Monday, June 25, 2012

CUESA Tour of Bella Viva and CandyCot

All of my posts these days seem to start with, "What a week!" But this may have been the biggest week yet! Last night we put on a show at the SF Food Lab Grand Opening party, where I shook hands with Mayor Ed Lee and gave away tons of grilled cheese toasts. Wednesday we served up 3 types of sandwiches at the Williams Sonoma Farmers Market, along with our new pies, and Tuesday was a mondo day of bike deliveries Downtown. 

But last Friday was the wonderful calm before the storm, and I got to join CUESA for a field trip in the Central Valley. 50 of us piled in to a bus to Denair where we stopped at Bella Viva Orchards, a 49 acre orchard and fruit-drying operation. We took a walk among the peach trees (Pick whatever you can hold in 2 hands) and ended up here, at the cherry-drying station, the reason I came on the trip.

3 weeks ago we baked up some cherry compote muffins using cherries from Arata Farms. It took so long to pit and dehydrate the flat of cherries, that I was determined to see the process from someone who got it right. Bella Viva has it down pat, from this field of sun-dried Bing cherries to their walk-in dehydrators for unsulphured fruit, to their equipment for stemming, sorting, pitting and placing the fresh cherries. Bella Viva dehydrates some huge number of cherries (think thousands of tons) each year. Owner Victor Martino says, "You've had our fruit, and you didn't know it was ours" in trail mixes sold throughout the US. 

Next up we visited the home of the CandyCot, Candycots came about from plant geneticist John Driver's experiments breeding the sweetest apricots he could find, grafting them onto fruit wood, and testing testing testing. His young trees are in their second or third year, and are just beginning to bear enough to sell. Driver grows his trees on V-trellises, saying the fruit is sweetest when all of the wood gets adequate sunlight.

We walked through the rows of Anya and Yuliya candycots, Driver's 2 creations 15 years in the making, picking and eating more that was comfortable. I've never tasted anything like these fruits, which were dry and sweet and crunchy. Driver says the sugar content is so high (more than twice a standard California apricot), that the fruits start to dehydrate on the tree.

Candycots hit the Ferry Plaza farmers market this past weekend, and I encourage you all to pick some up. They'll be worth every penny.

But back to real life, and a calendar as packed as Bella Viva's cherry trays, I got to work searching the farmers market for this week's bread menu. Happy Boy Farms seemed the obvious choice, with a fragrant display of impulse-buy herbs and the first of the year's tomatoes!

photo ctsy Happy Boy Farms

Happy Boy Farms in Freedom, CA, has a knack for being one of the most attractive market stands. Arriving upwards of 2 hours before the start of the market, Happy Boy's jolly marketeers make quick work of their 4 10x10 tents, and create a maze of tables full of photogenic vegetables. Find them at the Castro market, 4-8 on Wednesday, Temescal and Ft. Mason 9:30-1:30 on Sunday, Grand Lake and College of San Mateo on Saturday, and the Mission Community Market 4-8 on Thursday.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spotlight on Blue House Organic Farm

Hello friends!

This week we visited Minnie and Jen from Blue House Farm, a certified organic, 
30 acre plot plus a small orchard in Pescadero, CA. One of 9 farmhands, Minnie 
does some of every task, from loading up, driving and marketeering to seeding, 
weeding, and harvesting. At 5pm, she was still looking cheery and happy to be 
on her feet!

We first tasted Blue House's produce on the farm, shopping for the Race to the 
Mammoth feast on the neighboring land. After walking all the way out to the 
strawberry field with Blue House's dog Lucky, we found Katie, just home from 
a Saturday morning market. We snatched up 17 bunches of dinosaur kale, 12 
heads of butter lettuce, 5 bunches of turnips and 13 pounds of snap peas for the 
hungry cyclists.


You can find Blue House Farm all over the city, on Thursday at the Mission
Community Market (4-8p), Wednesday at the College of San Mateo Market
(9-1p) and the Upper Haight Market (3-7p), and Saturday at the Alemany Market
(dawn-dusk). You can also taste their produce at BiRite Market and at Mission Pie.

This week we'll be using Blue House red beets and Albion strawberries for our
breads. (Our collard cornbread will feature collards from Little City Gardens in
San Francisco). Get yours delivered this Tuesday by ordering here!

Stay tuned for our next farm, and visit us this Saturday at the Urban Farmgirls 
3rd Anniversary Party! We'll be slinging loaves, muffins and pies alongside
Serendipity Farms from 2-7pm.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Spotlight on Arata Farms

Greetings all! 

It's been a helluva week for us. I've pedaled a slow and steady 70.4 miles in the 
last 3 days after Sunday's 45 mile jaunt, and I'm feeling it! But tired or not, I got 
over to the Mission Community Market, and it was worth it.

This week we had the pleasure of talking to Dave at Arata Farms. Farmer Mike 
Arata and his jolly marketeer Dave come from Brentwood every Wednesday 
and Thursday, toting their apricots, cherries, nectarines, white peaches, plums, 
zucchini, red onions, and the largest red beets I've ever seen. 

I got to sample Arata's cherries a few weeks ago, when I took home a whole flat!
(I also learned the woes of cherry pitting.) Dave agrees that cherry season is his
favorite, but says that Mike's wife's holiday pies compete with eating the fruit for
the best part of marketeering.

Arata never slows down. As soon as stone fruits start to dry up, they harvest a 
huge crop of black mission figs (Last year we dried a case of them to make our 
fig rosemary bread!). After figs come persimmons, one of my favorite fruits, and 
tasty ugly quince. Arata closes out the year with a beautiful selection of Mike's 
wife's pies, in time for the holidays.

You can find Arata at the Castro Market on Wednesdays from 4-8 pm, or the
Mission Community Market on Thursdays from 4-8 pm. If you're sick of the city,
head over the 60-or-so miles to Brentwood to see Arata's market stall and their
Brentwood Farmers Market booth, or pick 'em yourself at their U-Pick.

Our menu this week includes Arata Farm Red Onion Sourdough, Dried Arata Apricot
Fennel Bread, and Lemony muffins with Arata Farm Cherry Compote. Get some this
Tuesday or Wednesday by ordering here.

Stay tuned for our next farm!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Spotlight on Serendipity Farms, and a Fond Farewell

Hello friends!

This week is the first of a series of farm spotlights that will run all summer. 
We'll be speaking with some of the farmers who sell at the local markets, 
featuring their produce in our breads, and documenting it all here on our 
blog. First up is good friend Jamie and the wonderful organic produce of 
her own Serendipity Farms. See the menu here!

You can find Serendipity on Wednesday evenings at Market and Noe St. 
from 4-8pm, or on Sunday mornings at either Divisadero and Grove (10-2), 
Ft. Mason Center (9:30-1:30), or 9th and Irving (9-1).

Jamie Collins of Serendipity Farms has been farming organic row crops at 
the mouth of Carmel Valley for over 10 years and sells via Community 
Supported Agriculture program, U-Picks and farmers markets. She is 
passionate about farm politics, to say the least, and makes trips to 
Washington DC to speak on behalf of small scale, sustainable family 
farmers. She loves to write about food and farm issues and works adamantly 
to educate the community about the importance of supporting local farmers 
and food artisans.

Jamie's love for farm and food shines through in her incredible produce. Her
English peas can be eaten raw or cooked, and the pods make a light and flavorful
summer pea stock. Jamie grows three types of organic strawberries, Albions,
Seascapes, and Chandlers (my favorite). Chandlers are the high-maintenance
cousins of easy-to-transport Albions, but are worth the effort. They are sweet like
no berry I've ever tasted, and won't last a day before getting completely gobbled up.

But what Serendipity Farms is known for is its signature wall of greens. Jamie's
greens, harvested just before market, are tender and sweet, full of Iron and B
Vitamins, brightly colored (and of course, immensely stackable). These greens
challenge the veggie-dabbler by lasting for weeks in the fridge without wilting,
keeping customers well-fed and excited to cook.

This week's menu features Serendipity Farms' rainbow chard, curly kale, dino kale,
and cylindra beets. Get yours here!

And lest we move on too quickly, we'd like to thank Vanessa for all she's done
for Bread Srsly in the last few months. She will be greatly missed, but is moving
on to some exciting projects. We're hoping she comes back to get her bread fix,
but know she will be biking and baking wherever she ends up. Safe travels, Vanessa!