Oils of the Soil:  Séka Hills’ Extra Virgin Olive Oil

By Melanie Dubberley
Food Stylist

Under the watchful eye of the Capay Valley blue hills, olive orchards thrive. White roses and fragrant lavender keep the feet of 40-year old olive trees warm at the mill’s entrance. Here a cozy group of members and guests experienced olive harvest season at Séka Hills Olive Mill and Tasting Room. Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, a tribe actively honoring the legacy of its forefathers by preserving the language and tending to the fertile soil of this ancestral region owns and operates Séka Hills. In addition to olive oil, they sell a variety of food items including wine, balsamic vinegar, and honey.  October through November is olive crush season, so the mill, designed specifically for this purpose, was in full operation and our reason for going.

Elaine Wu, SFPFS Events Chair with past SFPFS President Roberta Klugman, Séka Hills communications consultant and olive oil expert energetically greeted us. Alison Rodegerdts, Event Coordinator/Tasting Room Sales Associate from Séka Hills and Roberta narrated our trip through the mill in action. We witnessed fruit of varying degrees of ripeness drop from hoppers, tumble up conveyers, then crushed in malaxers. Once separated using centrifugal force, oil is pumped into tanks in a quite impressive temperature-controlled storage room. It is bottled immediately or let to rest for about 30 days and then bottled to order.

After the tour, the ladies led us through a tasting of Séka Hills extra virgin olive oils. First, a 2014 Premium Arbequina oil made from estate olives, then a 2015 Arbequina olio nuovo—one milled two weeks ago, followed by one just milled that morning. What a comparison; fresh fruit versus year-old flavors. Also included were oil from Frantoio olives, an elderberry balsamic, and a wildflower honey. What sets Séka oils apart from many other California olive oil producers is the mill’s close proximity, to the orchards it serves. Limiting the time from harvest to processing preserves fruit freshness and captures these flavors at their peak. Tempting to describe the flavors of each oil we tasted, but words couldn’t do them justice. You’d be better served taking a trip to the mill and tasting for yourself!

For information regarding the tribe, the mill, how to taste olive oils or to shop at the store, visit www.yochadehe.org and www.sekahills.com

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Culinary Oils Tasting – The Power of Curiosity

September 16, 2015 at Ketchum Food Studio

Coordinators Maurine Killough and Rita Held

Review by Penni Wisner

oils line-up

The array of oils tasted

It began with her husband’s impulse purchase: a liter bottle of avocado oil. Our Maurine Killough got curious. And had questions: How to use it? Who made it? And, since avocados cost good money, why was this large bottle of oil so inexpensive?! These questions eventually led Maurine to the Bella Vado 100% California Avocado Oil (www.bellavado.com). The oil made by this family business differed significantly from what we will henceforth refer to as “the impulse oil.”

Those differences and a broader curiosity about culinary oils in general inspired the tasting held at Ketchum Food Studio (https://www.ketchum.com/ketchum-food-studio) in mid-September. Sure you can open bottles at home to taste, but eight at the same time? But who would you share your experience with? And then you would have to make your own dinner. Instead, about fifty of us milled around the large island that centers the Studio and dunked small bread chunks into the oils. If we followed the suggested order of tasting, we worked our way from more neutral-flavored oils through richer, roasted, and finally spicy. And made additions to our grocery lists.

First up, the GMO-free California rice bran oil made by the California Rice Oil Co (http://www.californiariceoil.com/). It’s a frying oil preferred by many of our top-flight restaurants. Later, we learned from our speakers that rice bran oil is extracted by solvents. But that when perfectly refined, there will be no effect on flavor. Next up was Napa Valley Naturals’ grapeseed oil (www.napavalleynaturals.com). It too is neutral and light in flavor, perhaps a bit richer than the rice bran oil, and a great oil for high-heat cooking as well as for other applications where you want a neutral oil. Mayonnaise is one such, for me anyway. Third in line was Bella Vado’s California unrefined, unfiltered avocado oil, a lovely green color with a buttery, slightly nutty character. It, too, would make a delicious mayonnaise. Hmmm. How about ice cream?! With its high smoke point (480°F), it would work for sautéing and frying as well. Cid da Silva, the owner of Bella Vado told us a refined avocado oil would have an even higher smoke point more in the range of 520°F (a use for the “impulse oil”).

And then came Dr. Bronner’s unrefined, organic coconut oil (www.drbronner.com). Unmistakably coconut-y! It is all the rage these days and we all wanted to know why. Unfortunately, there was not a spokesperson for the oil on hand. One of our speakers, Dr. J. Bruce German, the Director of the Foods for Health Institute at UC Davis (http://ffhi.ucdavis.edu/about), did not specifically address any health benefits but instead suggested that there was good evidence to support using coconut oil as one of many culinary oils in our pantries. In fact, he said that saturated fat (fats that are solid at room temperature, as is coconut oil) have a part to play in our diets. Saturated fat, said Dr. German, helps the liver move fat around the body.

It was time to move on to roasted nut and seed oils from La Tourangelle (https://latourangelle.com), a company that makes artisanal oils in California according to traditional methods developed by the company’s founders 150 years ago in France. All are non-GMO certified and expeller pressed. The three oils presented were all roasted—pistachio, walnut, and sesame—and great tasting. The pistachio and walnut oils just won Good Food Awards in 2015. The surprise of the night for many of us was a mustard seed oil from KL Keller Foodways of Australia (www.klkeller.com) with its assertive, wasabi-like clean, spicy flavor. I already bought a bottle at Rainbow (many of the other oils we tasted are already members of the household) and drizzled it over a bowl of coconut-pumpkin soup.

Once we’d tasted, we filled our plates from the generous buffet set out by La Mediterranee (http://www.lamednoe.com/) which included (but was not limited to!) a delicious pomegranate-roast chicken, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), hummus, and a leafy salad with a dressing made with Bella Vado avocado oil. Dr. Bronner’s Coconut Oil shone in the fudgy chocolate dessert squares.

While we enjoyed our food and wines donated by Clos du Bois (http://www.closdubois.com/), our speakers entertained and educated us. Then we paid them back by peppering them with questions. Our moderator for the evening’s discussion was Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND (www.farmersdaughterconsulting.com). She introduced Dr. German who lost no time exploding food myths such as “saturated fat causes heart disease,” “dietary fat makes you fat,” and “heart disease is a modern disease.” In fact, 1000-year-old mummies show evidence of heart disease. The truth, according to Dr. German, is that we humans are all different and our dietary needs will be different, too. For instance, heart disease is not uniform in men and women. Women are more prone to heart disease linked to lowered HDL. All those low fat/high carbohydrate diets? These are not good for women as they tend to lower HDL and leave women at risk–especially if over-eating simple carbs. His final slide was a picture of a “daughter attachment mechanism,” a very cute dog. “Dogs,” claimed Dr. German, “have a greater effect on longevity than lipitor.”

Cid da Silva told us how he got into the avocado oil business: he thought he wanted a vineyard until he and his wife Corinne fell in love with the Southern California orchard property. Bella Vado is currently the only US-grown and produced avocado oil. The Bella Vado home ranch is organic and the da Silvas original product was their own organic oil. Their venture has become so successful, that now they buy avocadoes from neighboring ranches and produce a range of avocado oil including lemon, garlic, and jalapeño oils. Cid also told us that avocado oil has a natural SPF of 15 and how the oil soaks into skin without leaving an oily trace. So it makes sense that Bella Vado has expanded into skin care products. Their newest endeavor is to create new uses for their waste: the crushed paste that results from the oil extraction.

Matthieu Kohlmeyer, CEO of La Tourangelle in Berkeley, told us of his family’s long history in the oil business—150 years and counting in Saumur, France—and of their dedication to roasting their nut oils in particular to bring out their robust flavors. We were reminded that light and heat are the enemies of culinary oils, and true to that principle, the oils are packed in metal. The company now imports and distributes oils from artisanal producers all over the world including organic, extra-virgin coconut and olive oils. Plus they are now packaging some of their oils as sprays.

As you might be able to tell by now, we had a great time, learned a lot, and were inspired to expand our use of culinary oils. As those postcards from exotic climes say: Missed you and wished you were there.

Jen X and Penni Wisner greeting members

Jenn Cass and Penni Wisner greeting members

Tasting set-up with Rita Held

Tasting set-up with Rita Held

Tasting featuring Roasted Pistachio oil, a favorite

Tasting featuring Roasted Pistachio oil, a favorite

Moderator Amy Myrdal Miller, Panelists Cid da Silva, Dr. J. Bruce German, Matthieu Kohlmeyer

Moderator Amy Myrdal Miller, Panelists Cid da Silva, Dr. J. Bruce German, Matthieu Kohlmeyer

SFPFS members listening intently

SFPFS members having a fascinating discussion


BBQ 2015: Brazil By The Bay!

SFPFS 2015BBQ graphicLike a preview to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the San Francisco Professional Food Society’s 2015 BBQ was an award-winning feat in the truest sense of the word! At the Coyote Point Yacht Club, perched like a jewel on the Bay, over 130 members and guests enjoyed delicious Brazilian-inspired food and drink surrounded by handmade feather adornments, and entertained by the music and pulsating performance of Samba dancers. An overwhelming array of silent auction items and raffle prizes added even more excitement to the day. The event raised over $6,000 to support culinary scholarships at San Francisco City College and for the Bread Project.

Obrigados – Thank you’s to the “athletes” who made the event such a success!

Chef Torin Knorr who commanded the Peixe Churrasco serving the most delicious fish tacos ever

Chef “Chip”Moore, owner of Big Bad Wolf BBQ and his two-man team of Che de la Hoya and Jack Beallo, who treated us to not only some muito delicioso food, but also quite the show in barbecuing a whole pig

Chef Amey Shaw who probably had the “hottest” grill at the BBQ preparing Linguiça-flavored Charcoal Grilled Heritage Port and Brazilian Heirloom Tomato Vinaigrette

Chef Robbyn Nicola, under the “Carne” sign who basted away at her lip-smackin’ Brazilian flank steak crusted with a blend of garlic, chili paste, lime and quancha

Chef Carl Drosky, under the “Legumes” sign, with a Brazilian-style salad of grilled endive, trumpet mushrooms and hearts of palm, proclaimed the best we have ever tasted!

Chefs Corrin Wilkinson and Denise de Somer, under the sign “Arroz e Feijões” with their black beans and rice, a beloved Brazilian dish which they served with manioc flour

Silent Auction Team: Lili Rollins and Team There were many people who played a very important role in offering the biggest and best array of items we’ve ever had

Sandra Murray – Graphics Gorgeous graphics created by SFPFS member and past president Sandra Murray

Sean Timberlake and team – Bar You know when the first libation you’re handed is either a Caipirinha or a Miranda, you’re in for a festa fabulosa!

Savor California (Appetizers) – Jane St. Claire, founder of Savor California, and the gourmet food producers she represents provided the delicious small bites folks were raving about

Desserts – sponsored by members Preston’s Candy and Ice Cream served us a choice of three amazing ice creams ands five assorted toppings while Boncora Biscotti treated us to the best biscotti this side of Italy!

Mary and Péllo Walker – Daily Digital Imagine (signage) Production of graphics, posters, boards and labels

Thank you, too, to our engaging EmCee, John Wiest, who tried to hide behind a mask!  John, someone squealed on you (must’ve been the porker that landed on Chip’s smoker).  Maybe if you’d borrowed an outfit from Muito Quente! you’d have pulled it off!  Nonetheless, admirable mic work!

And last, but not least, thank you to all the Board members and their spouses, most of whom worked behind the scenes, and to the spouses who worked tirelessly alongside them to pull off a maravilhoso churrasco.  This was teamwork at its very best.  We went home tired, but happy, knowing that pulled it off!


Salt Event at Williams Sonoma

SFPFS Salt Tasting 6-2015-1

To quote James Beard, “Where would we be without salt?” But these days deciding which salt to use can be overwhelming.

Table salt, sea salt, rock salt, flake salt, sel gris, Himalayan salt, salt plank, seasoned salts, finishing salts. From the beginning, salt has been an important and integral part of cooking. But what is the best type of salt for what application? How do you use a salt plank? Amanda Haas, Culinary Director for Williams Sonoma and her staff demonstrated the different uses and types of salt.

Participants enjoyed delicious and generous samplings of food prepared on the salt plank and then rotate through different tasting stations to experience a variety of flavored salts.

SFPFS California Artisan Cheese Tasting

California Artisan Cheese Tasting - July 2015
The evening commenced with a networking session including wine, beer and light appetizers provided by the JCC. After the featured presentation, there was cheese, wine and cider tasting with additional nibbles provided by Justice Grace Winery, Hobo Wine Company, Tilted Shed Ciderworks and Bi-Rite Market cheese accoutrements

Tara Duggan, SF Chronicle food writer

Vivien Straus, Straus Family Creamery
Jill Giacomini, Basch Giacomini Dairy and Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
Anna Hancock, Pugs Leap and White Whale Farm

Vivien Straus
The Straus family dairy farm started out small in the early 1940s with 23 Jersey cows. Straus Family Creamery (still family owned and operated) was founded in 1994. It is known for innovative farming practices and small-scale artisan dairy production of the highest quality, minimally processed, organic from the beginning – celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Their products are made from organic milk supplied by a handful of family farms in Marin and Sonoma Counties, including the Straus family dairy. Straus Family Creamery sustains collaborative relationships with dairy farmers, offering stable prices and predictability in what is otherwise a volatile marketplace. Straus distributed nationally from the beginning but 60% of production is sold here in California. They do not make cheese.

Vivien left the farm to become an actress, but when her brother opened the Creamery she moved back and began marketing for the Creamery (and at Cowgirl Creamery for 8 years).

She created the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail map and the Cheese Trail smart phone app, covering all of California. She also presents one woman performance pieces related to her experience and cheese heritage. Dairy Heiress will be the new one.

Straus has been a pioneer since its inception, working to stabilize small family farming, bringing to light the true price of farm practices on small farms while maintaining pasture fed cows rather than following the trend toward larger dairies that purchased feed, adding chemicals and technology. The large scale practices led to changes in the price structure of milk, and put pressure on smaller farms, but Straus works to stabilize prices through their relationships with small dairy farmers.

Vivien’s mom, Ellen, was a founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust in the early 1970s, to counter development plans that would have eliminated many family farms. It is a non profit that buys land so that farmers get a chunk of money if they agree to stay in agriculture, taxes are lower and it preserves the land as open space in perpetuity so that it cannot be sold for non agricultural use – and it pays the inheritance tax so that children don’t lose the land to taxes when their parents die, and it buys out siblings who want to leave the land. The easement rights are sold so that money can be reinvested in the business. “MALT has succeeded in permanently preserving more than 44,100 acres of farmland on 68 family farms and ranches that might otherwise have been sold or developed. MALT was the first agricultural land trust in the nation and serves as an inspiration and model for many other land trusts which have been created since.”

Straus projects that the cost of feed will double due to the drought. They have countered the water challenge with above ground storage ponds and many spring wells, that help with sanitation, and they reuse water to heat milk, and for sanitation.

Jill Giacomini Basch
Bob and Dean Giacomini bought the present farm (between Pt. Reyes and Marshall) in 1959.

Starting with 150 cows, the herd grew to 500+ by the mid 1990s. Jill and her 3 sisters were not involved in the farm as kids, and were encouraged to find other interests, so left the farm to pursue varied business careers – but then came back to farm to realize the dream of making cheese from their cows’ milk. 70% of cheese makers use milk from their own dairy. The price of milk is set elsewhere, and varies every 2 months. It often does not cover costs of production, so adding value by transforming it into cheese makes a better living possible.

The sisters each contributed business perspectives in evaluating various possibilities as to the type of cheese to focus upon. In choosing the type of cheeses to make, aged cheese means locking up 5-6 months before you know the cheese will be good. There were few blue cheeses available, mostly imported, with new tariffs in place for Italy and France, and they would be the only farmstead with a made in California blue. They threw away lots 1 and 2 but thereafter the cheese was good, fulfilling the dream in 2000. They learned that Making a blue cheese is very difficult: the mold is airborne inside the facility, so it is challenging to making a non-blue inside the same facility requires

The second was Toma, a Havarti-like cheese with butter flavor and a tang in the back of the throat related to the grass the cows eat. Their cheeses celebrate the range of flavors and tastes throughout the year, living products that reflect the terroir.

Jill encouraged the staff of trade buyers to visit, tour the farm, taste and learn about the cheeses, but they had no place for consumers to visit, so she established The Fork as a culinary education center: classes, farms tours, tastings, dinners and other food events. https://www.pointreyescheese.com/thefork They publish a quarterly calendar listing events, and also do private parties with customized experiences.

Anna Hancock

Anna grew up in San Francisco, and had a lot of animals. She wanted to be a lawyer or a large animal vet. She went to law school, then a year later found a farm to buy in Petaluma – White Whale Farm. She initially thought a goat dairy would be more financially stable (not!). She needed 120 goats to sustain the dairy and make cheese (she would need 500 if she were just selling goats’ milk). Then she met the Pugs Leap owners who were moving to Australia, who initiated her into goat cheese making.

She shuttled back and forth, transporting the milk from Healdsburg to her farm, finding many challenges. The jostling of transportation, difference in climate and different milk produced a different outcome with the same recipe, which she tweaked for a year.

She began making chevre, with the goats milked on Monday, pasteurized Tuesday, and into stores on Thursday. Samson, a new tomme style goat milk raw cheese named after their 200 pound dog is in process. She found a herd manager, improved genetics, and now has a cheesemaker, as her passion is in the animals, but she is the backup for everything. There are prodigious amounts of whey left over in making the cheese, maybe more when temperatures are higher Anna gives it to her pigs, thinks maybe you can make ricotta from it.

Anna is to start tours soon. These experiences at the farm change the tasting experience forever, especially for kids. She will have a webpage up in June with tour dates, probably the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month.


Miscellaneous discussion points:

-Marin County has 81 cows per acre,

-It is now more common to work with dairy products from different animals, including mixing milks in a cheese, and now water buffalo is used as well. Milk is being shared between cheesemakers.

-Jersey cows produce milk higher in butterfat. Holsteins are the most common and also makes great cheese

-Challenges faced by cheesemakers include transportation and the cost of feed. The animals graze half the year but when fields turn golden farmers must buy feed. Cows eat grass down in place, but goats like to browse, so goat farmers have to buy alfalfa and hay.

-There are significant issues with butter, whey and manure that farmers are working on.

-Finding good labor and loyal employees that will come to a rural area has led to offering meals during working shifts, helping with housing, etc.

-Newer cheesemakers face challenges in finding entry into farmers’ markets and distributors, though the latter have been supportive and receptive to new cheeses and changes in them. Telling stories helped.

-Recommended: Planet Cheese blog by Janet Fletcher

-We can help by asking at cheese stores which cheeses are local so that stores will carry them.

-The Cheese of Choice Coalition is fighting to keep raw milk cheeses available.

http://www.cheeseofchoice.org/ – !hot-topics/c23f0

-Why does Northern California have so many wonderful cheeses? It is the only part of the state

that still has small farms infrastructure, pasture land – and innovative people!
Written by Karen Urbanek

The Future of Food

Insects in the mainstream food chain will happen quickly. In five years the picture will be totally different. It will not be like the big entrenched systems for meat productions but organic change, making smarter new systems from the ground up. It will be more about just getting people used to eating insects, for their health benefits and neutral or good taste. They are not a dare food or a fear factor. We need to make them beautiful and approachable with non-threatening packaging and presentation. Big brand adoption will help legitimize insects in the food chain, as will the support of well-known chefs like Tyler Florence. People could have insect farms in their homes as it takes so little space to grow them. A coat closet could provide all protein for a family and a good beginning would be to replace one meal a day per week.

The exciting evening hosted at Veritable Vegetable in SF, featured three speaker presentations with cocktails provided by the Brentano family (The Cochineal – Prosecco with Campari, colored with cochineal a carmine dye from the female scale insect) and dinner from El Sur www.elsursf.com featuring two varieties of empanadas (sliced mushroom, shallots, créme fraîche, provolone and chive and swiss chard, spinach, onion, five cheeses, olive, egg) and Earthbound Farms kale caesar salad (with shredded parmesan, sunflower seeds, multi-grain croutons and dressing).
SFPFS member Thama Brentano introduced the speakers stating “Often considered a delicacy, there are 2000 varieties of insects around world. The United Nations is supporting insects as a source of food to feed an exploding population, projected to be nine billion by 2050. The problem for the West is the “ick” factor, with the advantage being they are ecological as a food source. They eat less food, are cold-blooded and can consume difficult waste products. In terms of health, they provide protein, vitamins and amino acids.”
The speakers included Monica Martinez, Don Bugito. In 2009 she began an edible insect farm inspired by Mexican pre-Columbian food traditions leading to an art installation/groundbreaking culinary event, and today is producing insect snacks and a protein bar; Megan Miller, Bitty Foods. Global travel led to curiosity about insect use in baked goods. Bitty produces flour and baked goods that are familiar in form and flavor: four large cookies @5 grams provide 20 grams of protein and Andrew Brentano, Tiny Farms Working to provide a model for insect production grounded in science, technology and ethics for others to follow. Tiny Farms is planning to build an industrial cricket farm along the 580 corridor to get people to try insects.
Insect samples served included Don Bugito chocolate covered crickets and spicy Superworms, Bitty Foods cookies made with a blend of flours, including cricket flour.

Andrew Brentano, Tiny Farms
There are thousands of edible species including ants, butterflies, crickets, worms, etc. that will fit into the food chain at many levels as they convert efficiently into high-level protein. There is great economic potential but we need to figure out how to produce more of them.
Water usage, not just feed conversion, is a key issue. It takes 2500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, an acre to raise a cow. A pound of crickets might use one gallon of water, and a pint for processing. A 6,000 square foot building could produce 60,000 pounds of crickets per month. The whole cricket is used with no nutrient loss. Currently, it is fairly expensive/manual labor intensive to raise food grade insects. You need a room full of 2’ x 8’ shelves, egg cartons to contain them and attendants to take care of them. Better habitat designs and better food with some automation is the model Tiny Farms seeks to create to produce 10,000 tons per month. There are now four food grade production facilities: farms in California, Texas, Ohio and Montreal. They are going above and beyond for transparency in the food chain in case of recall. Because of the ecological base for the whole industry, building a new system will be less cumbersome than existing food systems.

Monica Martinez, Don Bugito
The cultural story in Mexico includes insects as seasonal delicacies. Monica’s interest in Industrial Design led to the creation of utopian little farms for crickets and mealworms. In 2009, this was presented in a gallery next to a Brooklyn kitchen where dinner was based on Mexican Hispanic cuisine, receiving publicity in The New York Times. Also in 2009, the La Cocina incubator had her write a business plan about insects for food production. She entered their program, tested recipes, had a food stand, pop-ups, worked off the grid and then began packaged production and catering, working with four types: crickets, mealworms, agave worms and chilaquile worm (umami flavor). Worms eat bran and do not need additional water. It takes just three months to raise edible adults. Most available insects are consumed as pet foods and for fishing, so they are inherently suitable for food consumption.
Aspire Food Group, their favored supplier, is trying to start insect farms globally for wider availability, and to be less expensive. They have new maple cricket granola bars, with two trail mixes coming soon.

Megan Miller, Bitty Foods
In 2012, with a background in trends and development, Megan discovered and began pitching ideas about insects as food while travelling in Asia. Chitin (a modified polysaacharide that contains nitrogen), starch and protein are bound together and made into powder. At home she fed peat moss to the insects that tasted awful, so then fed them oatmeal and apples resulting in a good taste. Selling the edible insects idea before she had a product, she took pre-orders on cookies and then began delivering to 20 countries and went to Expo West in 2014. Cookies and flour are sold on the Bitty website.
Bitty Foods’ approach: introduce innocuous flavors in familiar foods so that people will not be intimidated, then expand usage and offerings as the public learns acceptance. Bitty cookies are Paleo, have no grains and are gluten free by default. Most Bitty consumers are Midwest moms that cannot find healthy alternatives for their families.

Crickets are raised with no lids on the containers that hold them – they could leave but like to congregate so do not. They are fragile; if conditions are not optimal they will get sick and die. They need clean bedding, proper temperatures and air circulation. They are omnivores but need balanced carbohydrates, fats, etc., similar to the needs of chickens. Location of the farm is critical as they need a warm environment, and reach adulthood faster in warmer places, like California. They create hormones, like a protective shield, with complex, fragile internal ecosystems, and are completely removed genetically from humans. Food possibilities could include brewers grains left after boiling sugar, vegetables, restaurant kitchen scraps.
In terms of taste, crickets are neutral in flavor while the palm weevil, a large tail grub, tastes like bacon-wrapped shrimp. Earthworms taste like pork, so if you grind them, it’s like a burger.
Crickets are slaughtered by putting the whole bin into cold room. Since they are cold-blooded, they go immobile. Within two hours they can be re-animated but after that will go into hibernation, then temperatures are lowered and they die. Not all insects are edible. Bright, hairy insects may be toxic.
Written by Karen Urbanek

Members’ Only Event: Foraging

by Karen Diggs, Nutritionist + Therapeutic Chef; www.kareniscooking.com

Foraging finds from May 2014 Members Only Event

Foraging finds from May 2014 Members Only Event

Foraging for food in the wild has always fascinated and scared me. After all, I grew up gathering my food, that came in tidy sterile packages wrapped in plastic, by roaming up and down the supermarket aisles.

On May 17th, other intrepid SFPFS members and I met Kevin Feinstein in Lafayette and learned how to identify almost ten plants that can be eaten. It was literally an eye opening experience, because once Kevin pointed out the many edible fauna in the landscape, it was as though these plants magically come into my field of vision and consciousness. Now, everywhere I go, one or two of those plants pop up at me. For example, I see elderberry blossoms everywhere. And other edible flowers such as nasturtiums and wild chamomile beckon to me on my morning walks.

Kevin is the co-author of the Bay Area Forager. I was encouraged to learn that he did not grow up frolicking in the forest gathering berries and mushrooms. He confesses in the book that his childhood was filled with fast food, and TV video games. It wasn’t until his early twenties that he started to become interested in the natural world. So, there’s hope for the rest of us who may have spend their youth playing Nintendo and eating pop tarts.

Of all the wonderful plants that Kevin guided us to, my absolute favorite was
wild mustard blossoms. They appeared in an open field and stood about four feet tall with abundant sprays of golden flowers gently swaying in the wind. The flavor was definitely peppery, finishing off on the palate with a delicate tang.

Of course, not every plant is healing or edible for humans. One that stands out is hemlock. Prior to Kevin pointing out the plant to us, I had no idea that it grew so abundantly in our landscape. Indeed, there was a huge crop of it right off the trail where we were, and it looked like an innocent frilly plant with leaves that are very similar to carrots. Which brings me to the cautionary part of foraging: if you are not sure about the identity of a plant, don’t eat it. Therefore, I highly recommend that, if you are interested in foraging, take a class from someone like Kevin. In addition, one must forage with sustainability in mind. Our guide made it very clear that whenever you take plants from the wild, never take away too much because we must leave enough there for the plants to propagate for the next season and all the seasons to come.

After our foray into the wild, we gathered at a picnic table and enjoyed a bountiful feast of many delicious dishes brought by the participants. It was a perfect ending. I believe that we all walked away with a deeper respect and appreciation for Mother Nature’s gifts.

I think that Kevin expresses it best in his book,
” Foraging isn’t just about eating wild plants – it’s about understanding that food comes from living things with which we are connected. I forage for sustainability, self-reliance, health, and enjoyment.”

Kevin’s website is:

Wild mustard a frequently foraged item in the Bay Area

Wild mustard a frequently foraged item in the Bay Area

A Culinary Break-Through: Grape Skin and Grape Seed Flours and Oils

by Jane Bonacci

In February SFPFS had the opportunity to experience a line of unique new food products that are naturally gluten-free, SUPER nutritious, add shelf-life to baked goods AND are environmentally friendly, in that they are leftovers from the winemaking process, which would otherwise be discarded.

The folks behind Kendall-Jackson Family Wines and Chalk Hill Vineyards wanted to reduce the wine industry’s environmental footprint by creating new uses for normally discarded grape skins and seeds (known as pomace). They founded WholeVine Products http://wholevine.com/ and hired a team of experts to create the new flours and oils.

They have created 16 varietal flours (eight each from the skins and seeds) and eight culinary grapeseed oils including Syrah, Merlot, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The seeds are pressed to extract the oils, and then, along with the grape skins, are dried and milled into flours. These flours have all the flavor profiles of the wine varietals they come from, producing an unmistakable nuanced quality that is hard to describe, but delicious and earthy. When you open the bag, it smells a lot like the inside of a winery with the wine-soaked wood barrels, one of my favorite scents in the world.

The WholeVine grapeseed oils are truly remarkable. I would categorize them as finishing oils as opposed to everyday cooking oils. They are full bodied and rich, with distinctive flavors reminiscent of the wines they originate from. In the same way that wines carry the flavor profiles of the soils the vines are grown in, the oils will vary depending on where the grapes were grown and harvested. The same concept of terroir that is discussed in wine tasting, applies to the oils as well.

The event was held at Ketchum Public Relations’ award winning, beautifully appointed Culinary Center in San Francisco. We were welcomed with glasses of Kendall-Jackson chardonnay wine and sat down to learn about how these new flours and oils are made. It was exciting to hear about the high levels of anti-oxidants, fiber, amino acids, and protein that the flours naturally have, knowing that adding even small amounts will boost the health-quotient of my baked goods. Another benefit is that adding these ingredients to baked goods extends the shelf life for days and weeks longer than other flours.

Right now WholeVine products are sold primarily in Marin and Sonoma county stores, (also at Rainbow in San Francisco and Draeger’s) but are rapidly expanding throughout the Bay Area and are also available online.

For recipes and more information on this article go to http://theheritagecook.com/wholevine-grape-skin-and-seed-flours-and-oil-a-culinary-breakthrough/

Traveling Table at Hakka San Francisco

by Amy Sherman
On March 19th SFPFS members enjoyed the year’s first Traveling Table dinner at Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco, with Linda Lau Anusasananan, member and author of the award-winning The Hakka Cookbook. In the book Anusasananan traces her roots and shares stories from the people she meets on her journey into her past.

Since Hakka people moved all over the world, there are stories about the cuisine from places like Peru, Hawaii and certain cities in the US and Canada. There are classic recipes for Fried Pork Hash Wontons, Salt Baked Chicken (which Anusasananan thinks may have been the creation of a crafty salt salesman) and lots and lots of vegetable dishes including Braised Mountain Mushrooms, Pickled Carrots and Radishes and Stir Fried Iceberg Lettuce and Garlic. Anusasananan was previously a recipe editor at Sunset magazine, so needless to say you won’t have trouble with her recipes.

According to Anusasananan, the Hakka are like the “Jews of China,” nomads, who migrated from North-Central China to the South in the fourth century. They have their own language, and the name Hakka literally means “guest family.” Their cuisine is the food of the working person, robust and sometimes fatty. They use a lot of salt-preserved ingredients such as preserved vegetables, cured meats and soy sauce. The food is related to Cantonese, but more rustic. Famous Hakka classic dishes include Steamed Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens, Stuffed Tofu, and Salt-baked Chicken.

Some highlights of the meal we enjoyed at Hakka Restaurant
Hakka Restaurant
4401 Cabrillo St @ 45th Ave
San Francisco

Chinese Bacon with Preserved Greens
Chinese Bacon
This is a very rich dish of pork belly which are somewhat sweet, served with luscious preserved vegetables.

House Special Pan-Fried Tofu This was one of everyone's favorite dishes. Lighter and with a delicate sauce. Inside the tofu was a mild ground pork filling.

House Special Pan-Fried Tofu
This was one of everyone’s favorite dishes. Lighter and with a delicate sauce. Inside the tofu was a mild ground pork filling.

Fried Pumpkin Strips with Salted Egg Yolk If you've never had salted egg yolk before, I'd describe it as tasting a bit like cheese. It has a strong umami flavor.

Fried Pumpkin Strips with Salted Egg Yolk
If you’ve never had salted egg yolk before, I’d describe it as tasting a bit like cheese. It has a strong umami flavor.

Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Greens The chicken was good, but the gingery preserved green stuffing was particularly delicious/

Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Greens
The chicken was good, but the gingery preserved green stuffing was particularly delicious/

Clams with Spicy Salt and Black Beans I'd say the garlic and green onions were the predominant flavors in this dish.

Clams with Spicy Salt and Black Beans
I’d say the garlic and green onions were the predominant flavors in this dish.

Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli with Rice Wine Another unusual dish, this one had a sweet wine sauce.

Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli with Rice Wine
Another unusual dish, this one had a sweet wine sauce.

Home-Style Steamed Sea Bass Another knockout dish, this one had a thin sauce but was loaded with shredded pork, and sour, crunchy and juicy sliced preserved mustard greens.

Home-Style Steamed Sea Bass
Another knockout dish, this one had a thin sauce but was loaded with shredded pork, and sour, crunchy and juicy sliced preserved mustard greens.

Traveling Table: A warm, dry night at Frantoio Ristorante

By Rory Earnshaw

On Tuesday night, December 4, 20 San Francisco Professional Food Society members braved high winds and heavy rain to attend a delightful dinner at Mill Valley’s Frantoio Ristorante.

Early arrivals were treated to a small plate of appetizers, house-cured olives, prosciutto and house-made focaccia, thinly sliced and wonderfully salted. By the time everyone arrived, the group was comfortably sitting at one long table at the back of the large dining room, next to the in-house olive press.

Chef Duilio Valenti described the upcoming meal to the group, and the dinner began. The starters were small green salads with Star Route Farm young lettuce, gorgonzola, house-made truffle oil and potato chips. Following the salad was spinach potato gnocchi with rabbit ragu and porcini. Finishing the savory potion of the evening was black cod in olive crust with braised chard, capers, lemon and olive oil. Dessert was a substantial portion of grappa-infused panettone with gelato.
All in all, it was a warm evening of good food and company, a relief from the storm outside.