Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Inaugural Good Food Awards

The Good Food Awards Marketplace
San Francisco

Could you have asked for a more beautiful or delicious day in the middle of January?

Winning apricot jam from Happy Girl Kitchen in Pacific Grove, CA which also holds workshops in preserving food. Topics include sauerkraut, marmalade, kombucha, pickles and yogurt.  


By late morning, the sun was beaming from above, and we were bathing in temperatures into the 60s. The food gods must have gotten together and decided to bless the Good Food Awards' event at the Ferry Building last night with a burst of spring and good cheer in this otherwise gloomy month.

The purpose of the Good Food Awards is to recognize superb food produced using local, organic, sustainable, and humane farming methods.

While I tried a number of scrumptious award-winning items (announced Friday night),  I found most exciting the opportunity to chit-chat with the farmers and producers to learn about their work.

Noble Coffee from Ashland, OR was started by a former Spanish teacher. The company is about 1.5 years old. 

Before coming here, I had not known the difference between dry and wet-processed coffee, or that 85% of the world's cocoa is harvested in Africa while only 1% of chocolate is made there. I had also never considered that pickled vegetables were high in probiotics.

Gingered Rhubarb Jam from Deluxe in Seattle, started by a former Amazon cookbook editor.

The purveyors really seem to make it their work's mission to produce goods using methods that actually benefit the local economies and social environments of their respective locales. Although some of the companies I saw are already established (eg Cowgirl Creamery, Blue Bottle Coffee), many were fledglings, defined here as those who have started up over the past few years or whose names are hardly (yet) known outside of their local communities. Like their products, these companies tend to have websites with a warm, homemade touch to them.  Photos in their "About Us" section are often of them smiling or out in the trenches. The CEO, customer service, ordering, and selling departments are often all the same person(s).  Accordingly, these producers have the fresh, sincere enthusiasm of fledglings which was evident in their smiles and the way they greeted me on this day.

Need a wake-up call? Cultured, from Berkeley,  has atomically spicy Spicy Oregano Purple Carrots.  

Brussels sprouts' relish from Ann's Raspberry Farm of Fredricktown, OH has a U-pick raspberry farm and sells in four local farmers' markets.

Firefly Kitchens of Seattle, which touts the probiotic and other health benefits of fermented foods, sells at local farmers' markets and a few of the city's specialty stores.

Ellelle, of Pasadena, harvests berries from San Luis Obispo and won for its  Central Coast Raspberry jam. 

Spirit Creek Farm which won for it's purple sauerkraut, is run by a charming couple from northern Wisconsin who live on a 70-acre farm. Their three young children participate the making of their products.  

Oh Man.  Of the chocolates we tried, my friend Jane and I liked this one best. It was the flavor combo of salty and sweet, no high quality chocolate.   From Charles Chocolates of San Francisco.   

Milk chocolate from Madécasse chocolate of Brooklyn.  Madécasse produces everything locally, including the wrappers. On the website, you'll find a cool and informative two-minute video with the chocolate stats listed earlier in this post.  The company HQ is in Brooklyn.  Founded by Peace Corps volunteers.  Blissfully smooth milk chocolate, 44%.
Tubs of water in the charcuterie section.  

Dry cured coppa from Gum Creek Farm, hailing from Roopville, GA. Doesn't look like they have a website yet, but they're on Facebook.

A buttery and nearly melt-in-your mouth triple cream Red Hawk from Cowgirl, Even Cowgirl Creamery had a table featuring its winner,  even though it has a large shop inside. 

Oregon's Ancient Heritage Dairy is located in the foothills of the Cascades.  Their sweet motto is: "Raised with respect, nourished to nourish you." 


I wondered yesterday where the vendors would be.  They were right in front of the Ferry Building, beneath the awning, grouped by category (chocolate, coffee, pickles, charcuterie and cheese--there was no beer):

Each vendor had a sign (on reusable media) stating the name of the winning product, company and state it comes from:

The Good Food Marketplace was an awesome place to taste-test dozens of products from all over the country in their pure forms, without accompaniment. So there were mini-cups of black coffee, squares of cheese, jam on tasting spoons, slivers of pork, and bites of sauerkraut. But no milk or crackers or hotdogs to go with them. Some of the jam vendors served their products with crackers or bread but most did not.  I therefore found myself needing time in between tastings (easily remedied by chatting), before I felt like I wanted to taste more.  For example, despite that I am a chocoholic, I  found myself needing a break after a few tastes since I didn't have any milky coffee or tea to go with it.

Therefore, I felt I wasn't able to taste some of the products at their full potential or as they were intended.  I am sure the pickles would have been terribly satisfying next to a sandwich, the kraut extraordinary on a hotdog, and that any of those coffees insanely good with steamed milk.   Alas, as my coffeehead brother reminds me, you simply cannot get a true flavor of the products with accompaniments. Yes, I get it. But I'd never sit down at the table with only a hunk of cheese or just a platter of kimchee (as much as I love both) and nothing else...and so some of the tastings required a bit of imagination for me.  

One of the jam places offered samples of their product with spreadable cheese, and that was the one I was most tempted to buy.

I did not get a photo of Nicasio Valley's cheese, but were I to do it all over again, I would have. Their cheese stood out, even after I had tasted a whole bunch of others in a row.

All vendors had samples and products for sale.  Prices ranged, but were considerably higher than you'd find at Trader Joe's or most supermarkets.   For instance, there were eight-ounce bags of coffee selling at $13, and jars of jam going for $30.  Given that, $8 for a 3.9 ounce chocolate salted cashew bar (Charles' Chocolates) seemed like a good deal (but this could be because I have a special bias for chocolate).  

Alas, it is not inexpensive to support producers like these.  But, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.  Here, you are getting superior quality product in every way: taste, and sus-org-respo-localness.   Plus, you are supporting people who are passionate about and take responsibility for their work.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese from Uplands Cheese Company,  in Dodgeville, WI.  This cheesemaker reassured me that relations between California and Wisconsin cows are at peace.  No war going on.  :-) 
Congratulations to all purveyors. Let these awards bring you recognition and take you far. 


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