Home Posts tagged 'Oak Hill Farm'

Posts Tagged ‘Oak Hill Farm’


Strawberry Sensation

DSC_8332Throughout the month of March it was pretty exciting to see the rainy weather continue, though the rain didn’t bring complete joy to the local farmers and those of us who love local berry crops.  The strawberry fields took a hard hit from the rough weather – most of the fruit on the plants were damaged and the flowers knocked off.  Strawberry plants like to drink their fair share of water, but most of the growers use drip tape and get the water directly to the root systems. Now that this beautiful weather is upon us, April is setting up to be a sensational local strawberry month!

There is an abundance of strawberries in almost any grocery store you walk into this time of year, so what makes the strawberries at Bi-Rite Markets so special? The answer is simple: the farmers who grow them. We are fortunate to work closely with about 12 different local farms that will be harvesting extra sweet, juicy strawberries from April until October – the types of strawberries you usually find only at farmers’ markets and restaurants. Most of the strawberries that are sold at supermarket chains are harvested before they peak in flavor so that they are sturdier and can travel long distances, but farms like Tomatero Organic Farm and Live Earth Farm in Watsonville harvest their berries when the fruit has its most delicate texture, offering the ultimate sweetness.  It’s true that perfectly ripe berries might have the tendency to breakdown quicker than under-ripe berries, but these strawberries are delivered to Bi-Rite within 24 hrs of harvest so our guests can get them home in the looking – and tasting – beautiful.

The most common strawberry grown in California is the Albion variety; commercial growers love them because the plants produce large, firm fruit and when harvested a bit early they still have the high sugar content. Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero also grows Albion strawberries, but the combination of the perfect coastal climate, healthy, rich soil, and farmers that touch their plants every day leads to extra sweet flavor and a big juicy berry that melts in your mouth.  One of the benefits of working with a bunch of different growers in the Bay Area is that it allows us get a fresh delivery almost every day of the week and to taste how the same variety of strawberries grown in diverse climates and soil can differ slightly in texture and flavor.strawberry_coroplasts_webSwanton Berry Farm, located in Davenport, is a leader in workers’ rights; Swanton started growing organic strawberries in 1987 and has been growing high quality strawberries ever since. One of the things that makes Swanton unique is that they mainly grow the Chandler variety, an exceptionally flavored berry with a delicate and soft texture, not typically seen on the commercial market because they are so delicate. Most of the farmers we work with have a specialty variety or two that they bring us so that we treat our guests.  Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma grows everyone’s favorites, the Mara De Bois Strawberry.  This variety is small and tantalizing with a bright sweet flavor that seems to change from one berry to the next.  This berry usually doesn’t hit the Bi-Rite shelves until mid-summer.

BalsamicStrawberryAnd don’t forget the Creamery! Every year we eagerly await strawberries to come into season so that the Creamery can begin its  production of Balsamic Strawberry ice cream. We only make this flavor when strawberries are in full season and coming to us from our local growers such as Swanton Berry Farm and Live Earth Farms. We roast our strawberries at a low temperature with sugar and organic balsamic vinegar to reduce the water content and to intensify the flavor of the berries. We then add the berries to our organic ice cream base and turn it into this eagerly anticipated flavor. Balsamic Strawberry pairs perfectly with Ricanelas, Basil or Chocolate – look for Balsamic Strawberry returning around April 15! It may just be the beginning of local strawberry season but the flavors are already sensational! Stop by the Markets to taste the freshest, highest-quality strawberries of the season.

Maia Bull

Delicious Chicories — Bittersweet Perfection


Lusia Radicchio

It was the ancient Greek poet Sappho who first coined the term bittersweet. Sappho’s original word glukupikron is actually the inverse of bittersweet, but in the middle of winter, when Fifth Crow Farm’s baby head lettuces are replaced by radicchio and escarole, bitter is definitely what comes to mind. Thankfully the varieties of chicory we’re bringing into the Bi-Rite produce department this month hold sweetness and bitterness in perfect balance.

Taking chicories out of the box and putting them on display is one of the greatest pleasures of this time of year. Lusia Radicchio, with its shades of dusky lavender to pale green speckled with burgundy; Treviso Radicchio, so dark it can be almost black with elegant, skeletal lines of pure white extending thin arms up the long leaves from the base; Puntarelle like prehistoric creatures, with nobs and bumps poking out from the light colored center between thin leaves. We found an Escarole from Martin’s Farm this week that was the size of a small goose.  They also sent us a Pan di Zucchero that was over a foot long!



Over the last few years the number of farmers growing chicories has increased from only a few to over a dozen. Because chicories are best in the cold, wet months, almost all of the chicories we bring in will be grown locally and sourced directly from the farmer. The aforementioned Martin’s Farm in Salinas is our very own gallery of variation even among one kind of plant. It’s not uncommon to find a tiny finger of dark purple Treviso in a box with a foot long one with red leaves. County Line in Petaluma grows gorgeous Lusia Radicchio. In Sonoma, Oak Hill Farm is growing beautiful round frisée that fade from their dark outer leaves to almost yellow centers.


Chiogga, Lusia, & Treviso Radicchio

Chicories express a whole range of flavor between sweet and bitter. Generally, the paler the leaves, the sweeter the chicory. This holds true for chicory such as Puntarelle that has both dark and light parts. The tender, blanched heart is sweetest, perfectly complimented by gently bitter green leaf tips. The play between bitterness and sweetness is part of the glory of these greens. The properties of different chicories can be pitted against one another to bring a dish into balance. Using escarole and the sweet Puntarelle hearts tame Chioggia. You can cut Treviso leaves into long, thin strips and use it almost like you might use coarsely ground black pepper. Roasting or braising is another beautiful way to prepare radicchio. Char adds depth of flavor and texture. Single chicories can also be used in multiple ways. I like braising or adding the dark outer leaves of escarole to stew and eating the blanched center leaves raw.

It is an honor to be able to bring such a winter abundance of greens from local farms to Bi-Rite guests. You may see a few varieties of chicory at the market through March, but the peak of the season is now. Every produce clerk will have their own way of savoring this bittersweet ingredient— make sure you chat with any of our helpful staff when you come in. We love introducing our guests to new and exciting food!

Jessie Rogers

Festive Finishing Touches for Thanksgiving

6BiRite-HOLIDAY-2015-Creamery-Thanksgiving-33-2When Thanksgiving Turkey and Menu plans are wrapped up, it’s time to focus on the little flourishes that make the day even more special. Deck your table with gorgeous flowers, treat guests to an elegant cheese platter, and end your meal with a sweet treat from Bi-Rite Creamery. And if you’re a guest, show your host your gratitude with a truly special gift. It’s all available for pre-order until Tuesday, November 24 at 5pm from our Holiday Market on Instacart for quick, convenient pick-up from either Bi-Rite Market location.

(There’s still time to pre-order Turkeys, complete Dinner Kits, our house-made side dishes and more for pick-up! Just visit our Holiday Market on Instacart!)

Holiday Cheese Plate

Essex1pateGreet your guests with a selection of cheeses to prime their palates. Kick off with Cabot Creamery Artisan Reserve 3-Year Aged Cheddar, a classic crowd-pleaser. We also love the best-in-class Essex Street Cheese Marcel Petit Fort Saint Antoine Comte and L’Amuse Signature Gouda. Pair them with Bi-Rite Market’s House-Made Pate de Campagne and Duck Rillettes, and be sure to include La Maison du Piment Sweet Cherry Confit and Peccati Di Ciacco Truffle Honey on the side for balance.

Farm-Direct Thanksgiving Floral

FullBellyFlowers2We have an incredible Floral Team at the ready to provide you with seasonal and responsibly-grown plants and flowers. You can pre-order a Bi-Rite Market Mixed Bouquet to take along with you to your event. We also carry Dried Kitchen Bouquets from Oak Hill Farm that maintain beautiful color. Best of all are the Custom Thanksgiving Floral Centerpieces that our teams can create for you. Come to either Market and talk to the Florists about your specific needs!

Sweet Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite Creamery6BiRite-HOLIDAY-2015-Creamery-Thanksgiving-18 makes incredible pies all year ’round, but their Holiday specialties are not to be missed. We have the classics: Pumpkin Pie, smooth and rich. Apple Pie, with crumb topping and plump apples from Hidden Star Orchards. And Pecan Pie, with the perfect layer of sweet pecan crunch on top. For something a little different, don’t miss the Pumpkin Bundt Cake, made with organic pumpkin and topped with Salted Caramel Glaze and Vincent Family Dried Cranberries. It’s moist, dense, and delicious, and only available for Thanksgiving. And whether it’s pie or cake, a serving of Bi-Rite Creamery ice cream is a must!

Giving Thanks to your Host

Bourbon2pan3Don’t show up empty handed! Show your gratitude with a bottle of Signatory Imperial Scotch. This extremely limited 15-year-old Scotch, one of only two bottlings every created in a historic distillery in Speyside, Scotland is exclusive to Bi-Rite. Or bring along our special single barrel bottling of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, hand-selected by our Spirits Buyer; it complements the fresh, hand-made Ship to Shore Hot Buttered Rum Balls (a Bi-Rite staff favorite!) to create a festive and warming drink. Beautifully-wrapped and delicious, Rustichella d’ Abruzzo Panettone in Classic, Cherry and Chocolate, and Fig and Chocolate options is a traditional Italian artisan bread they’ll love; perfect with coffee the morning after Thanksgiving.

We’re here to help you plan your entire Thanksgiving meal, including all the little extras to make your day spectacular. The deadline to pre-order through our Instacart Holiday Market for pickup at the Markets  is 5pm on Tuesday, November 24th. And of course, just call or visit if you need recommendations or advice. Our Thanksgiving Hotline is available at (415) 241-9760; select option 3!

New to Instacart?

Create a new account and save $5 on your first order of $35 or more when you pre-order Thanksgiving Turkey and Menus from the Bi-Rite Holiday Market!
when you check out, after selecting a pick-up date!


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.


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!


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!