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Jon Fancey

Cheese Travelogue: Condor’s Ruin from Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia

CondorsRuin1The fourth stop on the Bi-Rite Cheese Trek takes us to a newer farm in Chattahoochee Hills Country – a swath of undeveloped Georgia countryside that’s a short drive from Atlanta.  This area is the last rural area near Atlanta to prevent suburban sprawl with the hopes of preserving the natural beauty and agricultural traditions of the region.

Ross and Rebecca Williams started Many Fold Farm in 2009 with an ambitious mission to craft meat and cheese products on a piece of land that adhered to natural systems, while also educating the public about sustainable farming in the South.  200 sheep and 800 chickens live on Many Fold Farm – ewes are milked to produce cheese, lambs are slaughtered for meat, and the hen’s eggs are sold at the nearby farmers’ markets.

I first tried Many Folds Farm cheeses while at a conference three summers ago and they definitely stood out from other cheeses I tried that week.  There aren’t many cheeses made in the South, let alone French-inspired small format sheep’s milk cheeses.  Ross and Rebecca also stood out as a couple – they were young, energetic, and engaging.

CondorsRuinFarmersIt has taken a couple of years for Many Folds to increase their production and meet demand for their unique cheeses; they are just now beginning to appear on the West CoastCondor’s Ruin is my favorite from Many Fold – a delicate sheep’s milk cheese inspired by the French classic Valençay.  The ash coated pyramid develops a beautiful white rind along with well-balanced lactic flavors with notes of grass & garlic.  This impressive effort speaks to the quality of the sheep’s milk and the care given during the cheese making process.  The velvety and dense paste of Condor’s Ruin is best enjoyed with a dry white wine or a complex sparkling wine.

The next stop on our Cheese Trek takes us to an island off the coast Friesland for one of Holland’s rarest farmhouse cheeses that will be available in the Markets on July 7th. Ask our mongers how you can join the Cheese Trek and #cheeseyourownadventure!


Jon Fancey

Cheese Trek Travelogue: Alp Blossom from Doren, Austria

The third stop on our cheese journey takes us to the small village of Doren in Austria’s Bregenz Forest.  Doren lies in the Alpine region where the corners of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland meet – a region known for aged cow’s milk cheeses.

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Cheesemaking students at Sennerei Huban

Sennerei Huban was founded in 1901 as Austria’s first cheese vocational school and sources milk from a cooperative of 34 dairy farms.  The cooperative members have 15 cows on average, mainly Brown Swiss, that are on pasture all summer and are fed alpine hay when there’s snow on the ground.  The dairy mainly makes cheeses that are consumed in the region – their production is focused on Emmentaler and Bergkäse.  Alp Blossom is the dairy’s most special cheese, an aged wheel of cow’s milk cheese coated in herbs and flowers from the region.  This style of cheese is seasonally available in Bavaria and the Bregenz but is rarely exported.

AlpBlossom

Maker: Sennerei Huban – Doren, Austria

I discovered this beautiful cheese while attending Slow Food’s Biennial Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy.  It was a warm day in the middle of last September and I bumped into Norbert Sieghart, the exporter of Alp Blossom.  Norbert selects the best cheeses from the Bavarian and Austrian Alps and operates some of the best cheese stalls in Berlin’s Market Halls.  Norbert promised me cold beer and tastes of several of his newest cheese finds.  Alp Blossom stood out more than any offering at his booth – the blanket of purple and yellow flowers really grabbed my attention.  The paste of the cheese was silky smooth and the flavors were long and rich.  The coating of flowers and herbs not only made the cheese visually stunning, they imparted an herbaceous essence to the paste.

It’s been over 8 months since I first tasted this cheese and am excited I was able to secure a few wheels for our Cheese Trek adventure.  I’d recommend enjoying Alp Blossom with any Bavarian beer – I first tasted the cheese while drinking a Pilsner.  A bottle of Riesling would be great, too, as Rieslings always pair well with aged cow’s milk cheeses from the Alps.

The next stop on our Cheese Trek is the Chattahoochee Hill Country of Georgia for one of the most coveted sheep’s milk cheeses being crafted in America.  Look for this next exciting cheese on the Market’s shelves on June 23rd. Visit the Markets and talk to a cheese monger to see how you can join the Cheese Trek and #cheeseyourownadventure today!


Simon

Summer Lovin’: Stone Fruit Season

Bi-Rite Crew at Balakian

Bi-Rite team at Balakian Farms

The month of May is all about local cherries, but as they start to slow down in the middle of June, crops like peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, and pluots start to taste really good.  Bi-Rite’s selection of stone fruit during the summertime is a showcase of the many different local varieties and the world-class farmers who grow them.  There’s truly nothing better than sinking your teeth into a peach that was picked at the perfect ripeness so that sugars have developed into the sweet juicy goodness that makes us nostalgic for summers from childhood.

This spring the Bi-Rite Produce and Marketing teams took a field trip into the heart of Central Valley to visit a few of our favorite  organic farms, and learn more about what it takes to grow amazing organic fruit!

Mas Masomoto

Mas Masumoto, Masumoto Family Farm

Located just over 200 miles south of San Francisco in the heart of California’s conventional, industrial agriculture there are three family farms doing their best to keep organic stone fruit alive. Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, CA is a beautiful, 80-acre orchard of land purchased by the Masumoto family in 1948. A third-generation farmer and celebrated author, Mas Masumoto has mastered the art of building soil to support the growth of his trees.  The Masumoto family is in love with the tang of the yellow flesh fruit and seeks a sugar and acid balance that screams WOW! They’re just about to start harvesting the Flavorcrest Peach, a popular variety for conventional growers who like a firm piece of fruit that can ship.  Next up is everyone’s favorite, the freestone Sun Crest Yellow Peach, a large peach with a red blushed skin and juicy texture – this is the peach that put the Masumoto Family Farm on the map.  The last variety of stone fruit we will see from the Masumoto is the clingstone Le Grand Yellow Nectarine.  The Le Grand is a large piece of fruit with a rich sweet flavor and firm flesh which makes it awesome for making nectarine ice cream.

Peaches and nectarines are categorized in two ways, freestone and clingstone. When the flesh of the fruit is attached to the pit you have a clingstone variety. They can be the best to eat but are harder to work with in the kitchen. The meat (flesh) freestone varieties are completely detached from the pit which makes them easier to work with for canning, freezing, and cooking.

Stella Balakian

Stella Balakian, Balakian Farms

Stella Balakian moved to Reedley from Boston almost 50 years ago, and she is the heart and soul of the fourth generation Balakian Farms. For the past 15 years the Balakian family has been driving 3 ½ hours one-way to deliver fresh-picked stone fruit to the doors of Bi-Rite Market. The Balakian’s farm sits on just over 40 acres. They have diversified to grow one of the best pomegranates, which we celebrate in the Markets every fall. As far as stone fruit goes, Balakian focuses largely on early season stone fruit , but keep an eye out for the Flavor Grenade Pluot.

One of the biggest challenges facing these organic stone fruit grower in Central Valley is the limited local market for them to sell their premium organic fruit. These farms rely heavily on the markets in the Bay Area to bring them the financial return needed to survive as a small farm and pay their workers a living wage.  Most of the farms that grow us all these amazing fruits and veggies that we see at Bi-Rite are in low-income communities that can’t afford the prices for specialty organic fruits and vegetables.

Blossom Bryce and Dad

Ted & Bryce, Blossom Bluff Orchards

Blossom Bluff Orchards is located on a “bluff” overlooking the King River in Reedley, CA, and it’s one of the most stunning landscapes in the area.  As we walked the orchard it was so good to see all the wildlife taking advantage of the diversity on the farm.  The Loewen family farms on about 80 acres and grow a wide variety of stone fruit, citrus, and persimmons.  Bryce and his father, Ted, operate the farm together and they have so many different fruit varieties that Ted has to keep a little black book just to remember the locations of the each varietal.  Two of the crops the Loewen’s have mastered is plums and pluots, which are just getting underway. We are finishing up the last of the unique Black Splendor Plum with its dark purple/red skin and meaty flesh, which will be followed shortly by the Yellow Dolly Plum with perfect, yellow skin and juicy flesh.  Soon after the Dolly, the Catalina Plum will be harvested, with its dark amber skin – it is one of the sweetest plums of the season and just a taste of what you’ll see at Bi-Rite from Blossom Bluff Orchards this summer.

If biting into a sweet and juicy piece of stone fruit doesn’t get your taste buds fired up, we have a terrific recipe for Peach Cobbler from our Pastry Chef Keri,  and of course Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop is taking advantage of all of the amazing stone fruit to create all sorts of summer treats like Masumoto Peach Ice Cream and Peach Frangipane Galettes.

StoneFruit_Recipe_web


Trac

Say Yes to Riesling!

Americans love sweet things – from Frappuccino to Coca Cola, we can’t get enough of them. But when it comes to wine, we turn our noses up at it, always wanting something “dry.” And that’s too bad, because anyone who dismisses Riesling is missing out on what just might be the most versatile and complex white wine in the world. This grape can be made completely dry with racy acidity or with rich, full bodied nectar that can stand up to steak, which is why it’s an incredibly easy wine to pair with any cuisine, whether it’s Sichuan or delicate seafood.

Finding the right Riesling for your taste can be tricky because Riesling labels can be hard to read, especially the German labels with ripeness level classifications like Kabinett (light and fresh) to Auslese (high in sugar, usually for dessert), which can take months to study.

We’re here to help! If you want a dry Riesling, look for the work trocken on German bottles or pick up an Alsatian or Austrian Riesling, as most are generally dry. Look for alcohol percentage on the bottle: if it’s 12.5% or higher, 99% of the time it will be a dry wine.  Don’t hesitate to ask folks on our wine team, who’re on a mission to make Riesling more widely quaffed.

Here are some of our favorites you can shop at the Markets:

Domaine Ostertag Riesling “Vignoble d’E” Alsace, France 2013
Made by revolutionary Alsatian producer, André Ostertag, this cuvée is made to express the essence of Riesling in Alsace instead of terroir. It’s delicate with notes of white flowers and peach, and delicious with shellfish and fish.

Tatomer Riesling Vandenberg Santa Barbara, CA 2014
Winemaker Graham Tatomer shows us that Rieslings can shine in California. Having studied at one of the best wineries in Austria, Tatomer’s Vandenberg Riesling has rich fruits with pure mineral notes.

Von Hövel “Hutte Oberemmel” Spatlese Riesling Saar, Germany 2014
A family-owned estate now operated by seventh-generation winemaker, Max von Kunow, has some of the best vineyards in the Saar region of Germany. This classic Spatlese has typical Saar notes of savory herbs like mint and tarragon with a long and juicy apricot finish. Try this with a Peking duck – stunning!


Patrick

Good Work is Hard to Find

CaptureWe are always looking for passionate food lovers to join our crew, and right now we have an abundance of job openings. Working at Bi-Rite is work, but its Good work— whether preparing food in the kitchen, greeting guests over the deli counter or stocking the produce aisle, it’s work that leads to thousands of breakfasts, lunches and dinner all over San Francisco every day.

As a Certified B Corp, one measure of our success is based on the working culture at Bi-Rite. I think it’s outstanding: all staff members enjoy health and dental benefits, a staff discount on groceries, a 401(k) savings program (including an above industry match), paid time off, access to 18 Reasons classes, the opportunity for career advancement, and most importantly a positive and creative working atmosphere. To apply or view our open positions, visit our jobs page on Proven.com. Or stop by any of our locations in person – we love meeting potential staff members in person!

Sophie Capture AvoMike


Chili

All the Meats for Memorial Day

6B7A0808_lores (1)I like to think of Memorial Day Weekend as summer’s soft opening, and this weekend we will giving a nice little sneak peek at some of the amazing product and special deals that we will be sharing with our guests over the summer.

We’re excited about a new partnership with local, grass-fed beef from Richards Ranch.  The ranch is located along the Yuba River at the base of the Sierra Foothills, and provides lush pasture for its cattle that are all born and raised on the ranch.  We will be offering an extremely limited supply of hanger, skirt, flank and bavette steaks, all of which just happen to be perfect cuts to throw on your summer grill!

Starting Friday, May 27, we will be offering some great deals on a couple of select pork cuts from Niman Ranch.  First, we will have the elusive Baby Back Ribs on sale for $7.49 per pound (normally $8.99). Additionaly, we will be offering pork tenderloins at $12.99 per pound, a $2 discount off their normal price!  These great deals on sustainably-raised meats end Monday, so make sure you come by and grab some goodies for your grill before the weekend’s through, or shop our online Market for convenient delivery!


Jon Fancey

Cheese Trek Travelogue: Bleu Mont Cheddar from Blue Mounds, Wisconsin

LehnerinCave

Willi Lehner, Cheesemaker

 The second stop on the Bi-Rite Cheese Trek is a man-made earth sheltered cellar in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin.  This ‘cave’ was constructed by Willi Lehner, one of America’s most interesting and inspiring cheesemakers.  I had the chance to visit Willi a few years ago when I was on a cheese-fueled trip across Southern Wisconsin.  His operation is very inspiring: solar panels and windmills provide power, a large greenhouse grows fruits and vegetables, and the cave perfectly ages his cheeses.

Cheesemaking came naturally to Lehner. Willi’s father was a Swiss immigrant who came to Wisconsin to make cheese, and Willi spent summers herding cows and making cheese in the Swiss Alps.  Despite his strong Swiss roots, an aged bandaged cheddar put Willi on the map.  Bleu Mont Cheddar is Willi’s signature cheese: a small cloth-bound wheel that is aged to perfection in his cave.  Willi sources milk from four small dairies and only makes the cheese when the cows are out on pasture.  This excellent milk makes a good cheddar, but the time spent in the climate controlled cellar transforms the wheels into one of the most satisfying cheeses made in America.  Bleu Mont is a sharp and fruity cheddar with notes of toasted nuts and brown butter; the earthy finish makes it stand out against other domestic bandaged cheddars.

EntrancetoLehnerCave

Entrance to the cheese cave

I was able to taste several ages of Bleu Mont on my visit – from a younger 8-month aged wheel to an extra-aged wheel that was over two years old.  I enjoyed the cheese that had been aged for just over a year, and the wheels of Bleu Mont available for our Cheese Trek are just over a year old as well.  It’s the perfect cheese to enjoy with a unique beer, and great for a picnic or day hike, too.

cheesetrek_Logo1-01The next stop on our Cheese Trek is a small village in Austria’s Bregenz Forest for an exciting wheel of cheese that’s rarely available outside the Alps. As always, be sure to look for the Cheese Trek sticker on cheeses in both Markets, get your passport stamped by a monger or when you check out, and show us how you #cheeseyourownadventure on Twitter and Instagram!


Simon

Cherish California Cherries

California stone fruit season usually gets going in the beginning of May with the local cherry crop.  The lack of a robust cherry crop the past few years in the Bay Area due to warm winters and drought summers has really slowed down production of one of the best fruit crops know to humankind. With this being said, this year’s local cherry crop is off to an amazing start and we are so excited to celebrate these amazing farms and all different cherry varieties they grow.

BingCherries_HiddenStarOrchardsFrom now until July, Hidden Star Orchards in Linden brings us organic cherries straight from their orchard twice a week.  Johan at Hidden Star is like the “Cherry Whisperer,” he always harvests beautiful cherries right when they are peaking in flavor.  Hidden Star just started harvesting the Brooks cherry, a dark red cherry that is super juicy. This will be followed by the firm Bing cherry, which is considered one of the sweetest red cherries, but also with a little tang to the flavor.   The yellow and red-skinned Rainier cherry just hit our shelves and this large but delicate cherry has a sweet white flesh and is always a special treat.   Hidden Star will finish out the cherry season with lesser-known varieties like the Larian and Red Lac cherry.  Now is the time for cherry lovers to come by the Markets and sample this special crop.

CoralCherries_ChinchioloAt Bi-Rite we pride ourselves on building relationships with the farmers who grow our food, so whenever we have the opportunity for a new relationship we get very excited! This spring, we’re fortunate enough to start getting local cherries from the Chinchiolo Family Farms in the San Joaquin County.  This is a fourth-generation family farm that focuses on apples and cherries. Just this past week we received our first delivery of Red Coral sweet cherries and they did not disappoint!  The Chinchiolo family grows a firm cherry that has a sweet tangy flavor with plenty of juice.  This week they are harvesting the Bing cherry which will be at both Markets for the next week.

This is a really fun time of year at the Bi-Rite Creamery and Bakeshop with all local stone fruit and berries to cook with.  One of the most labor intensive crops to work with in the kitchen is cherries! Team Cream organized a couple group cherry pitting days where 500 pounds of cherries were hand pitted and cooked down in less than a week.  All this hard work will be turned into the seasonal release of the Cherry Almond Ice Cream, available only at the Creamery and Scoop Shop within the next couple weeks – keep an eye out for this once-a-season treat!


Chili

Wild Pacific Salmon, Your Go-To Fish

SalmonPostThe California wild Pacific salmon run signifies that the magic of spring is in full swing.  Salmon has always been an important historic, social, cultural, and economic resource to the Native Coastal Tribes of the Pacific. Our salmon began to gain worldwide recognition when commercial salmon fishing began in earnest in the late 1800s.

The commercial season generally runs from May through August, and the seasons have been fairly consistent since the first ever cancellation of the season took place in 2008, a cancellation that was caused by a drastic drop in the number of salmon returning to spawn. There are a number of factors that have been attributed to the decline, including weather conditions impacting the availability of feed, dams and water diversion, pollution, and overfishing. Even stricter fishing regulations have been implemented to help improve the salmon stocks; currently the fishery is in a state of recovery and will require us to be much more responsible stewards if we hope to see the salmon population flourish again.

Salmon-Recipe-Wine-ClubSo why don’t we eat farmed salmon instead, since it’s cheaper and we don’t have to worry about putting so much work into managing the wild salmon population?  First off, farmed salmon just doesn’t taste as good. Wild Pacific salmon has clean, rich, buttery flavors while farmed salmon tends to be oily and bland.  Additionally, the farmed salmon industry has been associated with a tremendous amount environmental pollution,  raising fish in overcrowded pens requiring heavy antibiotic use, and requiring a disproportionate amount of feed in relation to the meat produced.

There are five main species of Pacific salmon: Kings, Cohos, Chum, Pink, and Sockeye.  Chums, Pinks, and Sockeye are most abundant of the species and are the salmon of choice for canning and smoking. Kings and Cohos are more limited in availability, and are highly-prized for their eating qualities. During the wild season the majority of the salmon we sell in the market will be Kings, and we will transition to Cohos when the Kings begin to spawn (Cohos tend to head upstream later in the year).

Behind shrimp, salmon is the second most consumed seafood in America. We crave it year round for its flavor and health benefits (high in omega-3s), and the salmon fisheries have adapted, creating methods to freeze salmon so that it is available even after the season has closed.  Some may balk at eating frozen fish, but when done properly the end result can be amazing.  Alaskan fisherman Bruce Gore was a pioneer in freezing salmon without negatively impacting its flavor or texture. At Bi-Rite Bruce Gore’s beautiful, frozen-at-sea salmon is what we use to supplement our fresh, wild Pacific salmon program.

article_seafood_traceability_inline2We are excited to welcome a new producer to the Bi-Rite Family: Norah Eddy and her line of Salty Girl Seafood.  Salty Girl Seafood offers an assortment of frozen, marinated, wild-caught seafood, including a lemon pepper and garlic marinated Coho salmon.  All of their offerings are sustainably-caught – by entering the product code from the box into their website you can trace your entrée back to its fishermen and vessel. The different offerings are perfect for keeping your freezer pantry stocked with well-sourced seafood options for those times when you just can’t make it to the market.

SalmonRillettesWhen you buy salmon from us you know exactly where it is coming from
. It’s amazing to think about all the different places where you’ll find salmon at Bi-Rite: as part of our sustainable sushi program, grilled daily in our chef’s case, as seasonal entrees in our packaged meals, smoked and ready for a bagel from our delis and Catering, and fresh in our seafood case.  We are proud to say that we have done all the work to let you feel good about making wild Pacific salmon your go to fish all year round.


Raph

Bi-Rite’s Best in Show: 2016 Good Food Award Winners

GFA2016_KB

We’re thrilled to be showcasing some of our favorite Good Food Award-winning products over the course of the next 7 weeks, giving our guests a chance to taste 24 winners that blew us away at this years Awards. In 2016, the Good Food Awards granted awards to outstanding American artisan producers in 13 categories ranging from pickles and preserves to coffee, spirits, and ciders. The Good Food Awards is an annual recognition program celebrating food that is “tasty, authentic, and responsibly-produced.” Bi-Rite has been a strong supporter since the beginning, as we share many of the same values and ingredient-sourcing criteria.

Now heading into its seventh year, Bi-Rite is proud to be the Good Food Awards’ premiere sponsor, joining the effort to nurture the next generation of Good Food producers, and foster a food system that is fair, just, and sustainable. Our staff lends their tasting expertise each year to the Good Food Awards’ annual Blind Tasting, where over 200 expert judges from around the country taste the nearly 2,000 products submitted each year. In addition, Bi-Rite is proud to be a member of the Good Food Retailers Collaborative, a group of like-minded, independent retailers from across the country with a shared vision for creating community through Good Food.

Be sure to visit the Markets early and often, as the featured winners will rotate throughout the 7 weeks, and you’ll want to enjoy tastes of truly exceptional products from makers who go above and beyond simple craft to excel in social and environmental responsibility across the country. Here’s a sneak peak of what to look out for:

GFA_handout_V3

 

*Photo credit: Kassie Borreson, courtesy of the Good Food Awards