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Archive for the ‘Producers Whose Food We Celebrate’ Category


Matt R.

Yamas! Cheers to Greek Wines!

greekThe Greeks have one of the longest traditions of wine-making of any civilization out there. They have been producing wine for over 4,000 years, and yet Greek wines as a category remain a mystery to American wine drinkers. But don’t shy away from the unfamiliar; there are great wines (and great values) worth searching out in Greece!

From the Greek Islands to the mainland, the variety of terroir in Greece is astounding. Even more astounding (and head-ache-inducing) are the 300+ grape varietals native to Greece. It’s no wonder that grapes names like Malagousia, Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, and Roditis haven’t stuck in our memories so easily. Yet these indigenous varietals are part of millennia of wine-making tradition in the region. If any wine region has the experience and wherewithal to know its terroir and produce great wine, it’s Greece.

We’re excited to have a couple new Greek wines on the shelves at the Markets. Swing by for a trip to Greece in your wine glass. (It’s cheaper than a plane ticket!)

nassou

2009 Chrisohoou Naoussa Xinomavro  –  $16.99

Naoussa is the center of wine production in Macedonia, situated just an hours-drive west of the city of Thessaloniki. It’s here that the grape Xinomavro is the star. Greece’s most noble of its red varieties, Xinomavro is widely planted and made in various styles. It’s a typically late-ripening grape with somewhat aggressive tannin, so it often takes a bit of time for wines made from Xinomavro to mellow out and reach their peak. Some often compare Greece’s Xinomavro to Italy’s Nebbiolo, both for its similar flavor notes and its ageability. Chrisohoou is a family-owned estate established in 1978 and today run by the young winemaker, Nana. 2009 is her current release of the Xinomavro from Chrisohoou and we think it’s stunning for the value. Don’t be fooled by its lighter color; it’s lush with full of notes of dark fruit, singed herbs, and mouth-coating tannin. This would be perfect with grilled lamb chops and eggplant!

(Available only at Bi-Rite Market 18th Street.)

2011 Kir-Yianni Petra  –  $14.99petra

Yiannis Boutaris founded Kir-Yianni winery in 1997, when he broke away from his family’s Boutaris wine brand, a large wine producer in Greece. Today he is the mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city located in the region of Macedonia, and his son, Stellios Boutaris, has taken over the operation at Kir-Yianni. Stellios is focused on producing wines of character using grapes native to the region. The Petra is made from the indigenous grape Roditis blended with a small percentage of Malagousia. Roditis is a lightly pink-skinned grape that can produce lovely whites and roses from hot climates like Naoussa in Macedonia. We find it reminiscent of Muscadet from the south of France. It’s light in texture with briney minerally notes and hints of pine, herbs, and lemon zest. Mouthwatering acidity on the finish make this an easy pairing with seafood dishes like simple grilled octopus with lemon!

(Available at both Markets.)

noussa22004 Vaeni Naoussa Xinomavra  –  $19.99

Vaeni is one of the world’s greatest wine co-ops, on par with famous names like Produttori di Barbaresco or La Chablisienne. As we mentioned earlier with the Chrisohoou, Xinomavro needs some time in barrels and bottle to let the acidity and tannins come to a balance. The Vaeni Grande Reserve is aged for a minimum of five years in wood and another four years in barrels before release. The additional aging gives the wine an added weight, depth, and complexity that add up to greatness. With all the time spent on aging the Xinomavro, Vaeni’s Grande Reserve is surprisingly affordable. We dare you find any Nebbiolo that is as complex as this wine, even at twice the price.

(Available only at Bi-Rite Divisadero.)

Upcoming Events:

18th Hour Cafe – Thursdays, 6-9PM – Drop-In – At 18 Reasons

Spirit Tasting with Barr Hill – Saturday, July 26th, 1-3PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero

Wine Tasting with Christian Adams from Rudi Wiest Selections – Sunday, July 27th, 12-2PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero

Beer Workshop: Hops – Tuesday, July 29th, 7-9PM – At 18 Reasons

Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or special requests (415.241.9760 for 18th St. or 415.551.7900 for Divis) or email wine@biritemarket.com.

Sincerely,

Matt Rupert and the Wine and Cheese Team

Bi-Rite Market


Ritual Coffee Roasters and Mighty Leaf Tea – Exclusive Suppliers for Bi-Rite Catering

In addition to our two Markets, our Creamery and our work with our non-profit partner 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite also offers the best catering service available in the city of San Francisco. With our mission of “Creating Community Through Food,” we treat every catering order from start to finish as if we’re serving guests in our own home.

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So naturally the items we serve your catered events are the those we love ourselves, are proud to serve, and want to share with you and your guests. With those goals in mind, we are pleased to be working with two new exclusive beverage suppliers, Ritual Coffee Roasters and Mighty Leaf Tea.

Ritual Coffee Roasters is a San Francisco favorite. Their Mission location is around the corner from our Bi-Rite Market 18th Street and is a favored hangout for our staff and guests. The Ritual gang are known for the care and attention they lavish on every step of their production process, and we love that they work with producers who, as Ritual says, care for their trees as they would their children.

Mighty Leaf Logo 1

Mighty Leaf Tea is a San Francisco-based tea company that globally sources the finest ingredients available for their handcrafted teas. They encourage sustainable farming and production methods for tea-growing regions worldwide, through their partnerships and sourcing practices. We love their tea because of its variety and delicious taste, and we love that their mission includes sustainability and fair trade.

These two new exclusive relationships enable us to offer hot beverages at your next catered event that are guaranteed to be crowd-pleasers. You can learn more about our Bi-Rite Catering services and browse our other offerings on our website. Call or email us today to set up your event!


Rose

Bent Into Shape

The other night I was with a group of cheesemonger pals sampling a platter of the current offerings at Mission Cheese on Valencia Street. I excitedly pointed out Bent River Camembert, a beauty that had landed on the shelves at 18th Street some weeks back and is still showing beautifully, urging them all to taste it before taking a heaping hunk for myself. We were all struck by the complexity of this divine organic cow’s milk cheese from Mankato, Minnesota. Conversations were sparked, smiles exchanged and joy deeply felt.

Bent RiverThis ripe, pudgy cheese came rolling pleasantly into our lives from Alemar Cheese Company of Mankato. It contains buttery roasted vegetable notes, tangy acidic flavor swings, and that perfect springy bite that extends from the bloomy rind to a bright, creamy paste. It’s truly an expression of artisanal Old-World styles, an archetypal French cheese reinterpreted and expanded upon with typical American gumption. 100% grass-fed cows from Cedar Summit Dairy provide the milk, which pulsates through the cheese with lush ripeness. The vibrant waters of the river bend by Alemar’s production site shine through in the most pleasing way, making this cheese both flavorful and refreshing. And that’s saying something for a rich, buttery cheese like this one!

Not only is the Bent River Camembert a delight, but it comes with an interesting origin story.  Alemar founder Keith Adams had started his food career as a co-owner of the Bagel Bros. bagel shops. When the bagel craze subsided in the early 2000s, Adams wished to tap into food in a more interactive and personal way. He found inspiration after attending the American Cheese Society conference and, mentored by California cheesemakers Peg Smith and Sue Conley of Cowgirl Creamery, he set up his aging facility in Mankato and created Alemar. Bent River and his other cheeses have taken off in a very exciting way, and we are honored to carry his excellent product.

I recommend pairing the Bent River with bitter, effervescent beer. At Mission Cheese I tried it with Magnolia’s Blue Bell Bitter and was delighted with the result. You can also try experimenting with light, minerally whites; this should compliment the creamy paste beautifully. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do!

Curds and whey,

Rose


Stephany

Cool as a Cucurbit: Cucumbers & Melons

The cucurbits (or cucurbiticae) are a plant family that includes cucumbers, melons and gourds of many kinds. They peak in sweetness and flavor during the summertime. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to work with a number of local farms that grow unusual heirloom varietals in this family.

A few of my favorites:

Armenian cucumbers, which are botanically considered a melon. We have been getting the ‘Painted Serpent’ varietal, which is long and snakelike, with dark and light green stripes, from Full Belly Farm, Oak Hill Farm and County Line Harvest. You can use these like the more common English cucumber. The skin is very thin and not at all bitter, and the seeds are not yet formed, so no need to peel or seed–just slice them right up. They don’t need to be rock hard; the ones that are a bit bendy will still be crisp. Armenian cucumbers will make the prettiest garnish for your summer gin and tonic.

Lemon cucumbers are small, round and yellow with large but tender seeds. They’re great for slicing into salads, and make beautiful sandwich-sized pickles. They’re lovely sliced up and dressed with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar or lime juice and a pinch of sugar or honey, perhaps over some arugula or baby lettuces.

Watermelons, in mini and huge, seeded, seedless, yellow and red varietals. Orchid and Yellow Doll are two of the yellow-flesh varietals we get from Full Belly Farm. These should be picked when they are ripe and do not really keep ripening like muskmelons do. They should be firm and feel heavy for their size, although there is no surefire way to tell if they are ripe.

Muskmelons have netted skins and get very fragrant when ripe. These include cantaloupes, galia and goddess melons. These will smell very sweet and floral as they ripen, and can get a bit soft (though they shouldn’t be squishy). The more fragrant the stem end is, the sweeter the melon will be.

Recipes!

SaladGoodCucumber Melon Salad with Feta & Olives

This isn’t so much a recipe as a useful guide. Try using what you have and taste as you go. It’s a bit of a riff on a Greek salad and a wonderfully refreshing addition to a barbecue or summertime supper.

  • A mix of your favorite melons, cut into large dice. I like watermelon, galia, cantaloupe & piel de sapo or snow leopard.
  • A mix of your favorite cucumbers, diced or sliced as you like. I like Painted Serpent Armenian cukes and lemon cukes.
  • Red onion or scallions, thinly sliced. I soak the red onion after slicing in cold water for a few minutes to take the edge off, which also sets the color and prevents it from bleeding into the salad.
  • A nice feta, not too salty. Our French feta is the perfect balance of tangy and salty.
  • Kalamata or another fruity olive, pitted. I usually cut them in half, but they can be whole or cut into rings.
  • Fresh herbs. Cilantro and mint are great, but parsley, basil and chives all work. I would recommend to staying away from herbs that are too woody or heavy like thyme and rosemary. Fresh, bright herbs work better to highlight the delicate flavors in the melons. I like to chiffonade them (stack up the leaves, roll into a tight “cigar”, and slice into thin ribbons), but you could chop them or pick the leaves and toss them in whole.
  • Fresh or dried coriander seeds, toasted until fragrant and lightly crushed.
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar or lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Toss everything together in a large bowl or arrange on a platter. Dress to taste with olive oil, red wine vinegar or lime juice and salt. A sprinkle of toasted, crushed coriander seeds wakes up all of the flavors. This salad is best dressed right before serving, though you could certainly do it ahead of time.

Cucumber Raita

Really popular all over India, this is somewhere between a salad and a condiment, and I often use it as both. Awesome in the summer next to grilled meats such as lamb or chicken, or dolloped on top of a sandwich or rice bowl. Also delicious with pita or Dosa chips as a dip!

  • 1-2 cucumbers, unpeeled, shredded on a coarse grater.
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (you could use regular plain yogurt, but it will be less thick).
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds.
  • Salt, sugar, lime juice to taste.

Place the shredded cucumbers in a bowl, salt them and set aside for a few minutes. The salt will draw out the water. Squeeze as much of the water out as you can – a lot will release! Mix it up with some gin and tonic water and have yourself a cocktail, or discard. Place the drained cucumber in a bowl.

Add yogurt to drained cukes and stir. Heat up a small pan over medium to high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral-flavored oil such as canola. When the oil is hot, drop in the cumin seeds. The seeds will darken in color and get really fragrant. Dump the spice oil into the yogurt mixture (this is a technique used commonly in India to quickly add lots of flavor to any dish by making a spice oil, called a tarka). Stir it around, season to taste with salt, lime juice and a pinch of sugar for balance.

Melon Agua Fresca

Again this is less of a recipe and more of guide. The proportions will vary depending on the fruit being used.

Cube up your melon and place it in a blender. Add a handful of sugar (or a squeeze of honey or agave) and cover with water. Blend until smooth. Add more sweetener to taste if necessary, or a squeeze of lime to perk it up. Super refreshing with basil or mint added!


Rose

Washed Rinds in the Summertime

Greetings, friends! I’m Rose, Cheesemonger at Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street, and it is an absolute pleasure to be writing to you from our cozy cheese corner. I hope that we will go on many enjoyable voyages together, sailing the Seven Bries, the Ched-lantic Ocean, and exploring all the islands of Fromageria.

JasperHillCellarsToday I write to you about one of my very favorite styles of cheese, one that’ s perfect for this time of year when the weather is bright and warm and the green grass of Dolores Park is glistening. We’re talking Washed Rinds. The beautiful , full-flavored B. Linens bacteria-covered cheeses that glow and make a room smell like a campfire, or roasted meats, or peat, or your grandparents’ favorite Limburger. Each cheese is washed in a particular bath, be it salt brine, liquor, or just plain water, that builds that beautiful orange rind and imbues the paste with character and flavor. These cheeses, though not always crowd-pleasers, can, in the right setting, make a “stinky” cheese-lover out of the most unsuspecting palate. Fortunately for us all, our cheese counter at 18th Street is awash (hah!) with a multitude of options in this cheese genre.

WRcropFirst up is the delightful Kinsman Ridge, a New Hampshire-made cow’s milk cheese from Landaff Creamery, a small farmstead cheese company. Known for their Landaff, a cheese made in a style similar to the Welsh Caerphilly, Kinsman Ridge is another homage to a cheese from across the pond, but with a domestic twist. St. Nectaire, the French inspiration for Kinsman, is an earthy, almost sunchoke-y tomme in a charming discus shape. Kinsman has a similarly pleasing form, but with much creamier flavor tones and a less earthy funk. We’re finding flavors like roasted green veggies, hazelnuts, and a spring onion bite at the end of the palate–one of my favorite tell-tale washed rind traits. It’s not super whiffy as you will find with many washed rinds, but it will let you know it’s in the room with wafting notes of butter and forest floor.

AmeribellaSecond is Ameribella, a simply divine washed rind cow’s milk from Jacobs & Brichford Farmstead Cheese in Connersville, Indiana. For those who are fans of Winnimere (how we’ll miss that cheese until later this year!) and Grayson (another seasonal that we’ll hopefully be seeing again soon), this is a cheese to enjoy. A beautiful deep butter-yellow paste (their farm has a cross of Jersey, Normande, and Tarentaise cows) is paired with a terra cotta colored rind, creating that classic color combo that we have become accustomed to with washed rinds. The silky smooth, almost voluptuous paste very clearly sings its flavors of nettles, tangy strawberries, sweet grass, and that trademark spring onion. I’m a fan of this new cheese and invite you to revel in it as it announces itself with a strong aroma of brine, smoky meats, and vinegar.

Stay tuned for my next missive!

Curds and whey,

Rose


Stephany

Apricots Are My Jam

ApricotsPrettyApricot season is here! The season is short, but these beautiful and versatile stone fruits are at their peak right now. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to have access to lots of different varieties, including Blenheim Apricots, which are one of the best for making jam. We’ve got Blenheims in the Markets right now, so it seems like a good time to share my recipe for Apricot Jam, along with our Cheese Buyer Anthea’s recommendation for some perfect cheeses to pair with it.

The beauty of jam is that the fruit doesn’t have to be perfect. Bruised, soft, unsightly or a day overripe–jam welcomes all fruits and makes them beautiful again. A mix of less-ripe and more-ripe fruits is good; less-ripe contains more natural pectin, and more-ripe contains more sugar, so the two balance each other out nicely. You can make a big batch of jam at the height of summer ripeness and put it away until the winter, then crack it open and take yourself right back to summertime. And jams are beautiful with lots of other foods, including yogurt, toast, pork, chicken, and cheese!

I asked our Cheese Buyer, Anthea, to try my Apricot Jam and recommend cheeses to go with it. She suggested fresh chèvre such as Andante’s, but also feels that any number of fresh, creamy cheeses would do well. She also recommends sweeter jams like this one with bleu cheeses (“Mold loves sugar,” she told me), such as Bay Bleu from Point Reyes. For a harder cheese pairing, try goat cheddar. Personally, I love sneaking a schmear of jam inside of a goat cheddar grilled cheese sandwich!

Simple Apricot Jam

This recipe is easy to scale up or down and adjust according to your tastes. This recipe uses the “noyau,” or almond-like inner kernel of the apricot, to flavor the jam. Amaretto and almond extracts are traditionally made using apricot kernels rather than actual almonds because the fragrance is much stronger. Other stone fruits share this quality, such as cherries and peaches, though apricots tend to be the most potent aroma. Just crack the pits open, and remove the little “almond.”

ApricotsRosesI recently made an apricot rose jam using this recipe, just added a few handfuls of organic rose petals at the beginning of the cooking process- they candy themselves and lend a gorgeous rosy color to the jam. Rosemary, saffron or lavender are also some of my favorite variations. You can adjust the sugar and lemon juice to make it either sweeter or brighter, depending on the sweetness of the apricots. You can process this in a traditional water bath to preserve it for the coming months, or it will keep for several weeks refrigerated.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb apricots
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar, divided in half
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

ApricotJamCloseupWash the apricots, and chop into roughly even pieces. Save the pits. Toss the chopped apricots in a bowl with half of the sugar. Set aside to macerate for at least 10 minutes, although up to 1 hour is ideal. This will start drawing out the juices and dissolving the sugar.

Place the pits in a clean kitchen towel, and fold it over. Use a hammer, mallet or other heavy object to crack the pits open. Remove the inner almond-like kernel and place one in each of your clean jars.

Place the apricots and their juices in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add the rest of the sugar, salt and lemon juice. Using a wider pot will make the cooking process faster, since a wider surface area will allow for the fastest evaporation of excess liquid. Place a few saucers in the freezer- you will use these to test the viscosity as the jam cooks.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a hearty simmer (you want it going pretty strong, but not so much so it is splashing hot sugar/apricot juice). Stir occasionally using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, scraping down the sides periodically. It should take about 15 minutes after it comes to a boil to reduce down enough. Once the foam subsides, stir the bottom more often and keep a close eye on it. Be careful, it will start spattering once it thickens up, just turn the heat down a touch. Then, start testing it. Dribble a little bit of jam onto the frozen saucer and wait for it to cool down (you can put it back in the freezer for a minute or two)- this will give you an idea of how thick it will be once cool. Once it has thickened to your liking, turn it off, and ladle into clean jars over the noyaux. Seal and process or let it cool down and then refrigerate. Enjoy!


Stephany

Summer Squash: Fun, Versatile & Perfect for Dinner!

Hi, I’m Stephany! I’m a member of the Produce Team at Bi-Rite 18th Street, and I’m also an experienced cook with a passion for food, community, and sustainability. This summer I’ll be writing a series of posts highlighting my favorite summer produce along with ideas for how to prepare them. This is the very first post and I’m delighted to share my passion for food with you.

SDinner1GeneralSquashUp first: summer squash. I get excited when summer squash comes in because it’s a fun, versatile section of our produce aisle that has tons of variety. Summer squash comes in a number of different varietals. Zucchini is the most well-known, but here at Bi-Rite 18th Street and Bi-Rite Divisadero we have lots of others, like Zephyr, Crookneck, Flying Saucers, Baby Acorn, Sunburst, Pattypan, Costata Romanesco and Eightball. Some of these don’t look like what you think of when you think of squash, but trust me–they taste great. Most squashes share similarities in flavor–fairly mild, sweet and creamy–and are a good foil for bolder flavors.

We get summer squash from some of our favorite local farms, typically first from Balakian Farms, then from Happy Boy, Tomatero and Terra Firma as the season progresses. They’re beautiful and delicious, but just as importantly, they’re also easy and fun to prepare. Summer squash can be eaten raw, but it also cooks quickly. It’s lovely in a shaved salad, tastes great roasted to bring forward sweetness, looks and smells beautiful next to those burgers and onions on your grill, and is rich and substantial sautéed. Smaller and rounder squashes like Eightball or Pattypan make fantastic ingredients for stuffings.

You can shave summer squash into ribbons using a peeler; you’ll find that it comes out almost like noodles, making it a great substitute for pasta. If your shave it into ribbons, you can salt it (called “cold-sweating”) and the salt will pull out all of the extra water; you can then hand-squeeze the water out after about five minutes. Then you can dress your noodles however you want. Personally I like them with pesto, basil or any kind of fresh, bright herb, and they also go well with cheeses, peas and other fresh summer produce like cherry tomatoes.

Here’s a favorite recipe of mine using summer squash that I hope you’ll enjoy! You can get everything you need for this recipe at either of our two market locations. Just ask our staff for help.

 SDinner1Ingredients

Summer Squash “Pasta” Salad

SDinnerFinalIngredients:

  • 4 long summer squash such as Zucchini, Crookneck & Zephyr, for shaving
  • 1-½ lbs mixed summer squashes such as Pattypan, Sunburst, Flying Saucer & 8 Ball, chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 lb English peas, shelled
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, stems removed (I used Terra Firma Farm’s Golden Nuggets, first of the season! We also have their Sungolds & Sweet 100s)
  • ½ bunch basil
  • 1 stalk green garlic, bulb halved and greens finely chopped
  • 1 red spring onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or to taste. Any milder/sweeter vinegar would work- champagne or white wine, or lemon juice)
  • Olive oil
  • Golden Valley Farm’s Pepato Cheese to finish (Pepato is a wonderful peppercorn-studded aged sheep’s milk cheese from the fine folks who make Yosemite Bluff, down in Chowchilla, CA. The pepper complements the natural sweetness of the squash and other veggies.)

Directions:

  • Shave long squashes into ribbons using a mandolin or vegetable peeler. (If you don’t have one, a Benriner Japanese mandolin is one of the best kitchen tools you can have. They cost around $15 and are long-lasting and durable).
  • Place squash shavings in a bowl, and salt generously. Toss to distribute salt and set aside. The salt will pull out the excess moisture from the squash so you salad won’t get soggy. If you are eating it right away, you don’t need to do this, but it helps tenderize it as well.
  • Heat up a cast iron skillet over med-high heat. Add a little olive oil, and add half of the chopped squashes in a single layer. Avoid overcrowding the pan; if it is too crowded the squash will just steam. Giving them a hard sear caramelizes the sugars and brings out the natural sweetness, and adds a bit of nice crisp texture on the outside. Season with a little salt. Once they are browned, flip to brown on all sides. Set aside, and cook off the rest of the squash.
  • Wipe out the pan, add a little more oil, then drop in the English peas. Sauté for 1 minute or until just barely cooked. Set aside. Add a bit more oil, then add the green garlic and cherry tomatoes, sauté until the garlic is browned and the tomatoes are starting to split. Set aside.
  • Pound the green garlic with half of the basil to form a coarse paste. Add enough red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt to taste.
  • Toss with the squash “noodles,” roasted squashes, peas, tomatoes and spring onion. Finish with some torn fresh basil and shaved Pepato Cheese to taste.

 


Simon

Local Cherries and the Realities of the California Drought

cherriesWith the arrival of the first red sweet cherries from the Central Valley coming later than usual, the reality of the Northern California cherry crop failure has set in. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we support local, organic farms and farmers.

Over the past ten years we’ve started cherry season at Bi-Rite with the amazing Red Garnet cherry form Ed George, followed a week later by cherries from Hidden Star Orchard and Frog Hollow’s Burlat Cherry. By the time the third week of May rolls around, we’re usually knee-deep in Brooks, Bings and Rainier cherries from our favorite local growers. Unfortunately, the warm weather and drought this winter wasn’t kind to the cherry trees. Without enough cold nights this winter, the trees never met their chilling requirement after entering dormancy. The lack of cold nights, coupled with the stress of drought conditions, means that instead of beginning to produce fruit from the dormant buds, the trees go straight to preparing for the next season.

cherries 3

Cherries are currently on our Produce shelves!

Ed George, who has historically brought us our first cherries of the year from Winters, CA, had complete crop failure, leaving him with only a handful of cherries per tree. Johann Smit of Hidden Star, who usually brings us the season’s first organic cherries, said he’s gotten about 50% crop failure (we will have some of the Hidden Star cherries on our shelves this year but it won’t be the epic cherry celebration we’ve come to love). Meanwhile, Farmer Al of Frog Hollow lost about half his crop and only has enough for farmer’s markets.

We will do our best to source California cherries throughout May but the price will be a little higher than usual, starting the season at $9.99/lb. Most likely, the cherries coming in from the North West in June will be some of the best of the season. We do have some good cherries on the shelves now, but if you can’t get your hands on them in time or if the prices prove too high, “Eat a berry instead of a cherry.” And for the sake of all of our local farmer friends and all of our guests who count on us for good local produce, let’s hope that weather conditions improve soon!


Eat more artichokes!

ArtichokesItalians love artichokes and I know why! They’re healthy, surprisingly sweet, and easy to prepare at home.  They pair well with my favorite flavors and ingredients of Italy like lemons, garlic, olive oil, and fresh herbs like mint.  Artichokes are great in salads, risotto, pastas and even open-faced sandwiches–try one with a spread of fresh cream cheese and herbs!

I often see folks with looks of amazement and curiosity when they see a bountiful display of baby artichokes at Bi-Rite Market. They’re beautiful to look at, but some can be confounded about just how to approach enjoying them. Next time you find yourself pondering how to prepare and eat an artichoke, let us know and we’ll be happy to introduce you to this amazing flowering thistle with an incredible taste. They’re delicious and  ready to eat raw, but it seems like sometimes the biggest obstacle to enjoying artichokes is knowing how to peel and cut them properly. This can actually be done in a few simple steps; let me take you through it.

peeling

First turn the artichokes in your hands, peeling down the pale leaves as you go.

topping stem

Next, peel and trim the stem…

topping stem 2

…taking off any woodiness or tough skin. Remove any of the tougher tips that are left.

halvin' the choke

Now you can half the artichoke…

halvin' the choke 2

…by cutting down the middle.

quartering the choke

If you like, you can go another step and quarter it by cutting the halves.

You can also easily shave the artichoke into smaller pieces. If you do this over a salad with arugula or radicchio, the raw bits of artichoke will make a great topping that you can mix right into the salad as you would with shaved fennel. You’ll find that the baby artichoke tastes slightly bitter at first, but its sugars will quickly lead to a finish with a surprising sweetness.

Italy grows more than ten times the quantity of artichokes than we grow here in the United States. California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. crop, and about 80% of that is grown in Monterey County, close to our Markets.  Artichokes are generally green but many of my favorite farmers, like Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero, CA, grow purple chokes which have a stronger flavor–wilder with a more pronounced bitterness.

After I prep and trim up some baby artichokes, my favorite way to enjoy is to roast them in the oven, which really concentrates the flavor. Half the trimmed chokes and toss them with olive oil, chopped garlic, and herbs. Roast in a 400° F oven until tender and golden. Once they come out of the oven, season with a nice pinch of Maldon Sea Salt, a squeeze of lemon, and a bit more olive oil.  Enjoy!


Matt R.

Feautured Winery: Chateau Maris

wine1How ‘green’ can a winery be? It seems that the folks at Chateau Maris are pushing the limits of what makes a winemaking operation both healthy for the environment and as sustainable as possible.

Founded about 20 years ago by Englishmen Robert Eden and Kevin Parker, Chateau Maris was created with the goal of becoming one of the Languedoc‘s best estates while respecting the environment to the highest standards. They purchased old, dilapidated vines and began to restore them and the rest of their land from the previous farmer’s overuse of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Robert is a biodynamic winemaker and has used biodynamic preparations and composts since day one.

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They also employ local flora and fauna to help restore the balance to the land and maintain a healthy growing environment. This includes local livestock for compost, diverse cover crops like barley, bulgur, and mustard to avoid monoculture, and teas and tisanes of nettles, chamomile, and lavender to restore minerals to the soil. Today, they’ve also just completed construction on the world’s first hemp winery. The idea is fascinating ­– bricks made of hemp and lime, both naturally derived, are used to build a structure around a locally-sourced wooden frame. Over time, the hemp bricks actually absorb carbon from the atmosphere, hardening and strengthening as they transform into limestone, as well as naturally controlling temperature and humidity with no additional cooling or heating systems needed. Robert and Eden also collect rainwater, have plans to construct a wind farm, use recycled super-light glass and recycled paper for their bottles, and donate $1.50 from each bottle sold to one of three charities: The Jane Goodall Institute, The Rainforest Foundation, and The International Polar Fund.

And what about the wines? We know that just because a wine is made responsibly doesn’t necessarily mean it’s made well. Fortunately for Chateau Maris, the quality of their wines, especially for the price, matches the efforts put into them. All the wines are made with native fermentation, fermented in custom conical oak casks and cement eggs, and never fined nor filtered. The wines represent the Languedoc, an often forgotten region, as a region capable of producing wines of great character, rusticity, and sense of place. Come by either Market to try the wines of Chateau Maris!

wine32012 Chateau Maris Picpoul de Pinet  –  $14.99

Picpoul is a grape native to the Languedoc as well as the name for the Cru of white wines made there, Picpoul de Pinet. It’s often called the ‘Muscadet of the South’ due to its similarity to the signature grape of Northwestern France that has a familiar tart acidity and salty minerality. Best enjoyed in the sunshine, this Picpoul is loaded with tart green apple, chamomile notes, and zippy acidity. A great pairing with fresh seafood or spring veggies!

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2012 Chateau Maris Old School Rosé  –  $17.99

From their old-school vineyard, planted in 1959, which to this day is still plowed by horse (Karabi is his name!) and harvested by hand, this rosé is made mostly from Cinsault. Juicy strawberry, cherry, and orange zest notes lead to a crisp and fruity palate that has enough heft to pair well with a variety of dishes. Try with a classic salade nicoise and you’ll swear your sitting on the Mediterranean.

wine52011 Chateau Maris Old School Rouge  –  $12.99

A blend of mostly Syrah with a bit of Grenache, this red is everything you’d want in an everyday table red. Fermented and aged in concrete egg-shaped tanks, the nose is peppery and herbal with flavors of blackberry, currants, and herbs de provence. Great with any weeknight supper!

 

 

2010 Chateau Maris Natural Selection  –  $19.99wine6

A similar blend to the Old School Rouge, this red is a bit more serious, with about half of the wine aging in concrete and the other half in conical oak foudre, 30% of which are new. This gives it a bit more silky tannin on the finish, along with a slightly more herbal and spicy grip. A great red for grilling season!

wine72010 Chateau Maris Continuite de Nature  –  $29.99

Definitely the most serious of the three red wines we have from Chateau Maris, this blend is 90% Carignan blended with 10% Grenache from vines planted in 1922. It’s aged and fermented in large oak casts for 18 months and has rich dark-fruited notes like currants and elderberries alongside a silky and long finish; a testament to how elegant Carignan can become!

Upcoming Events:

18th Hour Cafe – Thursdays, 6-9PM – Drop-In – At 18 Reasons

Tasting with Taylor Sorenson from Winewise – Sunday, March 23, 4-6PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero

Magnolia Beer Tasting – Thursday, March 27, 4-6PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero

Tasting Seminar: Sherry and Madeira – Tuesday, April 15, 7-9PM, – At 18 Reasons

Beer Workshop: Malt – Wednesday, April 16, 7-9PM – At 18 Reasons

Inexpensive and Incredible: How to Spot Great Value Wine – Monday, April 21, 7-9PM, At 18 Reasons

Spring Wine Blitz Preview Tasting – Thursday, April 24, 6-8PM – At 18 Reasons

Spring Wine Blitz! – Monday, April 28 through Sunday, May 4 – At Both Markets!

Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or special requests (415.241.9760 for 18th St. or 415.551.7900 for Divis) or email wine@biritemarket.com.