Little City Kitchen Co. Blog

My stories about local food, fermentation, and formerly organic baby food
Join Newsletter
Receive Blog and Class Updates

Basics of Fermentation: A Cooking Class at Whisk Carolina, August 10th at 2pm

Most of you guys know that I’m a little fermentation obsessed.  My kitchen counters are overrun with mason jars of various sizes and of various fillings.  I generally have 5-8 fermentation projects going at any given time.  For example, going right now I have:

  • Two types of sauerkraut (ruby red garlic jalapeno and a simple green cabbage one);
  • Carrot slices layered with red onion and jalapenos (for the class below);
  • Garlic scapes (little shoots that grow on garlic plants for a few weeks);
  • The first fermented chili paste of the season with green cayennes, serranos and banana peppers;
  • Blackberry vinegar with berries from Dr. Young’s Pond Farm;
  • A ginger bug to make naturally fermented soda;
  • And finally some good ole Blueberry green tea kombucha;

You can check out some of those pictures- and many more of my fermented goodies - here.

I’ve just moved back to my hometown of Cary, NC after spending 15 years in Boston and San Francisco.  I’d love to get people excited about fermentation here in the Triangle, so I hope you’ll join me on Sunday, August 10th from 2pm-4pm at Whisk Carolina for this hands-on cooking class.  We’ll be making some of my favorite live cultured items such as sauerkraut, spicy carrot slices and fermented chili paste, and you’ll get to take home two projects to ferment on your counter at home.

Only 12 spots available – reserve your spot today!  Details below.

If I had $1000 to Spend: A Post-Holiday Guide to My Favorite Local Businesses {the Little Locavore Blog Series}

I used to spend over $1000 on holiday presents each year, which is ironic considering Christmas is a holiday I didn’t celebrate until I was well into my 20’s.  Hanukkah is a perfectly good holiday, but it doesn’t have the same sparkly, festive, present-opening, pajama-wearing, mimosa-drinking appeal that I’ve come to enjoy from a cold, snowy Christmas.

Leaving corporate America (and a steady paycheck) meant big changes in my life, including saving my pennies.  This year’s Christmas gifts consisted of crochets scarves, and homemade goodies like fermented chili paste, tomato sauce & assorted jams I made over the summer.  These are great, but I miss the days of being able to give extravagant gifts to all the people I care about.

Which got me thinking…  If I had that same $1000 to spend on Christmas today, what would I buy?

Note: I had intended to publish this post in early December, but like many of us, procrastination got the best of me and I’m just getting around to doing it.  So while you may not choose these as Christmas gifts, consider these guys my *fav* local companies and support them when you can!

My $1000 Post-Holiday Gift List

($96): 1 month of fresh heirloom juice from Luisa & Derek at SoW
($64): 8 jars of organic hummus from Donna at Love & Hummus
($40): 4 jars of pickled fennel from Christian at the Uncommon Pickle
($66): Demi-Annual, seasonal jam subscription from Dafna at INNA Jam
($36): 6 jars of Pomegranate Parsley kombucha from Alex at Cultured
($35): Homemade Chai tea spice box from John at Oaktown Spice Shop
($50): Case of heirloom Gravenstein apple juice from Kendra at Nana Mae’s
($100): Gift certificate for nourishing, prepared food from Angie at MamaKai
($55): 5 tins of Petite Whisper’s classic inspiration cards from Alexis & Evon
($40): 4 jars of Strawberry Balsamic jam from Devereaux at Company Jam
($100): Gift certificate for Nourish Life & Business Coaching with Alexis
($65): For the ultimate Tower of Chocolate from Dennis at Coco Delice
($26): ½ gallon of fermented Kalamata olives from Good Faith Farm
($40): Preserved fruits & goodies from Anea at Valley Girl Foodstuffs
($20): Pasture-raised smoked bacon from Ted at Highland Hills Farm
($36): 2 lbs of Ethiopian Yergacheffe from Rich & Robert at Highwire coffee
($48): 4 quarts of beef bone broth from Jessica & team at Three Stone Hearth
($35): International Food of the Month box from Vijay at Hungry Globetrotter
($48): 2 Emergency Bloody Mary kits from Todd at Happy Girl Kitchen
$1000  Grand Total

Food is Personal

In a recent conversation with a fellow food entrepreneur, I was reminded that food is personal.   Each of the businesses listed above I have come to know personally – I’ve spoken with them at farmers markets, visited their farms, bellied up to their juice bars, watched them hand roll each truffle, and taken their cooking classes.  They share their struggles and successes willingly, transforming a regular food purchase into something much more emotional.

I’ve written before about knowing the people that make and grow your food, and this group of businesses are the ultimate examples of what I meant!  So consider this a post-Christmas wish list for each of you, chock-full of all the businesses (and people!) that I want to support in the coming year.  Help spread the word if you can…

Coming Soon!

A new blog and small business coaching company by Jill.  Excited!!  Stay tuned…

Related Posts:

A Guide to Supporting Local Food Makers
A Guide to Mindful Meat Consumption 
I’m Egg-stremely Confused – Part 1


A Bay Area Parent’s Guide to Local Food Makers: The Good Eggs Way {The Little Locavore Blog Series}

It’s no secret that I’m a local food lover.  My longtime readers know that I could talk about food for hours.  That being said, I’m under no illusion that the local & sustainable food I crave is easily accessible to the everyday person, and even less convenient for the busy Bay Area parent.

Enter my new company crush, Good Eggs, who are hoping to change the local food system with their new online marketplace aimed at connecting eaters and producers.

I recently spoke with Good Eggs co-founder, Rob Spiro, about their mission, and specifically about some of their producers that Little City parents will find most attractive.   Top of my list; some really incredible pasture-raised meat companies, my two favorite baby food companies, and for all the allergy-sensitive kiddos, the most delicious gluten free bread I’ve tasted.

A Chat with the Co-Founder, Rob Spiro

Jill: What are the biggest challenges in trying in connecting food makers with their local community?
Rob: Awareness & convenience.  First people have to know about all the great local food they can buy — including farm-fresh fruits and veggies, ranch-direct meats, fresh bread and other bakery goods, etc.  Then they have to actually get the food, and it’s that last-mile piece of the distribution chain, and the most difficult in many cases.

Jill: How can the average person support local food makers in a more meaningful way?
Rob: Make it a part of your weekly routine.  Find the producers that you want to be feeding your family, and then buy from them every week.  Becoming a “regular” is the best way to build a relationship with a food maker, help their business, and ultimately have a more rewarding experience.


I swear, it’s like he read our last blog about supporting local food makers.

To begin addressing these challenges, Good Eggs has established a few “food hubs” around the Bay Area where you can order items online from multiple producers and pick them all up at once.  Some of the locations include Good Eggs HQ (Mission), Food Craft Institute (Oakland), Berkeley Ironworks (Berkeley), among others.  It’s not a perfect system yet as every producer is not available at every food hub, but definitely a step in the right direction.

The Parent’s Guide to Producers

Now back to my fabulous Little City parents…  If you attended any of my cooking classes or demonstrations, you’ll know I’m a die-hard advocate of pasture-raised meats and eggs for the whole family.  Here are some Good Eggs producers that you’ll want to check out:

  • Round Valley Raised: $300-$400 pasture raised pork and beef share boxes.  Get some friends together to split if needed, that’s what I’m doing if anyone wants to get in for September, $100 portions.
  • Harley Richter meats: Founder John Richter does A-mazing things with sausage.  A tasty and relatively inexpensive way to get high quality pastured meat into your kiddo’s diet.
  • Pastoral Plate: has it all from pastured eggs & chicken to pork & beef.
  • Jablow’s Meats: Finding pastured lunch meat is always a challenge for me, but Dan’s got some incredible corned beef and pastrami coming out of his kitchen.
  • Bread Srsly: For all the gluten free kiddos, this GF sourdough bread is a must buy!  They have awesome muffins and other breads too, but Sadie’s sourdough seriously rocks.
  • i love blue sea: seafood caught using sustainable methods and sourced directly from local & trusted fisherman.  I heart their oysters.

And for the brand new mommies and daddies out there…

  • MamaKai: Prepared meals made for growing families and perfect for the busy parent.  I can tell you from personal experience, Angie’s food is nutrient-dense and amazing – the perfect way to nourish your family.
  • Big Dipper Baby Food and Fresh Baby Bites:  you guys already know about my two favorite baby food companies since Little City stopped making it ourselves.  They’re both available here too.

I asked Rob why he feels food is so personal.  His response: “Food is elemental.  It’s an expression of caring for the people around you, and being cared for.  It’s the centerpiece of the most important social rituals in our lives, as it has been throughout history.  It’s the most important contributing factor to our health.  It’s the fundamental way that we, as humans, participate in the natural cycles of the land.”  Well put.

So, check out these great producers, try out Good Eggs when you can, and tell your friends there’s a new way to get local food in town.

Related posts:


Jill Epner is a recovering food entrepreneur, advocate for early-stage food startups, and Bay Area food blogger. Follow her on Facebook, or sign up to receive her newsletter where she gives a candid peek  into the world of starting her own food company, Little City Kitchen Co.


A Guide to Supporting Local Food Makers: Knowing the People who Make & Grow Your Food {the Little Locavore Blog Series}

When I started my own baby food company, Little City Kitchen Co., I immersed myself completely into the local food world for the first time in my life. One of the most rewarding results was the relationship I developed with the people that make and grow my food.   Food, whether I’m learning, buying or eating it, is an experience for me, and I have endless curiosity about how it comes to be.

Somewhere over the last several years, I developed a driving need to uncover the story behind my food.  I could (and do!) spend hours talking to farmers and craft food producers about their experiences…what drove them to start their business, how long have they been making kombucha, when will their best pickling cucumbers arrive, and most importantly, how can I help support them?

And for the everyday person, therein lies the problem: Most people would never put the same energy that I do into selecting & buying food.

There’s just no getting around the fact that supporting local food makers is an intentional act; you almost have to go out of your way to do it.   It takes more time, energy, and lets face it, money, than we’re used to spending on this part of our life.  So why bother?

Make Food Personal

For me, there is something magical about knowing the person who makes my food.  Not only am I convinced that the food is healthier and tastes better, but I’m also emotionally drawn to supporting these types of businesses, and I get tremendous satisfaction when I contribute, even in a small way.

Because I’ve been there…  These guys eat, live & breathe their products, and it takes loyal supporters like us, people that are willing to go out of their way to make purchases, to keep these guys in business.  I assure you that local food businesses have the deck stacked against them almost every step of the way, so the $8 loaf of Bread Srsly or the $7 jar of Emmy’s pickles you buy really does make a difference.

Small changes to consider

So in typical Jill fashion, I’ve put together a few tips on how the everyday person can begin to re-establish the connection they have with the people that make & grow their food:

  • Visit your local farmers market and talk every week to the people selling…many of them are the owners and have all sorts of information & stories.
  • In San Francisco, check out my new company “crush”, the newly launched Good Eggs website (literally, they launched yesterday).  They’ve been called the new Esty of local food.
  • Seek out local products in your natural grocery stores, and choose (even if just occasionally) to pay a few bucks more for it than a less-expensive, larger brand.
  • Once you find local products you love, consider giving them as gifts. Look for opportunities to buy for more than just yourself, and introduce others to these foods in the process
  • Check out a Slow Money collaboration called Credibles where you can pre-purchase from your favorite local businesses.  Think of it like a really big gift certificate that you get to redeem over time.
  • Consider joining a CSA for a weekly delivery of produce, meat, jams, bread and even seafood.

When it comes down to it for me, I’d rather know that Donna made my Love & Hummus, or that Deveraux chopped up the apricots for my jar of Company Jam, or that Charlie gathered my eggs from Rolling Oaks Ranch.  I’ll seek out Bledsoe pork because the rancher, John Bledsoe, is a riot.  And soon on a Saturday, I’ll trek into San Francisco for a fresh juice “flight” from a new pop-up juice bar called SoW, for no other reason than to support the co-founder and my friend, Luisa.

This is what the local food community is all about.  Come join us!!

A Guide to Mindful Meat Consumption: The Little Locavore Blog Series by Little City Kitchen Co.

I have a confession to make… For as much of a local foodie as I have become, I intentionally delayed reading Michael Pollan’s, The Omnivores Dilemma, for about two years.  You could say that I wanted to bury my head in the sand, but I was just convinced that I would turn into a vegetarian if I really learned about where my meat comes from.

Eventually I opened the book, and while I can proudly say that I’m still an avid meat eater, I’ve become highly selective about the type and quality of meat I consume.  I haven’t decided whether I’m a butchers’ greatest customer or worst enemy, but before I make any meat purchase, I need to know how it was raised, what it was fed, how it was processed (a very pretty industry word that means how it was killed), and how it gets to my plate.   Yup, I’m THAT girl…

Which brings me to today’s blog.  What does the average person need to consider when buying meat, and where are some reliable sources for the good quality stuff?

Defining “Mindful” Meat

I could dedicate pages and pages to this topic, but today we’ll keep it short and sweet.  Here is what you should consider when purchasing meat:

How It’s Raised: The best quality stuff you can buy is pasture-raised from small farms (remember those words from our last egg blog?), not from conventional feeding facilities.  For beef, “happy cows” are meant to eat grass, so opt for a grass-fed variety if you can.  For pork, chicken & duck, look for pastured varieties.

What It’s Fed:  For cows, grass is the best option, with organic grains as the second-best option.  Feeding animals organic grains can be an expensive proposition, so some farmers opt for a high-quality conventional feed that doesn’t include any genetically modified grains.  Talk to your farmers…the better quality their food, the better quality the meat.

By asking these questions to your meat purveyor, it will be clear that you’re looking for meat with high nutritional quality that has been raised in an ethical environment.

Where to Buy:

Farmers Markets: Most established farmers markets have grass-fed beef or pastured meats available now.   Buying from them allows to you establish a relationship with the farmer and only purchase the cuts or amounts that you need.  And if you have a big freezer, you could consider another great option: buying a ¼, ½ or whole cow!  They cut it up for you and you get everything in small, vacuum-sealed packages.

Meat-focused CSA:  If you don’t make it to the farmers market, consider subscribing to a meat CSA.  This is another way to buy directly from the farm, and just like a veggie/fruit CSA, you get a box of fresh meat cuts delivered directly to your front door (or to the pickup location near you).  Check out LocalHarvest or EatWild to locate a meat CSA in your area. These sites are a little confusing, so when in doubt, just start calling the farms!   I know that Tara Firma Farms and Marin Sun Farms both have great meat CSA’s pickup spots throughout the Bay Area.

Butcher Shops: The next best option is to buy from a local butcher shop that practices “whole animal butchery”.  Instead of getting boxes of specific cuts in Cryovac bags, these butcher shops buy the whole animal and butcher up everything themselves.  It means that every part of the animal is used and nothing is wasted…the way is should be!

I still haven’t found a great listing of high quality butcher shops in the Bay Area, but here’s the best I could compile, and many of these practice whole animal butchery.  If you know of others near you, please email me so I can add to this list.

Avedanos (SF, Bernal Heights)
Marina Meats (SF, Marina)
Fatted Calf (SF, Hayes Valley
Star Meats (Berkeley)
Marin Sun Farms (Oakland/Rockridge, Point Reyes and more)
The Local Butcher Shop (Berkeley)
4505 Meats (SF, Hayes Valley, Ferry Building Farmers Market)
Bi-Rite (SF, Mission District)
Oliver’s (SF, Dogpatch)
Harley Richter Meats (pickup & delivery,
Canyon Market (Glen Park, carries BN Ranch meat…)

I’m Egg-stremely Confused – Part 2: Behold the Pasture Raised Egg

You read Part 1 last week about the differences between free range, organic and cage free eggs.  Now that you’ve got your background information down, let’s talk about the very best of all egg options: the pasture-raised egg…

Behold the Pasture-Raised Egg:

These little guys live a great life.  While pasture-raised hens have little cubbies to lay eggs in, they spend most of the time pecking around outside as they have for thousands of years.  They nibble on all the bugs, earthworms and other critters that enhance their nutritional content and flavor along the way.  The better quality food the hens eats, the better their eggs become.  In fact, you’ll find that to be true in general with all food.

As a result, the yolks are usually a gorgeous golden orange color, the whites are crystal clear, and when cooked, the whites are soft instead of the normal rubbery texture we’re use to from conventional eggs.  I eat at least two a day.

From a nutritional standpoint, although the USDA maintains the position that “all eggs are equal”, there is much independent research that proves otherwise.  In pastured eggs, the levels of betacarotene can be 7 times higher (which gives the yolk that rich golden color instead of the normal pale yellow), Omega 3′s are at up to 21 times higher, and levels of vitamins A, E & D are also significantly increased as compared to conventional eggs.

Check out the chart at the bottom of this Mother Earth News article with nutritional statistics.  The levels of each nutrient may vary from farm to farm depending on breed and diet, but however you slice it, they’re packed with better things for your body compared to a factory-farmed egg.

Why isn’t everyone eating pastured eggs?

Well, there are a few hurdles…

Let’s the get shock-and-awe part over with here: pastured eggs should cost between $7.00 and $8.00 a dozen.  This seems expensive, but after what you’ve just learned about how they’re raised, it’s no surprise that why we are used to paying closer to $3.00 a dozen.  I believe that you get what you pay for, and if eggs are under $5.00 a dozen, I always have to wonder why.

There’s another problem with pastured eggs…they’re a little hard to find, and they go through ups and downs with production based on the weather.  Finicky little girls…they don’t like the extreme heat or the extreme cold, so they sorta go on strike during these times!

In a commercial large egg facility, you can control the lighting and temperature…giving you predictable results: consistency, but not in a natural way.  Yesterday, the farmers market opened at 2pm sold out of pastured eggs at 2:15.  Just be prepared for shortages.  Pastured eggs usually last at least 4-6 weeks, so buy a few dozen at a time when you can find them.  

Egg-cellent Locator

Here are some suggestions on how to get your hands on pastured eggs:

  • Local farmers markets:  The best place to find them!  One word of caution: don’t assume that they’re pastured-raised just because they’re at the market; ask the farmer about how they’re raised and what they’re fed.
  • Natural food stores:  Check natural grocers near you.  In the East Bay, my Whole Foods here in Oakland just started carrying my favorite Rolling Oaks Ranch eggs (Yay!), Berkeley Bowl, Three Stone Hearth, Berkeley & Alameda Natural Grocery usually have a steady supply.  In the city, check places like Bi-Right or Rainbow Grocery or your neighborhood natural grocer.
  • Local butcher shops: pick up some of your grass-fed beef or pastured pork while you’re there!
  • CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture): those great veggie delivery boxes that I talk about.  There are several CSA’s that sell pasture-raised meats and offer pastured eggs as an option.
  • The best site I’ve found so far to find pastured eggs in your area is Local Harvest.  Just type your zip code on the right hit search.  You can also narrow it down to just CSA’s or farms, and give them a call to find out more information.

So to summarize, if pastured eggs are hard for you to find (or not financially viable), then organic, free range eggs are the next best thing.  If you can find them from a somewhat-local source, than all the better.  And remember guys, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  Buy a dozen pastured eggs once a month if that’s all you can do…it’s still a great step in the right direction.

Happy Eating!

I’m Egg-stremely Confused – Part 1: Free Range, Cage Free, Organic…What’s the Difference?

Introducing the first post of a new blog series from Little City Kitchen Co. called The Little Locavore.  Many of you know that I’m pretty passionate about the local food movement and am always encouraging people to eat in a more mindful and informed way.  The first topic we’re going to cover is eggs…

In a recent Skype conversation with a dear friend, the subject of eggs came up.  She proudly held up her organic, cage-free container and said, “These are good, right?”  My response was that they’re certainly a step up from conventional supermarket eggs, but to beware of terms like cage-free, free range, etc…

Many of the egg-related terms are misleading, so I thought we could start with some definitions and explanations, and then we can talk about the better options…

Conventional/Supermarket style:

Sorry guys…there’s just no way to really soften this part of the message.  Eggs that are mass-produced are typically raised in little cages, sometimes as small as ½ square foot (the size of a sheet of paper) with little or no room to turn around.   They’re fed conventional feed which is generally commodity-driven, mostly animal byproducts and genetically-modified grains.

It’s not a pretty life and the eggs are lack in the nutrition department due to their conditions and diet.  If you’re a die-hard egg eater like me, any of the next categories are better options!

Cage Free:

Instead of being confined in little cages, the hens are kept in large facilities where they can walk around.  Certainly a step up from conventional practices, but be a little cautious because these facilities are often very crowded and moving around is hard (think Times Square during New Years Eve). This is definitely better than having the hens confined, but there can still be concerns with sanitation and overcrowding.

Free Range:

As we continue up the chain, free range gives us the idea that the hens are raised mainly outside in a large sprawling pasture.  But again, be a little careful, because it can be a bit of a misnomer.  It’s similar to cage-free in the sense that the hens aren’t confined in cages, but as an added bonus, free range hens get a little access to the outdoors.

The US Department of Agriculture defines free range hens as “spending part of the time outside”.  Nice and vague…  This could literally be a small door for 1000 hens that’s open for an hour a day, which the hens may or may not choose to use (hey – they’re creatures of habit, just like us).

Again, it’s certainly another step up from cage free, but I’d encourage you to do some research on what free-range actually means to the company that provides your eggs.  Sometimes it’s many doors open for many hours a day.  Sometimes it’s not.


Labeling eggs as organic is entirely referring to their feed.  As mentioned above, most free-range and cage free hens are fed the cheapest stuff on the commodity scale.  Organic means that the chicken feed comes from certified organic non-GMO grains, and contains no animal by-products.  This is yet another big step up…the better you feed your hens, the better quality (nutritional and taste) the eggs will be.

Ahhh, behold the Pasture-Raised Egg:

Which brings us to the very best of all options: the pasture-raised egg.  In Part 2 of this post, we’ll discuss how pastured hens are raised different than all the other kinds, why they’re better for you, and where you can get your hands on some.

I could dedicate a whole book to the pasture-rasied egg, so trust me, it’s more than worthy of a separate post!

Click here to read Part 2…

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.