A report on The Ethicurean blog raised alarm bells about the continuing availability of Hoffman chickens and other birds. The Manteca-based poultry farm, which supplies Chez Panisse and other high-end restaurants, recently stopped pitching a booth at the Ferry Plaza Saturday Farmers' Market, citing company founder Ruth Hoffman's age. "Getting up at 5 a.m. to drive seventy miles every Saturday is too much, even with her son's and grandchildren's help," blogged DairyQueen. But unless you're a Ferry Plaza shopper, alarm over the future availability of Hoffman birds may be premature.
Hoffman and her son, Joe, were unavailable for comment. But Tim McCormick, owner of the Berkeley specialty food shop Magnani, suggested that giving up the Ferry Plaza booth might just be good news for Hoffman chicken lovers in the East Bay. "They got tired of dealing with the drive to the City and paying the big fees there," he said. "It's actually going to be better for us," said McCormick, who sells fifteen to twenty cases of Hoffman chickens, quail, and Cornish game hens a week at Magnani. McCormick said Joe Hoffman assured him the farm wouldn't be scaling back production. Allowed to forage in pens with weeds and grasses, Hoffman chickens tend to be smaller than other commercially raised birds, with more compact, finer-grained flesh than poultry from larger operations. Apart from Chez Panisse, other East Bay restaurants whose menus regularly feature Hoffman birds are Cafï¿½ Rouge and Oliveto.