s favorite is making a salad with these chicories and heating up the salad dressing before pouring it on the salad; since the greens are heartier than regular lettuce, this softens them a bit.

Oh yeah – I can’t forget to mention the bright green and super yummy Romanesco Cauliflower; just chop into chunks, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe some garlic or rosemary, and roast to caramelized perfection. Happy Boy is currently our main grower for winters greens like Lacinato and Red Russian Kale. Their Red Chard is also wonderful, and the bagged Braising Mix is a combination of at least 4 varities of winter greens.  This is a the perfect  time of year to enjoy all of the nutritionally packed local veggies at Bi-Rite.


Farmed – Not Necessarily a Dirty Word When it Comes to Sustainable Seafood

The great team at Fishwise offered to help us tell the sometimes confusing story about farmed fish. We lean on Fishwise to guide our seafood purchasing decisions, and advise us on how to explain these choices to our guests. They work tirelessly towards our understanding of the ever-changing wisdom on what we should and shouldn’t be taking from our oceans, lakes and rivers. Thanks to Bill Wall for contributing the below!

Farmed vs. Wild Seafood: few issues elicit more passionate discussion amongst seafood lovers worldwide. Regardless of your views on farmed seafood – positive, negative or maybe somewhere in between– one thing is for certain:  aquaculture is only going to become more important in the future as a source of protein. In the last few years aquaculture production has greatly increased and now accounts for half of the seafood production worldwide.

Without question, some farmed seafood is unsustainable. Many of you are probably aware of the removal of mangrove forests to make space for large-scale shrimp farms in Southeast Asia. Then there’s the disease, waste and fish escape issues associated with farmed Atlantic salmon in places such as Canada, Chile and Norway.

While improvements are needed for some farmed shrimp and salmon practices, sustainably farmed seafood is also plentiful. The U.S. is leading the way in sustainable farming practices with many species such as channel catfish, striped bass, rainbow trout, oysters and freshwater prawns. All of these are ranked green “Best Choice” options on the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch listings. These species are not only sustainable in using the best management practices when farming; they’re also sustainable to our lifestyles since they’re easy to cook and taste fantastic!

To learn more about sustainable seafood, visit www.fishwise.org.

Our book is a work in progress!

Bi-Rite’s Market Manual is an aisle-by-aisle guide through the grocery store, aimed at helping the reader make better shopping decisions. More than a “what to look for” checklist, though, it also offers delicious ideas and recipes to make those ingredients shine.   

Watch the book becoming a reality! Dabney and I traveled all over the Bay Area meeting with farmers, ranchers, and fishermen and snapping their pictures for the book.

Marin County food producers from dabney gough on Vimeo.