Since last summer, Helmut Drews, a former tech acquisitions specialist, and Madrid-native Alberto Solis, a founder of the San Mateo incubator kitchen known as KitchenTown, have been cultivating a dream.
They have been raising Iberian pigs on their Encina Farms, the only commercial endeavor of its kind in California nurturing these specialty Spanish swines from which the luxurious jamon Iberico derives.
While Encina Farms’ own jamon Iberico is still a few years off — it takes a minimum of two years to cure the buttery ham leg — other pork products made from this distinctive black-footed, acorn-devouring breed can be enjoyed now.
Andreas Winsberg is used to growing things. The son of a farmer — David Winsberg of East Palo Alto’s Happy Quail Farms that started the craze for pimentos de Padron in California — he’s been helping his dad plant those prized Spanish peppers and sell them at the San Francisco Ferry Building farmers market since he can remember.
Now, it’s this 25-year-old’s turn to germinate something special of his own.
In late-March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit full bore in the Bay Area and shelter-in-place restrictions took hold, he created Farm Box, a weekly curated farmers market box that customers can get delivered to their door or pick up at the Ferry Plaza farmers market on Saturdays or the Menlo Park farmers market on Sundays.
Farm Box was developed by 409 + Co, a design agency that Andreas founded with fellow 20-something alums of Pennsylvania’s Haverford College, Stephen Davis and Jessie Lamworth.
They didn’t set out to do this. But realizing just how complicated buying groceries and food was about to become for people, they rose to the challenge to build out a new web-delivery business to help small-scale, local farmers, whose goods are so perishable, reach more customers.
“Seeing what my dad was going through, and fearing that the farmers market might shut down, was the impetus,’’ Andreas says. “We’re not in it to get rich, but to help farmers and others who need the boost now.’’
The artisanal chocolate company was founded by Dr. Gunars Valkirs, a Maui resident and retired biotech entrepreneur, who was the inventor of the first fast and sensitive pregnancy test.
Agriculture is in his heritage, as Valkirs’ father was a farmer in pre-World War II Europe before moving to San Diego, where he maintained a lush citrus orchard.
Inspired by his father, Valkirs started experimenting with planting cacao trees at his Kapalua home. Before long, he was leasing 50 acres of former sugarcane fields in Maui. Today, his farm, which marked its first harvest in spring 2018, encompasses about 7,000 cacao trees.
Particularly when it comes to spent mash left over from beer making, that is.
UCLA fraternity brothers Dan Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz were avid home-brewers who got the idea a few years ago to take that oatmeal-like mash with a nutty, malty flavor and turn it into nutritious energy bars.
After their ReGrained bars became a hit, they tinkered with more products that would highlight the mash, high in fiber and protein, that normally would be discarded or composted by breweries.
The result is their new ReGrained Puffs, a crunchy puffed chip snack that has the airy crispiness of shrimp chips.
Last year, the Nob Hill hotel added an apiary to its rooftop terrace just outside its Seven Stills restaurant. Now, it’s reaping the sweet rewards of those bee hives — from honey that’s accenting fun offerings on the menu.
I had a chance to try a few recently, when I was invited as an overnight guest of the hotel.
Take a seat at the bar or one of the tables in the restaurant that’s open to the lobby to order one of the specialty cocktails ($15 each) that are all named for movies that were filmed in San Francisco.