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Chili Montes of Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco

We talk a lot about restaurants, probably too much! 

As much as we love the luminaires who put Heritage Foods front and center on their menus, we want to sing the praises of something just a little bit closer to street level: the supermarket!

And not just any supermarket – the Bi-Rite family of markets in San Francisco is at the heart of their communities. Almost Sesame Street-like in its neighborhood friendliness, Bi-Rite remains an idyllic outpost of what an old-fashioned market should be. Customers talk to each other while waiting on line. Across the street is their legendary ice cream shop, the Bi-Rite Creamery.

Chili Montes is Meat and Seafood Buyer for the Bi-Rite family, and head of the Bi-Rite butcher program where for over twenty years he has distinguished himself not only as an educator and advocate, but as an ally, and one of our favorite guys ever to wear a white apron.

“Every month of the year in San Francisco there is some sort of food-centric holiday — except for August,” says Chili, “so for the last two years, we’ve worked with Heritage Foods on “Hog-ust,” and bring in as many breeds as we can during that month. It gives customers a chance to try them all and celebrate the differences between animals that may have been at the brink of extinction. It has been a huge conversation starter. People really get into it.

“Heritage Foods, as much as they are a business partner, they are also a facilitator in education — I have visited their famers, they’ve helped me learn what it takes to produce meat, and the difficulties and rewards of agriculture, especially on a smaller scale with farmers committed to doing things the right way — a focus on quality rather than quantity. I buy a lot of pork from Heritage, but we’ve bought turkeys, goat, steer. We also have local farmers and ranchers we support, and I spend time with them as well.

“There is a very specific consciousness in the way we converse with our guests at Bi-Rite — early on there needed to be a justification for why our product wasn’t the same price as in a chain supermarket, but once they purchase our meat and produce, the taste and the flavor speak for themselves, They just needed a connection to understand why things are a few dollars more.

“I’ve got the best job in the world. At Bi-Rite our customers reward us for the work that we put in with their support for us and what we do, and their willingness to engage in conversation, to have a dialogue with the people who produce their food – It’s amazing, especially in an age when people don’t like to talk to other people!”

Let’s Talk… Goatober Meatballs for Your Housewarming Party!

Getting ready for housewarming parties can be stressful!  Let me take a small load off of your shoulders by introducing our favorite recipe for a simple and delicious appetizer. Goatober (October) is my favorite month, so in celebration I’ve prepared a quick and no-fuss recipe for you.

For the Goat Meat Balls
3 lbs. ground goat
1 medium white onion, diced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 whole eggs
1/2 bunch parsley, picked and chopped
1/2 bunch marjoram, picked and chopped
2 tbsp. salt, add more if you’d like
2 tbsp. curry powder (our mix is equal parts ground coriander, turmeric, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, cayenne, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon)
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, optional for an extra kick

For the Labne Sauce
1/2 lb. labne (we picked Arz Labne for this recipe)
1/2 bunch dill, finely chopped
1/2 bunch mint, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
Salt to taste

To make the labne sauce, thoroughly mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. So that all of the flavors meld together, mix the sauce together ahead of time – we made ours the day before the event.

Preheat the oven to 450°F
Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl – we did this with our hands and latex gloves. You can also use a mixer with the paddle attachment. Try to work quickly and efficiently – you want to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly mixed without over-working the meat. Once all of the ingredients are fully incorporated into the ground goat, form walnut-sized balls – don’t worry, the goat meat is so lean that there won’t be much shrinking when baked! Lay the balls out evenly on a baking tray lined with a lightly oiled sheet of parchment paper. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. We cooked our goat meatballs under a high broiler for about 12 minutes.
Serve each ball with a dollop of labne sauce!

Braised Goatober Curry

5lb. goat shanks
2 tbsp. cooking oil
1 red onion, sliced
1 small kabocha squash, diced
1 – 40z jar green curry paste
1 bottle Chicken Bone Broth or Beef Bone Broth (we mixed half and half), boiled
1- 13.5 oz can coconut milk

Heat the oil in a small rondeau and brown the goat shanks over medium-high heat. Once the shanks are browned on all sides, remove them and set aside.  In the same rondeau, sweat out the onions until they are cooked through.  Add the kabocha squash dice and brown them on all sides (the dice do not need to be thoroughly cooked just yet). Then, toast the green curry paste in the pot, evenly coating the vegetables.

Re-add the goat shanks to the curry mix and carefully add the boiled bone broth.  If the shanks are not completely covered, add hot water. Bring the braise to a boil and then reduce it down to a simmer.  Allow the braise to simmer for about 90 minutes. At this point, the meat from the shanks should fall off of the bone.  If not, don’t worry, just add more water!  Continue to add water and simmer until the meat is tender enough to shred and fall off of the bone.  Reduce the liquid until it is just looser than your desired consistency – the coconut milk will thicken the curry! Just before removing the braise from the heat, mix in the coconut water.

Serve with coconut rice!

Home Sick… Let’s Talk Soup! (by Emily Pearson)

I write this while eating soup. I’m home sick with no appetite, but still manage to crave soup. It soothes your throat, makes you feel a little better and it’s simple. Homemade chicken soup is my favorite, tomato soup is the runner up, but even a plain pho broth would do on a day like today.

I was thinking of posting a photo on my Instagram: home sick on my 30th birthday with a bowl of soup in my lap. But then I remembered an article I read last week about the difficulty – and importance! – of good food photography.

Soup may be delicious, but does it photograph well? Last week The New York Times ran a story (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/dining/food-photography-culinary-schools-instagram.html) about Insta-culture and the correlation between food photography and restaurant success. Maybe my post would get me some sympathy likes on my birthday, but would the photo actually be something I want to live on my Instagram page? After all, a photogenic dish, Mr. Potanovich of The Culinary Institute of America said, is “absolutely” likelier to stay on the menu. So I decided against it.

In retrospect, an Instagram story might have been the way to go. New York chef, Gerardo Gonzalez “admits to being tired of the Instagram photo feed because, he said, “just food can get boring.” He thinks that the key to his restaurant’s survival is the Instagram Story, either photo or video, that disappears after 24 hours and encourages people to take a look more often.”

I guess there is always the next birthday…

-Emily Pearson

GOATOBER: Fun Facts

Click through the gallery to see some fun facts!

Let’s talk…SOUP! (by Ben Tansel)

It’s interesting to see that soup can have so many variations and carry so much meaning with different people and different cultures. From matzo ball soup that can cure almost anything to a hearty potato and ham hock soup that warms to the core and energizes a working man. Even the tomato soup served in school cafeterias can hold some sort of importance – a memory, a feeling. Thick, thin, spicy, sweet, meaty the list goes on and on. Some are meant to nourish and some are just meant to scratch that itch that only a hot bowl of soup can scratch. Much has been written on soup from cookbooks to peer reviewed articles pontificating its history. One may see it referenced in every vain of pop culture from movies to sitcoms, even song lyrics. It’s staggering how often soup is referenced when attention is paid. Seinfeld is one such show that made reference in many episodes. Everyone remembers the Soup Nazi! Personally, soup has always been a desired meal and I wonder sometimes if there are any people out that that down right dislike it.

Early in my culinary career I worked for a Bulgarian man in a Bulgarian Bistro. Every day this chef wanted no less than six soups on the menu. It was crazy to me that such a small restaurant was running that many different kinds of soup. Not only were there six at one time, but the repertoire he drew from was so diverse. He explained to me that soup in his country was common at every meal of the day and had to change from season to season. I think it was here, working for this man, that my real love for soup bloomed.

I am fairly confident that in this melange of soups, most of the herbs we used were illegal. Not because it was pot or mind altering in any way. Rather, they were illegal because his spice shelf was full of hand picked herbs and spices brought to the states by friends and family. Tasting each of the different spices on his shelf was exciting and unfamiliar to me then and honestly, I don’t think I have seen them since.
His soup and cooking drew Bulgarian natives from all over the region. There was always someone visiting that came through his doors to say hello. They would get into drunken food laden conversations for hours and hours on end. On their arrival they always brought two things: Rakija, which is essentially brandy, and some dried plant materials in unmarked bags. His eyes would light up when he saw the new spice or herb. Immediately he asked “do you know what we can do with this?” No, was my usual response, I couldn’t possibly know where to start, but I knew it was going to be a soup!

These soups we never a quick process. Some were quick and easy to prep, but the simmering and extracting of flavor took hours and hours. Others were laborious and time consuming. Making sure each component was added at just the right moment. Making hundreds and hundreds of tiny meatballs to be added gently into the stock so they wouldn’t stick together and lose their perfectly round shape. It was the process, the development, the struggle that made me really fond making soups. It was also this struggle that made me fall in love and allowed me to understand why.

– Ben Tansel

Charcuterie Tasting with Antonio Fiasche of ‘Nduja Artisans

It’s a beautiful day in Brooklyn. Hot, but it is only 11am and the communal picnic table that sits in the middle of the Heritage Foods warehouse is quickly filling up with charcuterie. This augurs well for a good day at work.

Antonio from ‘Nduja Artisans in Chicago is in town for a whirlwind restaurant tour with Emily, our Director of Wholesale to drum up some business for his most excellent line of cured meats. But the first stop is Heritage and why not? Antonio uses literally over two tons (4000+ lbs!) of Heritage pork every month to make his treats. While most of corporate America is staring at spreadsheets or tossing marketing jargon at each other, the men and women of Heritage are getting ready to taste some of the best salumi ever to come out of a city famous for being the hog butcher to the world.

The beef charcuterie — the bresaola and the salumi di manzo (both made from waygu beef) — are instant faves, but the battery of pork treats always wins the day here at Heritage.

Culatello, what Anthony calls “the king of salami,” is supremely fatty with a sweet funk that could be cause for addiction. “It’s so awesome because we’re cutting it from the heart of the prosciutto,” Antonio explains, “it’s boneless, skinless, and tied up to look like a tear drop – all from heritage pork.”

Mortadella made from Berkshire pigs and gorgeous pistachio is so creamy it would melt on warm toast. The Calabrese, aka hot soppressata, is pure dynamite. Pancetta is cured for two weeks and aged another fourteen. The jowls are purely decadent, as they should be. The finocchiona makes one Heritage staffer cry, so poetic is the blend of fennel pollen and chianti.

“Most of the speck in Italy is a little too smoky and dry,” Antonio says, matter-of-factly, as we graze across the table. His, made from Duroc and Berkshire pork, with rosemary, juniper, a little garlic, and red wine, is smoked three times but holds its sweetness. It’s just a little bit salty.

Hot coppa and chorizo are up next, with Antonio admiring his own work: “Damn good for an Italian guy making a Spanish style sausage! The pimentón we use is amazing…and we learned about it from Jose Andres.”

And finally, the cremosa tartufata – a paté of spreadable salumi with truffles. Very sexy for 11am, it really needs to be paired with bone dry, cold champagne, but it is still almost an hour before cocktail time…

Heritage Turkey Premiere: An Interview with Frank Reese

Heritage Turkey Premiere: An Interview with Frank Reese

 

“I have baby turkeys everywhere!”

It’s that time of year, summer in Kansas, and the heat is rising. “Turkeys have to be hatched before June to be ready for Thanksgiving,” says Frank Reese. “But these birds do real well in the heat – they aren’t morbidly obese, so they can handle it. And unlike on an industrial farm, they have trees and shade and get plenty of fresh water… commercial turkeys suffer a lot in the heat. Those birds have been genetically selected to grow as fast as possible.”

“A turkey is no better than the farmer behind it. And the genetics, of course,” says Frank, whose turkeys are one of the only flocks in America to receive certification by the American Poultry Association as purebreds, standards that were set in 1873.

“The biggest thing this year is that we’ve added three new farms to meet a bigger demand. We never seem to have enough — hopefully this year if everything goes well we’ll have twice as many turkeys as last year. But it’s still a drop in the bucket — our four farmers together are going to raise what one big commercial plant will do in a week

“What people don’t realize that when you send turkeys to get processed, they don’t all come out as birds in a bag — some birds are bruised and you can’t sell it as a whole Grade A bird. Truthfully we lose very few turkeys to cosmetic things — but to the big guys, they don’t care as much about their animals because they don’t make money off of whole turkeys, they make money off of deli meat. For an industrial producer, that’s where the money is. For them a whole turkey at Thanksgiving is like a giveaway. But when that turkey you usually sell for 99 cents a pound is instead smoked and put in an eight ounce package that now costs five dollars, you’re now selling that same bird for ten bucks a pound. And that’s why they only sell hens as whole birds — their toms they get up to 40 lbs in 14 weeks and sell as deli meat.”

An industrial turkey farm can get a 20 lb. hen in 12 weeks, or a 40 lb tom in 14 weeks. My hens, in 12 weeks only weigh 7 or 8 lbs – and we won’t process them till 24 or 28 weeks when their live weight is 15-16 lbs. My toms —  in 24 weeks weigh 24 lbs— a commercial factory turkey in that much time would weigh 44 lbs, and they don’t quit growing. They’ll get to 50 – 60 lbs and weigh too much for their legs to carry. I don’t lose any turkeys because of obesity because I haven’t selected them to be so fat that they cant live.

“The industry has made their money off of uniformity… there can be no variance, no difference. My turkeys don’t all come out the same – it is a totally different system.

“All the industrial turkeys have salt water added – they call it flavor enhancers – but sometimes its more than just salt. They figure most people don’t know how to cook a bird properly, and they figure it will keep the turkey from turning into dry leather. The truth is that because they raise these birds so fast and kill them so young, they don’t develop a layer of fat. My birds are harvested at a normal age and maturity, and having that maturity brings taste, flavor, texture. The industry has removed that — what people are used to now, the taste of turkey they think they love, is mostly just added salt.

Long-time Heritage customers know that we got our start selling Frank’s turkeys, and our relationship with him truly is the cornerstone of our business. Frank can count among his fans Alice Waters, who says “These birds are without a doubt the tastiest birds you can possibly serve,” and Mario Batali, who proudly claims “I’ve served these birds for my Thanksgiving every year for the past 12 years and always will.”

Frank is a true hero of the heritage food movement — he is the first and one of the only sustainable commercial farmers to receive certification by the American Poultry Association, and the USDA, for his birds as purebreds— and he has been featured in publications ranging from The New York Times to National Geographic. His story is the Rosetta Stone of sustainable farming, and the reason why when it comes to meat, the word “heritage” is synonymous with “heirloom.” Good Shepherd turkeys are the oldest line of turkey in America, 100 percent antibiotic free, and pasture raised on the Kansas prairie.

Nancy Silverton, Chef Series and Featured Cuts

When Nancy Silverton was getting ready to open up Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, her partners, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, gave her very little direction. “Joe had an idea for an amaro focus at the bar, and of course we had Italian wine. As far as the food, Mario trusted us, but he wanted us to look into working with Patrick and Heritage Foods, which was still very new….

Casella’s Prosciutto Speciale!

We are so honored to be partners in the launch of Casella’s Prosciutto Speciale, a unique and delicious addition to the American food scene. Our heritage breed prosciutto is something special, or as The New York Times says “outstanding” — each one celebrates true American flavor.

Casella’s follows a time-honored Italian recipe — happy, healthy pigs, salt and time. Each leg of prosciutto is aged slowly, on the bone. At Casella’s there is no rush. Only a commitment to create a high quality, American-made prosciutto in line with the standards of the Italian prosciutto consortia. The results are consistently gorgeous — juicy, marbled meat with a delicate nutty flavor.

Cesare Casella grew up in a small town in the countryside of Tuscany, where his family ran a little trattoria. As a boy, he awaited the arrival of the norcini, the traveling butchers who came each year to make the salumi. Before he could barely see over the table, he was helping to prepare salumi and would care for it as it hung in the cellar. Since those early days in Lucca, Cesare has welcomed a successful career as a chef in New York City, opening several restaurants, becoming the Dean of Italian Cooking at the ICC, and of course, continuing to make salumi. With Casella’s Salumi Speciali, he hopes to transport you back to the flavors and experiences he knew when he was a boy.

Casella’s is made using only our pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, heritage breed pigs including Red Wattle, Berkshire, Tamworth, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Large Black and Duroc. Each breed of ham has a slightly different flavor.

Click on the links below to visit our storefront:
1. CASELLA’S PROSCIUTTO SPECIALE, Sliced Eight 4oz packs
2. CASELLA’S PROSCIUTTO SPECIALE, Sliced Four 4oz packs
3. CASELLA’S PROSCIUTTO SPECIALE, Whole One 9.5-10lb ham

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