The SFPFS Blog

President’s Message

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Hello SFPFS Members:

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In the 36 year history of SFPFS, countless energetic volunteers have steered the organization for hundreds of members. This leadership dedication coupled with members’ contributions has created the fabric of a professional organization that provides Gayle-Massey-Headshotnetworking, career growth and friendships. Our Board goals for 2015 are to offer engaging, timely, as well as exceptionally fun opportunities to meet and greet peer professionals and facilitate network building.

As we all know, the landscape of networking is vastly different today than the first decades of SFPFS’s existence. We now scan our computers, phones, or social media sites to ‘meet and greet’ and make contacts near and far. But there is no comparison to in-person conversations and meetings. Those personal contacts is what SFPFS provides. Whether you use tongs, a pen, a camera or a keyboard in your daily communication, use your SFPFS print or on-line directory as a tool to connect and network with your fellow members. A read through the directory gives an impressive account of the caliber and diversity of our members. Get to know them by attending events or get in touch personally to learn what they do. And join in by participating on a committee – the more we do together, the more we all gain!

Looking forward to a great year with you all, enjoying terrific food and interesting conversations!

Respectfully,
Rosemary Mark and Gayle Massey

SFPFS Proud: The Bread Project Donation

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Lending a helping hand…this is what The Bread Project has been doing for 15 years. As many of us in the food business know, The Bread Project is a free workforce development program working with low-income residents, including refugees and people re-entering the work world. Project participants take classes in industrial food and beverage preparation, acquiring skills they can apply in bakeries and restaurants. In addition, TBP also prepares baked goods for local organizations such as Williams-Sonoma and the Berkeley Unified School District.

In addition to comprehensive training, once these students graduate, there is a lot of support with job assistance. And, as Bread Project Executive Director Alicia Polak says “once they get a job, we have follow-up services for 15 months,” The program’s employment placement rate is 81 percent and cites the range of “soft skills” that participants learn, such as interviewing and resume preparation, as one of the reasons for that success.

Thanks to Lili Rollins, who donates her time to The Bread Project teaching students interviewing skills, for making us aware that The Bread Project needed a helping hand themselves when their rent was raised on their facility in Emeryville. After an overwhelming Board approval to further assist The Bread Project, we agreed to give them a $2,500 donation. I was both honored and humbled to attend the graduation and present our check to a very grateful staff.

Over the summer, The Bread Project will move from their current address to a new site in Berkeley on University Avenue. This move will actually provide some additional benefits; although it is a smaller space, there will be defined locations for students to learn, office space for interviews and the opportunity to open a retail store for their baked goods. This also provides students to have hands-on training in a retail environment.

If you wish to help The Bread Project either monetarily or with your time, please visit The Bread Project online.

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

Moderator:
Tara Duggan, SF Chronicle food writer

Speakers:
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.

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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.
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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.

More:
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

Tasting Coffees from the Best New Devices

With at least six machines, our Members and guest had plenty of coffee to taste on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at Williams Sonoma – Union Square. We quickly realized that the technology of great tasting coffee has dramatically changed.
Our host, Glen MacDonald, Manager for this store recruited Emily Wann from Breville and several store coffee associates, Monica and Carlos for the tasting. In addition, they provided plenty of fresh sparkling water, mini plain butter scones and palate refreshing Citrus quick bread.

New Coffee Devices - August 2014

Penni Wisner with Glen MacDonald, Williams-Sonoma Carlos and Jeff Clinton

Representing perfection in conventional drip technology, Technivorm Moccamaster Grand Coffee (and its cousin, single-serve version) are handmade brewers with unique copper core water heating elements for highly precise and ideal 200F temperature. While producing a delightful cup, the Technivorm revealed the nature of the Illy medium roast beans chosen as our standard for this comparison. Many tasters found this coffee a bit bitter to their palates: a faithful expression by the machine of the bitter flavor favored by Italian-targeting Illy.

Next we had two super automated espresso machines, the Oracle from Breville, an impressive stainless device looking right at home in a café; and the Miele CM500, a powerful espresso processor and milk steamer in a large but sleekly designed black cabinet. Both have automated and adjustable grinding, brewing and steaming. Glen MacDonald explained that these brew utilizing steam at about 12-15 bars of pressure – considered ideal for a slow steady and creamy extraction. With the Illy coffee, many tasters found these brews more bitter than they typically drink. So, while not perfect for all palates, these high end machines – faithfully capture the essence of those beans as intended by the roaster.

Coffee Devices - August 2014

Joan Cavanaugh and Alison McQuade Greg & Sophia Markoulakis and Gypsy Achong

The balance of the brewers, Nespresso Vertuo, Nespresso-Delonghi Latissima Pro and Starbucks Verismo 600 utilize the same core Nespresso technology. It’s based on using coffee pods, containing real coffee, not concentrate, and expressing the coffee out of the pods with high 19 bar pressure. That results in fast and efficient brewing. For this tasting, these machines did not use the Illy coffee, but coffee from Nespresso – with anywhere from a dozen to 20 varieties and from Starbucks with at least a half a dozen roasts. So, if you choose this Nespresso technology, you will need to appreciate the European or Starbucks roast agenda. If you like a Peet’s, Blue Bottle or something else, you’re out of luck.

But with these pods, smaller espresso ‘shots’ and larger American cups, you get coffee quickly – in only a minute or two from a dead-cold start to repeat brews in seconds…and merely pop in the next pod as the other gets dropped into a recycling bin. Yes, recycling. While there is some concern about creating more landfill, in fact, the pods can be returned by mail, to the store or via other coffee services. Pretty darn easy. For any of you considering a machine for an office staffed with colleagues who are not frequently fastidious, this is a slick “no muss” solution.

Coffee Devices - August 2014

Sleek new Vertuo

New Coffee Devices - August 2014

Emily Wann with Breville Oracle at Williams-Sonoma

Looking at each model, the Vertuo is the lastest, a most curvaceous addition to your “counter candy”. It also features a separate matching milk warmer-frother. The Latissima Pro is a cute cube-like structure with a detachable milk bottle with steamer top. This is an ingenious way for you to make a single fresh latte, with real milk, and return the bottle to your refrigerator – saving milk, storing it safely and keeping your counter clean. The Latissima also has a hot water spout attachment, neatly stored, for tea or Americano drinkers.

Finally, the Starbucks Verismo is a straight up sleek espresso and coffee brewer. To make a latte or hot milk, you need to use their own pre-portioned pods. Unlike the other Nespresso machines, here you get to use Starbucks more American roast style.

So, how did our Members score the machines?

Taste & Convenience Ruled – Our top selection (6 “favorites”) is the Nespresso DeLonghi Latissima Pro ($599). It does it all and with a minimum of cleanup and with many flavor options.

Close Second (5 votes) – The luxury automated espresso machine, Oracle from Breville ($1,999), grinds fresh beans for each cup. It’s fully adjustable with moderate pressure for that thick super flavor-saturated crema.

Tied at Third (2 and 2) – If you like drip, the Technivorm ($279) is your choice. If you want that fresh espresso, a modern design and full roast perfection, Miele CM5000 ($1,299) is a good call.

Coffee Devices - August 2014

Taste Still Rules Ratings…with convenience a requirement

On a further note, at the end of the tasting, our host replaced the Illy beans in the Oracle and Miele machines. As a regular Peet’s drinker, I was so happy to get that familiar roast with every bit of flavor from each bean – and creamy. So, I believe that there might be some alternative results if all the machines had been brewing one set of (Peet’s) beans. And that too is one of the important decisions you must make if you elect the new super convenient Nespresso systems. You have to love their European-roast beans.

– John Wiest

June Tasting SIG: Mango Chutney Madness

by John Wiest

Always, the hardest part is getting started. Tasting SIG leaders Micki Weinberg and Sophia Markoulakis had done all the legwork in pre-shopping and selecting the most interesting Mango Chutneys in the Bay Area for this Tuesday evening June 10 event . Their criteria for inclusion were twofold: the chutneys had to be primarily comprised of Mango and that they must be available in retail stores.

Tasting SIG event June 2014

Mango Chutney savory and sweet


Thanks to host, Micki Weinberg

Delicious dining following Mango Chutney tasting SIG June 2014

With nine chutneys chosen, the SFPFS Tasting SIG set about with its usual relish, or I mean chutney. In fact, we were delighted to have a special guest and new Member, Lawrence Dass, Founder of Akka’s Handcrafted Foods. His mango chutney, one of nearly a dozen of his firm’s relishes, sauces and chutneys, earned a high ranking among the range tasted anonymously. He explained that chutney comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘to lick’ and ultimately from Hindi to connote ‘seasoning’ or a condiment.

There are a huge variety of chutneys, with their common denominator that they are typically made of fruit or vegetable with vinegar, citrus, tamarind, or lemon juice added as natural preservatives, or possibly fermented in the presence of salt to create acid. Thus, we discovered that while most of us know chutneys as sweet, authentic chutneys have quite a range of sweet, salty, a bit sour (acid) and even musty-smoky.

All tasters completed the tasting in one fixed sequence, yet, what we found was that no two tasters had the same preference, no matter the order. However two of the favored products were tasted first: one that was very mango-y and balanced salty-sweet, based on a mango paste with a ginger finish; the other a bit non-traditional chutney with sweet peppers, raisins, hot chile (chili) and good bits of fruit.

Tying at the next level were two quite different products: Akka’s quite yellow, lots of mango pieces with a real cumin seed kick; and Deep (of India) Mango & Green Chili a soft almost eggplant textured, curry influenced pickle.

The evening’s top pick might surprise: a market leader, Major Greys (Cross & Blackwell, produced by Smuckers). This almost mango jam had complex layers of mango intensity with lemon-lime high notes and, as later revealed, aromatically pumped with plump cardamom pods.

Tasters envisioned using Mango Chutneys on many foods: often with a cream cheese or sour cream to spread on breads (we enjoyed Indian naans), topped on meats at table service or in a savory fashion to enhance vegetables. Each chutney evoked different accents, and not so much pairings.

Finally, as pictured in our Facebook page, after the formal tasting Members rewarded each other with a variety salad, fermented delights, chilled Mango soup and finished with several sweets.

Mango Chutney Tasting Results (click on table for clearer image)

Mango_Madness_2014-06-10_ResultsTable

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:
www.feralkevin.com

Wild mustard a frequently foraged item in the Bay Area

Wild mustard a frequently foraged item in the Bay Area

Sassy Salsa SIG recap by Rodger Helwig

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1093797_599659063390763_184341601_oLast eve at Micki Weinberg’s we tasted nine fresh tomato salsas from stores around the Bay Area, followed by a prodigious potluck.

The winners:
Coming in at #1 and a real bargain, Trader Joe’s Fresh-Packed Mild Salsa, 24 oz. for $2.99

#2 Whole Foods “Made Right Here” Mild Salsa, 16 oz. at $4.99

#3 Casa Sanchez Mild Salsa Roja, 15 oz., $4.99, at Safeway and other area stores.

Ole!

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/