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Archive for the ‘Who We Are’ Category

Kiko’s Food News, 6.6.14

Wondering why some of us like the taste of artichokes, coffee, blue cheese, ice cream or mushrooms more than others? Studies are showing how it’s in our genes, and this may unlock the key to diet as health prescription: (Medical Daily)

Cuba opened its first wholesale market for farmers in decades; even though the farming sector has been the most liberalized, Cuba continues to import more than 60% of its food: (Reuters)

The word “clean” has become a trendy umbrella phrase to describe food that’s fresh, whole, good for you, local, hormone-free, grass-fed or really anything that makes us feel virtuous: (Forbes)

Speaking of “clean”, Revolution Foods received a $30 million investment in its school-lunch business, a vote of confidence for school meals made with real food and without unhealthy additives: (Time)

The cutting edge of urban cuisine today is the diet of 19th-century Jews in Eastern Europe, as a new generation of entrepreneurs is learning to ferment pickles and bake pumpernickel bread in the ways their ancestors did: (New York Times)

Kiko’s Food News, 5.30.14

Michelle Obama wrote about what she sees as “attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children”: (New York Times)

For example, the House of Representatives passed a budget bill that would allow schools to opt out of the White House’s Healthy, Hunger Free Kids nutritional guidelines from 2012; apparently this many healthy meals for children is “too much, too quick” for some: (New York Times)

Half of 900 men recently surveyed said they do most of their family’s grocery shopping, and over half of those said they do all of it; am I the only one that finds this encouraging, yet hard to believe? (Boston Globe)

McDonald’s introduced a new animated character to serve as its Happy Meal brand ambassador; “Happy,” is supposed to represent wholesome eating, going hand in hand with kids’ recent menu option of apples and yogurt in lieu of fries. (The Motley Fool)

A UC Davis report showed that food quality will suffer as CO2 levels continue to rise; nitrate assimilation is slower under these conditions, and elevated CO2 lowers protein concentrations in grains and potatoes: (Food, Nutrition & Science)

A countercultural movement in the European Union is aiming to break the dictatorship of government over fruit and veggie aesthetics, and thereby combat food waste: (New York Times)


Kiko’s Food News, 5.23.14

I’m happy to see that it’s becoming the norm for cities, colleges and food service companies to pioneer programs tackling the more than 36 million tons of food wasted by Americans every year; from trayless initiatives in dining halls to food waste weigh stations, public awareness is leading to institutional action! (New York Times)

The produce prescription model is spreading around the country: participating doctors issue prescriptions to children ages 5 to 12 who could use healthier diets, then area supermarkets accept them and track the varieties of produce purchased: (Minnesota Star Tribune)

We’ve heard that a Mediterranean diet delivers health benefits, but now scientists are offering reasons why: the combination of olive oil with leafy salad or vegetables gives the diet its healthy edge, as these two food groups come together to form nitro fatty acids which lower blood pressure: (BBC)

Dan Barber suggests that by focusing on all-star crops like asparagus and tomatoes, foodies and chefs have sold the sustainable food movement short; we must eat more unsung staples and cover crops such as cowpeas, mustard, millet and rye: (New York Times)

Even though female journalists, writers and advocates form the backbone of food and agriculture reporting, gender bias runs rampant in the news media; to remedy this, here’s a list of 24 bad-ass women educating the American public about our food system: (Civil Eats)


Kiko’s Food News, 5.16.14

Since protests waged by fast food workers over the past 18 months have not yet swayed McDonald’s or other major restaurant chains to significantly raise their employees’ pay, the movement went global this week: (New York Times)

Does your grocery cart contain yogurt-infused guac and cookie butter on the reg? If so, you might be the typical Trader Joe’s customer: (Huffington Post)

100% of California is now in one of the three worst stages of drought; combine this with the current heat wave and you have wildfires and a farmer’s worst nightmare: (Climate Central)

This year, 3,300 lbs of venison from 106 white-tailed deer found in Washington DC’s Rock Creek Park have been donated to charities; the National Park Service has the meat inspected and processed and then turns it into meals for the hungry! (New York Times)

Now that we’re all planting herbs in our pots or yards, it’s time for a briefing on how to dry them so they stay with us beyond the summer (leave it to Heidi Swanson to make dead plants look this beautiful): (101 Cookbooks)

Kiko’s Food News, 5.9.14

A new federal report called the National Climate Assessment presented the challenges to agriculture introduced by climate change; from topsoil runoff to decreased snow water availability, this article shows the threats in pictures: (Mother Jones)

Eating bitter foods is one of the best things we can do to boost our nutrition, as they moderate both hunger and blood sugar, yet America may be the most sugar-philic and bitter-phobic culture in human history: (Huffington Post)

By adding cocoa powder to simulated stomachs and intestines, scientists have deduced that chocolate’s indigestibility is the reason for its health benefits; undigested cocoa matter absorbed into the bloodstream can reduce cardiac inflammation, and fermented cocoa remains improve cholesterol levels: (New York Times)

The calorie counting that defined dieting for so long is giving way to other considerations, like the promise of more fiber or natural ingredients; this is chipping away at the popularity of products like Diet Coke or Lean Cuisine, which became weight-watching staples by removing calories from people’s favorite foods: (Chicago Sun Times)

Make sure you’re keeping the right foods in the fridge by checking out this list of foods that should be kept out! (Huffington Post)


Kiko’s Food News, 5.2.14

Having just returned from grasshopper grazing in Mexico, I’m ready for Six Foods, a new sustainable insect-based foods startup that’s preparing to sell salty, protein-packed cricket chips: (Six Foods)

A study showed how hunger doesn’t come from our stomachs alone; it revealed that we need our active memories to know when to begin and end a meal, and how foods with rough textures feel healthier even when they have the exact same nutritional qualities as softer versions: (Atlantic)

How lazy can people get in the morning? General Mills thinks we’re getting too lazy to boil water, based on its plans to start selling oatmeal capsules that can be cooked with a countertop Keurig coffee machine; Cambell’s soup in a capsule is next: (Wall Street Journal)

Although the FDA has approved the use of radiation to wipe out pathogens in dozens of foods, the treatment has barely caught on in the United States; irradiation may zap bacteria out of food effectively, but is counter to our movement away from industrial food processing as the same energy that kills bacteria can also alter the chemical structure of food and create carcinogens: (Washington Post)

Gas is good! Apparently, fiber-rich foods that cause it are the same ones that supply microbes in our gut with needed nutrients; beans, lentils, cabbage and the like boost levels of beneficial gut bacteria after only a few days: (NPR)

Abusive practices towards migrant tomato workers have all but disappeared thanks to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which has forged partnerships with companies like McDonald’s and Walmart to improve conditions in the fields: (New York Times)

Kiko’s Food News, 4.18.14

A study found a connection between low blood sugar and aggression in married couples; the idea that self-control is linked to nutrition has implications for food insecure populations in settings that range from schools to city streets: (Los Angeles Times)

Speaking of food insecurity at school, it’s an increasing problem for college students, and the number of on-campus food banks has shot up from four in 2008 to 121 today: (Washington Post)

Nearly one in three U.S. adults with a chronic disease has problems paying for food, medicine, or both; this article proposes WIC as a model for how other nutrition assistance programs should work with health professionals to counter the health effects of hunger: (The Atlantic)

Many Americans expect to pay rock bottom prices for “ethnic food”, turning a blind eye on the provenance of raw materials or exploitation of food service people; this article argues that this food shouldn’t be so inexpensive, and probes into why food with Asian and Latin origins isn’t considered as seriously as that of European influence: (Edible San Francisco)

General Mills has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons or “like” it on Facebook; this is the first time a major food company is imposing what legal experts call “forced arbitration” on consumers: (New York Times)

A new report found that food manufacturers routinely exploit a “legal loophole” that allows them to use new chemicals in their products, based on their own safety studies, without ever notifying the FDA: (Washington Post)

Kiko’s Food News, 4.11.14

Is it just me, or is there more interesting food systems reporting out there than ever before? Hard choosing only a few this week!

The president of the World Bank made a harrowing prediction that battles over water and food will erupt within the next 10 years as a result of climate change: (The Guardian)

American chefs are becoming known not only for their food, but for the stands they take on political issues; from refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding, to requesting that a woman not breast-feed at the table, these can have serious business implications: (New York Times)

While urban food growing may not be the key to feeding our cities’ booming populations, it surely inspires “food empathy”, which leads people to make healthier food choices, buy more seasonally, recycle more and waste less: (Huffington Post)

We know that organic agriculture is better for the planet and that organic livestock have better lives, but this article assesses whether organics do more good (in the form of better nutrition), and less harm (in the form of fewer contaminants and pathogens) when we eat them: (Washington Post)

New York City’s Food Bank uses feeding people as an inroad to helping them become financially stable; they helped file 48,110 returns claiming $81.2 million in tax credits and refunds last year, for those who can least afford to lose them: (New York Times)

Kiko’s Food News, 4.4.14

If you’re feeling jaded about star chefs or the ubiquity of supper clubs, watch this 15-year old chef mastermind an haute-cuisine restaurant out of his parents’ San Fernando Valley house: (New York Times)

Spoiler Alert, a mobile app coming out of MIT’s business school, uses a sharing economy model to redirect landfill-bound waste to people in need by connecting every major player in the food-supply chain: (Bloomberg)

High-tech silk stickers made of edible protein may soon be used to tell us when food is no longer safe to consume; whatever happened to good old sight, smell and touch? (Ag Funder News)

The complications of immigration policy are exemplified in California’s Central Valley, where nearly all farmworkers are immigrants, roughly half of them illegal; farmers there feel that immigration laws prevent them from fielding a reliable work force, crippling their business: (New York Times)

All of you entrepreneurial, big ideas types will probably want to make sure you’ve checked out this roundup of the “Ten Most Innovative Companies in Food”: (Fast Company)

As McDonalds and other chains commit to selling only sustainable beef, the multi-industry Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is trying to give shape to what the term actually means: (Bloomberg)


An Interview with Eleanor Gerber-Siff, Head Florist for Bi-Rite Market

Eleanor photo

If you’ve ever passed by the front of Bi-Rite Market and wondered who is behind all of the incredible flowers, bouquets, branches, and seasonal greenery we offer, the answer is Eleanor Gerber-Siff. I sat down with Eleanor to talk about her approach and learn about the producers behind the movement toward local, organic, and sustainable floral.


Eleanor, who are you and what do you do?

I work for Bi-Rite Market as the Head Florist and Floral Buyer for Bi-Rite, covering both our 18th Street and Divisadero Street Markets.

Is that what you’ve always done for Bi-Rite? What is your background in flowers?

I’ve been working in flowers for about six years and I’ve been with Bi-Rite for about a year and a half. Before Bi-Rite, I worked in different flower shops and did some freelance work, including floral arrangements for weddings and events. For about a year and a half before I started at Bi-Rite, I worked with Rebekah Northway, also known as The Petaler, an incredibly talented local floral designer.  My work with her was focused on large-scale arrangements for her restaurant accounts.

Before I started working for Bi-Rite, the flowers we sold here were coming in through the Produce Department. There was no full-time staff devoted just to flowers. The Department just wasn’t up to par, and it didn’t make sense, considering how beautifully displayed everything else in the store is. I saw that there was an opportunity for Bi-Rite to make use of a full-time florist, and I convinced our Produce Buyer Simon and Sam Mogannam to let me be that florist. I haven’t looked back since!

How do you source the flowers we sell at Bi-Rite?


I go to the San Francisco Flower Mart every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and order directly from vendors. Going to the market is a huge part of maintaining relationships with those vendors, and it helps me trust that they know their product and that I can rely on them. Because I maintain close relationships with them, I’m often able to get good deals on great flowers.

Plus, seeing the same people three times a week is fun!  The Flower Mart is a whole micro-community that operates for the most part before most people are even awake!  The market is housed in a big cement building at 6th and Brannan Streets in San Francisco, which takes up almost a whole city block. It doesn’t look good from the outside, but once you get inside, it’s filled with the most beautiful and unusual flowers and greens.

Having a market where I can pick things out personally is important because the good product varies from day to day. I work with what’s available and looks great, rather than sticking to a set list of specific flowers I’m going to buy.

I also work with several farms that grow flowers and also sell us lots of other kinds of produce. That’s a special thing about working for Bi-Rite; I have access to these great local farms and the amazing flowers they grow. The Flower Mart doesn’t source those flowers, so I feel fortunate that I can get them for our guests. These farms are organic and use sustainable growing practices, so their flowers are better across the board – better for the people that grow them, better for me and my flower crew, and better for our guests. They’re creating a new flower economy based on principles of sustainability, and it shows in the flowers! They tend to be happier and more beautiful. An organic flower looks better than one that’s been sprayed with chemicals, and you don’t have to worry about sticking your nose right in there. I get to communicate with our flower farmer vendors several times a week, and that’s a good way to feel connected to something that’s growing – to stay close to the person who’s growing it.

There are three farms from which I get the biggest volume of flowers. Thomas Farm, in Aptos– they’re Certified Organic and grow mostly flowers.  Full Belly Farm–also Certified Organic; Bi-Rite gets lots of produce from them and they’re super awesome people. And Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma. They’re not certified organic but they use organic growing practices.

We work with some smaller farms as well – Blue House Farm and Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero and Little City Gardens, which is actually in San Francisco – it’s a two-acre organic farm right here in the city. These farms grow some really unique fresh flowers.  Last year, Fifth Crow Farm had some Chinese Forget-Me-Nots that blew my mind.

How do you select the flowers you stock?

flowers1I’ve found I have a “Spidey Sense” about flowers. That’s part of what I bring to this job. I follow my intuition and in a room full of flowers, I pick out what I feel our guests will be most excited about.

My job is exciting because I also get to work directly with a bunch of local flower farms – our guests are cool and they respond to that. That’s something I want to educate more people about, because most of us aren’t necessarily thinking about farm-direct or organic flowers.  Many Bay Area folks think and care deeply about where their food comes from and how it’s produced.  I’d like to increase awareness about the benefits of local, organic flowers to ourselves and our community.  Organic, sustainably grown flowers promote the health and well-being of the people that are growing the flowers and of everyone who comes into contact with them.  What’s the first thing you do when someone hands you a bouquet of flowers?  You stick your nose in it and take a big whiff!  You don’t want gross chemicals in your lungs or in your home. Because they are not food, there is far less regulation on the chemicals people use on flowers than on produce, and this is especially true of flowers shipped in from countries outside the U.S.

What kinds of flowers do you personally like, and how do you prefer to arrange them?

My favorite flowers are ones that have a wild look to them.  Things that are slightly weird, too…or off, or crooked, or have a weird seed pod – I just like things that are unusual! I love that nature makes strange stuff and I like things that are a little bit ugly as much as I like things that are pretty.  Right now I’m really excited about all of the insane Ranunculus we’ve been getting in, especially the ones we get from Full Belly Farm in Guinda, California.

Every day that I work, there’s always one single flower that’s the best of the day. My Instagram is full of those “one best flowers.” I admit I’m a flower nerd…I care about them, so I think about them all the time.

My arranging style is a hodgepodge of ideas and techniques I’ve gathered from different places I’ve worked, but also from just experimenting on my own. I know what I like and let that guide me. I know it when I see it.

What floral services does Bi-Rite offer? Do you have anything special planned for Easter?

We offer custom floral work for any occasion – weddings, parties, events, and gifts. This week I’m doing


flowers for a wedding as well as a dinner for 18 Reasons. We’re looking to do more stuff like that.  I love working with a client to create a beautiful event filled with flowers.

For Easter, we’ll have a table out in front of Bi-Rite Market 18th Street all day on Saturday, April 19th from 9am to 9pm. On Easter Sunday, we’ll be out there from 9am to 5pm. We’ll be doing custom floral arrangements in whatever way you need for your Easter celebration, so stop by and say hi to us.

We also make bouquets, pre-made and custom, and we have a wide variety of flowers for sale by the bunch and by the stem. Every single day you can see a beautiful array of flowers out in front of our 18th Street Market, and you can usually find me around there tending to the flowers and making floral arrangements.

I’m always available to work with our guests on anything related to flowers. And you can call either of our Markets to ask questions, place an order or try to track me down. Talking about flowers is what I love to do!