The Good Food Awards (GFA) weekend is a great way to discover some of the best of the best – American food and beverage producers that value a better food system, a healthy environment, and authentic products. Sustainability is a subject near and dear to my heart, and it was encouraging to see all the companies that share that mindset.
The intent of this entire effort was really summed up perfectly by the closing remarks of GFA Founder Sarah Weiner at the award ceremony and dinner on Friday evening — “This past year has been one of awakenings. It was the year we realized that if we want a free press, we need to subscribe to trustworthy newspapers. We understood that we the people must stand up for what we believe in with our words, our actions and our resources. Money speaks. And if we want a tasty, authentic and responsible food culture, we must speak up for it.”
I attended the Saturday Mercantile day of this weekend event (now in its eighth year), and look forward to going again next year. It’s held in the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco, and its managed size and focused scope provided wonderful opportunities to really talk with the producers.
Among the culinary trends that I (and my crack research team) thought picked up on were probiotics, authentic Mexican food, and craft cocktail ingredients such as bitters.
Here were some of the favorites …
Burn Fermented Hot Sauce — Based in Santa Cruz, one of my favs at the event. Despite the name, the heat was nicely balanced with the pepper taste and the fermentation (from four months to a year) gave a really nice depth of flavor.
Alma Semillera — Tortillas that tasted like your abuela just pulled them off the comal. Other products from this San Francisco company included freshly ground masa flour from heirloom corn. Their tagline is “Traditional Mesoamerican foods, made from the highest-quality sustainable ingredients, in green packaging.”
Tia Lupita Hot Sauce — No sugars or artificial stuff, just all fresh ingredients in his mom’s recipes from Mexico.
Don Bugito — Yes, of course I ate a cricket bugs are the sustainable protein-dense food of the future! Crunchy, it tasted more like the pepita it was mixed with. This company is one of the many success stories of La Cocina in San Francisco, an incubator kitchen for start-up food businesses, especially those owned by women of color and immigrant communities.
Chaparral Gardens — Congrats to a favorite local Central Coast producer! The handcrafted vinegars are very wine-friendly, fabulous for vinaigrettes and marinades, and just a splash adds a great dimension to cocktails.
Olympia Provisions — Judging by all their awards, this Portland-based company (Oregon’s first USDA-approved salumeria, established in 2009) knows its way around a cleaver. This year’s winner was Chorizo El Rey (pictured bottom left), a perfectly spiced version of the Spanish classic.
Portland Pet Food — There was also a dog food company in attendance – and before you think they’re barking up the wrong tree, let me tell you that if more people knew what was actually in most dog foods, they would be howling! PPF is women-owned, and the products are made with all real meats. In addition to home use, it’s being “served” in cafés and restaurants that want to provide a quality snack for their four-footed clientele.
Other notables were:
El Guapo Bitters, Louisiana – small batch, handcrafted, non GMO
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, California – always a favorite!
Cowgirl Creamery, California – ditto!
Far West Cider Company, Richmond, CA – estate-grown ciders, dry instead of cloying, favorite was the “You’ve Guava Be Kidding”
KOLLO, California – just tea, delightfully just tea, just cold brew tea without any added sugars or flavors
Spirit Works Distillery, California – first time I’ve met a Sloe Gin I liked, and the British-born proprietor explained that sloe is a type of plum that’s often planted as a hedge row in the UK “to keep out animals and dodgy neighbors.”
— by Katy Budge