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Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category


Not All Parmigiano-Reggiano is Created Equal

Did you know that Parmigiano-Reggiano is our best-selling cheese here at Bi-Rite Market?  There’s a lot of Parmigiano-Reggiano out in the world, but here at Bi-Rite we’re on a mission to celebrate our Parmigiano-Reggiano in particular–and remind ourselves that not all Parmigiano-Reggiano is created equal.

caldera house

Daniele’s house and workspace

For one thing, we know our cheesemaker’s name! Most of the wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano that we sell come from one farm and are made by Daniele Caldera. Daniele runs the farm, raises the cows, and also makes cheeses. The room where he makes cheese is right downstairs from the one in which he lives. It houses just three copper kettles and Daniele never makes more than six wheels of cheese a day. And (how fun is this?) ­–each day, Daniele bevels the wheels of cheese made the night before and mixes the cheese scraps with eggs for his breakfast. What a way to start the morning! Our wheels are aged for a minimum of twenty-four months, though usually they are closer to twenty-eight months. With a big wheel of this kind, a longer aging process allows for the development of deeper, more complex flavor.

Parm_Cutting_Gif

Click this image to watch a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano get cracked open right before your eyes!

Parmigiano-Reggiano’s status as our best-selling cheese allows us to buy it in whole wheels–these large beauties are 80 pounds!–and break them down at each store using the traditional Italian knives. Every week we look forward to Wednesday, when we crack new wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s a magical moment as the cheese splits and is revealed, exposing it to air for the first time in twenty-four to twenty-eight months. When you’re buying whole wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cheese ages as long as it’s kept whole, and the quality of flavor from a freshly cut wheel is one of the most exciting things to a cheese-lover. In Daniele’s cheese this flavor is brothy and bright with notes of fruity pineapple, and the finish is long and deep.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a wonderful grating cheese and perfect with the arrival of spring’s first asparagus, but it’s a cheese too beautiful to be relegated solely to the role of an ingredient. Add a wedge to your next cheese plate and drizzle it with a little bit of aged balsamic for a decadent, hearty treat!


Simon

Asparagus is Here!

asparagus At Bi-Rite we love to celebrate local, organic crops, and one of the most exciting vegetable crops of the late winter and early spring is asparagus. Around this time of year asparagus gets highlighted in lush bunches and fanciful dishes at markets and restaurants throughout the Bay Area, and the shelves at both Bi-Rite Markets are no exception.

Asparagus is a flowering perennial that can be a tricky crop to grow – once it starts producing, it needs to be harvested every day so that the stalks don’t get too long. One producer who gets it just right is Full Belly Farm of Yolo County, California. Because we work with Full Belly, we are able to offer our guests extra-fresh asparagus from the end of February through May, which makes this the ideal time to stop by and pick some up.

Why is extra-fresh asparagus so exciting to us? Asparagus is high in dietary fiber and is a good source of Vitamin B, K and C.  It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities which make it a great cancer-fighter.  And in addition to being one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, asparagus can be prepared in many different ways. Try pairing it with other spring veggies like spring onion, peas and tarragon to make an amazing omelet. On its own, it’s perfect dressed with olive, grilled and topped with shaved Pecorino Romano.

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Beautiful asparagus and fresh Burrata proudly stand shoulder to shoulder at our Markets

But for a real treat for the palate, try pairing this excellent asparagus with the fresh Burrata available in our Cheese Department. This Italian cheese is a study in contrast in itself, combining the texture of solid mozzarella with a decadent, pleasing filling of cheesy cream. But when paired with asparagus, the combinations of flavor and texture are enthralling, and since the asparagus we have in right now has superior flavor and texture, the combo is all the better. You can find asparagus and Burrata placed conveniently side-by-side in the produce sections of both of our Market locations. Come by and let us show you how healthy, fun and gratifying this pairing can be!


Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Flowers, Bubbly, and Heart-Shaped Cheese!

Need some ideas for a fun and romantic Valentine’s Day? We’ve got a selection of Champagnes, cheeses and flowers that are sure to bring a smile to the face of someone special. All of the offerings mentioned below are available at both our 18th Street and Divisadero Market locations.

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We’re highlighting two excellent Champagnes this week. Champagne Guiborat Brut Tradition NV, a great Champagne value, is produced by the Fouquet family, who have farmed a small vineyard in the Grand Cru village of Cramant since 1885. Now in the hands of 5th generation owners Richard Fouquet and his wife Karine, Tradition has a touch of brioche on the nose accompanied by notes of white flowers and green apple.

Champagne Guy Charlemagne Reserve Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs is from a small grower located in a Chardonnay-rich Grand Cru villages of Mesnil and Oger, known for their rich limestone soil. This 100% Chardonnay pleaser has a lightness and finesse with touches of lemon and fresh nuts and notes of warm bread. For the perfect Valentine’s pairing, try our special A Toast for Two Champagne and Cheese Combo, which places this lovely Champagne alongside Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam cheese; its decadent, buttery creaminess is complimented perfectly by the complex intensity and long finish of the Champagne Guy Charlemagne. Try them together for an unforgettable treat.

photo 3You can also pick up a heart-shaped wedge of the Cowgirl Creamery’s Heart’s Desire, which is available just once a year just for Valentine’s Day. This special cheese will arrive fresh at both Markets on Valentine’s Day! Don’t miss this annual treat! Try Heart’s Desire on its own, or try our other featured Valentine’s cheese, the Andante Heart-Shaped Rondo. Not much is sexier than this cheese, an elegant blend of rich Jersey milk and tangy goat’s milk and crafted by one of our most talented local cheesemakers. Adorned with dried herbs and peppercorns, the heart-shaped Rondo is as beautiful to behold as it is sensuous to share.

FlowerBouquetsAnd to complete the picture for Valentine’s Day, don’t forget the flowers. Come by on Friday, February 14th to get a custom bouquet or floral arrangement made by our in-house florists. Bouquets of sustainable, organic and local flowers start at $25 and locally-grown roses by the stem will be $3 each. On Valentine’s Day you can get your flowers hand-arranged out in front of both of our Markets; our florists will create something special while you pop into the Market to get some chocolate, cheese and Champagne. We’ll have your Valentine positively swooning!


Jason Rose

Our Christmas and New Year’s Menu is Here!

Christmas menuBeginning today, December 20th, our house-made Christmas and New Year’s menu will be available at Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street and Divisadero. And this year, you can also pre-order everything you need online! Just place your order, select a date and time for pick-up, and you’re all set! Or call us or stop by to place your order. We look forward to seeing you, and are here to help with any planning or cooking tips you may need!

Bi-Rite’s Christmas and New Year’s Menu 

House-Brined and Oven Roasted Diestel Turkey Breast

Bi-Rite’s San Francisco Clam Chowder

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Fresh Sage 

Bourbon Sweet Potato Mash with Candied Pecans 

Horseradish and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes  

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots with Bacon Maple Syrup

Roasted Delicata Squash and Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots

Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Roasted Mushrooms

Balsamic-Roasted Red Beets and Carrots with Citrus Segments

Cranberry-Tangerine and Honey Relish

Wild Mushroom and Zinfandel Gravy

Chestnut-Apricot Bread Stuffing

Horseradish Crème Fraîche with Fresh Chives

prime ribOur Butcher’s choice this year for the ideal centerpiece for holiday meals is prime rib. We’ve selected prime rib from Five Dot Ranch. Grass-fed and grain-finished, this beautiful beef has just the right amount of marbling for a buttery mouth feel and texture. We’ve also got a wide selection of California-raised poultry including turkeys, geese, ducks, and more!

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Winter is also a perfect time to enjoy cheeses. We’ve selected five favorites, along with an array of perfect pairing options, to delight your dinner guests and party-goers. Plus, we’ve created two special bundles just for Christmas and New Year’s that are only available online! Try our Tradition Reigns: Celebrate with Stilton pack to enjoy the classic pairing of English Stilton and port.

No holiday dinner would be complete without decadent, festive, magical desserts!BiRite_Holiday-400

Bi-Rite Creamery has taken tradition to a new level this year with our gorgeous Bûche de Noël, featuring chocolate roulade with milk chocolate butter cream, chocolate glaze, and decorated with adorable meringue mushrooms, pistachios, and sparkling candied rosemary! Don’t forget the ice cream! Our seasonal favorites are back, including Candy Cane, Pumpkin, and Eggnog.

Let us help you select the perfect wine for your meals and spirits to warm you! With vintages that pair perfectly with main courses, festive bubbly and single-barrel bourbons from our favorite family-run distilleries, our hand-selected wines, beers, and spirits are sure to delight.

We look forward to helping make this season memorable for you, your family and friends as you gather and celebrate. Happy Holidays!


Perfect Cheeses for Your Holiday Celebration

The wedding adage about “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” always struck me as a bit silly. But I was recently musing on the phrase while celebrating a friend’s Big Day and thought, “Wow – that’s actually pretty good advice for starting an ideal cheese plate!” Just grab something perfectly aged, something fresh, something borrowed (European tradition, for example) and something…bleu. I’m always looking for delicious cheeses that highlight variety in flavor and texture, and the cheeses selected for our 2013 Holiday Guide are all perfect for holiday gatherings.WholeBoard1

If there’s one local favorite that everyone will love, it’s Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam. This rich, buttery cheese is made by our good friends at Cowgirl using organic Straus Family Creamery milk. It’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser and you really can’t go wrong bringing it to a holiday party.

Redwood Hill’s Cameo, made with local goat’s milk, is a truly elegant show-stopper on the cheese board. Created in nearby Sebastopol, Cameo is studded with cracked black peppercorns and lemon verbena. This lovely cheese is soft, silky, and delicious.

BonneBoucheA favorite among Bi-Rite cheesemongers is Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery. Slightly tangy and beautifully yeasty, this cheese is given its distinctive blue/gray hue by its ashed rind and is accented with a mild minerality.

A wedge of Bleiki Alpkase, imported from Bi-Rite’s very own adopted Swiss Alp, celebrates everything traditional about old-world cheesemaking and brings a fruity, slightly nutty flavor profile to your spread. This cheese is a Bi-Rite exclusive and is not available anywhere else outside of Europe!

And for your “something blue,” you can embrace English-style Christmas tradition with the iconic Stilton. This cheese from Colston Bassett, aged to perfection, is creamy yet crumbly, with notes of wet stone and hay.

If you’re having trouble choosing among these excellent cheese plate options for the holidays, we’ve created two Christmas Cheese Bundles – one for cheese-lovers to share with friends and party-goers, and one for the cheese enthusiast who wants to celebrate holiday tradition. Both pair our favorite seasonal cheeses with some perfectly-matching snack and drink accompaniments. Pre-order them online!

Cheesemonger’s Choice: Party Pack – $39.99CheesemongersChoicePairs

One 8oz round Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam

One 4oz round Bonne Bouche

One 10oz jar of Harvest Song Sour Cherry Preserves

1 box Raincoast Crisp Date and Almond Crackers

StiltonBundlePairs (2)Tradition Reigns! “Celebrate with Stilton” Bundle – $44.99

½ pound Colson Bassett Stilton

One 375ml bottle of Niepoort 10-year Tawny Port

One 5oz jar of Bi-Rite Holiday Nut Mix

The Cheesemonger’s Choice is sure to impress, while the “Celebrate with Stilton” bundle brings together the classic and beloved combination of blue cheese and port wine. Whichever way your taste and palate run, we’ve got your cheese needs covered this Christmas. You can pre-order our featured cheeses and bundles online, or come in for a taste! Happy Holidays!


Jessie Rogers

Bi-Rite’s 2013 Holiday Guide: Delicious Menus, Unforgettable Gifts, and More for a Perfect Season!

Welcome to the Bi-Rite 2013 Holiday Guide!

Our Chefs and Buyers have perfected our house-made menus and stocked our market shelves with the most exceptional locally-grown, sustainably raised, and artisan-produced products available. We look forward to helping you plan unforgettable meals and find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list.

Happy Holidays!


Alpkase Bleiki – from our adopted Swiss alp to our San Francisco shelves

I’ve never felt compelled to adopt a puppy, since puppies don’t tug on my heart strings in the same way that they do for most of my friends. But Alpine cheeses are a true love of mine.  So when renowned importer of fine Swiss cheeses Caroline Hostettler launched her Adopt-An-Alp program in 2013, I couldn’t resist jumping in. In an effort to highlight and help preserve the centuries-old tradition of transhumance, Hostettler paired with six Alpine dairies around Switzerland who still make the annual summer pilgrimage up the mountain once the snow has receded and the pristine pastures are alive. By adopting an Alp, Bi-Rite is doing our own small part to maintain these fine cheese-making traditions – and to ensure that truly excellent Alpine cheeses remain available here in San Francisco.

Talblick

Alp Bleiki – “our” adopted Swiss Alp!

Thanks to Caroline, we’re partnered with the Barmettler family in Nidwalden in North Central Switzerland and have received periodic updates about their season.  Each year, the Barmettler family leads their small herd to an elevation of 4,600 feet above sea level atop our adopted mountain, Alp Bleiki. The diverse and pristine pastures on which the cows graze there give their milk an exceptional quality and flavor that the Barmettlers transform into an exquisite summer Alpine cheese. Five generations of the Barmettler family have owned this property since 1869, and this year they took twenty-six cows and ten calves up the mountain where they grazed on fifty acres between late May and early October. Though it sounds idyllic, life at high altitude away from the creature comforts of home is very hard work and certainly not for the weak of heart. Weather at high altitudes is unpredictable and can vary greatly, but word from the Barmettlers is that this summer was nearly picture-perfect. Said Paul Barmettler, “With the weather being so gorgeous, the environment was ideal for cheesemaking and the quality of the milk is outstanding.”

After a summer of grazing, milking and cheesemaking, the cows descended Alp Bleiki between October 3rd and 5th. Now this delectable cheese, straight from “our” Alp, has arrived on our shelves and is ready for you to try. We’re the only retailer in the new world currently selling this fine Swiss cheese, so cheese enthusiasts take note – it’s easy to enjoy, hard to find and not to be missed.


American Cheese Month Week Three – Tarentaise

For each week of American Cheese Month, Bi-Rite Market is celebrating one of our favorite American cheeses. Last week we discussed an excellent cheese made, in partnership with two of their neighboring dairies, by Vermont’s Spring Brook Farm. This week we’re celebrating Spring Brook’s very own farmstead cheese, Tarentaise.

Tarentais 2With its unusual and sexy concave-curved rind, Tarentaise was inspired by the legendary French cheese Abondance, a gem from the Savoie. The first cheese made by Spring Brook Farm, it was originally produced at neighboring Thistle Hill Farm and proved so successful that Thistle Hill cheesemakers John and Janine Putnam partnered with Spring Brook (and the affiliated Farms for City Kids Foundation) to expand production.

Though Spring Brook’s central Vermont locale might seem a world away from the French Alps, Tarentaise and Abondance share a number of similarities. Both are made, using traditional recipes and equipment, with raw milk from cows that graze on fresh grass seasonally and on dried hay in the winter. Vermont even has a number of plants in common with the lower altitudes of the Savoie, including clover and buttercups. However, the two cheeses are made with milk from different breeds of cow and their different production environments and microbes ensure that, while Tarentaise pays dutiful tribute to the old-world cheese that inspired it, its personality and flavor are distinctly American.

This flavor is beautiful and delicate with creamy paste, notes of cooked cream and toasted nuts and a slightly spicy finish. It pairs beautifully with cured meats or with tomato, but is also great on a baguette or enjoyed as a decadent delight on its own. Stop by our Markets on 18th Street or Divisadero, see the unique curvature of the rind and ask us for a taste.


American Cheese Month Week Two – Reading Raclette

For the second week of American Cheese Month, Bi-Rite Market celebrates an American cheese with great flavor, and a great mission.

Jersey Girl

Spring Brook Jersey Girl

Located on 1,000 lush acres in Reading, Vermont, Spring Brook Farm produces beautiful jersey milk that, in combination with milk procured from nearby jersey dairies owned and operated by the Lewis and Miller families, produces Reading Raclette. This mountain-style cheese, modeled after European ancestors, is crafted by cheesemaker Jeremy Stephenson in copper kettles using traditional methods; at 20 pounds, the resulting wheel is smaller and flatter than some of its alpine brethren and boasts a beautiful salmon hue. The flavor profile of this cheese is dominated by creaminess and nuttiness and accented by notes of grass, and the texture also makes it a perfect melting cheese.

 

Lewis Herd Crossing

the Lewis Herd

Neither the Lewis nor Miller farms use silage (a type of livestock feed that can be environmentally toxic), and Spring Brooks provides the dairy farmers with target fat and protein ratios for the milk to ensure consistency in the cheese. Sourcing additional milk has allowed for great availability of Reading, especially here on the West Coast.

Spring Brook is also home to orchards, vegetable gardens and 3,000 maple trees, all of which are part of the teaching tools for their Farms for City Kids Foundation program. Proprietors Karli and Jim Hagedorn were inspired by a trip to England where they encountered a program that teaches farming to children from the city. Once home, they bought Spring Brook and in 2008 launched their own program for 4th-7th grade students from inner cities schools – many coming from as far away as Boston or New York.

The best part is that all of Spring Brook’s profits from cheesemaking go to the foundation, helping to further the foundation’s educational mission.

Swing by the markets to enjoy a delicious cheese and help support a worthwhile cause!


Celebrating American Cheese with Moses Sleeper from Jasper Hill Farm

Moses Sleeper 2 In honor of North America’s delicious and diverse array of cheeses and the farmers, cheesemakers, retailers, cheesemongers and chefs who bring them to your table, The American Cheese Society has designated October as American Cheese Month. To celebrate, the cheese teams at Bi-Rite Market 18th Street and Bi-Rite Market Divisadero are going to give special weekly shout-outs to some of our favorite American cheeses.

As a cheesemonger, I’ve learned over the years that there are certain words that seem either to entice or repel the average cheese-craving Bi-Rite shopper. Categorical, overly-simple, vague terms like Swiss, Pecorino and Brie are among the three that I hear most often. It is for this reason that I want to ring in our celebration of American Cheese Month with a delightful cheese that reminds us that a well-made farmstead cheese can challenge our biases about the quality and diversity of American cheeses.

Moses Sleeper

Moses Sleeper, an elegant but accessible offering from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm, is indeed a cheese to be celebrated. Named for a Revolutionary War scout, it is made in a style similar to the small-format Camembert-style cheeses that once dominated family farms in Normandy. Made with milk from Jasper Hill’s herd of Ayershire cows, this snowy, bloomy-rinded cheese brings beautiful and meaningful flavor back to a style of cheese that has too often (though not always unjustly) been written off as insipid. Moses Sleeper’s flavor profile changes with age, so when we have young wheels, we celebrate the cheese’s bright, lactic milkiness. In more mature wheels, the cheese has a stronger, deeper flavor redolent of cruciferous vegetables. Moses Sleeper is an incredible snacking cheese – nice with fruit when young and better with savory meats and pickles as it ages.

Moses Sleeper is one of many reasons to celebrate the visionaries and cheesemakers at Jasper Hill Farm who continue to raise the bar for American cheese and radically reshape the landscape of American cheesemaking. We’ve just got a handful of cases, so stop in soon for a taste at either Bi-Rite Market location and join us in the celebration. American Cheese Month has begun!

 


Daphne Zepos Teaching Award

Photo by Chester Higgins, Jr./The New York Times

Photo by Chester Higgins, Jr./The New York Times

Bi-Rite is once again mobilizing to support the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award (DZTA) and we need your help.

Followers of this blog will recall last fall’s announcement of Bi-Rite’s commitment to the funding campaign for the DZTA. Our own Sam Mogannam co-founded the award with a group of cheese retailers and educators from across the country to commemorate and honor Daphne Zepos and her immense contributions to cheese-craft in San Francisco and throughout the wide world of cheese. Daphne co-owned The Cheese School of San Francisco and lived in San Francisco’s Mission District, so the palpable absence left by her death last July has resonated for us professionally and personally. Before she passed, Daphne conceived of an award to help a selected cheese professional travel and share knowledge at the annual American Cheese Society conference, and beginning in 2012 the cheese community has worked to make Daphne’s vision of this award a reality.

L'Amuse Gouda

L’Amuse Gouda

The founders of the Award set an ambitious fund-raising goal of $250,000 by the end of 2012, and Bi-Rite resolved to support this goal with a portion of our cheese sales. These sales, combined with an in-kind donation from Sam himself, allowed Bi-Rite to contribute $5,000 to the campaign. But the effort to commemorate Daphne and her contributions to the cheese-making and cheese-educating community goes on, so this fall we are reigniting our campaign in support of that effort – and by working together with our marvelous cheese vendors and amazing guests, we believe we can exceed our contribution from last year. During October, November and December of 2013, we will donate 25% of our sales of Essex St. Comte and L’Amuse Gouda (both cheeses that Daphne selected, imported and introduced to our selection) to the campaign.

Comte: The first cheese Daphne imported through Essex St., hand-selected from among the 60,000 wheels slowly and coolly aging in the caves at Marcel Petite Fort St. Antoine. Herbaceous, fruity and kissed with deep, heavy cream, it’s delicious in sandwiches or simply served with fruit, nuts or bread.

L’Amuse Gouda: This two-year-old aged Gouda, made at the Cono cheese-making facility in the Netherlands, is a great example of the flavor that comes from aging at a higher temperature (as opposed to a cooler one that suppresses bacterial activity). It’s also a stirring testament to affinage, the art of gracefully bringing a young cheese to mature ripeness.

Essex St. Comte

Essex St. Comte

Since the DZTA campaign began last year, we have opened a second market location on Divisadero Street, and with twice the cheese-selling capacity, we’re excited at the prospect of exceeding our contribution goal. But we still need your help! Please stop by either  of our Market locations to taste these fantastic cheeses. And if you would like to honor the memory of one of the greatest cheese educators in America but can’t make it in to our Markets, please consider donating online. We ensure that 100% of your money, minus credit card fees, will go to the endowment, which is managed by a President and Board of Directors from the cheese industry. All funds are safely invested and their annual returns fund the scholarship.

Thank you for sharing these wonderful cheeses with us, for your continued enthusiasm and support and for helping us to commemorate a great individual and the professional community to which she contributed so much. We’ll see you at the Market!


Baserri – the first of 2013!

CheeseMountainOn a beautiful sunny day recently in West Marin, Marcia Barinaga of Barinaga Ranch welcomed a group of cheesemongers from the Bay Area for a tour and celebration of the release of her first cheeses of 2013.  “It’s not a life that makes you rich, but it’s a good life,” Marcia told us, recalling advice shared by her Basque cousin as she was learning her new craft.

After purchasing a ranch in overlooking Tomales Bay, Marcia and her husband searched for a way to contribute to the agricultural community that become their new home.  With her Basque heritage and a love of sheep, cheesemaking seemed a perfect fit.  Marcia studied cheesemaking in Vermont and in the Pyrenees where a rich history of Basque cheesemaking continues, before starting to experiment with milk from her own herd.

PrettySheepA talented and driven woman, Marcia has a PhD in microbiology and approaches cheesemaking from a seriously scientific standpoint!  Her commitment to quality and attention to detail are remarkable–traits that make her an excellent cheesemaker.  At Barinaga Ranch, the sheep graze on pasture all year long. Marcia has been crossbreeding their East Friesian sheep, which are known for their prolific milk production, with the hardy Katahdin, descendants of North African sheep.  Last year, Marcia really focused on improving the genetics of her herd for higher milk production and quality, and is milking 88 ewes this year.  She milks and makes cheese seasonally, often selling out of the previous year’s cheese before new cheeses from the current season are available.

CheeseStack (2)Our favorite cheese from Marcia is called Baserri, named for the ancient tile-roofed cheesemaking huts in the Pyrenees where Basque herders continue to make cheese in traditional ways.  Baserri is an exquisite raw milk cheese with a rich, nutty flavor.  This year, the first wheels of the season will be released a bit older – at 90 days, rather than at 60 days as they have been in the past.  They’re on the counter at both 18th Street and Divisadero Markets and are refreshing and lively! Swing by for a taste.