SFPFS members taste cider at Oakland's Redfield Cider Bar

A dozen members and guests of the SFPFS met in the chic, food-centric neighborhood of Oakland’s Rockridge to experience one of the oldest fermented beverages from the civilized world: Cider. Redfield Cider Bar, located on College Avenue, has added to the growing landscape of alternative beverage establishments in the Bay Area. It is run by husband-and-wife team, Olivia Maki and Mike Reis, who graciously opened their doors so that we could learn about the craft.

We first learned that cider-making has been around in the U.S. since the earliest settlements in Plymouth. Cider was the common beverage of colonial America -- even children would drink it diluted. And, long before that, the ancient Greeks and Romans, masters of cider-making, were surprised when they invaded England around 55 B.C. to learn that fermented cider was already being enjoyed there.

For our tasting, Mike poured us three different varietals. He explained the crushing and fermentation processes, differences between apples and pears, and the variation of cider styles between countries, including method champenoise.


The bar’s moniker, Redfield, comes from an apple varietal of the same name. Redfield apples have deep red flesh and is a varietal that was originally created in New York as an ornamental tree. Although not a great apple for eating, it makes a beautiful, deep red cider.

Mike guided us through the three main styles of cider. Each had unique flavors and aromas, from sour and dry with a vinegary aroma to floral with a hint of honey. The Gurutzeta Euskal from Spain is best tasted after a show stopping pour that required Mike to hold the bottle high overhead in one hand. In the other hand, the glass is held as far as way as possible then with a steady hand the cider is poured into the glass.

The store boasts ten different ciders on tap and over 100 bottled offerings from around the world, including the classic apple and pear (known as perry) as well as some more unusual concoctions that include other fruits like cherries or black currants. It also carries some rare late-harvest or “ice-wine” versions where the apple mash is frozen and the concentrated juices ferment into a sweeter, dessert cider.

Besides the beverage offerings, Redfield also has a small kitchen to enhance the tastings with offerings of small plates, sandwiches, and salads to complement their growing clientele of cider aficionados. We appreciate a behind-the-scenes tour and will definitely be back.

An inside look at foodservice at Sysco

A cold and rainy spring day did not stop twenty SFPFS members from traveling to Fremont to visit Sysco’s Northern California headquarters. Sysco graciously opened its doors to provide an opportunity for members to expand their knowledge of commercial foodservice, and what better way to explore this industry than to hear from one of the global leaders.

To provide a recap, Sysco is an American corporation involved in marketing and distributing food products, smallwares, kitchen equipment and tabletop items to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, and other hospitality businesses. The Fremont facilities service customers from Big Sur to Fort Bragg.

After a Q&A session with the facility manager and staff, we suited up in special coats, hats and gloves, and began our tour of Newport Meats, Sysco’s meat processing facility. Originally founded in the LA area, Newport Meats was purchased by Sysco in the late 1990’s. The facility houses an integrated dock for receiving and shipping products, computer enhanced refrigeration controls, separate rooms dedicated to cutting fresh meats and fish, and a meat aging room. Over the course of a single day, over 5,000 pounds of fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, halibut, sole, wahoo, and mahi-mahi) and 12,000 pounds of meat (beef, lamb, and pork) are cut into portions according to customer specifications, and then wrapped and shipped. Sanitation is key in this work environment: it takes over five hours to clean the space before the work starts again the next day. Poultry is portioned elsewhere due to specific sanitation requirements.

During the tour, we learned that business has shifted mostly to providing pre-portioned meat and fish versus the entire animal. Many hospitality companies are unable to hire enough staff to handle their own, internal butchering needs so it has been more economical to purchase steaks, chops and filets already cut to specification. Additionally, we learned that although Sysco would like to source more locally raised meats, the ranches in California are not large enough to support their business needs. Instead, Sysco sources meat from as far away as the Midwest. Fish is sourced mainly from the West Coast, as far north as Washington and as far south as Mexico, and also from Hawaii.

Following the tour of Newport Meats, we were treated to a decadent buffet lunch featuring Sysco’s products, prepared by Head Chef Jay Marshall (who recently joined SFPFS!). The menu included a salumi and cheese platter, beet salad, Manhattan Steaks (i.e., small NY Strips), airline grilled chicken, Beyond Meat™ burgers, and an array of desserts.

After lunch, we received a tour of the company’s massive 500,000+ square foot warehouse. Here, as forklifts whizzed by us, we learned about Sysco’s inventory control system, how packing slips are used, and that cleanliness is key. We traveled through the refrigerated produce area and saw company inspectors checking produce boxes for freshness and then ended the tour in the freezer room among boxes of ice cream and other desserts.

Thank you to Sysco for a great day, filled with information, delicious food, and great company.

Meet SFPFS Member and culinary consultant Rosemary Mark.

Rosemary specializes in incorporating unique flavors in practical recipes for home cooks and the foodservice industry. Her nutrition-related client projects have included: increasing omega 3-fatty acid consumption through recipe development for the California Walnut Board; and designing child-centric frozen vegetable dishes for a supermarket chain. She has produced recipes for new flavors by Dreyers and Haagan-Dazs® and for pantry staples like Sun-Maid dried fruit and Del Monte vegetables. Other clients have included Driscoll’s, Safeway, The Ginger People, and the Idaho Potato Commission. Her food blog Get Cooking Simply shares healthy recipes and cooking tips.

When did you first decide you wanted to make food your career?

When I was a high school sophomore I wrote to a few women’s magazine food editors – Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal, Good Food, Redbook –  and told them my favorite hobby was cooking and asked how I could work in recipe development and testing. They all replied and I still have the letters! They said to take chemistry and organic chemistry in high school and then study Home Economics in preparation for a career with food companies, PR agencies, magazines or supermarkets. Some suggested that I study journalism which I regret to this day that I didn’t do (PS – Dianne Jacob, I needed your coaching!).

How did you get where you are today in the food business?

I interned with the California Egg Board after graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Home Economics and Business. For five years I did sales and marketing for a fresh egg distributor called Rebecca Farms Eggs. My first freelance recipe project was with Golden Grain Pasta in 1993, where I met SFPFS member Mary Margaret Sinnema with whom I still collaborate. Relationships can shape a career for many years! Over the years I developed clients including Sun Diamond, Sun-Maid, Safeway, Driscoll’s, The Walnut Board, Basic American Foods and others.

What is the most exciting thing going on in food right now, in your opinion?

I like that people are interested in fresh, clean cooking. Cooking takes planning, but it doesn’t need to be complicated to prepare food that is tasty and healthy. I also really like the growing awareness of social and environmental impact. I particularly noted this at the Fancy Food show this year and wrote about it here.

What advice do you have for young people who want a career in food?

Consider areas beyond cooking, including ingredient and food product sales as well as ingredient supply chains, where culinary knowledge can be used for marketing and brand support. Also think about whether you want to turn your hobby into a career. There are pros and cons to that.

What is your favorite food experience?

It’s difficult to choose, but one that comes to mind was the longest I ever waited for a meal.  We waited 2.5 hours in the most beautiful beachside landscape in Cape Coast, Ghana, at a rustic café run by a Ghanaian man and Croatian woman. I’m sure we were waiting for them to catch our fish because it was the most delicate and best flavor I’ve ever had with their traditional tomato and pepe pepper sauce.

What cookbook could not live without?

I use the internet much more than books, but I am deeply into Ken Forkish’s cookbook Flour Water Salt Yeast and am loving the breads I bake with his formulas.

What is your go-to recipe for entertaining?

When I entertain, I am usually trying out a new idea so guests are usually my recipe taster/testers. I showcase many of my favorite recipes on my Get Cooking Simply blog.

What chefs or blogs do you follow?

I read Kitchn regularly and am impressed with how their online format has developed in such a short time. It is clear and on-trend, with usable content and excellent visuals.

What have you gained from being a member of the SFPFS?

The many connections as resources for client projects, culinary knowledge, and camaraderie as food professionals.  Pretty much any time I have a culinary or business question, there is someone in the Society I can ask or they can refer someone to me. And recently this network extended to my daughter in her international job search related to food security (thank you Michele Hennessey, Jo Lynne Lockley, and John Wiest). She is now working in Ghana and Sub Saharan Africa in renewable energy and agricultural development programs.

Visit to Gourmet Mushrooms Inc.

As we approach spring, members of the SFPFS received a private tour of Gourmet Mushrooms’ 43,000 square-foot production facility in Sebastapol. The company’s fresh mushroom division, Mycopia Mushrooms, has earned a reputation as a key producer of niche “forest” mushrooms, with tantalizing names like Trumpet Royale, Velvet Pioppini, Nebrodini Bianco, and Maitake Frondosa.

For those who missed it, here’s a short video that walks you through the cultivation process.

The facility is certified organic and kosher, and not surprising, everything there is recycled -- from the plastic bottles where the mushrooms are grown, to the custom-blended growing substrates made from byproducts like soybeans and wood pulp, which are then composted after the harvest.

Once the substrates have been steam sterilized, mushroom mycelium is introduced to each bottle by hand. Mushrooms are grown from spawn, not spores, for consistent quality. From there, the mushrooms are placed in just the right amount of heat and humidity to optimize growing. When they are fully grown, the mushrooms are carefully harvested by hand.

Mycopia was founded in 1977 and was the first to commercially cultivate shiitake in the U.S.  Mushrooms can be purchased at their Sebastopol facility at wholesale prices during working hours. The company is constanting innovating in ways to grow new varieties -- including morels. Perfect for our springtime dishes.

Love mushrooms? Follow Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. on Instagram and check out their upcoming open houses.