Home Archive by category 'Producers Whose Food We Celebrate' (Page 3)

Archive for the ‘Producers Whose Food We Celebrate’ Category


Matt R.

Domaine Dupasquier: Savoie Terroir

savoie1Visiting the picturesque town of Aimavigne, France is like taking a trip to a land found only in a storybook. The sweeping hills leading up to the Alps are dotted with steep vineyards and cut by winding roads leading to pristine lakes. The town name comes from a French phrase, “Aimer le vigne,” which translates to, “Love the vine.” So it’s no surprise that Noël Dupasquier and his son David, now fifth generation winemakers in Aimevigne, are working so hard to preserve the Savoie’s native grape varietals like Monduese, Altesse, and Jacquere.

We’re always excited by the arrival of Domaine Dupasquier’s wines to our shelves! They are one of the few producers left in the area really trying to showcase what the native grapes of the Savoie can do rather than ripping up old vines and replanting more ‘fashionable’ grapes. Here’s what we currently have from them:

savoie22010 Domaine Dupasquier Jacquère  –  $15.99

Jacquère is often referred to as the Muscadet of the east (of France). Native to the Savoie, it’s a grape known for producing light, crisp, and briney whites suitable for everyday drinking. Noël and David hold all of their wines back an extra year for aging – atypical compared to the other producers in the area. So the sometimes overly racy acidity in Jacquère is a little more mellow and rounded out in their wine. It has bright lemon, lime, and grassy aromas followed by flavors of lemon, apricot,  and a crisp, tart, finish. It’s perfect alongside a variety of dishes from briney seafood to spicy curries.

Perfect Pairing: Ginger and soy stir-fried winter veggies

 

savoie32009 Domaine Dupasquier Gamay  –  $19.99

Noël and David really do make the most of their small plantings of Gamay. Having been aged in used foudre (extra large barrels), this Gamay is bright and expressive. It rivals some of our favorite Cru Beaujolais bottlings and at a very affordable price! Bright fruit aromas, are followed by flavors of tart cherry, minerals, and earth. Great acidity makes this a bottle suitable for drinking now or one you could lay down for a few years. Grab some while you can – all of these wines are very limited!

Perfect Pairing: Sharfe Maxx Extra (pictured below!)


savoie42009 Domaine Dupasquier Pinot Noir  –  $21.99

The Dupasquier Pinot is another great value, rivaling some beautiful Burgundies! Again having been aged over a year in used foudre, this cool climate Pinot has had time to mellow out. Bright cherry aromas are followed closely by earthy and herbal qualities like pepper and fennel. Like any cool climate Pinot, it has a bright and clean acidity and flavors of cranberry, earth, and stony minerals. It’s one of our all-time favorite Pinots and pairs well with a variety of dishes.

Perfect Pairing: Seared scallops with caramelized fennel

 

savoie5Cheese of the Week: Sharfe Maxx Extra

As we continue to celebrate great Alpine cheeses, we’re excited to welcome Sharfe Maxx Extra! Made at the Studer family dairy in Thurgau, Switzerland, this is the extra aged version of their regular Sharfe Maxx. While the original Sharfe Maxx is aged for 6 months, Maxx Extra is aged for a year before release. A wholly unique Swiss cheese, the recipe is similar to an Appenzeller, but uses whole milk and added cream for a rich, creamy texture. The wheels are washed repeatedly, resulting in a pungent and sweet aroma. The extra aging also results in those wonderful little protein crystals dotting the paste. Come ask us for a taste!

 

Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons:

Thursdays, Every week, 6-10PM, Drop-in: 18th Hour Cafe

Saturday, January 26, 7-9PM, Ticketed: Producer Dinner: Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars


Interview with Tipu’s Chai Founder Bipin Patel

Tipus 1

Bipin with his popular brew

We asked Bipin Patel, the founder of Tipu’s Chai, a few questions to learn more about his story and the process behind his amazing Chai tea blends.

Tipu’s Chai is a new product for us at Bi-Rite Market. Where does your chai recipe come from and what makes it so unique?

I was born and raised in a large Indian family in Uganda. I grew up drinking my grandmother’s masala chai. She brought it with her from her native Gujarat in northwestern India. Our chai recipe uses several ground spices like ginger and cardamom, which we specially blend with a strong organic black tea, such as Assam, to create a rich, spicy and robust flavor.

Can you tell us about your newest Chai products?

We offer a variety of quick-brew chai products for chai lovers on the go or for relaxing at home. All the products are made using all-natural ingredients with no preservatives. They are also certified kosher and most are organic.

  • All You Need is Water is our quick-brew chai tea latte made with black tea, organic spices, organic non-GMO soy milk powder, organic evaporated cane juice and ginger. This product is also vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, certified kosher and includes four grams of protein per serving. Chai fans simply add hot (or cold) water for a chai tea latte on the go.
  • The Simple Life uses soluble microground Black Chai tea without sweeteners or milk products. It is pure black tea, organic spices and ginger.

tipus2What prompted you to start your own chai company?

In many ways, it came naturally. I opened a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Missoula, Montana called Tipu’s Tiger (named after Tipu Sultan) in 1998, using mostly family recipes, one of which was my grandmother’s chai recipe. We used to make between 10-15 gallons of chai every day. Before long, local cafes and restaurants wanted to serve it to their patrons, so we developed various chai products to serve their needs. Tipu’s Chai was born! A few years ago, I sold the restaurant to focus on the chai business.

So, Indian chai vs. coffee?

Well, chai definitely has more healthy ingredients, and the tea offers more anti-oxidants. Chai is also easier on the digestive system and has lower levels of caffeine. All the spices we use in chai have a health value. For example, ginger helps with digestion; cinnamon increases circulation; and cardamom is known to benefit the lungs and heart.

What are some new trends you are seeing in this category?

I believe strongly that people will continue to want authentic and natural/organic products. As people travel the world more and taste authentic chai in India they will search for companies locally that are creating this same experience. Also, today’s consumers are looking for food and beverages made without artificial ingredients or preservatives, and we definitely do this!

Visit us for a taste of Tipu’s authentic Indian chai this Saturday, January 19th from 10am-1pm: meet Mark Lannen from Tipu’s Chai and learn more about this exciting new company from Montana!


Matt R.

Meet the Producer: Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars

- November Wine Blitz   ✓

- Thanksgiving                ✓

- December Wine Blitz  __

- Hanukkah                    __

- Christmas                    __

- New Years                   __

Man, the Holidays are moving by quickly! We hope everyone has recovered from Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday . . . did I miss any?? But thank goodness it’s Wine Newsletter Wednesday!

Just to remind you, the last of our three annual Wine Blitzes officially kicks off next Thursday, December 6th and runs through Sunday, December 9th, at which point we’ll take 20% off 12 or more bottles of wine mix-and-match with free delivery in San Francisco. If you anticipate going through at least 12 bottles of wine between now and May 2013 for holiday parties, New Years, gifts,and general consumption, this is your last chance to stock up with such a steep discount for a while!

And don’t miss our Wine Blitz Preview Tasting is this Friday, November 30th from 6PM – 8PM at 18 Reasons. We’ll be pouring plenty of new wines that we’re excited about for this final Wine Blitz. We’re also pleased to welcome Berkeley-based winemaker Chris Brockway to this Friday’s tasting event where he’ll be pouring five of his wines. Chris was named the SF Chronicle’s Winemaker to Watch in 2012, and this tasting is a great opportunity to stop by, meet Chris, chat about his wines, as well as explore many other exciting new wines for our December Wine Blitz!

2011 Broc Cellars Valdiguié  –  $19.99; Blitz Pricing  –  $15.99

Chris discovered a vineyard plot in Solano county growing a grape that is today known at Valdiguié. For a while, growers in Napa thought this grape was Gamay, the ubiquitous grape of the Beaujolais region. However, the clever researchers at UC Davis have since determined that this grape is unique and in fact a little known varietal native to the Languedoc, France. But, it’s understandable that growers in California confused this grape with Gamay for so long since it produces wines dark in color but low in alcohol, with very similar flavor profiles. Chris has even made this wine using carbonic maceration, an old, traditional Beaujolais winemaking technique that brings out brighter fruit qualities. This bottling is light on its feet with bright strawberry and cherry aromas. Light in body (and alcohol) this wine is too quaffable and makes a perfect bottle to sip by a cozy winter fire.

Perfect Pairing: Roasted butternut squash stuffed with wild mushrooms

 

2011 Broc Cellars Carbonic Carignan  –  $22.99; Blitz Pricing  –  $18.39

The grapes for this wine come from a very special vineyard site. Chris is proud to say that he saved this vineyard from “Cabernetification” by preventing the now 120 year old Carignan vines on the site from being ripped up. These are vines that are planted on their original root stock – a true rarity as the great majority of vines in the world today have been grafted. Carignan itself is an outsider in California these days, with very few plantings of this fun Spanish grape remaining. As the name, Carbonic Carignan suggests, Chris also makes this wine using carbonic maceration – allowing the whole fruit to ferment from the inside out before crushing them. The result is a light and fresh wine with bright red fruit aromas followed by a bit of spice and scents of wild herbs from those old vines.

Perfect Pairing: Smoked salmon and grilled chicory salad

 

2010 Broc Cellars Vine Starr Zinfandel  –  $24.99; Blitz Pricing  –  $19.99
This wine is named after Chris’s great-great-great-great-great-great-uncle born in 1801 in Norway – yes his name was Vine Starr Brockway. This is one of Chris’s original bottlings and is meant to be a lighter style version of the typically bold and spicy Sonoma Zinfandels. The blend varies slightly every vintage and this vintage is mostly Zinfandel, blended with a very small percentage of Syrah. It makes a great everyday red, with a medium body and plenty of dark fruit and spice qualities like black pepper, huckleberry, and cardamom.

Perfect Pairing: Spice rubbed spare ribs

  

Cheese of the Week: Cowgirl Creamery’s Devil’s Gulch

The latest seasonal release from Cowgirl Creamery is here! Their winter cheese is Devil’s Gulch, a creamy, bloomy rinded cheese made of Jersey cow’s milk from John Taverna’s dairy. Essentially the same cheese inside as their other seasonal cheeses (St. Pat, Chimney Rock, and Pierce Point), the dusting of toppings rotates seasonally. Devil’s Gulch is topped with blend of dried sweet and gently spicy peppers from All Star Organics Farm in Nicasio. The peppers are not at all overwhelmingly spicy and just add a pleasant sweet and mild kick to the rind. These mini wheels are just arriving in the store today, so swing by and ask us for a taste!

 


Field Trip to Full Belly Farm Hoes Down

Communities come in all shapes and forms. We like to talk about how the relationships we build through buying and selling food strengthen our Bi-Rite community–our staff, guests, and food producers. But it’s times like last weekend that remind me how broad our community really is.

For the first time I got my act together to venture northeast of SF to Yolo County, the home of Full Belly Farm, for their annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival. We celebrate Full Belly throughout the year in the form of the amazing melons, squashes, potatoes and more they send us to sell in our produce section. Sam, Anne, Simon and the rest of our staff who make this an annual getaway had raved about how good the air feels up there, but I couldn’t have imagined quite how special this coming together of farmers, cooks, eaters, kids, animals, and every other happy being there could be.

Highlights of the day included:

  • The parking lot volunteers! These were the first people I interacted with upon arriving, and the grins on these guys’ faces said it all. Talk about pride–from all of the volunteers to the Full Belly staff to the hundreds of visitors, we all knew how fortunate we were to be celebrating this amazing family’s work and land.
  • The farm tour given by Hallie (the daughter of Dru and Paul, Full Belly’s owners, who grew up on the farm and now coordinates the Hoes Down) and farmer Andrew. As we stood in a grove of walnut trees, Andrew talked about the wonder that is soil: how alive it is, how many billions of organisms it contains. When we’re standing on a farm, we may be blown away by fruit trees over our heads or veggie vines at our ankles, but what’s really amazing at Full Belly is the health of the soil underneath our feet. It was on this tour that Simon turned to me and said “This is the part where I start to cry!”
  • The food! Man can the farm crowd cook–I started with an avocado lime popsicle, then moved on to tackle a plate of the most succulent grilled lamb and falafel (around the campfire we plotted a new dish for Bi-Rite–a lamb falafel ball–we’ll see if that comes to pass!)
  • The camping groves: take your pick between pitching your tent under almond trees, walnut trees, and more.
  • Square dancing–they made it look so easy!

And I couldn’t believe that we were swimming on an October day! Wading around in the beautiful, calm river that borders the farm, I felt like one of a herd of human elephants.

The Full Belly crew literally had to push people off the farm come Monday morning; the support of all of us who drove hours to the farm is testament to the relationships they’ve built over the years, and the secret to their success!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ian

Register Recipe: Benton’s Old Fashioned

Despite the recent string of San Francisco Indian Summer days, fall is definitely here. The nights are cool and clear and the light is changing. In the Market stone fruit has been replaced by an array of apples and pears in every color, texture and flavor. Brussels sprouts, chicories and winter squash are coming in as well, and in every department we’re helping our guests with fall recipes. With all this in mind I thought I’d offer a seasonally appropriate cocktail, something a little stronger and with all the right flavors of harvest to compliment an early fall night…

This recipe is borrowed and modified from Jim Meehan’s PDT Cocktail Book, one of the year’s best reference books from Meehan’s New York bar. Mixologist Don Lee created the beverage to bring together one of his favorite pork products with one of his favorite spirits.

Allan Benton is a famous producer of traditional hickory-smoked hams from Monroe County, Tennessee. His bacon is prized for its rich, smoky character and has earned such accolades as “World’s Best Bacon” from Esquire Magazine. In the cocktail, the hickory smoke complements the spice of the bourbon and the rich sweetness of maple syrup; it’s a terrific play on the original elements of an Old-Fashioned.

Lee uses Four Roses Bourbon, but I’ve substituted the more economical Bulleit Bourbon which I’ve found to be a fine stand-in. Preparing the bourbon is simple and well worth the modest effort, and once prepared it’s shelf-stable!

The next time you wake up to a chill in the air and the desire to cook I hope you’ll enjoy this world-class bacon for breakfast and this perfect fall cocktail by the time the sun goes down (which is earlier, after all…)

 

Benton’s Old Fashioned

2 oz. Benton’s Bacon Fat-Infused Bulleit Bourbon (recipe below)

.25 oz. Mead & Meads Grade B Maple Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass with one large cube. Garnish with an orange twist

 

Benton’s Bacon Fat-Infused Bulleit Bourbon

1.5 oz. Benton’s Bacon Fat

1 750-ml bottle Bulleit Bourbon

On low heat, warm the bacon fat in a small saucepan until it melts, about 5 min. Combine liquid fat and bourbon in a large, non-reactive container and stir. Infuse for 4 hours, then place container in freezer for 2 hours. Remove solid fat, fine-strain bourbon through a cheesecloth, and bottle.

 

 

 


Three Ranchers We Love

Don Watson

This fall we have some amazing opportunities to meet the ranchers we love working with at Bi-Rite.

The first on September 19th is a one-two knock-out series with Don Watson, our favorite sheep guy. Did you know he lends his wooly creatures to mow lawns across the Bay Area?  At the first class, watch Bi-Rite Butcher Zane Clark break down a whole lamb into primal and sub-primal cuts, then explain the best way to cook each cut of meat. To inspire your palate we’ll be serve up a lamb snack and beer. Tickets are $25 for members and $35 for the general public.

The following week on September 26th, meet Don in person over dinner and wine. Don and his wife will join us for a five course meal featuring his beautiful lamb prepared by Bi-Rite chef Wyatt Sandberg. For a delectable meal, wine and a talk with the rancher,  tickets are $50 for members and $60 for the general public.

Bill Niman

If you buy tickets to both you’ll get a discounted ticket price! If you can only come to one, that’s ok, too. Choose the class you prefer and sign up quick! Tickets for both Don Watson events are here.

Inspiration from our Farm Tour Series has led us to hit the road again on October 13th, this time heading north to BN Ranch to meet Bill & Nicolette Niman and Devil’s Gulch Ranch to meet Mark Pasternak and Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak. Mark will be whipping up lunch for us, cowboy style. Tickets for members are $40, for the general public $50. Tickets and more information about the ranch tour are here.

Mark Pasternak

Bill Niman is a pretty famous name around here for his beef production. His latest project, under the BN Ranch name, has shifted his focus on maturing beef to enhance flavor and texture. They are a grass based ranch that raises pasture raised cattle, heritage turkeys, and (sometimes) goats. They never use pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizers on their land, use no irrigation, ground water or municipal water, and never administer hormones or antibiotics on their animals.

Devil’s Gulch Ranch, a diversified family farm located in Nicasio, Marin County, produces rabbits, pigs, sheep, premium wine grapes and asparagus for retail customers and direct sales to high-quality restaurants. Sustainable, humane agricultural practices and organic farming are utilized whenever possible.
What are you waiting for? Put on your favorite jeans and boots and join us!

 


Simon

Diggin’ Deeper: Visiting Some of our Favorite Farms

As Bi-Rite’s produce buyer I spend a lot of time talking to farms and building relationships that in the end provide us with amazing produce to put on our shelves.  One of the biggest challenges of working at such a busy market is finding the time to visit these farms and learn more about their operations.  This summer we launched our first series of farm tours through our non-profit 18 Reasons, giving members of the community a chance to get out of the city, walk the fields and talk to the farmers that grow their food.

Olivia (our 18 Reasons event coordinator) and I recently took a group down to Watsonville to visit Yerena and Tomatero Farms. We are very lucky to have so many small farms in Northern California growing a wide range of crops.  However, it’s still hard to find a consistent supply of certain crops from small farms; organic raspberries are a perfect example. Raspberries are a very delicate crop and labor intensive to harvest, so large farms like Driscoll have become the main growers throughout the country.

Ricardo of Yerena teaching our group about their farming methods

Poli Yerena, the head farmer/owner of Yerena, and his family are doing their best to change this. After perfecting his berry growing skills farming for Driscoll for 12 years, he started a small farm with his brother and his two sons. Ricardo, an agronomist, tends to the crops every day while Adrian takes care of the sales. Yerena Organic Farm is a beautiful 16-acre piece of land located in the rolling hills just off the coast of Monterey Bay. Yerena grows three different varieties of raspberries that ripen at different times in the season, giving them a steady supply of berries all summer long and into the fall.  They do an amazing job picking the perfectly ripe berry before it gets too soft; there’s nothing like getting a delivery of fresh raspberries that were picked earlier that day!

Yerena's experiments with heirloom crops: red corn, with shelling beans growing up the stalk!

Yerena Farm might be known for their strawberries and raspberries, but they are also experimenting with heirloom crops from their homeland of Mexico.   It was pretty awesome seeing large stalks of red corn growing 6 ft. tall with an heirloom shelling bean growing up the stalk.  The Yerena family was so generous, sharing baskets of berries with everyone and telling great stories about the family’s farming history and plans to expand the operation in the future. We’re so excited to support Yerena in years to come and can’t wait for their next berry delivery to Bi-Rite!

Tomatero Farm

Next, we headed up the coast to check out Tomatero Farm’s cool weather plot of land, nestled right on the coastline.  This 14-acre parcel gives Tomatero the opportunity to grow beautiful greens and brassicas during the middle of the summer when it’s too hot to grow them inland.  Tomatero grows organically on over 100 acres, comprised of a few different pieces of land from the Watsonville coast through to Hollister, and their young farmers have not skipped a beat with the quality of their produce as the farm has expanded.  Farmer Chris does a wonderful job growing staple crops like lettuce, carrots, basil and strawberries all summer long….but Tomatero’s most popular crop at Bi-Rite Market right now is their extra-flavorful dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes.  Please come by and have a taste!


Raph

The Story of Baia Pasta: Traditional Italian Pasta Made In Our Own Backyard

I asked Renato Sardo, the founder of Oakland’s Baia Pasta, to share the story of how their amazing organic brass-extruded pasta came to be. Here’s what he had to say:

Baia's Oakland shop

I had the idea of starting Baia Pasta a couple of years ago, walking along the dried pasta aisle of a local store. It seemed to me crazy that all of the boxes of artisanal pasta were coming from Italy, when I knew that the provenance of most of the wheat (at least 50% of it) comes from North America. With some notable exceptions (Mancini, Fabbri, Martelli and few other small producers) all of the good pasta available here was made with grains that have traveled across the Atlantic twice.

I was born and raised in Italy, eating good dried pasta practically every day – fresh pasta is generally eaten on special occasions or weekends when you have big meals with the whole family – and I thought it strange that in the Bay Area I could find the same brands as at my grocer in Piemonte. At the same time, the only dried pasta produced in the States I could find was bland, made with industrial flours that are probably produced very efficiently, but that are not very flavorful.

Last year I decided finally to try to start  a truly artisan American pastasciutta company. I teamed up with a good friend of mine (Dario Barbone – a San Francisco resident) who is better than me with machines and with social media…I spent some months in Italy on a real pasta pilgrimage…and after months spent looking for the right spot, we finally opened our production space in Jack London Square in Oakland this February.

We are producing all of our pasta using only organic flours from North America; for the moment we offer pasta in durum wheat (the classical semolina flour), whole durum wheat, spelt and whole spelt. The production follows the practices and techniques of the Italian artisans: we use brass dies which scratch the surface of the noodle, causing it to suck up more sauce; cold water in kneading; and low drying temperature. We are able to produce noodles in a dozen different shapes. Some of them are real regional Italian classics like the gnocchetti sardi (sardinians), the maccheroni (macs) or paccheri (pac-macs), and others are more unusual, like the creste di gallo (mohawks) or the gigli (lilies).

Our goal for the next couple of years is to start selling a line of gluten-free pasta, to make longer noodles (for which more expensive equipment is required) and above all to start collaborating with local farmers to grow durum wheat, kamut, or spelt grains for our pasta in order to achieve full traceability on the flours.

Bi-Rite was the first grocery store to approach us and confirm their support, and since bringing our pasta to Bi-Rite, we’ve sold about three times as much as we’d projected when we first met with Raph and Sam. Bi-Rite’s customers have been the real patrons of Baia Pasta. I want to thank enormously all of you for the wonderful support you have shown in these first months of our existence. Without you buying our pasta in flock it would have been much harder for me and Dario, and we would not be able to move forward with plans for expansion.

 


Sunbud Bakery Buckwheat Cookies: From One Bi-Rite Guest to the Rest (with Love)

When you’re standing in the aisles of Bi-Rite Market, looking at the faces of guests to your left and right, do you consider that you might be looking at the very producers of the food you’re buying? Well, you should! Turns out many of our guests have over the years become producers of the food we sell (just like many of our guests have become staff members). The list goes on: Michelle Manfredi’s SFQ BBQ sauce, Michelle Pusateri’s  Nana Joe’s Granola, Cristina Widjaja’s Hey Boo Jams, Josie Baker’s Bread….and the newest on the list, Atsuko Watanabe’s Sunbud Bakery Buckwheat Cookies!

Atsuko, the founder of Sunbud Bakery, lives a few blocks away in Noe Valley and has been visiting Bi-Rite several times a week for years. My guess is that a lot of those visits were spent musing over her future cookie line, because these cookies are the result of many years as a pastry chef and food marketer. After training at the Cordon Bleu and working in Parisian pastry kitchens, she moved back to the US and managed the marketing for Donsuemor, famous for their French Madeleine Cookies.

But she always wanted to create her own cookie, so after tasting her way through bakeries around the world, it was her characteristically Japanese attention to detail that led her to test hundreds of batches and endless recipes before landing on the right cookie. What’s neat about Atsuko’s cookies is that she chose buckwheat as the main ingredient not because it’s gluten free (although that’s a bonus!), but because it tastes so good! Atsuko’s ties to buckwheat run deep, from the soba she grew up eating in Japanese dishes to crepes she made as a pastry chef in France. Buckwheat is a super source of protein and magnesium, and we love it for its nutty, earthy, toasty goodness.

To the buckwheat base she adds almonds and dried unsulphered apricots (for the apricot cookie) or dried unsulphured currants, unsweetened chocolate and organic cacao nibs (for the chocolate currant cookie).  For sweetness she uses agave nectar and coconut palm sugar (low glycemic and hinting of caramel), and she uses coconut oil, which is high in healthy lauric acid.

Atsuko and Jennifer, her Sunbud partner, will be here to share their cookies with other Bi-Rite guests on Sunday August 12th from 2-5. Come by for a taste of Sunbud—with rich almonds and tangy dried fruit, you’ll see and taste her wholesome ingredients taste in each bite.


Shakirah

Jamming My Way Through the Food World

Three years ago this month, I ventured into the crazy world of food start-ups in San Francisco. My goal? To claim world domination through delicious, jewel-colored jars filled with fresh fruit, sugar, lemon and a whole lotta love. With a hint towards my production methods and a not-so-subtle nod to my favorite music genre, Slow Jams was born. With the help of La Cocina, I garnered a fair amount of attention, grew my business, and even made it to national TV. Not bad for a Harlem-raised girl who didn’t taste a fresh apricot until her first visit to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market.

And then my life completely changed.

Along with being quite the foodie, I’m also a really big nerd. It turns out that the US State Department recognized said fact and I was awarded a prestigious 1-year Fulbright fellowship to attend the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. Selected to earn my Master’s degree in Food Culture and Communications, I tried to ready myself for copious wine tasting, olive oil sniffing and the consumption of ungodly amounts of cured pork products.

Alas, I had to say goodbye to Slow Jams and the momentum I had gained. But last year was incredible, from learning about traditional cheese-making in a hut atop the Dolomite mountains, to getting schooled by nonnas in the art of making tortelli pasta, to having thoughtful conversations about food sustainability with professors from around the world. Not to mention making my way through daily life in our tiny town with my Tarzan Italian (“Me want the cappuccino there now please!”).

However, in my heart, canning and preserving never went away. As I immersed myself in Italian food culture and traditions, I began to see parallels with our food culture here in the Bay Area. Throughout my travels, I sought ‘kindred canners’ and bonded across language barriers. I discussed sugar content and troublesome label-makers with a small-jam producer in Emilia. I learned secrets of mostarda in Reggio and discovered a native pumpkin only used for its pectin. I also taught “the American way” of canning for bemused audience of old and young Italians.

Earlier this year, I returned to the Bay a certified gastronome trying to find her place again in the food world. I knew canning and preserving would be a part of my life, as would my deep commitment to food systems work. So I asked my favorite dreamer-entrepreneur-foodie Sam if there was a place for me at Bi-Rite. As a new member of the Bi-Rite family, I now wear a number of hats. I’m working as our Community Coordinator, continuing our support of so many San Francisco organizations that need our help, and forging new programs that aim to increase access to healthy food across our city’s neighborhoods. I’m hosting our Sunday cooking classes at 18 Reasons (tickets are available for my blackberry-palooza on August 5th!) And as our in-house canner, I now work with our farmers, grocery and produce teams to make small-batch, seasonal preserves out of our Bi-Rite kitchens right here on 18th Street.

Macerating the peaches for my Bi-Rite PUBLIC Label jam

It would only make sense that pairing my jam expertise with the best of directly-sourced fruit from our farmers would yield some delicious new additions to the Bi-Rite shelves. Combining my trademark New York obsession with top quality, my commitment to preserving our Bay Area produce bounty, and a new hint of Italian flair, I’ve come up with several tasty preserves that we’ll offer in our new Bi-Rite PUBLIC Label line. Leave no cream scone untopped by my Summer Berry Jam; it’s clean, bold and fruit forward, bursting with fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. And be on the lookout for the Santa Rosa Plum Preserve I’ve made from the tart and sweet plums we harvested from our Sonoma Farm.

We’ll be sharing tastes of our new PUBLIC Label releases throughout the summer; swing by and say hi, I’m looking forward to seeing some new and old faces! I have lots more up my sleeve and am pumped to have my Bi-Rite fam on my side.

Jam on!


Simon

Zee Grand Yellow Nectarine: Maximum Juiciness, at Altitude

Have you heard of “mountain fruit”? Our staff is just starting to learn about it. Grown on higher ground, mountain fruit ripens S…L…O…W…L…Y, which causes the flavor to build towards serious sweetness, and the fruit’s skin to get thick and crunchy (in the best of ways).

We’ve just received our first delivery of Zee Grand yellow nectarines from Marchini Ranch in Placerville. One third of their 170 acre farm is used for growing stone fruit (at 2,800 ft. elevation in the Sierra Nevada foothills); they also grow apples and wine grapes.  To achieve such big flavor, the farmers at Marchini use growing practices like minimal and strategic watering, and minimal fertilizer, administered only my hand.

Mountain fruit is picked ripe, and is best enjoyed when the fruit is firm.  So don’t buy one of these Zee Grands and let it sit out on the counter for a week before you eat it–by then the flavor will be long gone.  When eaten firm, mountain fruit is juicy, crunchy, sweet and more flavorful than you can imagine.  Every time you bite into a piece, you’ll say to yourself “WOW!, that’s amazing”. Lucky for us, their season extends well into September!


Faun

Life, Liberty and the Prosciutto of Happiness

Independence Day is the perfect time to liberate our taste buds!  We’re celebrating traditionally cured hams inspired by the Italian Prosciutto di Parma and Spanish acorn fed Iberico–but these are made lovingly in Iowa, by Herb and Kathy Eckhouse, founders of La Quercia.  A glass of rosé and some slices of cured pork goodness will bring fireworks to your Fourth of July parade…

Tamworth Prosciutto – Tamworths are historically known as ‘the bacon pig’ for their thick, meaty bellies, excellent flavor, and golden fat. This pork comes from Russ Kremer’s Ozark Mountain Farm and 3 others in Osage County, Missouri. His family has been selecting red-haired Tamworth pigs—a threatened breed—for generations for their good temperament and hardiness outdoors.

Speck Americano – Made from Berkshire and Duroc hogs, this is a lightly apple wood smoked prosciutto.

Prosciutto Americano – This is the ham that started it all.  It’s sweet and clean with a floral minerality.

Coppa Americano – Made from the top of the pork shoulder, it’s cured with salt, pimento de la Vera, and cocoa.

Parade into the deli and have a taste!