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Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

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.

Matt R.

Independence Day Wine and Cheese Picks

Wine4th1Happy 4th of July! The quintessential American holiday is here, and that calls for quintessentially American wines and cheeses!

On the wine front, we’re featuring Zinfandel, an iconic grape in America; the U.S. is one of the only countries that makes wine out of it in significant volume. While this grape originated in Croatia and made its way to California by way of gold rush-driven immigrants, it remains here (and in pockets of Southern Italy) as a lone star among countless French varietals.

On the cheese side, we’re featuring a grab-and-go basket trio of Red, White, and Blue American Cheeses! Perfectly portioned and carefully curated, this basket makes the perfect host or hostess gift, picnic treat, or easy DIY cheese course for entertaining!

Come see us at either Market to grab everything you’ll need to have a decadent Independence Day! (Both Markets close at 6PM on July 4th.) 

2009 Unti Vineyards Zinfandel  –  $25.99
Unti’s wines are a staple on our shelves and for good reason. Their biodynamically farmed vineyards in Dry Creek Valley grow mostly Rhone and Italian varietals, but their Zinfandel is a favorite of ours as well. We have the last few cases of the 2009 vintage – a great one for Zin in Dry Creek! Lush plum and subtle spice qualities lead to a weighty but well-balanced palate. This is a Zin that’s sure to handle anything coming off the grill!

Cheesebasket1Bi-Rite’s American Cheese Trio  –  $19.99
Our pre-selected trio of Red, White, and Blue American cheeses is cut, packed, and ready to go for your Independence Day celebration. This cute basket includes the following:

Red: Cowgirl Creamery Wagon Wheel – Cowgirl Creamery’s homage to the great mountain cheeses of France and Switzerland, this washed rind cheese is made from pasteurized Straus Dairy cow’s milk. Its natural washed rind is the lightest red-pink hue and the paste is semi-firm with brown butter and caramel notes. It’s great on a cheese plate, but melts beautifully as well to top burgers or pizza!

White: Andante Fresh Goat Cheese – Soyoung Scanlan has become a cheese icon in the Bay Area for the magic she works with fresh goat’s milk. All the goat’s milk she uses is pasteurized and sourced from Volpi Ranch in Petaluma. Her fresh goat cheese rounds are the ultimate expression of this high quality milk. Light, tangy, floral, and complex, this cheese hardly needs any accompaniment other than a crusty baguette.

Blue: Point Reyes Farmstead Bay Blue  – Point Reyes Farmstead, near Tomales Bay, first released Bay Blue last fall and it has quickly gained a following, even winning a Good Food Award. The recipe is inspired by English Stilton, and this natural-rinded blue is rich in flavor and perfect alongside dried fruit or drizzled with honey.

Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons

18th Hour Cafe – Every Thursday, 6-10PM, Drop-In

Tasting Seminar with Pamela Busch: The New California – Tuesday, July 23, 7-9PM, Ticketed

Tasting Seminar with Pamela Busch: The New France – Tuesday, July 30, 7-9PM, Ticketed

Spanish and Portuguese Cheeses: Beyond Manchego

Abrigo2This is always the time of year when I start to crave heat: the calendar says June, and I’m itching for sunshine, warm nights, and spaghetti straps. Living in the reality of summer in San Francisco, I’m vicariously enjoying the heat as we celebrate Spanish and Portuguese cheeses this month at the Market.  Many of you know (and love!) Manchego, but the Iberian Peninsula’s cheese offerings are so richly diverse, why stop there?  Come taste a few of our featured cheeses this month.

Valdeon is a mixed milk blue cheese, made with cow and goat milk, and oh-so-Spanish!  It’s beautifully wrapped, and begging for either a savory tomato salad or a drizzle of something sweet like honey or fig jam. I admit, mixed milk cheeses pull on my heart strings, and the Tres Leches is a fantastic blend of goat, sheep, and cow milk that’s interesting and easy to enjoy before dinner.

Roncal2For those who prefer a pure sheep milk cheese, check out Roncal, Spain’s first DOP cheese, and one I think of as Manchego’s more austere and reserved cousin.

campodevareVare is an equally lovely first cheese made of goat’s milk and balanced between sweet and tangy notes. Gardunha is classic Portuguese – rather than traditional animal rennet, a thistle flower is used as a coagulant. This imparts a distinct vegetal quality to this goat cheese; a fun contrast to its unctuous texture.

And though cow’s milk cheeses make up a minority of Spanish cheeses, Mahon Reserva is a treat with a little bit of bite!

Double Dutch: A Tale of Two Remeker Cheeses

We just cracked two wheels of Remeker, our favorite Dutch cheese, and couldn’t be happier! Our Remeker comes from Jan Dirk in Gelderland, in the eastern Netherlands. This very special farmstead gouda is made from the milk of his beautiful herd of Jersey cows (they still have their horns!). Jan is as enthusiastic about soil health and worms as he is about great cheese; he began farming biodynamically in 2004. Focused on achieving balance with his land and animals, the quality of the rich raw milk (something of a rarity among Dutch cheeses)  is a testament to his cheesemaking success!

olde remekerWheels are pressed for 24 hours, and then brined for 36 hours (about half the time of many goudas) before maturation on the farm. Some wheels are released young, between 9-11 months, while others are aged 18 months or more.  Which would you prefer: the bright, egg-yolk savory quality of a younger cheese, or the deep hazelnut and burnt caramel notes of the aged? Either way, it’s a stunning cheese, but do come in for a taste and decide for yourself.  And remember: age really does matter!


Cooking with Curds: Radishes à la Français

au3My French host-grandmother blew me away one afternoon many years ago when she appeared at the dinner table with a plate of radishes. She then introduced the simplest of pleasures when she showed me how to eat radishes “à la Français,” which is to say cut, stuffed with sweet cream butter, and then dipped in sea salt. The magical combination of these three ingredients is still something I look forward to every spring!  For a variation on the theme, I’ve made a compound butter with Fourme D’Ambert, one of my favorite blue cheeses, to add a savory zip to sweet cream butter, and create a perfect contrast to crunchy, spicy radishes!


1 stick unsalted butter, softened

4oz Fourme D’Ambert, trimmed of rind

Salt and white pepper to taste

1 bunch radishes (French breakfast are the best for their long shape)



Add softened butter and Fourme D’Ambert to mixing bowl and mash together with a fork until the butter and the blue cheese are well integrated.

Season with salt and white pepper to taste, and mix again.

Scrape butter into ramekin (or other fun shaped dish) to chill for an hour.

Meanwhile, wash and trim radishes.

With a paring knife, cut an X into the bottom of each radish and serve alongside chilled butter.

Stuff each radish with blue cheese butter in the middle of the X and enjoy!


Au revoir, French Cheese Month….bring on the Belgian and Dutch cheeses we have in store for May!

Bi-Rite Divis is Open!

b-man with divisadero lineThought I’d never say this….but we’re open on Divisadero Street! Please come visit us 9 am – 9 pm today and every day. Store location, hours and parking info (yes, we do have one hour parking for our guests!) is here.


Salty Ginger Sundae, Divis contest winner!

We’ve spent about three years working towards this moment, so today is all about celebrating the long, winding path that brought us here. And what better way to do so than by treating ourselves to the newest additions to our Divis menu: the winners of our Divis Sandwich and Sundae contest!

The Giuseppe: Fra’ Mani salami and mortadella, provolone, lettuce, red onion, tomato, dijon mustard, pepperoncini, and lemon aioli on an Acme Rustic Baguette (congrats to Joseph Slattery!)


Opening is so sweet!

The Salty Ginger: Ginger ice cream, ginger snaps, sea salt, chocolate fudge, and whipped cream (congrats to Zoe Byl!)

Now that the construction is complete, it’s time to start the important work of building relationships with our guests. Our 60 Divis staff members are eager to meet and feed you. Plus, a bunch of our passionate food makers are joining us to give out tastes of their cheese, jams and more: check out the Divis events on our calendar here.

See you soon! And now more than ever, please let us know how we can better serve you.

P.S. You’ve gotta check out this video of neighborhood pup Trotter on his first visit to the store!





It’s Time: Bi-Rite Divis Opens March 13th!

birite-divis-logoRefrigerators delivered: check

Divis Sandwich and Sundae contest  entries in: check

60 new staff members hired: check (almost)!

Guess this leaves only one thing…Opening March 13th!

divis team floor

Pre-opening Divis staff meeting

We can’t even wait to open our doors at 550 Divisadero (at Hayes). Just like our 18th Street Market, Divis will be open every day from 9am-9pm and will be a one-stop shop for farm direct produce, a full-service butcher counter, deli with prepared foods from our on-site kitchen, natural wine & spirits, fresh bread, local dairy… and of course important doodads like toilet paper and deodorant.

shak its time

It’s time!

What took us so long? We renovated and retrofitted the interior of the building –which was one of the original Safeways—while taking care to preserve the art deco façade. And we’re upping the ante from our 18th St. Market: Divis has an old world style cut-to-order cheese counter and an ice cream scoop shop right inside (yes, Sam’s sundae with chocolate ice cream, Maldon sea salt, bergamot olive oil and whipped cream will be here)!

We hope you’re ready to give us feedback on what dishes and items you love and what we can do better, so we can evolve together. We’ve got a 30 year lease, so we’re planning to be around for a while and we look forward to feeding the neighborhood for years.

Big thanks to our new neighbors for weathering the construction. And thanks to everyone who has already made us feel welcome—from the other Divisadero Merchants to school and church leaders from the Western Addition, Haight, Fillmore, and Hayes Valley neighborhoods that so richly intersect here!facade feb



Matt R.

Pierre Gonon and the Wines of St. Joseph

The appellation of St. Joseph in the northern Rhone Valley has witnessed quite the evolution since King Louis XII deemed its wines his favorite in the late 15th century. When it was designated an AOC in 1956, St. Joseph was a small collection of vineyards surrounding just six villages, carefully selected for their location and vine quality. Ten years later the region had expanded with the effect of lowering the quality of production and the illustrious reputation of St. Joseph with it.

In order to restore its reputation, the French committee on appellations (then called the INAO) drastically reduced the size of the region, declassifying poor vineyards to Vins de Pays status and capping the region’s maximum size. Pierre Gonon held on to a few vineyards in Mauves, and today his sons Pierre and Jean run the domain and work to restore the reputation of this region by carefully crafting wine from extremely well-cared for vines and minimalist wine making techniques. We’re fortunate to have two of their elegant, expressive wines to share:

joseph12011 Pierre Gonon ‘Les Iles Feray’  –  $24.99

Les Iles Feray is 100% Syrah that comes from a series of parcels right alongside the western bank of the Rhone. The vines used for this wine have been carefully selected over generations from the Gonon’s own cuttings and are planted in deep sandy soils. The nose has tons of purple and blue fruit qualities along with black olives and smoke. The palate is extremely refined and has savory flavors of plums, minerals, and vanilla – great complexity for its value. We only have 8 cases so grab some while you can!


joseph22011 Pierre Gonon Chasselas  –  $29.99

Chasselas is a grape variety primarily grown in Switzerland and is believed native to the area, although some think it originated in Egypt 5000 years ago! The Gonons purchased their vineyard of 80-year-old Chasselas vines in 2005 and have been bottling this white grape on its own. If you’ve never tried Chasselas, we highly recommend you do! Bright flavors of quince, pear, and white flowers lead to flavors of minerals, white peach, and white pepper. The texture is so mouth-coatingly lush that this would easily stand up to heavier dishes like pork and hearty fishes.


joseph3Cheese of the Week: Vare

Husband and wife cheesemakers Valentin Forcelledo and Anita Gonzalez first started producing cheese in Asturias, Spain as a way to create a lasting business that they could leave to their children. They chose to go against the grain and decided to produce mostly goat’s milk cheeses in Spain’s predominantly cow-covered region. They started with just a few Murciana goats and today are up to 450 in their herd – more than the human population of the cheese’s namesake village, Vare! All of the goats eat feed grown on their own farm and their high quality milk is made into just a few of these 4-inch wheels a day. The paste is smooth and firm with a fruity, floral and slightly tangy flavor. Come ask us for a taste!


Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons:

18th Hour Cafe: Today, 2/14, 6-10PM, Drop-in

Spring Beer Pairing with Rich Higgins: Wednesday, March 6, 7-9PM, Ticketed

Mini European Wine Blitz Tasting – 20% off cases this night only!: Tuesday, March 12, 6-8PM

The Hills are Alive: The Volcanic Wines of Hungary: Wednesday, March 20, 7-9PM, Ticketed

Matt R.

Germany and Austria: From the Alps to Burgenland

It’s time to dust off your lederhosen, practice your umlauts, pack up your herd of cows (stay with us . . .), and get ready for a trip to Austria and Germany! This week we’re exploring the unique wines and cheeses of this area and the unique producers dedicated to promoting the terroir of these widely unknown regions.

alp12011 Andi Knauß Trollinger  –  $16.99

Andi Knauß farms his family’s small plot of vineyards in Württemberg, the southwestern corner of Germany. His family didn’t always produce their own wine, and in fact Andi’s father used to work for BMW in nearby Stuttgart and sold grapes from their vineyards to other winemakers in the area. However, Andi studied wine making and had several internships with well-known producers in Austria, including Moric (below). This bottle is 100% Trollinger, a grape with a bit of an identity crisis as it’s known as Schiava and Vernatsch interchangeably in Italy and Austria. Light, fresh, and super easy to drink, the bright floral and strawberry aromas lead to a palate of fresh red fruit and just a hint of spice. The fun-sized 1-liter bottle and screw-cap opening make this a no-brainer for a picnic in the park!


alp22011 Moric Blaufränkisch  –  $29.99

Roland Velich has quickly become the rising star winemaker of Austria. When he first started producing wine in 2001 he had one clear mission: to prove that the Blaufränkisch grape can make elegant and ageable wines rivaling those of Burgundy. Well, mission accomplished: he’s put this obscure Austrian grape back on the map. Blaufränkisch is widely grown in Burgenland but is often made into wines that are over extracted, over oaked, or very rustic. Roland has dedicated himself to careful care in the vineyards and natural winemaking techniques that make the grape shine and truly express the unique terroir of his vineyard sites. This bottling is a blend from a few vineyards and has soft red cherry aromas, elegant and long tannins, and just a hint of rustic spice.


alp32009 Moric Blaufränkisch Reserve  –  $49.99

Moric’s 2009 Reserve bottling is also 100% Blaufränkisch aged in large used oak barrels. Roland has used the same oak since he started bottling this wine so each vintage gets smoother and smoother. Soft aromas of dark cherry and earth lead to flavors of blueberry, baking spice, and bright acidity. This truly does rival some high end Burgundies in terms of elegance and complexity!


alp4Cheese of the Week: Spicherhalde Alpkäse

Every summer, the Vögel family goes on vacation, but it’s far from your typical summer holiday. Rather than pack their roof rack with beach chairs, they herd their thirty cows through the Allgäu Alps from their home in Austria to their summer home in Bavaria. At an elevation of 4,800 feet, their cows happily graze on the green mountain hillsides and produce spectacular milk, with which they hand-make just two wheels of Spicherhalde Alpkäse a day. The cheese is aged at leased a year before being sold. Small eyes dot the buttery paste with earthy, floral, and tangy flavors. Come ask us for a taste!


Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons:

18th Hour Cafe: Tomorrow, 2/14, 6-10PM, Drop-in (We’re pouring fresh Salted Caramel beer made by Cerveceria de MateVeza, the brewers down the block, with the help of Anne & Kris from the Creamery.)

Spring Beer Pairing with Rich Higgins: Wednesday, March 6, 7-9PM, Ticketed

Mini European Wine Blitz Tasting – 20% off cases this night only!: Tuesday, March 12, 6-8PM