It's the second year for the Seedling Projects' Good Food Awards -- winners announced tonight at a gala at San Francisco's Ferry Building -- and BAB contributor Karen Solomon gives us an inside peek into the national food contest, which features sustainable foods made with real, authentic ingredients by local producers.
The concept behind the food competition is to highlight best in show in various edible categories from five regions of the country, this year prizes will go to makers of beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, pickles, preserves, and -- a new area -- spirits.
As was the case last year, many Bay Area food makers are in the finalists' circle, including Lagunitas Brewing Company (a lil' sumpin' sumpin'), Cafe Rouge (duck pate), Bellwether Farms (carmody and whole milk ricotta), Sightglass Coffee (Ethiopian shakiso), Emmy's Pickles & Jams (turmeric cauliflower), and Chez Pim (blueberry and golden raspberry jam).
Dozens of judges served as blind tasters; there were 926 entries from 46 states. Last year 71 producers won the honor of adding a Good Food Awards label to their products.
What's your role with the Good Food Awards and why are you involved?
This year I was a committee member in the pickles category. We helped figure out the criteria for judging. Last year, the first of the awards, I was involved from the beginning with both the pickles and preserves committees. Additionally, I was a judge in the pickles category and a co-presenter for the awards in that area. For me, anything that spotlights the achievements of conscientious food artisans is a worthy cause. I like to see the little guy win big.
What kind of criteria are judges looking (and tasting) for in this contest?
When we judge pickles, we look for balanced, quality products that reflect their excellent ingredients. We want full flavor, but not too biting. We want a welcoming appearance. And for me personally, I want the integrity of the vegetables to be in tact. I hate mushy pickles!
There are a lot of Bay Area finalists again -- is that a reflection of this region as a mecca for food producers or the simple fact that the awards are based here?
I think it's a little of both. Since the event happens here, so locally we'll have the most fuel for the fire. And while the awards are spread over numerous divisions across the country, it's undeniable that a lot of great artisan food comes from here. The Bay Area has the right combination of interest, size, a year-round growing season, and affluence to support those undertaking artisan food.
How does a Good Food Awards winner label help food artisans?
I think it draws attention to a product on the shelf. It reflects the quality under the cap.
Slightly off topic question: Have you seen the Portlandia segment "We Can Pickle That!" and what do you make of it? Is it a cruel poke at a recently rediscovered Domestic Art, a bit of food-related fun, a sign that pickling is on its way to becoming a mainstream practice again, all of the above, or something else entirely?
I have mixed feelings about it. Of course it's funny and I'm a total sucker for such great humor. The clip and the website have been all over social media within canning circles, and most of us are laughing. Still, it stings a bit -- no hipster, no matter how aging one may be, wants to think he or she is a tired joke.
GOOD FOOD AWARDS RECEPTION
The Good Food Awards ceremony is tonight, Friday, January 13, at San Francisco’s Ferry Building. A limited number of tickets are available for Gilt City members. The catered reception will be hosted by Ruth Reichl.
GOOD FOOD AWARDS MARKETPLACE
On Saturday, January 14, there's an opportunity to taste the award-winning products by sustainable food producers from around the country, including Colorado cheesemakers, Utah chocolatiers, and Ohio picklers.
Time: 8:00am-2:00pm (8:00am-9:00am Exclusive Tasting)
Location: San Francisco Ferry Building
Tickets: Exclusive Tasting: $12 through Gilt City, General Admission: $5 at the door, Beer and Spirits Garden: $12 for 5 tastings, or Good Food Awards.