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Archive for the ‘Produce’ Category


Simon

Citrus Juice Everywhere!

CitrusClementinesWhen January rolls around the selection of fresh fruit and veggies from our local growers is not as abundant as other times of the year. Winter is when local farmers try to take a little time off, plan for the upcoming season and build their beautiful soil. At both Bi-Rite’s we are so excited to celebrate California’s main winter crop, CITRUS! Cali citrus season is a wonderful joy ride from local Satsuma Mandarins in November till the “sweet like candy” Pixie Tangerines in early spring and the flavors are so unique from one variety to another.  Our produce buyers are always trying to find the best tasting fruit available and they love to see how many different varieties we can get on the shelves at one time.

BloodOrangeWe also love to build relationships with farmers throughout California and promote their farming practices and amazing produce.  It’s a lot easier to build these relationships with vegetable farmers because they are all over Northern California.  Citrus farmers on the other hand are mainly in Central and Southern California and grow on a larger scale which leads to using distribution companies to get their fruit to the Bay Area. Citrus is also a less perishable crop and can be harvested and stored without the stress that the more perishable vegetable crops bring.  Well, this isn’t completely true, citrus growers deal with plenty of stress! The freezing cold weather that hit all of California in early December actually damaged citrus crops throughout the state. This  being said we are still have almost 20 varieties at our stores right now and the flavors are as delicious as ever. The peak of California season is usually in February and the Citrus Bomb at Bi-Rite will be exploding with up to 25-30 different varieties!

Moms LOVE Mandarins
One of the main reasons California citrus is the best are all the different varieties of Mandarins that are harvested for up to 5-6 months of the year.  This gives all the Moms the opportunity to give their kids sweet, seedless and easy-peeling fruit as their daily treat.  Mandarin season starts with the seedless Satsuma in late November and then rolls right Clementine Tangerines and the Algerian is the most common variety.  We are very fortunate to get most of clementine’s from straight from the Tangerine Man,” Jim Churchill who farms in the beautiful mountains Ojai which is just South East of Santa Barbara.  Jim is a top-notch specialty citrus grower who works cooperatively with other growers in the Ojai area, helping them distribute their fruit throughout California. We are just starting to get the clementines from Ojai, along with Kishu Mandarins. These little, sweet, seedless “pop the whole thing in your mouth” mandarins are about as unique a citrus variety as you’ll see. They have the classic tangerine flavor!

Mandarins vs. Tangerines: What is the difference?
This is one most common guest question in our produce department. Not only do they both originate from China and taste and look alike but they grow on very similar trees. Tangerines are a special type of mandarin, so a tangerine can be called a mandarin but the reverse of this not true. The tangerine skin tends to be thicker with bumps and the orange color is usually a little darker.

Some of the other mandarin varieties you’ll find at Bi-Rite are the Murcott Tangerine and Page Mandarins. The Murcott Tangerines from Deer Creek Heights in Porterville about are another sweet and juicy variety but the early season fruit has a nice level of tartness for the folks who love a little extra pop. The Page Mandarin is a sweet, juicy, rich flavored cross between a Minneola Tangelo and a Clementine. They do have a few seeds but are still an ea

CitrusMandarinsThe Heirloom Washington Navel Oranges from Deer Creek Heights are harvested at their peak level of ripeness and offer the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  Citrus like a lot of fruit that grows on trees need to develop their sugars on the tree before they are picked.  A lot of commercial citrus may look good from the outside but when you bite into it they are overwhelming tart and not sweet enough.  Most of the commercial growers harvest citrus according to when the market price is best and not when the flavor is the best.

PinkMandarinThe #1 selling pieces of citrus at Bi-Rite this season has been the Cara Cara Pink Navel from Tenalu in Porterville.  It looks very similar to the Navel orange but when it’s cut in half the pink flesh shows that this is not your average orange. The Cara Cara is very juicy and sweet like the Navel but is not nearly as acidic.  It’s one of the most versatile pieces of citrus, eats great out of hand, makes the yummy juice and when segmented goes perfectly on the winter chicories salad.  The other orange variety that is great with chicories and just starting taste great is the Moro Blood Orange.  This Italian variety is named after its blood-like flesh and is one of the most complex flavored pieces of citrus all year.  Bloods have a nice balance of sweet/tart but also have berry tones coming through in the flavor.

For those of you who are more creative and love to get in the kitchen and make marmalades, syrups, marinades, etc., we have the Seville and Bergamot Sour Oranges. The bergamot is widely known for the oils from the rind that is used to make Earl Grey tea but both this varieties have great skin for zest.

Got Grapefruits

CitrusCocktailGrapefruitsAt the market we love to find a new vegetable or fruit that might be popular at a handful of restaurants but hasn’t yet hit the grocery store scene. Grapefruits are one of these crops and growing up back east my only experience with grapefruits was cutting a red-flesh variety in half, sprinkling sugar on it and eating for breakfast. The sugar always came along to mask the bitterness of the fruit. We are lucky in California to have numerous grapefruit varieties that different flavor profiles and really change the way we can enjoy grapefruits.  Cocktail Grapefruits (a cross between a Frua Mandarin and a Pomelo) from Cunningham Organic Farm in Fallbrook continue to create a buzz their delicious and much sweeter and less acidic flesh than traditional grapefruit. The Chandler Pummelos from Tenalu have beautiful large segments of flesh that aren’t overly juicy and are lot less pithy than is typical. The Oro Blanco Grapefruits is a white-flesh, low acid piece of fruit, great for eating out of hand, juicing, and in cocktails.

Citrus season at Bi-Rite is a blast and we just lit the wick some come on in and let all the terrific flavors explode your mouth!


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!


Simon

Fall Produce Arrives!

The changing of the seasons always means there’s a lot of new, exciting stuff going on in the produce aisle at Bi-Rite. Since opening Bi-Rite Divis in spring, we’ve had the opportunity to stock displays with local farm-direct produce at not one but two market locations. We’re excited to welcome the very first fall crop for our new Divisadero produce department and guests this year.

The new produce team at Divis, the veteran crew at 18th Street, and our loyal produce-craving guests at both locations all get excited about fall for the same reasons. Fall means that the produce Holiday Season has officially begun. It’s time to issue a fond and grateful farewell to the fun stone fruit that graces our shelves each summer and take a hearty bite out of the crisp, stately fall fruits that come in to take their place.

apple scruffs

Fuji apple totes from Hidden Star

 

When many of us think of fall fruits, apples are the first thing to leap to mind. This season we have an especially bountiful selection, including tote bags brimming with crunchy Fuji Apples from Hidden Star Orchard for $10 per bag—the perfect apple to grab for a juicy snack with a well-balanced flavor. All told, we have fourteen varieties of apples on the floor this season, including the eagerly-anticipated Ashmead’s Kernal which will be arriving soon from Oz Farm in Mendocino.  Oz Farm specializes in unique, antique apple varieties, and these rare apples have a citric acidity and aroma that brings to mind fine wines.

 

Frog Hollow Gold Bosc pears

Frog Hollow Gold Bosc pears

We’re also really into this season’s crop of pears, including:

- Seckel pears from Valley View. They are firm and tannic with notes of vanilla.

- Warren pears from Frog Hollow. These will surprise you with their downright candy-like sweetness.

- Gold Bosc pears from Frog Hollow Farm. Our firmest variety of pear with a mild smokiness. Great for baking!

- Taylor’s Gold pears from Frog Hollow Farm. Softer, grittier and bursting with juice.

Persimmons are coming into season as well, and we’re excited for the ones coming in next week from Blossom Bluff Orchards – the first farm-direct persimmons of the season. But already on the floor are the excellent farm-direct pomegranates from Balakian Farms, with whom we established our very first farm-direct relationship more than ten years ago. Their pomegranates are rich and exploding with juice.

Delicata squash

Delicata squash

Be sure to try some farm-direct squash, great roasted with pasta or for textural contrast in an arugula salad. If you want a gluten-free pasta substitute, spaghetti squash is the best thing out there. Delicata squash tastes great roasted and with the skin left on. Gio from our produce department likes it with butter and maple syrup.

 

Vincent

Vincent Family Dried Cranberries

If your palate runs more to the sweet or tart, we love the apple-sweetened dried cranberries and cranberry juice from Vincent Family. Their juice is the only one on the market that is made by actual cranberry farmers!

If you want to learn more about these fruits or farmers, stop in at either of our Market locations for a taste. Tasting sustainable, local, good produce is pure pleasure, and one best shared among friends. Come on by!


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!

Ingredients

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)

 

Instructions

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!


Simon

Bay Area Cherries: Sweet but Fleeting!

Our produce team always waits patiently for the first crop of local cherries to come our way each spring. Over the past ten years, we’ve spent a lot of time building relationships with amazing cherry growers throughout the greater Bay Area.   There’s nothing like a cherry that has been harvested “tree ripened” in the morning and then delivered to Bi-Rite Market that afternoon.

DSC_3546

“The Bing is King!”–Farmer Al, Frog Hollow

Local cherry season is always unpredictable and exciting, and it goes by quick! The first cherries on our shelves always come in around the last week of April or first week of May. Most small cherry orchards grow a handful of varieties so that their harvest is spread over the course of 1 ½ to two months, depending on the weather. They’re a very challenging crop to grow, delicate and prone to rainfall damage.

Ed George Peach Farm in Winters (just 70 miles from San Francisco) has brought us the first cherries of the season for the past 8 years and this year has been no different. Ed uses a lot of sustainable farming practices and knows how to harvest a “tree ripe” cherry.  He sends out a small crew in the early hours to harvest before the sun warms up the fruit. His crew hand packs as they harvest, a technique that brings down the cost of the cherry because the grower is not using extra labor to bring them back to the warehouse to sort through.  This also means that each case of cherries has a little variance in size, but the flavor stays consistent. Ed’s already dropped off Burlats, a dark red, sweet variety with a medium-firm texture. The Red Garnet, also dark red and sweet flavor but a bit firmer in texture than the Burlat, will follow; on any given year these can easily be the best cherry of the season.

farmer al frog hollow

Farmer Al with his blossoming cherry trees

After two to three weeks offering Ed’s cherries we’ll celebrate the arrival of cherries from two of the best organic cherry growers in Northern California: Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood and Hidden Star Orchard in Linden are less than 100 miles from our markets and are masters of growing big, plump cherries with perfect flavor. Like Ed George, both of these farms start their season with early varieties like the Burlat and the Brooks, which were developed at UC Davis in the 80’s and have a very balanced, rich flavor.

Finally, after whetting our whistle with these early varieties the really exciting part of the season begins. The Rainer cherry, a cross between the Bing and Van, has been around since the 50’s and is the only white cherry on the market (they look more yellow/pink on our shelves).  They are the most delicate variety but are still firm with a creamy sweet flavor. The Bing cherry is California’s most commonly grown variety; Farmer Al from Frog Hollow likes to say that “the Bing is King.”  It’s usually the sweetest cherry of the season and is very firm but also extra juicy.  Both the Rainer and Bing start up around mid-May and can go through most of June.

The local cherry season usually ends with late season specialty varieties like the Stella. Farmer Al’s Stella cherry only makes a brief appearance at the market in the end of June, but its extra-dark flesh and rich flavor is worth the wait.

rainiers

Rainiers come in a few weeks down the line

Northern California cherry season usually comes to an end with fruit from the foothills of the Sierras.  Our cold-wet weather of recent seasons has damaged the crops, but hopefully the nice weather this year will lead to a bumper crop. When the local cherry season finally dies down in the end of June we start sourcing organic cherries from the Northwest. Most of the growers there are larger farming operations than the Bay Area farm-direct partners I’ve mentioned above, but they sure know how to take advantage of their amazing growing climate.

Cherry season is short and sweet, so please come enjoy these wonderful flavors over the next couple months. The Creamery’s also playing around with them; stay tuned to see what ridiculous cherry desserts come out of the bakeshop!

 

 


Raph

PUBLIC Label Recipe: Sam’s Kimchi Fried Rice

kimchi shotCome taste our new PUBLIC Label Kimchi this Thursday April 25th at Bi-Rite Divis from 5-7pm!

Great news, fermentation fans! Inspired by an over-abundance of ‘couve tronchuda’ (Portuguese cabbage) at Mariquita Farm, we’ve created our favorite Korean condiment: Bi-Rite PUBLIC Label Kimchi! Farmer Andy at Mariquita is known for growing interesting and elusive European produce varietals; his enthusiasm piqued our interest in this rare and special cabbage. Couve tronchuda has tall, bright green leaves with thick, fleshy white ribs; it’s generally considered sweeter and more tender than your average cabbage. Although traditionally used in the Portuguese soup caldo verde, we decided to go the raw and fermented route.

Our recipe features organic daikon and carrots from Lakeside Farms, giving the kimchi a bit more heft and crunch. The Bi-Rite spin on this banchan classic is crisp and refreshing, with a tangy pop of fresh ginger and a hint of spice. For an easy weeknight meal, dollop atop hotdogs, fold into a spring frittata, or stir into your favorite hot noodle soup.

And for a super adaptable, comforting dish, try your hand at Sam’s Kimchi Fried Rice—makes a great meal by mixing in whatever meats or vegetables are sitting around the fridge!

Cabbage Portuguese

Portuguese Cabbage, one of Andy at Mariquita Farm’s unusual varietals

Sam’s PUBLIC Label Kimchi Fried Rice
Serves 2

Ingredients

2 cups white rice, cooked and cooled

1 cup broccoli florets, roughly chopped and steamed

1/2 cup PUBLIC Label Kimchi, coarsely chopped

2 eggs, beaten with 1 TBSP soy sauce

2 TBSP pure olive oil or other neutral oil

1 tsp sesame oil

Directions

  • Heat sesame oil and olive oil in a large skillet.
  • Add rice and fry until hot.
  • Add kimchi and broccoli, sauté until heated through.
  • Add soy sauce-egg mixture, sauté until eggs set, about 2 minutes.
  • Serve immediately!

Simon

Si’s April Produce Outlook

Springtime is always exciting around Bi-Rite Market, but this spring is particularly exciting because for the first time I can say, “springtime is exciting around both Bi-Rites.” With the one-month anniversary of the new Bi-Rite Divis just days away, we are busy building up our local seasonal produce displays in both stores.  After a winter full of amazing citrus, apples and greens, the tastes of spring have arrived.  All of our local growers continue to fine tune their farming skills, and every year the spring crops come earlier.

Veggie Madness

The early spring vegetable selection is my favorite! Winter crops like chicories and brassicas really kick in as the days get longer and the air stays cool.  Spring alliums, green garlic and artichokes start sizing up and add wonderful flavors to our produce section.

Full Belly Farm (Yolo County, CA) takes advantage of the early spring and is one of our featured farms this time of year:

  •  Full Belly’s asparagus is so fresh when it arrives at Bi-Rite that you don’t have to cook it to enjoy its tender, sweet and grassy flavor.  We’ll have the local grass until the end of May.spring asparagus
  • Their spring cippolini onions and green garlic are always extra flavorful and taste great paired with spring veggies.
  • The red leaf and romaine lettuce is super tender with a nice, crispy heart. Early spring can be a challenging time to source head lettuce.  Most of the larger organic lettuce growers are switching from Southern CA plots to land in Central Valley, so the market price is high. Local growers like Fully Belly have a limited supply but offer fresher lettuce at a better price.Keep an eye out for specialty bunched greens like arugula, mizuna and spinach that come and go all summer long.
  • I can’t forget to mention Full Belly’s amazing organic flowers. The Ranunculus bunches have a million colors, the Tulips are bright, and the Anemones are reminiscent of snorkeling along a coral reef.  Look out for beautiful, seasonal bouquets!
  • There are plenty of other small farms harvesting delicious veggies:
  • Tomatero Farm (Watsonville, CA) has big and beautiful bunches of Lacinato, Green and Red Russian Kale.  These tender leaves are great raw in a salad, sautéed or added to a super juice.
  • Our good friend and local farmer Martin supplies both stores with his SF famous arugula.  Even with the arugula and lettuce ‘capital of the world’ just south in Salinas, Martin always bring us the freshest product we can find.
  • Willey’s Farm’s (Madera, CA) super successful crop of baby artichokes is going strong until May.
  • Catalan Farm (Hollister, CA) continues to be the “Brassica King” with their tender sweet broccoli, big heads of cauliflower and crisp cabbage.
  • Happy Boy Farms (Watsonville, CA) harvests plump and juicy Little Gem lettuce and delicate greens like rapini greens and watercress.  Only a handful of growers consistently pull off high-quality greens like these – Happy Boy nails it!
  • The sugar snap peas from John Givens Farm (Santa Barbara, CA) are perfect and will be in until May. The English peas just started up down south; they’re surprisingly big, sweet and starch-free.  Most of the local growers will get going later this month.

DSC_2897During spring, all of the wild-foraged crops sprout up throughout the country.  Two veggies that we love to bring in for our creative cooks are ramps and fiddlehead ferns fronds.

Ramps are wild, pungent baby leeks with a tender, edible green.  Due to their strong flavor, you only need a few to spice up a dish.

Fiddlehead fern fronds
are the baby shoots of a fern tree; they have a crisp texture and nutty flavor.

The first organic rhubarb of the season usually comes from Washington in the first weeks of April.  Just in time for the start of local strawberry season!

058

Fruit For Thought

  • Swanton, Tomatero and Yerena Berry Farm (Watsonville, CA) are our main berry growers this season.  These farmers grow varieties that work well in their climate, such as the “Albion” and the “Chandler”.  Our farmers always harvest a perfectly ripe berry that stays fresh for our guests.  Come try the first “melt in your mouth strawberries” today!
  • California citrus is still juicy and delicious; both Markets have over 15 different varieties. 
  • The Pixie tangerines from Jim Churchill in mountains of Ojai, CA, are sweet like candy and a nice treat for the little ones — enjoy them until the beginning of May.
  • Many varieties of specialty citrus are winding down.  If you want to enjoy the Moro blood oranges, Cocktail grapefruit, Murcott mandarins and the Cara Cara pink navels stop in soon!

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

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!)

naima

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!

 

 

 


Patrick

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

 

 


Simon

Moro Blood Orange Upside Down Cake & Other Citrus-y Delights

Our Citrus Bomb has exploded, with up to 20 different varieties of California citrus on our shelves as we speak. The uncharacteristically cold weather of the past few weeks has slowed down vegetable production statewide, but it has also resulted in some of the most juicy and flavorful citrus in the past ten years.  The flavor profiles of our citrus selection range from the tart & extra fragrant Bergamot Sour Orange to the super sweet & tiny Kishu Mandarin. We’ve got everyone’s taste buds covered.

jessica cake

Jessica’s success with Moro Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

My favorite piece of citrus so far this year is the slightly tart and berry-like flavored Moro Blood Orange. The flavor, juice and texture on these have been out of this world this year. We’re getting our Moros from Deer Creek Heights Ranch in Porterville, in the San Joaquin Valley 260 miles southeast of San Fran. Their fruit is picked only when it’s fully ripe and ready to eat, and delivered to us within days of harvest.  Instead of using artificial wax and fungicides, the fruit is simply brushed with horsehair brushes and drenched with a natural compound, using only the fruit’s own natural wax. This produces a fruit that is full of its own natural flavor, like you picked it right from the tree–the way it used to taste.

The New York Times recently published a recipe for Blood Orange Upside Down Cake, and our HR guru Jessica gave it a try, with great success! In her words: “I felt like I was building a stained glass window. Every layer I sliced off of each orange revealed so many new splashes of color that I had to stop and stare at the pile of carvings, just to savor the visual splendor.  The juice from the Moro Bloods I used for the recipe was so abundant that it spread beautifully through the cornmeal batter.  The result was a tasty blend of sweet and tart throughout a deliciously moist cake.” She’s urged us all to give it a try! olsen clementines

Like most Americans, I grew up on classic pink grapefruit; my Mom would cut it in half and sprinkle sugar all over and I would take the time to cut out each little tart/sweet segment. That was in New England, but out here in California we have numerous grapefruit varieties. My favorite over the past few years has been the Cocktail Grapefruit; this flavorful cross between the Fru Mandarin and the Pomelo Grapefruit is super juicy and has a low acid, sweet and buttery rich flavor.

The success of our produce department relies heavily on all of the farm direct relationships we have built over the past 10 years, but one of the most difficult crops to get directly from the farms is citrus.  The majority of citrus growers are located from the Central Valley all the way down to Southern California, and it’s unrealistic for them to drive all the way to us just to deliver 20 cases.  However, this season we reached out to Jim Churchill, who grows amazing citrus in the hills of Ojai. Most commonly known for his extra-sweet, late-season varieties like the Pixie Tangerine, Jim also grows the easy-peeling Kishu Mandarins which are so tasty that the kids in the neighborhood can’t get enough.

We are mid-way through citrus season and there are so many varieties I didn’t mention, so come by and sample all the flavors!


Shakirah

Be the WHO on our PUBLIC Label

Our PUBLIC Label products are totally transparent. Each jar contains ingredients sourced from our favorite farmers, and is made with recipes created by our talented chefs in our partner kitchens. And all of this information is right on the label: we tell you WHO grew the key ingredient, WHERE it was grown and HOW it was turned into the final product you hold in your hand.

So now, we’re reaching out to YOU, our network of backyard and front yard farmers (did you know that the Mission micro-climate was once farmland?), to participate in our next new thing: a PUBLIC Label Meyer Lemon Marmalade. Bring us your Meyer Lemons and we’ll make them shine! And if you have another fruit tree we gotta try, let us know! We’ll take your lemons from now through Tuesday, January 15th.

Bring any amount of lemons you have (minimum of 15 lbs); if you bring more than 25 lbs and we use them, we’ll put your name on our label as the “WHO” behind the marmalade! We’ll pay you market rate for good lemons—by good, we mean ripe and juicy, without green shoulders—to ensure a flavorful end product.

Email me if you’re up for bringing us your Meyers—we’ll work out a time for you to drop them off. And of course, I’ll let anyone who brings me usable lemons know when the marmalade’s ready so you can come take a jar!


Simon

Si’s December Produce Update

The winter weather has hit the Bay Area and after the recent cold weather and rain, local crops like strawberries and raspberries are official done for the season.  However, with every crop that disappears with the weather, something new like the Olsen Organic Clementines  comes along to make our taste buds happy.

Fruit

As we head deeper into the winter months, citrus is the main fruit crop throughout California; we love to celebrate all of the sensational varieties in our produce department. Varieties like Satsuma and Clementine mandarins usually kick off our local citrus season.  Satsumas are the first mandarin variety  harvested in Northern California, and have a short season from November to early January.  These seedless, easy-peeling pieces of fruit offer the perfect balance between sweet and tart. We just started getting Satsumas from Terra Firma Farm in Winters and will have them through the New Year.

Cara Caras, aka red navels, have become one of the most popular pieces of citrus the past few years.  The combination of the sweet, low-acid and firm, juicy texture makes the Cara Cara super enjoyable.  Beck Navels have also just started up and they’re so juicy and sweet.  Both of these navels will only get more flavorful as we get closer to the end of the month.

The Mandarinquat from Deer Creek Ranch in Porterville is a small tear-drop piece of fruit that’s a little bigger than a kumquat.  The tart flesh and sweet, edible skin make for a delightful combination of flavor.  They’re the perfect holiday garnish, and throwing them into the freezer makes an awesome ice cube for your cocktails.  Deer Creek Ranch also grows beautiful yellow Sweet Limes which are super juicy and have a low acidity compared to regular limes.

Although the first Blood Oranges have been spotted at the SF produce market, most of the organic growers are still waiting for their crops to ripen up. Like most fruit, it’s very important to let the citrus develop their sugars on the tree and not harvest them too early.  Unfortunately, due to supply and demand, a lot of the large growers harvest early just to beat the rest of the growers to the marketplace.  We always taste the new citrus when it hits the scene to make sure the flavor is there before we bring it on to our shelves.  Stay tuned for Bour annual “Citrus Bomb” which will explode with over 20 varieties later this winter!

Apples and pears are at this point coming out of storage as most of the California crops are finished, but we’re very lucky to still have sources of local apples and pears for the holidays. Farmer Al from Frog Hollow has been bringing his Bosc and Warren Pears, which eat great out of hand and bake up nicely.  Johan form Hidden Star Orchard just started bringing us his late season Nagafu Fuji, and the Pink Lady Apples have been eating so well.  With the end of California apples and pears in sight, we’ll set our sights on amazing fruit from the Northwest like Jazz and Pacific Rose Apples.

With the winter local fruit selection less bountiful, we keep our eyes open for unique fruits.  Over the past couple years, more and more growers are harvesting flavorful crops like Passion Fruit and Pineapple Guava aka Feijoas, which add a nice tropical touch to fruit platters and cocktails.   A Bi-Rite staff favorite, the Black Sphinx Dates from Arizona just arrived; these rich and creamy dates are such a special treat and will make any cheese platter come alive.

Veggies

Porcinis & Matsutakes!

We’ve been working really hard to source specialty varieties of California avocados.  This year the Sir Prize avocado, grown by the 5th generation Tenalu Orchard in Porterville, makes its Bi-Rite debut.  The Sir Prize is a large avo with a small seed, which means a lot of yummy high-oil, creamy flesh.  The skin turns dark black when the fruit is ripe and ready to eat.

Rain earlier this month finally got the wild mushroom season going.  We’ve been fortunate to have a steady supply of local Porcini Mushrooms from an old-school forager who knows how to find the nice and firm, bug- free mushrooms. The Matsutake Mushrooms have also been very abundant this year and the price has been very reasonable.  A few Matsutake mushrooms thinly sliced can go a long way in a gratin or risotto; they’re extremely aromatic with hints of pepper and nasturtium.

Greens, greens and more greens! This is the time of year for healthy, extra-flavorful greens; they’re one of the only crops that get better with the cold weather.  The Lacinato, Green and Red Russian Kale from Tomatero Farm in Watsonville have been beautiful and the nice big bunches go a long way.

Winter at Bi-Rite has become an Escarole party the past few years.  It seems to be the best green for salads when local farmers are having a hard time growing baby lettuce in the cold rain.  Escarole is a broader leaved, less bitter member of the endive family and makes a great substitute for romaine in a Caesar salad.  Escarole is an awesome green to braise and add to soups.  We will have escarole from the Bi-Rite Farm in Sonoma through January.

Local organic Brussels Sprouts can be hard to come by, but our favorite growers are about to be swimming in brussels.  We are currently getting brussel sprouts from Rodoni in Santa Cruz and later this month both Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero and Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport will be harvesting.  There is nothing like a fresh picked brussels sprout that is harvested small to medium in size, before they lose their tenderness. When shopping for brussels most people look for sprouts with a solid green color, but the ones that are a lighter shade of green/white have been blanched by the outer leaves of the plant, which usually signals more flavor and tenderness.