The weather was so great last weekend that we decided to grill outdoors! So we fired up the grill using mesquite wood and put on a wonderful pork loin roast from our El Cerrito Meat Department. Just salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil and cooked until it had an internal temperature of 145F. The plantains we chose were blackened on the outside and we split them lengthwise (leaving the peels on). With a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper we placed them cut side down first. When we flipped them over and we brushed them with a mixture of honey (Bay Area Bee Company), ginger spread (The Ginger People) and fresh Meyer lemon juice. It turned out great! We chose to serve them up on tortillas with our favorite toppings. What is your favorite thing to grill right now?
STAFF PICK – VIOLIFE by Kristy, Housewares Buyer
“Many people know this about me; I am … was a cheese junky. Cheese on pasta, cheese on sandwiches, cheese on crackers… you get the idea. Then one day my world changed, and I could no longer digest lactose or casein (milk sugar and protein). Oh, no! Now what?
I tried all kinds of alternatives, none of which satisfied me in the same way as “real” cheese, and none of them tasted too great either. I soon gave up, and while brushing a small tear from my eye, realized that my cheese-eating days were over.
Luckily, my despair was short-lived, as it appeared one day, at El Cerrito Natural Grocery – Violife! I couldn’t believe it! Finally, an alternative cheese that tasted like the real thing! No soy, no gluten, no funky aftertaste! This is a non-GMO plant-based cheese that has the same feel and consistency as “real” cheese, and the flavors are spot on. I put it to the test and ate it plain – fantastic! I melted it on a burger – beautiful!
If you’re vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, lactose intolerant, or if you just want to cut down on cholesterol, this may be a good choice for you. I could go on about how great these products are, but really, I think that it’s best that you try it yourself.”
Love Bottle Water Bottle – 25% off through the end of December
Made from recycled glass (and absolutely no plastic), these BPA-free water bottles from Love Bottle are designed by glass experts and feature uplifting messages and fun artwork. Not only are they environmentally friendly, but 5 percent of each purchase goes towards Global Water to help deliver clean water to those in need.
All bottles are made in the USA, supporting small family businesses, and the company works with design artists from around the country.
Ghana Bolgatanga Baskets – 15% off through the end of December
For the women of Bolgatanga, basket-weaving groups have become a way to earn money in community with others. Local women supplement the family income by hand-weaving baskets using locally-grown straw, known as “elephant grass.”
The importer of these baskets follows the fair trade standards and the company gives back. Founder and CEO, Steve Karowe formed Every Basket Helps™, a non-profit organization created to help manage humanitarian
projects in the villages of Ghana. In addition to paying fair prices to the weavers, 10% of the proceeds from each basket sale goes back to the villagers.
The funds support these projects:
• Providing basic school supplies for the weavers’ children annually
• Organizing and funding health care for the weavers and their families annually
• Funding and building a community weaving center that serves two villages and over 400 weavers (2009)
Maggie’s Socks – 15% off all crew socks through the end of December
Maggie’s receives an A+, the highest rating of 300 apparel brands, in an independent study funded by the Department of State which ranks labor
Here is a list of what Maggie’s does to achieve Fair Trade.
• Dedication to the supply chains developed over many years.
• Working with suppliers to constantly improve quality without raising prices.
• Listening and learning from suppliers as well as customers.
• Seeking out producers as close to home as possible, and working with them to develop lower impact input processes.
• Responding to what farmers say they need, instead of purchasing what will look good in PR photos.
• Working with supply chains on continuous improvement in quality, environmental improvement, and living conditions.
As first world consumers living in a global economy, our choices impact people living in developing countries. Much of the apparel industry is fueled by labor in third world countries, resulting in clothing produced with very high human costs to health, and economic security. Many pieces of clothing are still made in sweatshops with dangerous conditions and a pay scale that resembles indentured servitude.
Andes Gifts items are hand-crafted year round in the highlands of both Peru and Bolivia. The artists are then paid a fair price for their products. Through their efforts, Andes Gifts enables a growing number of third world artisans to knit, stitch, and weave their way to a better quality of life for themselves and their families. Thanks to the loyal support of our customers, our knitters have projects year round.
“My 5 kids and I live in the altiplano of southern Peru. Women have very few work opportunities here. Knitting is one of our best options to improve our quality of life. The 35 women in our knitting cooperative work for Andes Gifts because they pay us well and we have work year round.”
“Knitting is one of our best options quality of life”
While shopping in our El Cerrito store bulk section, I was tempted to try the organic oat groats instead of the rolled oats. I was both inspired by the current sale price ($1.19/lb) and want the healthiest option for our five year old son. Our bulk buyer, David gave me another reason. He said, “why not eat things as close to the way mother-nature produced them as possible.” I can’t argue with that logic so I bought a bulk bag of groats.
Here’s what I did to process the groats:
Before bed, I put one cup of groats in a heavy bottom stainless steel pot along with three cups of water.
In the morning, I turned the burner on medium heat and started cooking in the same pot where I soaked the grains.
Every 10 to 15 minutes, I checked the pot and stirred. 30 minutes into cooking, the groats were sticking to the bottom of the pot so I added more water (1 cup). I also added ¼ cup of raisins, a pinch of salt and a dash of cinnamon. 20 minutes later I added another 1/4 cup of water because the water was nearly absorbed. The groats cooked for a total of 1.5 hours. I added additional water (1/4 cup) another three times during the cooking process.
If you cook groats at home, add water as you see fit. It takes a lot to overcook groats but very little to burn them when there is not enough water in the pot. In other words, keep ’em hydrated.
The groat cooking process took longer and required more attention than the rolled oats. However, the nutritional benefits make the extra time worth it (when time allows!). For hurried mornings, consider cooking a larger batch. Soak the groats before heading off for your day, cook them in the evening and re-heat them with a little extra water and/or milk in the morning. Or, make enough for leftovers every time you prepare groats.
Why Eat Oat Groats? Here’s what one of our wholesalers (Hummingbird Wholesale) writes about this wonder grain:
Organic Oat Groats are whole oats with only the outer husk removed.
In general, oats have more protein and healthy fats, and less carbohydrates than most other whole grains. This grain is high in beta-glucans, which work to stimulate the immune system. They contain more soluble fiber than any other grain, and oats are also beneficial for their anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-itching qualities.
Sounds like a great food if you ask me! Here’s to your morning meal!
Assemble a cheeseboard with these seasonal delights and you are sure to wow your guests! Find these gems at our El Cerrito Store in the cheese section!
Bricat Al Tartufo, Raw Goat- Italy-13.99 ea. – delicious raw goat’s milk cheese dappled with black truffles throughout. It’s so ready to eat, boasting a crumbly texture but smooth mouth feel. Subtle nuttiness with a warm and earthy finish. My favorite pairing is a Langhe Arneis from the Piedmont Region of Italy.
Capra Cremosa, Pasteurized Goat- Italy- 9.99 ea. – Customer favorite! Tangy goat cheese topped with fresh earthy black truffles. This will be delicious atop the holiday prime rib. Pair with a light white like the Anselmo Mendes Passaros from Vinho Verde in Portugal (available at Annex Wine & Beer).
Moser cru Blanc, Raw Cow-Switzerland-10.99 ea. – Having notes of chanterelle and fresh cream, the slight tang will have your guest wondering if the New Year came early, pop some bubbly and get the party started. This is a great addition to your any party! Pair with the Hubert Meyer Crémant d’Alsace (available at Annex Wine & Beer).
Robiola tre latti, Pasteurized Cow, Goat, Sheep – Italy- 10.99 ea. -Piemonte, Italy. WOW. This cheese is literally the trifecta of deliciousness. Made using cow, goat and sheep milk; every bite will showcase the best attributes of each milk. The richness of sheep, buttery notes from the cow and that wonderful lactic tang from the goats milk. Its pastoral taste explosion will make you wish you bought two, one for you and one to share! Pair with Agnès and René Mosse Magic of Juju (Available at Annex Wine & Beer).
Robiola Nostrana, Pasteurized Cow- Italy- 8.99 ea.– hailing from the Lombardy region in Italy, it’s easy to say that this cheese is a typical representation of the quality of milk the region produces. On the front there are notes of sweet milk followed by the live notes of yeast and brioche. Pairs perfectly with fruity whites and lagers.
Winnimere, Raw Cow- Vermont- 16.99 ea. – T ’is the season of Winnimere, glorious Winnimere. It’s a take on the classic Vacherin Mont d’Or. What makes this cheese not only special to me and other mongers is that, like the Swiss, they only make this during the winter months because Jasper Hills Ayrshire cows are giving rich, non GMO hay-fed raw milk. It’s wrapped in White Spruce bark (hand harvested on the farms woodlands) then aged for approximately 60 days. This cheese has great notes of bacon, sweet cream and spruce. I always tell customers to peel away the top rind and feel free to dip or spoon. What we have in stock is from the first batch, which means if you don’t get one now you’ll have to wait until after New Year’s because they’ve sold out! Pair Winnimere with the Dust Bowl Brewing Black Blizzard Beer (available at Annex Wine & Beer).
Looking to make your holiday spread memorable? When setting your holiday table don’t forget the cheese!
We may not have a artisanal cheese case, but that doesn’t mean your monger has forgotten about you, he’s selected something for everyone’s taste and budget.
Petit Vaccarinus, Switzerland, thermised, cow – 24.99 each.
This is the centerpiece for your cheese board, on so many levels, so don’t let the price tag scare you. This sought after cheese is really a not miss. Once made raw, it’s currently made using thermised milk and under strict control of the AOC (Appélation d’origine controlee) It’s versatile, decadent, woody with barnyardy tannin. This will pair well with just about any beefy brew (stouts, porters and dessert wines) you love on hand. Keep in mind It’s runny, which is why the fir band is kept around it throughout serving. It’s capable of serving up to 7-10 people who like to share, but why would we? This is a seasonal and limited release item so get them while their still in stock!
Harbison, Jasper Hill Creamery, Vermont, pasteurized, cow – 28.99/lb.
In my opinion a cheese board isn’t complete without a cheese from Jasper Hill Farm present. Harbison’ s rustic, vegetal, fruity and earthy notes really speak to the quality of milk used in its production and affinage. Pair this beautiful work of art with oaked whites and Belgian ales. It’s wonderful smeared on your turkey or a dollop on your mashed potatoes. These are ready to eat, so you will be cutting the tops off and dipping that crusty bread. Harbison also makes a wonderful mac & cheese for the fancy pants in us all!
Green Hill Camembert, Georgia, pasteurized, cow – 18.99/lb.
As a staunch camembert lover, I was pleasantly surprised in the delicate and subtle interpretation of a “camembert” Sweet Grass Dairy has attempted. Delicate in the fact that the pate is very creamy, almost double cream like, spreading easily. Subtle in that the vegetal notes are on the back end and there is definitely a sweet aftertaste that lets you know this was made from grass fed jersey milk. This cheese is a constant companion to sparklers, acidic whites and floral pinks. Try this with a scratch cranberry sauce and some turkey, nom nom nom!
Looking for that cheese to take to a party? Would really like to set it and forget it as you make your way to the food? These host gift worthy items will sure get you invited to the next feast!
St. Albans, Vermont, pasteurized, cow – $7.99 ea. Verified Non GMO!!
Allison has done it again, her interpretation of the classic French St. Marcellin. St. Albans is lactic, bready and gooey. It even comes in a lovely crock, so no cheese is left behind on the board! Goes great with a light bodied white, Belgian / Flemish whites.
St. Andre, France, pasteurized, cow – $7.99
Delightful triple cream, it’s perfect with fruit, pie or just on a nice crusty bread.
Le Pommier Camembert, France, pasteurized, cow- $8.99
Classic camembert, it’s not raw but boy does it eat as if it was! The traditional vegetal, woodsy, sweet cream, toast are all present in this cheese. This is ready to eat the moment you select it from the shelf. Do not miss out on this cheese. It’s my all-time favorite camembert. The left overs are great on the after turkey day quiche or sandwich. Gobble, gobble, gobble!
Every year at the Natural Grocery Company we bring in different types of organic, local heirloom and biodynamic apples, most of which we get from The Apple Farm in Philo, CA and Filigreen Farms in Booneville, CA. At the peak of the season we may have more than 50 different types of apples available at our El Cerrito store, with more varieties to come as the season changes. Right now we have 44 varieties at El Cerrito Natural Grocery Co. From The Apple Farms’ Ashmead’s Kernal, Roxbury Russet and Belle De Boskoops to Filigreen Farm’s Kidds Orange Red, Red Gravenstein and Pink Sparkle. With all of these apples in abundance one might ask, what makes these two farms and their apples so special? They are both certified Biodynamic, a method of organic farming originally developed by Rudolf Steiner that is described as a holistic understanding of agricultural processes. This type of farming has an astrological sowing and planting calendar. Choosing to plant, cultivate or harvest based on both the phase of the moon and the astrological constellation the moon is passing through. One of the first sustainable agriculture movements, it treats soil fertility, plant growth and livestock care as equally interrelated tasks emphasizing spiritual perspectives. The whole farm is conceived of as an organism. Soil, plant, animal, human. Biodynamic farmers focus on the open pollination of seeds (with farmers thereby growing their own seed) and the development of locally adapted varieties. Biodynamic Farming has about 20% smaller yields than traditional organic farming but the flavors really stand out! Some think of it as Organic 2.0!
Now, about those apples! Ashmead’s Kernal and Roxbury Russet are funny looking apples. Their rough brown skin looks like that of a russet potato. They are juicy and tart and as they age and start to soften and wrinkle, their flavors intensify. Look for these to make an outstanding juice or applesauce! Belle De Boskoops are tart and fragrant. They are a great cooking apple as they tend to hold their shape. They also have four times the vitamin C as a Granny Smith! Kidds Orange Red is aromatic, sweet and sharp. Great for juicing, drying and eating out of hand. It is also one of the parents of the Gala apple. Red Gravenstein is a natural mutation of the Gravenstein apple. Extremly floral with a sweet/tart taste, this is one of my absolute favorite apples. The Red Gravenstein is a little sweeter than the Gravenstein and is a great cooking apple. Try making a pie using half Red Gravenstein and half Belle De Boskoops! Pink Sparkle is a variety that is new to The Natural Grocery Company. Just under the skin, there are lovely pink polka dots in the flesh! Traditionally used in cooking, this apple purees well, so it would be great to make an applesauce or apple butter! Tart and slightly sweet, this apple looks like it was grown upside down with a broad base and narrows near the stem.
Come in and taste a new kind of apple as we will be getting in more varieties every week! This really is a special time of year at The Natural Grocery Company. I don’t know of any other stores in the area that can come anywhere close to carrying this many varieties of local organic apples. Can you?
By, Casey Goode, Produce Manager at ECNG
Every summer our customers and employees anxiously await the arrival of the best tasting tomatoes we have all year. The Dry Farmed Early Girl. But what is dry farming and why do these tomatoes taste so much better than the others? Dry farmed tomatoes are planted during the last rains of spring and never watered again. Their root systems go deep (up to 30 feet) into rich organic earth to get water. This extensive root system also picks up extra minerals, thus creating a very flavorful tomato. Dry farming is all about conserving and retaining soil moisture to support the crops without supplemental irrigation. A drawback is that dry farming creates smaller yields to those crops grown using irrigation, but the flavors can’t be beat! Dry farmed tomatoes are usually smaller because the plant spends a lot of it’s growth potential on it’s root system. This causes the plant to produce an intensely flavored, meaty tomato.
There are also environmental benefits to dry farming. Dry-farmed growers are reducing water use by not irrigating. Further, as water resources in California become scarcer and more strictly regulated, growers will also find themselves exempt from these water regulations, since they are not using irrigation water, or, in most cases, water for frost protection. Dry farming is the way crops were grown in the United States more than 100 years ago. Tomatoes are also not the only crop that are dry farmed. Right now we have local Dry farmed Macintosh apples from Watsonville and a great selection of dry farmed wines at the Annex! Among these are 3 wines from Yamakiri Vineyards here in California. Papillion de Nuit, a Syrah, is grown on the Mendocino ridge. Yamakiri Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the Yorkville Highlands and the Yamakiri Rose is grown in the Anderson Valley. There is also a dry farmed, Biodynamic wine at the Annex right now. Enrique Mendoza’s La Tremenda is grown in Alicante, Spain.
Come on down to The Natural Grocery Company and stock up on all of our dry farmed goodness! Remember, dry farming = great flavors!
By, Casey Goode, ECNG Produce Manager