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Small Fish in a Big Sea

About 6 months ago we made pledge to go “farmed-salmon free” at the market.  Although the Loch Duart Company, the salmon farm we have been using for the past 10 years, utilizes the best practices for open water aquaculture, the risk of fish escaping, competing with and potentially contaminating wild salmon populations is too important to be overlooked. We successfully discontinued farmed salmon in our fresh seafood case when we found a direct source of wild Alaskan salmon, but had trouble adapting our smoked salmon recipe utilizing the wild fish and did not want to compromise the quality of the final product. This was a hard decision for us as our house-smoked salmon is one of the most revered items we make.  After several months of experimentation, we have finally developed a recipe using wild caught Alaskan King salmon that we are proud of.

The king salmon is a bit leaner and not as uniform as the farmed fish, but the final product is absolutely delicious and just as luscious.   The variation in each fish is a result of mother nature– different genetics, location of catch, and the natural feeding patterns of wild fish.

The one down side of the switch is that there will be a slight increase in the price.  The reason for the increase starts with the cost of the raw whole product.  Farming fish allows for streamlined production, less variable expenses in growing and harvesting, and more controlled yield and loss.  Wild fishing has many more variables (weather, fuel spent fishing, quota permits, etc… ) that affect the quantity caught as well as money spent in catching, storing and transporting the product.  The high demand for a wild caught salmon also has a big impact on the market price, especially when the season’s yield is unknown from year to year.

We hope that even though the price increased, that you would agree with us that ultimately it is more important to promote and support the most sustainable seafood possible.


How to Cook Meat, Bi-Rite Style

While nothing is as good as talking about a recipe for how to cook meat in person, we’ve created brochures for how to cook beef, chicken, pork and fish so you’re armed with basic how-to’s once you get home with that delicious pasture-raised cut. These brochures, download-able here as pdfs, include guidelines for cooking temperature as well as what to look for no matter what meat counter you find yourself standing in front of.

How to Cook Chicken (printable pdf) Breasts, thighs and our Meyer Lemon Roast Chicken

How to Cook Beef (printable pdf) Tips for steaks, roasts, stews, braises…including your holiday prime rib!

How to Cook Pork (printable pdf) Ribs, chops and tenderloins

How to Cook Seafood (printable pdf) Filets, steaks, small whole fish, scallops and shellfish

EAT GOOD FOOD: The Manuscript is In

Finally, after 16 months of writing and research, we’re done with our manuscript for EAT GOOD FOOD, the Bi-Rite book to be published by Ten Speed Press in October. I could not have come close to finishing without the help of the entire Bi-Rite team, Ten Speed and my brilliant and tireless co-author Dabney Gough.

It’s been a long process, and we’ve learned a ton connecting more deeply with vendors and producers– we’re excited for you all to read it. If you want to check in with some of our staff to see what they think, it’s in their hands right now to read through for the first time.

Over the months of writing the book I re-visited many of the farmers, ranchers, winemakers and other food producers we feature, and caught a few moments on film. Here’s a quick clip from our visit to Straus Family Creamery–you can see Dabney for a brief moment too:

Now it’s time to tackle the cover! We’re pushing for a photo-less cover (today’s norm for most books is a full bleed photo cover)– something timeless and classic, like the exterior of Bi-Rite. We want the experience of opening up the book to be like walking into the store–a burst of color with mouthwatering texture and information.

If you want to learn more about our book and how it contributes to our mission of Creating Community Through Food, reply back to this post! Or send me an email with your questions or hopes for the book.

Orach from Mariquita Farm: What is it, how do we cook it?

Orach is a darkly-colored, less common variety of hybrid spinach, great in salads and cooking. Mariquita Farm is not only awesome enough to give us this nutrient-rich veggie (I would bet that we are the only retail market in the city that has it!) but they also post great recipes on their website to teach their community about how to use it. Thanks to Mariquita’s hard work, we can spread the love! Here are some cooking ideas they recommend for Orach:

Recipe 1: Orach Salad

1 clove roughly chopped garlic
pinch salt
1 teaspoon (scant) dijon mustard
2 teaspoons plum jam or any other jam available
4 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Washed orach leaves

  • For the Dressing, whirl all ingredients besides the orach in a blender until emulsified.
  • Dress washed orach leaves with dressing; add other chopped vegetables as desired.

Recipe 2: Orachy ‘Green Sauce’

Green sauce is a common and age-old early spring recipe, adaptable to what you have on hand! This sauce can be a soup embellishment, a potato topper, a risotto flavoring, and more– experiment and enjoy.

2 cups orach
1 clove garlic or 1 shallot or 3 scallion bottoms, chopped fine
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste

  • Put all ingredients in a mortar and pestle or a food processor and mash/whirl until desired consistency is reached.

Orach Pasta

2 cups cleaned and lightly chopped orach leaves
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil to taste
2 cups hot cooked pasta (shaped pastas work better than long noodles)
Optional additions: roasted pine nuts or walnuts, crumbled blue or other cheese, grated parmesan

  • Saute the onion & garlic in the moderately hot olive oil (about 1-2 Tablespoons) until soft.
  • Add the greens and the salt & pepper.
  • Cook until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes, depending on how hot your pan is.
  • Mix with the hot pasta, and optional additions if you’re using any of them, and serve.


Seasonal Superfood: Soup!

One of my favorite authors as a child was Maurice Sendak. In addition to his celebrated book Where the Wild Things Are, on cold winter days I’m reminded of his poetic calendar Chicken Soup with Rice. In it, soup is venerated through rhyme each month. March’s verse goes like this:

“In March the wind blows down the door
And spills my soup upon the floor
It laps it up and roars for more
Blowing once, blowing twice
Blowing chicken soup with rice”

More than just comfort food, soup nourishes us from deep within. Traditionally soups are based on a hearty stock made from bones, cartilage, marrow and vegetables. These often overlooked treasures are full of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and good fat and contribute to a soup’s nutritional and gastronomic value.

Here at Bi-Rite, we use house-made stocks in all of our house prepared soups. Wanna make your own pot? Pick up any of our stocks in the freezer section; we offer light and brown chicken, pastured chicken,  beef, seafood and veggie stocks made by our chefs. Or come to the Deli for a pint of hot soup to go ($4.99-$5.99/pint). We always have a meat and a vegetarian option.

So what are you waiting for?! Get your soup on now. In the words of Maurice Sendak:

“I told you once, I told you twice
All seasons of the year are nice
For eating chicken soup with rice”

Heirloom Navel Oranges: Brazil–> Washington–> Riverside–> Bi-Rite–> Our Community

I want to tell you about an amazing heirloom navel we’re getting from Bernard Ranches (50 acres in Riverside County, about 430 miles from Bi-Rite). But first, a little background on how we arrived at the navel on our shelf today:

Navel orange trees in general, and Washington navel orange trees in particular, are not very vigorous trees. They have a round, somewhat drooping canopy and grow to a moderate size at maturity. The flowers lack viable pollen so the Washington navel orange will not pollinate other citrus trees. Because of the lack of functional pollen and viable ovules, the Washington navel orange produces seedless fruits. These large round fruits have a slightly pebbled orange rind that is easily peeled, and the navel, really a small secondary fruit, sometimes protrudes from the apex of the fruit. The Washington navel orange is at its best in the late fall to winter months, but will hold on the tree for several months beyond maturity and stores well.

The introduction that led to adoption of the name Washington and to its commercialization in California occurred in 1870, when twelve budded trees were received from the Bahia region, on the Atlantic coast north of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil by William 0. Saunders, superintendent of gardens and grounds for the U.S. D.A. in Washington.  These trees were planted in a greenhouse and immediately propagated for distribution.

Several years later, trees were sent to a number of people in California and Florida.  Among those who received trees were Eliza Tibbets of Riverside, CA.  Before leaving Washington, Eliza Tibbets, a friend of Saunders, persuaded him to ship two of the navel orange trees that originated in Brazil to the Tibbets home in Riverside. The trees were planted in 1874-5. Anecdotes have it that Eliza nurtured the little trees with her dishwater!

Upon maturing the fruit was found to be superior in every way. Bud sales were brisk, and the two trees, ringed with barbed wire, became famous. Although officially called the Bahia, the fruit was soon dubbed the Riverside Navel, and its popularity eventually made Riverside a citrus center and prosperous showplace.  In fact, one of two original Navel Orange trees planted in 1874-5 spawned California’s entire citrus industry. Navel oranges have no seeds, so cuttings from original trees were used to start navel orange groves across southern California, and an industry grew. Every navel orange grown and eaten in California is a descendant of this tree, which still stands as a historical monument in a small park at the corner of Magnolia and Arlington in Riverside.

Now, zoom in on Bernard Ranches:

Vince and Vicki Bernard pride themselves on the superior flavor and sweetness of their citrus fruit, which they attribute to the combination of their rich soil and suitable climate, as well as the use of seaweed as a fertilizer. They began farming their land in 1979 and have been bringing their produce to market since 1980. They work their farm together and sell their fruit themselves. They farm their land sustainably, from the use of hand weeding, to the release of beneficial insects (parasitic wasps, lady beetles, & lace wigs), to hand trapping gophers (they do not use synthetic pesticides).

At Bi-Rite we are blessed to have Bernard Ranches’ fresh picked heirloom navels on the shelves in the market, which are descendants of exactly the same heritage line as those originals from Brazil. We are just getting started with them and hoping they are around all throughout spring just like last season.  Already they are easy to peel, super juicy with a soft silky texture that just melts.  Additionally the flavor is AMAZINGLY SWEET like honey or nectar that goes great with acid to make what is probably the most classic tasting citrus on our shelves.  My experience is that it is almost hard to eat just one.

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.