By now, many savvy local foodies in the Bay Area have heard of the website Good Eggs. Officially launched last July, the website aims to connect local farmers, ranchers, and food artisans to consumers by providing an Etsy-like online shopping and delivery service. Originally designed to allow small San Francisco-based producers to streamline their production and sales, the site expanded as of March 1 to offer groceries to anyone from the Peninsula to the East Bay to Marin.
Good Eggs holds high standards for their chosen food producers. Not only are they expected to sell organic and local products, they must provide transparency regarding their sourcing and/or growing practices to their consumers. According to Good Eggs, transparency between producer and consumer helps to strengthen relationships across the food community and to bolster the local food system. This, they believe is good for the environment and food politics as a whole. As they explain on their website: “We’re certain that better food is a means to a better world. As people get more of their food from local systems — systems built on caring for the land, the animals and the people in them — we believe that we’ll see real change.”
But these types of standards are nothing new in the enviro-conscious Bay Area, and much of the food found on Good Eggs’s site is also sold in farmers’ markets and grocery stores all around the Bay. For those of us living in the particularly rich food shopping mecca of the East Bay, the big question concerning Good Eggs is: Is the service worth it? Are the groceries that much better than what one could purchase at a moment’s notice from the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Monterey Market, The Local Butcher Shop, or Monterey Seafood Market? Is this service really just a lazy person’s chance to eat farm fresh veggies?
As a dedicated East Bay shopper, I decided to give the service a trial run by ordering a box full of the closest approximation to my usual grocery store run. I ordered the box delivered directly to my door (for an additional $3.99 fee) because I couldn’t make it to any of the designated drop off times that week. I then cooked a couple meal’s worth of dishes from my finds using only pantry staples to flesh out the dishes. Recipes follow below.
But before turning to the food itself, a bit more background on the service itself: Anyone growing, raising, picking, or cooking local food is eligible to sell their product through Good Eggs’s ordering system, as long at they meet the company’s criteria for transparency. By selling their food through the website, they are able to forgo the tedious task of managing their own personal ordering, payment, and delivery systems and focus simply on the food. Good Eggs takes a small chunk – 3.5% – of the producers’ sales to stay profitable. Based on the roughly 100 producers involved with the site today, this small cost is worth it.
Shoppers can shop based on their delivery area. There is a bit of variation in the goods available from region to region, but most staples are available to everyone. Each product description is accompanied by an image of the food to be purchased as well as an image and bio of the producer. The inclusion of each producer’s bio is offered in the hope that shoppers will feel just as connected to the farmers and cooks selling on Good Eggs as they do while chatting at a farmers’ market. The ordering process itself is effortless, and the site’s design allows for kind of pick-your-own CSA that is appealing for anyone who’s been stuck with piles of zucchini and chard in their end of season pick-up. Still, it’s easy to feel lazy ordering food online, and the absence of actual face-to-face conversations at farmers’ markets or in grocery stores made the whole process lonely.
I forged ahead and placed the following in my cart: a big bag of organic braising mix (assorted kales, chards, and mustards) from Bloomfield Farms, the Capay Valley Farm Shop’s seasonal vegetable trio (Full Belly Farm’s choice), the pickle of the month from Emmy’s Preserves, Ethiopian Blue Wheat Berries from Full Belly Farm, raw Chandler walnut halves from Old Dog Ranch, and a RoliRoti Gourmet Rotisserie Chicken.
Rest assured, these were only a few of the many options for order. At last count, I found over 130 listings for products as wide ranging as take-and-bake artisanal pizza and vegan Ethiopian injera wraps to four kinds of sausage, homemade baby food, and a sustainable fish share. The current list reads almost like a line-up at a farmers’ market, except for one important detail – there are very few fresh vegetables. In fact, I ordered all of the fresh vegetables available on the particular day I purchased the delivery, and my purchase was not enough for more than a few dinners.
However meager, the vegetables were in almost perfect condition when they arrived at my doorstop at exactly the listed delivery time. My vegetable trio included bright green curly spinach, strikingly pink dragon’s tongue radishes, and a pound of hearty red beets. Unfortunately, the radish tops were a bit yellowed and the beets were, sadly, green-less, but I was still happy with the flavors of the produce. The braising mix, on the other hand, was fresh and full of lively variety.
The pickle of the month turned out to be a mix of super spicy jalapeños and carrots, which are good sliced and served on tacos or chili but not great for snacking on their own. Old Dog Ranch’s walnuts were spectacular – sweet and mellow with a hint of vanilla and no traces of tannic bitterness. The Ethiopian wheat berries were not actually blue, sadly. Once cooked, they were richly earthy, and each kernel pops between the teeth like natural pop rocks.
For dinner the night of the delivery, I took advantage of the pre-washed braising mix and made a quick side dish using my favorite cooking technique for mixed greens: I slowly browned sliced garlic in a generous pour of good olive oil and then added the greens, the radish tops, some kosher salt, and about a cup of chicken broth (you could also use beer, wine, vegetable broth or water here). I brought the liquid to a boil, covered the pot, and let the greens collapse. After five minutes or so, I took off the lid and rapidly reduced the cooking liquid until it was just a glimmer of its former self. I finished the greens with a drizzle of apple cider vinegar and some more olive oil.
Half of the radishes went into a green salad that night, and I ate a good portion of the walnuts with some chocolate for dessert.
To serve my pre-cooked chicken, I stayed away from a simple re-heat and carve scenario. Rotisserie chicken (even a very good one) dries out quickly in the oven, but it makes for a killer chicken salad. The leftover bones are also handy for bubbling a pot of stock on a lazy Sunday. For this particular chicken salad, I made a dressing with some punchy pantry staples – smoked paprika, garlic, sherry vinegar, and preserved Meyer lemon. I shredded the chicken and added it to the dressing along with the spinach (blanched and squeezed dry) the rest of the walnuts toasted in a little bit of paprika-garlic infused olive oil, and the rest of the radishes, thinly sliced.
For a third dish, I paired the earthy beets with the robust, chewy wheat berries to make a borscht-like warm side dish. I soaked the wheat berries and then simmered them in beef broth with the beets, peeled and diced. Meanwhile, I stirred together some whole milk yogurt, a minced shallot, parsley, apple cider vinegar, and a couple of pinches of dill pollen. Once the beets were tender and the wheat berries al dente, I drained the pot, reserving the cooking liquid for future soup, and topped them with a big drizzle of the yogurt mixture.
In the end, I spent a bit more cash than I normally would on a small farmers’ market shopping trip (without the added delivery cost, the difference would have been almost negligible). I felt good supporting local food producers, yet these are many of the same folks I see at Berkeley and Oakland markets. I saved time and gas money, but lost out on some quality conversation with local farmers and cooks.
All of the meals I prepared from the Good Eggs delivery were flavorful and needed little in terms of accoutrements – the quality of product spoke for itself. But I could say the same for just about any organic, in-season purchase I make in the area. Given my flexible schedule and the enjoyment I derive from shopping excursions, I probably won’t use the service for regular grocery shopping again. But should my schedule change, or should I crave what looks like an awesome take-and-bake pizza delivered to my door, I’d certainly log on to Good Eggs again.
Braised Greens with Lots of Garlic
Use a high-quality flavorful olive oil. I like the Arbequina variety. Slicing the garlic thin and heating it gently adds a gentle sweetness to the dish. For more robust garlic flavor, mince the cloves or press them through a garlic press.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 pound braising mix, washed, and chopped if desired
1 cup water, broth, beer, or wine
Apple cider vinegar
1. Combine oil and garlic in a large dutch oven or deep saucepan (with a lid). Heat gently over medium-low heat until garlic sizzles and just begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Add greens, cooking liquid, and a big pinch of salt. Raise the heat to high and bring liquid to a rapid boil. Cover and let greens steam until wilted, about 5 minutes.
3. Uncover and continue to cook over high heat until greens completely collapse and cooking liquid is almost evaporated. Remove from heat and drizzle with a bit of vinegar and some more olive oil. Season with salt to taste and serve.
Chicken Salad with Spinach and Smoky Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
This vinaigrette is tangy, salty and smoky. If you want to dial it back a bit, use sweet paprika in place of the smoked and substitute 1–2 teaspoons of lemon juice for the preserved lemon. Don’t clean out the skillet after steeping the oil; the residual spices will add depth to the toasted nuts and blanched spinach.
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (blend)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 preserved lemon peel, minced
1/4–1/3 cup walnuts
1 large bunch curly spinach (about 8 ounces), chopped and washed but not dried
5–10 radishes, sliced thin
2 1/2 cups cooked shredded rotisserie or leftover roasted chicken
1. For the vinaigrette: Combine oil and garlic in a 10-inch skillet. Heat gently over medium-low heat until garlic just begins to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Pour in paprika and continue to heat until it sizzles and becomes fragrant. Pour oil mixture into a small bowl. Don’t wipe out the skillet.
2. Stir vinegar and preserved lemon into oil mixture until well combined, and season with salt to taste.
3. For the salad: Add walnuts to reserved skillet and toss to coat in excess oil mixture. Toast over medium-low heat until well-browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and chop into small pieces. Don’t wipe out the skillet.
4. Add spinach to the skillet (in batches if necessary) and wilt over medium heat. Season with a little salt as the spinach wilts. Once the spinach has just wilted but is still bright green, drain in a fine mesh strainer. Run spinach under cold water to halt cooking and then squeeze out as much water as possible using your hands. Transfer to a large bowl.
5. Add walnuts, radishes, and chicken to bowl with spinach and stir to combine. Add vinaigrette and mix well. Season with salt to taste. Let salad chill in the fridge for at least an hour or so before serving.
Borscht-Style Beets and Wheat Berries with a Yogurt-Dill Drizzle
Dill pollen adds concentrated dill flavor to the sauce. If you can’t find it, or don’t want to splurge on the pollen, use chopped fresh dill in its place. You can cook the wheat berries and beets in any flavorful broth you’ve got on hand; beef is simply the most traditional choice.
1 cup wheat berries
3 cups water or broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
1 pound beets, peeled and diced
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (not Greek-style)
1 large shallot, minced, rinsed under cold water, and dried
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dill pollen or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1. First, soak the wheat berries: Place wheat berries in a large heat-proof bowl and cover generously with boiling water. Let sit for about an hour. Drain.*
2. In a large saucepan combine soaked wheat berries with broth and a generous pinch of salt. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, partially cover, reduced heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add diced beets and continue to simmer until both beets and wheat berries are tender, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
4. Meanwhile, make the drizzle: Combine yogurt, shallot, vinegar, and dill pollen in a small bowl. Season with salt to taste.
5. Once beets and wheat berries are tender, drain (reserving cooking liquid if you’d like for soup) and toss with parsley. Serve warm or cold with a big spoonful of the yogurt drizzle.
*Alternatively, let wheat berries soak in room temperature water overnight. Drain.
Kate Williams was raised in Atlanta with an eager appetite. She spent two years as a test cook at America’s Test Kitchen before moving out to Berkeley to write, eat, and escape the winter. She currently writes for Serious Eats and The Oxford American, in addition to her work at Berkeleyside NOSH.