Posts in Visits & Tours
SFPFS members taste cider at Oakland's Redfield Cider Bar
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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.

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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.

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.