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Archive for the ‘Eat Good Food’ Category


Diggin’ Deeper: Learning from the Legends and Bringing it Home

At the Eco-Farm Conference

Farmers don’t get much time to relax from their hard work and reflect on the fruits of their labor.  Once the New Year kicks in, seed catalogs start piling up and planning begins for another long growing season.  However, every year in the beginning of February, farmers and other folks in the organic farming world get together to share and celebrate at the Eco-farm Conference in Pacific Grove, CA.

As Bi-Rite’s produce buyers, Matt and I spent a few days at the conference, which takes place at Asilomar, a gorgeous conference center on the edge of Monterey Bay. The sessions offer young farmers a chance to learn new farming techniques from successful farmers who have been making it happen  for over 30 years.  This is also a great place to network with all of the dedicated farmers and distribution companies who keep this organic movement alive.  We’re lucky to be part of this movement that’s led by some of the legendary growers that put it on the map in the late 70’s and continue share their love, passion, and integrity.

Throughout the year, Matt and I are so busy keeping all of the fresh produce coming into Bi-Rite that we don’t get many opportunities to have longer conversations with the farmers we partner with.  There’s nothing I love more than running into Andrew from Full Belly, picking his brain about all the crops they’re growing, and hearing about the farming techniques that make their farm one of the most successful in the  Bay Area!

Down On the Farm

At Tomatero with Chris and Adriana (Matt & I learned so much walking around with them!)

Matt and I took the opportunity to break away from the conference, heading over to Watsonville for a farm tour with one of our favorite organic farms in the Bay Area.  Tomatero Organic Farm started on 4 acres in 2004, which has grown to over 100 acres from Watsonville to Hollister.  Throughout the year, Tomatero grows amazing tomatoes, basil, chard, kale, lettuce, strawberries and a lot more.  Farmers Chris and Adriana have done a wonderful job growing high quality produce and maintaining awesome quality as the farm expands. They currently sell their produce at farmers markets throughout the Bay Area, and will start delivering to Bi-Rite in early spring.  In March they’ll be delivering their first CSA boxes to San Francisco. Their dry-farm Early Girl tomatoes and Seascape strawberries are so tasty!

One of the keys to becoming a successful farmer is being able to extend the growing season.  Tomatero has seventeen acres of farm land covered by a large hoop house, which will allow them to get their summer crops into the soil a lot earlier.

The farm shed and hoop house Riley's built on our Sonoma Farm

Up in Sonoma

So now that we’ve learned from conversations at the conference and visits to other farms, how do we apply that to our own work? We’re very excited to start our 5th season of growing food in Sonoma.   The fields are really wet right now, so we can’t work the soil; this is the perfect time of to take care of projects that will help us take the farm to the next level.  Farmer Riley has just finished work on a nice farm shed and greenhouse–now it’s time to plant some flats of onions and get this growing season started!

Why Be Dull? Bernal Cutlery’s Japanese Whetstone Sharpening is Coming to Bi-Rite!

Bring us your knives this Sunday!

We’re so excited to bring a new service to our guests: knife sharpening right outside the door of the grocery store! We’re partnering with Kelly and Josh of Bernal Cutlery, a passionate duo with an artisan approach to the craft of sharpening knives. There’s no denying the golden rule of cooking well: having sharp knives will not only improve the texture of food in your recipes but also lessen the chances of cutting yourself (a dull blade is dangerous since it requires too much pressure to slice!).  As Josh says, “knives reflect the evolution of our creative relationship with food and cooking,and through that, our relationship with the world that sustains us.” With the highest quality Japanese whetstone sharpening available on your way to or from the Market, there’s no excuse not to take advantage!

Here’s how it’s going down:

  • Bernal Cutlery will set up shop on the third Sunday of every month from 2-6 pm in front of the Market. We’re kicking off this Sunday February 19th.
  • Bring as many knives as you’d like to be sharpened
  • Knives will be sharpened on a first come, first served basis from 2-6 pm. Any knives not sharpened during that time will be taken back to their shop at 331 Cortland St in Bernal Heights, and you’ll be notified when your knives are ready for pickup at the shop. If you’d rather not venture to Bernal, and can do without your knives for a couple of weeks, they’ll bring them back to Bi-Rite the following month to hand them off to you.
  • Pricing and contact info is here.

Josh, Taka and Tag, Bernal Cutlery’s three craftsmen sharpeners, use Japanese Whetstone grinding techniques which result in edges that are sharper and longer lasting, and remove far less metal for less wear on the knife. Japanese whetstones not only are the preferred sharpening medium for fine Japanese knives but are superior for all types of cutlery. The three of them have tens of thousands of hours of experience in sharpening Japanese, French, and Western knives. More info is available on their website.

Even if you don’t have dull knives, we highly recommend stopping by to see the sharpeners at work; the rhythmic sound of knife on whetstone is therapeutic, as you can see in this video!

Kiko’s Food News: 2.10.12

When a foodie and a non-foodie fall in love, cooking and eating aren’t always a shared experience; as we await next week’s annual celebration of couple-dom, this article  seems apropos: (full story)

The “mindful eating” movement is growing, rooted in the idea that eating slowly and genuinely relishing each bite could remedy our fast-paced American lifestyle, endless fad diets and the resulting path toward obesity: (full story)

A new CDC report found that 9 out of 10 Americans ages 2 and older consume more than the recommended amount of sodium each day; the leading culprits are not potato chips or popcorn but slices of bread and dinner rolls: (full story)

It was just a matter of time before lard made its comeback, overcoming stigmas associated with disgusting-ness and taking the spotlight on restaurant menus: (full story)

Monsanto aggressively touts its technology as vital to ensuring adequate food production worldwide, but this article digs into how they’ve held back the development of sustainable agriculture by expanding monoculture, increasing herbicide use, suppressing research and more: (full story)

And as one group of victims of Monsanto’s dominance, farmers who say they cannot keep genetically modified crops from their fields have brought a suit against them that’s sparking debate around the country with new petitions, ballot initiatives and lawsuits in the works: (full story)

Finally, a profile of a few of the family-owned, independent markets that have faced heightened competition from large supermarket chains but survive to fill an important need in their communities: (full story)

Playing our Part in Promoting the Right Kind of Packaged Food

When I think about small-scale, responsible food production these days, I picture a river flowing with greater and greater momentum by the day. More and more people are talking about artisanal, traditional food ways, food made by hand, meat raised outside of the industrial farm system, and jars/boxes/bags of food packaged in a kitchen instead of a factory. Here at Bi-Rite, we’re lucky enough to be riding the river’s current every day!

One thing’s for sure: succeeding with a small food business, especially, a new one, is not easy. So the big question I ask our team at Bi-Rite is how we can best support this growing deluge. Here are some ways we’ve played a part so far:

  1. Partnering with organizations in our own city that are making it possible to start small, sustainable food businesses. The amazing resources that La Cocina provides to entrepreneurial food makers who operate out of their incubator kitchen has inspired us for years and led us to join them in their fundraising and events. What’s exciting is that their work is getting mainstream exposure, and the kind of small-scale, traditional food production they foster is now poised to influence larger food corporations. At this year’s NASFT Fancy Foods Show at the Moscone Center, La Cocina had its own area to showcase their products; clearly, retailers across the country are increasingly interested in selling packaged food that feels homemade and supports a greater mission.
  2. Selling products with a purpose here at Bi-Rite. Whether it’s Tracy’s Granola whose profits support an urban gleaning organization, Project Open Hand Peanut Butter which donates proceeds to their meal and nutrition services, or the many coffees we sell from local roasters who source fair trade beans, many retailers these days are considering the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) when choosing what product to sell.
  3. Being transparent about how we as retailers choose what products we sell and what makes a product successful in our store. Our grocery buyer Alli Ball was recently interviewed for CHOW about her tips for small aspiring food businesses; we’re always up for sharing our systems and learnings with others.
  4. Recognizing the people working hard to do it right. The two year old Good Food Awards celebrate outstanding American food producers and the farmers who provide their ingredients; I’ve served as a judge and advisor in the startup years and think the influence of this organization could be huge.

And this brings me to my next bend in this gushing river of support for small food businesses: I was recently asked to judge the Next Big Small Brand contest! Self-described as “a friendly food fight between San Francisco and New York”, myself and a small group of judges will review submissions from both coasts (up until now it’s only been New York—let’s show ‘em who’s boss!), and anoint one grand prize winner as The Next Big Small Brand. This Sunday, February 5th is the last day to submit your favorite small food brand to the contest; don’t miss this chance for us all to celebrate a small food producer bringing an exciting product to market! And if you’ll be in New York on March 27th, join us for the live judging!

Kiko’s Food News 1.27.12

Yes we all have different tastes–that’s what makes the world go round–but what is it that makes certain foods so polarizing? (full story)

Paula Deen’s unfortunate diagnosis with diabetes exposes the disconnect between what we see chefs cooking on TV and what viewers should actually be learning to cook: (full story)

One response to this disconnect between restaurant dining and health is Halfsies, a social initiative preparing to launch in Austin and NYC. It offers restaurant-goers a choice that provides a healthier portion size, reduces food waste, and supports the fight against hunger: (full story)

In order to devote more time to changing national food policies to help consumers, Gary Hirshberg is stepping down as the CEO of Stonyfield Farm and handing over responsibilities of the organic yogurt company to the former CEO of Ben & Jerry’s; his focus will be on U.S. agriculture policy, and fundraising to get Obama re-elected:(full story)

Almost a year after the earthquake and tsunami caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japan is still struggling to protect its food supply from radioactive contamination. The discovery of tainted rice and contaminated beef have left officials scrambling to plug gaps in the government’s food-screening measures: (full story)

Korean as the new Thai, QR’s on packaging, and the full list of food trends witnessed at the Winter Fancy Foods show in SF two weekends ago:  (full story)

Kiko’s Food News: 1.20.12

Backyard gardens grow the kookiest things: a Swedish woman lost her wedding ring in the 1990′s–guess where she found it last month?? (full story)

Hostess (of Ding Dong, Sno Ball and Ho Ho fame) has filed for bankruptcy and I’m torn as to how I feel about it. The nostalgist in me mourns the disappearance of my dad’s favorite childhood treats, but a much bigger side of me is celebrating changing consumer preference towards real food! (full story)

Still, some packaged foods giants apparently have money to burn: Kraft is rolling out a new cheese product called “Kraft Fresh Take” (sounds more like a news segment than a food!) and advertising it with a $50 million campaign: (full story)

And Burger King is testing out delivery at about 10 locations in Maryland and Virginia, targeting busy families by offering meals that can feed a small army; options include 10 cheeseburgers and 20-piece chicken tenders (all for $14.49), or 40 piece chicken tenders and two drinks (for $10.99): (full story)

The battle against food waste rages on, this time in the form of a new strip that can be adhered inside packaging to make strawberries shipped from overseas last two days longer: (full story)

“Mahele” is Hawaiian for “to share in the work is to share in the bounty”; at the 170-acre farm of that name on remote Maui, the harvest doesn’t belong to any one person, community members are invited to work the land, and when they’re ready to leave, they fill a bag with as much fresh produce as they need to feed their families: (full story)

If you save enough toothpicks from your deli sandwiches, maybe some day you can make one of these: (full story)


Maria’s Crafty Delicacies: Winter’s Best

Here are a couple of my favorite quick dishes using the hearty veggies we have on hand through the winter–a good addition to any crafty chef’s repertoire!

Raw Kale Salad

Raw kale makes for a surprisingly supple yet hearty salad that is fun to make. This is a great dish to brighten and lighten up a potluck in these post-holiday weeks when we may not be feeling so light. I usually like to make my kale salad with carrots and scallions, but it can become a beautiful and fresh side dish to any meal with pears, citrus, or other seasonal fruit.

Take fresh, washed kale. De-stem and cut or rip into small bite-size pieces. Use a big bowl and add kale, thinly sliced red onion, grated ginger, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar and a LOT of olive oil. Here’s why you’ll want to use a big bowl: dive your hands in and massage the kale with a lot of love for about a minute or two. This will help the greens break down to become softer and more palatable. Top it off with sliced fruit or loose pomegranate seeds, and some freshly shaved parmesan for salty balance.

Fennel Butter

Herb butters are a super easy, fun way to add some extra flavor to anything you make, even if it’s just on a great piece of bread. Fennel butter is an especially great one with its sweet, delicate taste. You can make fennel butter a few different ways. You’ll always want to use room-temperature butter, to make sure you get well-incorporated flavor distribution when mixing together. You can use fennel pollen directly, or finely chop the feathery, bright green fronds of a fennel plant, or use fennel seeds. If you use fennel seeds, toast them first, as toasting dry herbs and spices helps get the flavors going and deepens the taste. Put the fennel seeds in a cold pan on the stove-top, bringing the pan and seeds up to heat together. It should only take about 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until you start to smell the herbs. Grind the seeds in a coffee grinder and mix them right into your butter.

You can experiment with other herbs — fresh rosemary, sage, lemon balm, lemongrass, mint….the list is endless. Make a few different ones for the table with a fresh loaf of bread and let your guests decide which one they like!

In this column, Maria from our grocery department shares her favorite recipes that are “so easy they almost makes me feel like I’m cheating! Only you have to know how silly-easy they are. “

Kiko’s Food News: 1.13.12

Three points for government involvement in our food supply and consumption this week. First, in an effort to sustain fishing for the future, the US will this year become the first country to impose catch limits for every fish species it manages; this policy, forged by the Bush admnisitration and finalized with Obama’s backing, marks an unusual collaboration across party lines: (full story)

Second, the USDA’s trying to play an active role in Americans’ day to day health: their new “SuperTracker” website offers three ways to track our diets: (full story)

And third, New York City’s Department of Health has decided that oversize restaurant portions are making New Yorkers fat, so they’re taking aim at the food industry in a new subway ad campaign launched Monday: (full story)

A growing number of grocers are signing up to have the packaged foods they sell evaluated and ranked for nutritional content.  But I’m with Marion Nestle on this one:  “it doesn’t matter whether one potato chip is slightly better for you than another….if you want to encourage people to eat healthy, you want to encourage them not to eat food products. You want them to eat real food.”: (full story)

Everyone has their favorite parts of favorite foods, whether it’s muffin tops or the white middle of an Oreo; increasingly, food fanatics are finding each other online, creating Facebook pages that focus on favorite parts of food (like “I love sticking my finger in the cake and eating the frosting”), and innovating around their favorite parts to create tools like the “bagel scooper” and “edge brownie pan”: (full story)

In what seems to me like a reaction to consumer aversion towards their over-roasted coffee beans, Starbucks is launching a “blonde” coffee line; interesting to see the big dogs changing their offerings due to preference for beans that taste truer to their pre-roast flavor (a trend we’ve witnessed here at the Market): (full story)

Todmorden, a town in England’s West Yorkshire, has a “cheeky” plan: they want to be first town in the country to be self-sufficient in food by 2018: (full story)


Si’s January Produce Update

If you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a winter time drought!  The dry weather has led to cold nights, and crops are growing slowly from the Bay Area down to Northern Mexico.  Luckily, Cali citrus season is giving us plenty of flavors to celebrate.

Fruit for Thought

This time of year, we love to create what we call our own “Citrus Explosion”: in the past we’ve had up to 25 varieties of citrus in the store at one time, and we already have 15 varieties in house that taste amazing!  The Cara Cara Pink Navel with its low acid and sweet juice is incredible quickly peeled and eaten out of hand and/or juiced. The Navel Orange is also super delicious right now and has that perfect balance between sweetness and acidity.

The Moro Blood Orange’s flavor gets better with every harvest.  This beautiful piece of fruit has dark red/purple flesh, and a tartness  balanced by sweet tones of berries.  This is our seasonal “go to” fruit to add to chicory salads.

January groceries: chicories and citrus!

The easy peeling, seedless Satsuma Mandarins from Side Hill Citrus in Placerville will be around for the next few weeks.   Meyer Lemons are finally here and we’ve been getting extra flavorful, tree-ripe fruit.  For all you marmalade makers, other specialty varieties like Seville and Bergamot Oranges are here.  This is the first time that we’ve had organic Kaffir Limes–they smell amazing and their zest is most commonly used in Creole cooking.

One of Matt and my favorite varieties of citrus last year was the Cocktail Grapefruit; this year’s crop has just arrived, sweet and juicy!  This cross between a Pomelo and a Frua Mandarin is usually sweeter and less acidic then other grapefruit varieties.  Minneola Tangelos and Palestine Sweet Limes are a couple other citrus varities that are yummy right now!

Swanton Berry Farm somehow continues to bring us local Chandler Strawberries that are ridiculously sweet.  This is the longest lasting local strawberry season in the past 10 years, and I have to say is one silver lining of this drought.  Until it rains the plants will keep producing, so get on board before this train leaves the station!

Winter Veggies

Matt and I work extra hard during the cold winter months to source the freshest vegetables possible, and we’re fortunate to have amazing direct farm relationships that allow us to have local veggies all winter long.

Mariquita Farm continues to harvest their unique Italian crops like Broccoli Romanesco, a bright green Roman cauliflower that forms a logarithmic spiral unlike any vegetable you’ve ever seen.   Romanesco cooks quicker than most broccoli and cauliflower and can easily lose its texture if over-cooked.   It’s great raw on crudités platters if you’re looking for an alternative to summertime cukes, squash or tomatoes.

Swanton Berry Farm also grows organic Brussels Sprouts. The field workers peel off the outer dark leaves on each sprout, leaving a delicate light green sprout that is less bitter and so tender when cooked up.

Finally, our family friend and farmer Martin has just started harvesting his Castelfranco Chicory. This beautiful variegated red and green chicory can take a while before it forms a tight head that’s so crunchy and flavorful.  Martin does a great job growing his chicories close together so they form a blanched, slightly less bitter head.  Chicory season usually peaks in late January or early February.

Kiko’s Food News 1.6.12

I was encouraged by Marion Nestle’s optimism when I heard her speak at Berkeley’s Edible Education course this Fall, but her prognosis for food politics in 2012 is cloudy: (full story)

One bright note is that with milk as a mark of new money in emerging economies around the globe, prices paid for it are higher and dairy farmers may earn and be rewarded the way they deserve to be:  (full story)

During the winter, a lot of the organic produce in our supermarkets come from farms in the Mexican desert; stress on the region’s water supply and natural environment calls into question how truly sustainable the organic label has become : (full story)

In an online study of consumers, chocolate was judged as significantly lower-calorie when it was described as “fair trade”, demonstrating how the label promotes an inaccurate assumption of lower calories than its competitors: (full story)

Grist offered an apt exploration of how Walmart’s sneakily-spun expansion into food deserts and general take-over of the American food system is making it more concentrated and industrialized than ever before: (full story)

Meanwhile, for SF residents looking to invest food dollars locally,  options will expand this year when Local: Mission Eatery opens their breakfast-centric cafe and market. With the exception of coffee, chocolate and sugar, ALL products will be sourced from Northern California: (full story)

Kiko’s Food News, 12.30.11

As Americans show greater interest in eating local produce, an increasing number of farmers markets are staying open year-round; the number of winter markets (defined as those operating between November and March) jumped from 886 in 2010 to 1,225 in 2011 (New York impressively edges out balmy California with the most!) (full story)

Get On the Shelf, the latest idea from WalMartLabs (the retailer’s in-house social media think tank, a product of their April  acquisition of data mining firm Kosmix) is a new product competition that invites anyone to submit a product idea to the retailer for development: (full story)

And speaking of more packaged foods on the shelves, Manischewitz, the 123-year-old kosher brand, is for the first time creating kosher gravies, broths, crackers and more that appeal to gentiles: (full story)

Craft breweries nationwide have been replacing beer bottles with aluminum cans, and for good reason: cans help beer stay fresh by blocking light and keeping out oxygen better than many bottles, are more portable than glass, and lighter to ship–plus, a canning line has a smaller footprint: (full story)

Livestock receives an estimated 80% of the nation’s antibiotics, yet in a step backwards for protecting the public from rising antibiotic resistance, the FDA just announced its withdrawal of a decades-old proposal to limit the use of antibiotics in animal feed: (full story)

Mark Bittman simplifies the goal of “eating better” in 2012 to “eating more plants”, and offers recipes to make semi-veganism work for all of us–bon appetit! (full story)

Kiko’s Food News 12.2.11

Did you know the economic recession has led to an increase in the number of SF residents using food stamps each month from 29,008 in 2008 to 44,185 in 2010? This Bay Guardian story profiles the work of Food Guardians in increasing food access and awareness of healthy food for tens of thousands of San Franciscans in chronically poor health: (full story)

And you know I can’t resist a holiday food waste alert: Americans generate an extra 5 million tons of household waste each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, including three times as much food waste as at other times of the year. The Worldwatch Institute offers 10 simple steps we can take to make this season less wasteful (such as avoiding the tendency to unnecessarily stuff guests when hosting!) (full story)

We’ll have to be gracious on our own soon, as Café Gratitudes and Gracias Madre are closing their doors due to lawsuits from former employees: (full story)

An unlikely place to expose injustices faced by lunch ladies, a food network show highlighted these low-level school employees who cook daily in school cafeterias; one said she and her colleagues are held in such low regard that they’re not even allowed in the teacher’s lounge at the schools they serve: (full story)

This humorously shocking infographic compares Walmart’s scale in sales, land use, and manpower in relation to other retailers, international GDP’s, and armies:
(full story)

As if we need more reason to put salad bars in schools, a CDC report suggests that in 2010, about one in four high school students ate fruit less than once a day, and one in three ate vegetables once or less a day: (full story)

An interesting new small business concept for wine tasting: TastingRoom.com “reformats” wines from their original retail packaging into 50- and 100-milliliter, single-serving bottles. (full story)

Eat like a food expert: here’s a list of 7 foods they avoid, including corn fed beef and conventionally grown potatoes: (full story)