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Jason Rose

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: High Holy Days Menu Available 9/23-10/4

We are pleased to announce our complete menu for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The menu from our kitchens, as well as an array of kosher wines, iosher cheeses, and grocery items, and traditional  Jewish baked goods from Bi-Rite Creamery will be available at both Bi-Rite Market locations from Tuesday, September 23 through Saturday, October 4. To order in advance, please call, or we welcome you to order in person in either market. You can now also shop for home delivery from Instacart.com.

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Rose

Changing the World With Cabot Vintage

Cabot1Greetings, friends, and welcome to another installment of our cheese news! I’m happy and proud to write to you about a cornerstone cheese that we carry at Bi-Rite, one that is righteous and beautiful in both flavor and backstory, creating change and changing taste buds. 

Cabot Cooperative has been dairy farmer-owned since 1919, establishing itself as a source for sustainable and responsibly-produced dairy products. Currently numbering more than 1,200 family farms, the Cooperative has ensured the survival and growth of many small dairies, during a time when commodity cheesemakers have made it very difficult for most to do so. On top of this, Cabot Cooperative is  a Certified B Corp; the idea behind B Corps is to encourage businesses that focus on more than profit margins, and that give back to their communities and industries in very real, tangible ways. This can be seen in the many jobs that Cabot provides, but also by the fact that such a large organization continues to create such delicious, sustainable, well-made products. This is exactly the type of business that Bi-Rite loves to be working with; one that cares very deeply about the process, the producers, and the community that the product reaches.

My focus today is a very special cheese, one that I am sure you have seen around the market, one that has most likely caught your eye with its captivating form and proud signage: Cabot Vintage Cheddar.

Cabot2Cabot Vintage is aged for a minimum of two years, revealing beautifully buttery round notes that punctuate with a salty sharp bite.  Surrounded by decadent purple wax, (which draws comparison to Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes and royal Roman garb), it is both delicious and beautiful to behold. Our Kitchen and Deli at Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street use it in a variety of dishes, the current crown jewel being the Slow-Roasted 5 Dot Ranch Beef and Cheddar Sandwich (a staff favorite for sure). We find it pairs expertly with apples and mustards, the tangy sweetness complimenting both textures and flavors. It melts like a dream, but also is a frequent guest favorite due to its delightful snackability. When you combine all of these factors with its very Bi-Rite-esque background, you come up with the cheese of the season, one that will fit easily in your backpack as you hike the trails, snuggly in your picnic basket as you picnic on the windswept beaches, or sweetly in your hand as you soak up the crisp fall sun at Dolores Park.

The cheese stands alone, my friends, spreading the good word of the Cabot Cooperative and the B Corps organization. We are pleased to carry Cabot Vintage as one of our many stellar cheeses, and hope to see you in the Market soon asking for a taste. You will not be disappointed.

Curds and whey,

Rose

 

 


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


Stephany

Eggplant: A Versatile Fruit

The nightshade family includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers – and thousands of eggplant varietals that have been cultivated all over the world for centuries. Originally hailing from India, eggplant is widely used all over Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. Botanically it’s considered a berry, and like berries eggplants come in many shapes and sizes. In the United States the most commonly grown variety is the Globe Eggplant, which is large, deep purple-black, and glossy, so this image is a natural eggplant association for most Americans. But many early 18th-century eggplant cultivars are creamy white or pale yellow and are smaller and rounder compared to the commonly-known modern globe, giving rise to the name of “eggplant.”

eggplant1But the world of eggplant is populated by a variety of shapes, colors and tastes. Thai eggplant are tiny, no bigger than a crabapple, and their bright streaks of green make them look almost like a Green Zebra tomato! Japanese eggplant are long, skinny and dark purple; Chinese eggplant are a similar long shape but possess a bright lavender color. Both varieties cook quickly and are great on the grill or in a stir-fry.

Calliope eggplant are small, teardrop-shaped and striped white and bright purple. They’re very sweet and great for grilling, roasting or stuffing.

Listada is an Italian varietal that is striped like the Calliope, but larger and more oblong.

Rosa Bianca is an heirloom Sicilian varietal, large and bulbous, fading from deep purple to lavender to white, and super meaty, sweet, creamy – my personal favorite for Eggplant Parmesan!

Ratatouille, moussaka, caponata, eggplant parmesan, baba ghanoush…eggplant takes well to a myriad of cooking techniques and is at home in an almost endless variety of dishes. It isn’t great raw – it can be somewhat bitter and spongy-textured (the eggplant is a relative of tobacco as well; its bitterness comes from nicotinoid alkaloids) – but cooking coaxes out those meaty and creamy attributes. Like a sponge, eggplant will absorb any flavors (or oils) to which it is exposed, making it a great candidate for stews. Eggplant is often used in Southeast Asian curries or spicy Indian chutneys and pickles. It can be roasted whole in its skin and then scooped out and mixed with other vegetables (think onion, tomato, chiles), or mixed with tahini, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to make baba ghanoush. Pickled, stuffed, fried, roasted…the possibilities are constrained only by the limits of imagination.

As I mentioned above, Rosa Bianca eggplant is great for Eggplant Parmesan. Here’s a great recipe you can try using ingredients you can get at Bi-Rite Market.

Eggplant Parmesaneggplant2

Eggplant Parm is a staple of Italian-American cuisine, served at almost every red sauce joint in the USA. I first became enamored of this dish while living in New York City during college, where I had it between sesame rolls as a hero or over spaghetti with marinara. It’s a hearty, filling dish, and a beautiful way to showcase the meatiness of eggplant. Though it’s served year-round at many restaurants, I like to wait for local heirloom eggplant; Full Belly Farm’s Rosa Bianca eggplant, a Sicilian heirloom varietal, is my absolute favorite in this dish. It’s a large, bulbous type, with skin blushing from deep to lavender purple to white. It looks like a watercolor, and has no bitterness and a thin skin. Any larger eggplant varietal will work, such as Globe or Barbarella, another Italian heirloom variety that we are growing at Bi-Rite Farm in Sonoma!

Traditionally, Eggplant Parmesan is made with thick slices of eggplant that are fried (sometimes battered, floured or breaded and sometimes not), and then layered with tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, basil, and (sometimes) hard-boiled egg slices. The eggplant can also be grilled, broiled or baked for a lighter version.

Here are two variations that I like to make. The first is a Spiced Eggplant Parmesan, made with a little garam masala in the breading and ginger and chiles in the tomato sauce. The second is a lighter version I came up with during last week’s heat wave, a bit more fit for a hot summer day than the traditional version.

Spiced Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Basic Fried Eggplant
  • 2-3 large eggplant, such as Rosa Bianca, Barbarella or Globe
  • Kosher salt, pepper, dried herbs such as oregano, thyme; garam masala for the spiced version
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk, water, or buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • Canola, peanut or other neutral oil for frying

Instructions

Wash the eggplant, peel if desired (I don’t, usually, unless the skin is very thick), and cut into thick 1-inch rounds. Place in a strainer over a bowl or sink. Salt liberally on both sides, rubbing the salt on a little to make sure it’s coated. Set aside to drain for 1 hour while you prep the rest. The salt helps draw out excess water, to prevent your parm from getting soggy when fried. It also seasons and tenderizes the eggplant, and draws out any bitterness that might be present.

Set up three shallow bowls or pie plates, with a clean plate or tray at the end. Put the flour in one, add a big pinch of salt, some pepper, and a big pinch of garam masala or any other spices you want. Whisk it. Crack the eggs into the second bowl, whisk with enough milk or water to loosen slightly, and a pinch of salt. Put the breadcrumbs into the third, add salt and any other seasonings you’re using (about 1 tsp garam masala and 1 tsp dried herbs for the spiced version).

Press on the eggplant lightly and brush off any excess salt (most of it drains away with the water). Dip into flour, flip and roll around to coat it on all sides. Shake off and pat lightly to remove excess. Next, dip it in the egg mixture, flip and shake off excess (tip: use one hand only to dip into the wet ingredients and keep one dry; monster-fingers form very quickly!). Last, dip the eggplant into the breadcrumbs, patting them lightly on both sides to make sure it gets an even coat. Roll it around on its side, then shake lightly and place on a tray or platter. This can be done ahead of time – bread it all and store covered in the fridge until ready to fry.

To fry: heat up a cast-iron skillet or another pan with an inch or so of canola oil. You want it to be fairly hot but not smoking; the eggplant will cool down the oil a lot when it goes in, and if it gets too cold your eggplant will absorb tons of oil and become greasy and heavy. If it’s too hot, the breading will burn before the eggplant cooks fully. To test it, drop a little piece of the breading in. It should bubble and float right to the top. Drop the eggplant slices in gently, 4-5 at a time, so that they still have room to float around. Fry for 3-5 minutes on the first side, until golden brown, then flip and fry the other side for a few minutes. Keep moving them around and checking them to get an even brown; you might have to flip back and forth a few times. Remove to a tray lined with paper towels. Season with a little salt and pepper while still hot and cut one open to see how it’s cooked – it should be creamy, not spongy. If it’s not fully cooked, turn your oil down a bit and let them go a few more minutes, or finish in the oven.

For Spiced Eggplant Parm:

Layer fried eggplant with spiced tomato sauce (your favorite recipe, just add a teaspoon of garam masala, a knob of minced ginger and a little fresh chile with the onions and garlic), fresh mozzarella (I’m obsessed with Point Reyes Mozz right now; it’s cultured so it has a little twang and a little salt from the brine), grated parmesan cheese, and torn basil. Bake or broil until the cheese is melty. Finish with more grated parm and fresh basil.

For Summertime Eggplant Parm:

Arrange the fried eggplant on a platter, alternating with sliced fresh mozzarella and grated parm, or put a ball of burrata in the middle for an extra-special treat. Chop up a mix of heirloom and cherry tomatoes, toss with olive oil, basil, salt & balsamic and spoon over the fried eggplant and cheese. Finish with lots of fresh basil and olive oil. Totally untraditional but a really refreshing take on it, which makes sense since eggplant comes around mid-summer.

 


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!


New! Get Your Bi-Rite Favorites Delivered with Instacart!

Instacart-Logo-ResizeIt is my pleasure to announce that beginning today, we are making a large selection of Bi-Rite Market products available for delivery in San Francisco through our new partner, Instacart. Many of you have spoken to me personally about your requests for delivery options, and we are thrilled to provide a flexible and convenient way to access the Bi-Rite foods you love.

PreparedFoods1We partnered with Instacart because, like us, they value personal connections and are committed to great service. And rest assured, we are always here to respond to any special requests, answer questions, provide recommendations, and share recipes.

We hope you enjoy the selection we have created for you in our Instacart store. You’ll find Bi-Rite classics and favorites, including:

  • IceCream1Bi-Rite Creamery Ice Cream
  • House-made Prepared Foods
  • Organic, Local & Farm-Direct Produce
  • Cheeses
  • Sustainable Meats & Seafood
  • Wine & Spirits
  • Groceries & SnacksMeat1
  • Deli Items
  • And much more!

Click here to visit Bi-Rite on Instacart and start shopping!

Open a new account on www.Instacart.com, and get free delivery on your first order of $35 or more.

We hope you enjoy your experience with the website, service, and food. As we fine-tune this new offering, we would love to hear your feedback. Email us at info@biritemarket.com, call (415) 241-9760 extension 0 and speak to a manager, or visit us in person. We look forward to seeing you.

Many thanks,

Sam and The Bi-Rite Family


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


Matt R.

Vinos de Mezcal: Tradition and Terroir in Oaxaca‏

agaveThe roasted maguey plant (pronounced mah-gay), or agave, has been a staple of the Oaxacan diet for thousands of years. Whether or not native Mexicans learned to distill before the Spanish conquest is debated, but the Spaniards do get credit for bringing Filipinos to Central America via the Manila/Acapulco shipping route, who brought the technology for crude, homemade stills (in tree trunks!). By 1621 when it was first written about, the practice of distilling roasted agave was well established.

Tequilas and mezcals are both vinos de mezcal, but tequila must be made only with the Blue Weber agave plant, and must come from the region surrounding the city of Tequila in Jalisco. Mezcal can be made with any of the hundreds of varieties of agave anywhere in Mexico, though it is usually made with the Espadin variety of agave in Oaxaca. What truly distinguishes mezcal is the process used to roast it, where the harvested piñas are buried in earthen pits lined with stones and smoked until the starches fully convert to sugars.

Aside from the occasional bottle smuggled back from vacation, it was almost impossible to get good mezcal in the U.S. until recently. Its availability these days is mostly thanks to Ron Cooper, an artist who twenty-five years ago committed to making mezcal available outside of the tiny villages where it was produced. He developed relationships with traditional Zapotec producers and Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal was born. Mezcal is at the heart of spiritual life in Oaxaca. Palenqueros ask for permission and give blessings, harvesting just enough to supply their village fiesta and a few hundred bottles for Del Maguey. These are spirits produced with reverence and love, and we’re lucky to drink them!

Agave-Sale_web_asset2We’ll be offering 10% off all tequilas and mezcals for one weekend!
Friday, July 18th through Sunday, July 20th at both Markets!
Learn! Drink! Viva! 

Del Maguey Mezcal Vida  –  $39.99
Vida
Vida is an entry-level, cocktail-friendly mezcal made in the traditional method. Agave are wild-harvested then buried to smoke in stone-lined pits. The roasted agave are then crushed with a giant stone wheel, or tahona, usually pulled by a donkey, then fermented in open barrels with native yeast for two weeks to a month. The resulting vino de mezcal is run twice through a traditional copper still to be light and clean while preserving the unique qualities that make it a true Oaxacan mezcal: smoke, honey, tropical fruit, and ginger-y spice. Vida is a wonderful introduction to the world of mezcal and makes a beautiful Margarita (we prefer Tommy’s style, with 2oz mezcal, 1oz fresh lime juice, and .5oz agave nectar). (Available at both Markets.)

Del Maguey Mezcal Chichicapa  –  $72.99
Maguey
Chichicapa is made by Faustino Garcia Vazquez in his highland village four hours south and west of Oaxaca over a mountain range accessible only via dirt road. Elevation here is 7,000 feet, giving the agave concentration of fruit, elegance, and finesse similar to those of a Highland Scotch. Its smokiness develops across the palate, accompanied by minty herbal notes and hints of bitter chocolate and the tropical fruits (guava, mango, and banana) that grow alongside it. (Available only at Bi-Rite 18th Street.)

Del Maguey Mezcal Minero  –  $74.99
MineroAn hour beyond the village of Chichicapa lies Santa Catarina Minas, where the award-winning Minero is made by Florencio Carlos Sarmiento and his sons. The water of the village is outstanding, yielding a mezcal with floral and citrus notes and a creamy sweetness that lingers on the palate. The still used is traditional clay and bamboo, which preserves a fresh fruity quality in the finished spirit. (Available only at Bi-Rite Divisadero.)

Upcoming Events:

  • 18th Hour Cafe – Thursdays, 6-9PM – Drop-In – At 18 Reasons
  • Wine Tasting with Cristin from Return to Terroir – Friday, July 11th, 4-6PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero
  • Wine Tasting with Tess from Edward T. Edwards – Saturday, July 12th, 4-6PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero
  • Wine Tasting with Christian Adams from Rudi Wiest Selections – Sunday, July 13th, 2-4PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero
  • Loving Old Vines: A Tasting of California Heritage Wines – Tuesday, July 22nd, 7-9PM – At 18 Reasons
Beer Workshop: Hops – Tuesday, July 29th, 7-9PM – At 18 Reasons

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

It’s a (Cheese) Block Party!

Greetings, friends, and welcome to another curd round-up! Lately when recommending cheeses to our guests at Bi-Rite, I’ve been a big proponent of block cheeses. This is the designation that we give to cheeses that are perhaps not as unique as, say, an artisanal UK cheddar or a farmstead California sheep’s milk tomme, but still comprise the building blocks that we use for many of our most important and comforting dishes. Block cheeses include selections such as pepper jack, orange cheddar, Havarti or Jarlsberg. They’re often overlooked because of a misconception that they’re made from inferior ingredients. Given the right dish on the right occasion, these fistfuls of creamy goodness can dazzle the taste buds.

My boyfriend is as much a fromage fan as I am, and we’re always happy with a couple of cheese toasties on our plates. But last week I wanted to make something a little different for an evening meal, something that would satisfyingly pull together all of the scraps in my fridge. A closer look revealed that I had the ingredients to create a deceptively simple masterpiece.

CheesePic3First up was Vella Pepper Jack, a creamy and sinfully spicy delight from Sonoma Country’s Vella Cheese Company. This cheese is studded with green and red jalapeños from Vella’s special source in New Mexico; if that secret ingredient pizazz isn’t enough to draw you in, the flavor of the cheese itself certainly does. This cheese melts like a dream and has the perfect balance of milk to spice–making it a perfect offset to the next ingredient.

Cabot Extra Sharp is one of the most fascinating block cheeses I have ever come across. It’s moist and tangy, creating that sought-after burn that sharp cheese fans love. The cheese is supplied by New England/New York cooperative Cabot, and they describe it as “sharp cheddar without the training wheels.” This is the real deal: a salty, flaky, and creamy bite that compliments any dish, but really shines when we combine it with the Pepper Jack and our last cheese.

OK, this is kind of cheating: Point Reyes Mozzarella is certainly not a block cheese. However, mozzarella still sometimes gets a bum rap as a melter without special merit. But if you know anything about us here at Bi-Rite, it’s what shout-out-loud fans we are of Point Reyes Mozzarella. It contains all the flavors of the rainbow: it is at once sweet, salty, flavorful and boisterous. It’s local, which we can’t get enough of. And it melts gorgeously, a treat for both the eye and the palate.

When I toasted these three cheeses with a healthy dollop of mustard, what emerged was a cheese toasty that left both of us dumbstruck. I highly recommend trying this recipe yourself, as well as adding and subtracting other block cheeses to the mix. Let us not treat these block cheeses as mere foundations upon which to pile the “greater” cheeses, but as beautiful notes that can be woven together to form a symphony of taste that you can really sink your teeth into.

Curds and whey,

Rose