The Bay Area made an impressive showing at the 2014 Good Food Awards. Among 1450 entrants from all 50 states and 200 finalists chosen through blind tastings, the Bay Area’s food artisans walked away from Thursday night’s ceremony with 25 medals spanning all ten categories. Some awards went to longtime establishment companies like Fra’Mani Hancrafted Foods, Guittard Chocolate Company, Bellwether Farms, and Bear Republic Brewing. Others, like small start-up companies Jarred SF Brine and Nosh This gained notable recognition despite their diminutive size.
In its fourth year, the Good Food Awards are an indication of the explosion of support for local, sustainable foodways. They aim to honor “people who make food that is delicious, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions” by providing a space to recognize hard work by food producers across the country. The awards are organized by Seedling Projects, a small group of thinkers and doers led by Alice Waters protégé Sarah Weiner and marketing leader Dominic Phillips, who work to “promote collaboration within the food movement, build public demand for Good Food, and create new leaders for the sustainable food movement.”
The celebration spanned three days this year, starting with the awards ceremony and gala on Thursday night and running through Saturday’s marketplace at the Ferry Plaza. Yet the contest began much earlier, with entries pouring in starting last July. In September, an impressive list of judges, including local figures like Bi-Rite’s Liz Rubin, dessert wiz Alice Medrich, Linea Caffee’s Andrew Barnett, chef Samin Nosrat, and Eat Real’s Marcy Coburn, met to whittle down the contestants. Entrants are judged based on three core principles: food must be tasty, authentic, and responsible. And while these tenets mean different things for different categories, a clear pattern of sustainable sourcing and conscious production is present in all of the winners.
Thursday night’s gala was a boisterous fete. The ceremony was headlined by Dr. Zeke Emanuel, the co-creator of the White House Farmer’s Market, and Nell Newman, of Newman’s Own Organics. Ruth Reichl and Alice Waters handed out medals to the winners. Otherwise, speeches were limited to winners from each category, each with a pithy story or two on the nature of sustainable business. After the awards were presented, guests were invited to sample dishes featuring winning products prepared by local chefs like Greens’ Annie Sommerville and Bluestem’s Francis Hogan.
This year, oils were added to the list of nine categories for judging. Not surprisingly, California dominated the category, with most olive oil winners coming from the central and northern parts of the state. Tallgrass Ranch, from Sonoma County, won for their Estate Blend of Tuscan olives (Leccino, Frantoio, Pendolino, and Moriaolo) and a milder French olive (Coumella). The oil is balanced, grassy, and a fine example of the creativity in California oil production.
Of the nine other categories—beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, pickles, preserves, and spirits—the Bay had a notable presence in both coffee and confections. Three of the 14 winners in coffee were local companies. De La Paz took honors for both their Kenya Gichathaini and their Peel Sessions Blend, Sightglass Coffee was recognized for their Ethiopia Guji Yetabe, and Healdsburg’s Flying Goat won for their Ethiopia Wote Konga.
On the sweeter side of things, local candy makers Coco Delice from Emeryville, and Feve and Nosh This from San Francisco took home awards for their small, yet boldly flavored chocolate filled with everything from beer to bacon. Bar chocolate from Guittard (an intense 100% bar of blended beans) and Humbolt’s Dick Taylor (a fruity, single-origin 72% bar with beans sourced from Belize) were honored among a strong category of contenders from states as far-flung as Vermont, Hawaii, and North Carolina.
Other winners included Almanac Beer Company, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Berkeley Olive Grove, Fattoria Muia, Frantoio Grove, Glashoff Farms, Wine Forest Wild Foods, Mimi’s Confitures, Plumline, Essential Spirits, Falcon Spirits, and Oscocalis, Inc.
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