Sometimes, life is a feast. Last weekend, San Francisco hosted The Good Food Awards on Friday and Saturday. Sunday through Tuesday, The 37th annual Winter Fancy Food Show was in town. I was a very busy and very well-fed girl.
These are my top 20 finds from the Fancy Food Show. In the coming months, I’ll also profile some of the small producers and their foods.
Please note: this list is in no particular order.
- Mugolio by Primtivizia: This pinecone bud syrup from Italy is foraged by Eleonora Cunacia in the forests of the Dolomites. It is one of the most extraordinary things I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, this syrup is reminiscent of molasses and honey with lovely pine flavor.
- Bourbon Barrel Foods Bourbon and Vanilla Sorghum Syrup: Another syrup makes the list, this one from Kentucky. This sweet sorghum syrup is has only three ingredients, sorghum, Kentucky bourbon, and vanilla from Madagascar. It is earthy and sweet kind of like the fella who makes it.
- Savini Tartufi Miele Al Tartufo Bianco – White Truffle Honey: The Italians and Californians sort of stole the show this year. I think most of my top 20 come from either place. This truffle honey was one of nearly a half dozen I tried, and it definitely wins. It is dark in color and has large slices of white truffle floating in it. The flavor is rich and sweet and dark- something to get lost inside of.
- Z Specialty Food Cherry Honey Spread: I didn’t know quite what to expect when I tasted the cherry honey spread, but I think I was expecting something more like jam. What I got was a fabulous surprise, fantastically tart sour cherries blended with good thick honey. The Zeldner family from Woodland, California really does things right from they way they make their food to their sustainably run business. Love them.
- Nectars De Bourgogne Bitter Orange Gingerbread Confiture: This orange marmalade with gingerbread spice is absolutely heavenly. Though I tasted it only with a spoon, I immediately imagined a toasty piece of bread and a big cup of café au lait. Also, I’m thinking chevre or fromage blanc might be a fun accompaniment.
- Robert Lambert Five Mandarin Marmalade: Robert Lambert and I appear to have something in common- a serious love of citrus. On his small table, he had Buddha’s hands, mandarins, grapefruit, and pomelo. The smell was intoxicating. His handmade marmalades were full of rind and not overly sweet. I had a hard time deciding whether to cite the grapefruit or the mandarin as my favorite, but the mandarin won out as it’s a little more edible by the spoonful.
VINEGARS & VERJUS
- Slide Ridge Honey Wine Vinegar: Martin James took his first bee keeping class at 8 years old. He’s been keeping bees ever since. These days, he’s much more than a hobbyist and the whole family is in on the operation, making honey, mead, and honey wine vinegar. I took one look at this stuff, and knew I had to taste it. Martin and his sisters were happy to give me as many taster cups as I wanted (thanks guys!), but I think I’m going to need at least a gallon of this vinegar that tastes just like mead! I know the first thing I’m doing with it, but you’ll just have to wait and see!
- Chapparal Gardens Pear Ginger Wasabi Balsamic: I stopped by Cari Clark’s booth because there were so many vinegars, and it’s no secret that I love vinegar. I stayed because she was lovely to chat with… and because the vinegars were beyond tasty. It was hard to choose a favorite, but I am going to go with the first one I tried, The Limitied Vinegar Reserve Pear Wasabi Balasamic. From what I tried, you probably can’t go wrong with any of these vinegars from this Paso Robles couple’s company.
- Terra Sonoma Verjus: This crisp and bright verjus is made in Geyserville, CA, where I spent the strangest weekend of my life at a place called The Isis Oasis. I will not hold this against winemaker/designer/photographer and all around lovely lady, Karin Warnelius-Miller. If you are not familiar with verjus it is the pressed juice of unripened grapes. While I have tried many types of verjus, this one is particularly lovely- both fruity and floral. It can be used in place of mild vinegar or lemon juice.
- Sparrow Lane Vanilla Bean White Balsamic: This vinegar company is hands down my favorite flavored vinegar company. I stopped by to tell them how much I adore their d’anjou pear. I just so happened to be chatting with the vinegar-maker’s girlfriend. Turns out, she loves the vinegars as much as I do. I went through nearly the entire line before my empty stomach dictated that I stop. If you are not familiar with this Napa Valley food producer, please treat yourself to at least one bottle- I love the ones I mentioned above as well as the walnut vinegar and the peach champagne- oh, and everything else.
- L’Arte D’ell Olivo 20 year old Truffle Balsamic: This 40 year old truffle balsamic absolutely knocked my socks off. Made with actual truffles and not truffle essence, this is the finest truffle vinegar I have ever tasted with a perfect balance between the acid and sweetness of the aged balsamic and the earthy funk of the truffle. Also worth noting was the 2010 olive oil from L’Arte as well as the 12 year old balsamico traditionale. These are people who crafting their products with care and love. Just beautiful.
- Haystack Mountain Snowdrop Cheese: This soft goat’s milk cheese was one of the first things I tasted at the show, and the silky and creamy interior won me over immediately. I was hooked before I ever learned that the people who work for Haystack are nice as can be, and that they have a beautiful program where they get their goat’s milk from the Colorado prison system and from local farms.
- Cypress Grove Truffle Tremors: I have to thank Maggy Keet for the next two discoveries on my list. If it wasn’t for Maggy I may not have stopped by Cypress Grove, you see while I love love love them, I thought myself totally familiar with their offerings including two of my favorite cheeses, Lamb Chopper and Humbolt Fog. Thank’s to Maggy, of Three Many Cooks, I stopped by to say hi to the folks at Cypress Grove, made friends with the awesome folks in the booth and also made plans to visit their farm in Humbolt County where they have recently begun keeping goats again. I also tasted something divine, Truffle Tremor, a creamy and tangy goat’s milk cheese studded with earthy black truffle. Perfection
- Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Sour Cream: I was skeptical, at best, when presented with lactose free sour cream. I’m not lactose intolerant, so the product really held no interest for me. I am so happy that Maggy suggested I pop by their booth, as well. The sour cream was thick and rich and had a crème fraiche-like sweetness. There are no fillers or thickeners either and the lactase is a natural enzyme. So nice for friends who have issues with lactose, but equally nice for people who just love great sour cream.
- Mozzarella Company Herb Caciotta: I met Paula Lambert on Friday evening at the Good Food Awards, her Hoja Santa Cheese (to die for) won in the cheese category. Paula is just as gracious as can be, a true lady, and a lady cheesemaker at that. Everyone I met from The Mozzarella Company made me wish I lived nearer to Dallas so that I could come hang out with all the lady cheesemakers there- that’s right, all the cheesemakers at The Mozzarella Company are women. Paula is a pioneer in the artisan cheese world and it shows in cheeses like the herb caciotta which is a subtly flavored semi-soft cheese. Think of a Monterey Jack, but way tastier.
- Sartori Caprimente: This aged goat cheese from Wisconsin is rubbed with olive oil and fresh spearmint and full of good sweet nutty crystals. I had never actually heard of Sartori cheeses before I tried this cheese, but after trying the caprimente, I tried literally every cheese on their table and there was only one I didn’t care for which was the Canella, a cheese rubbed with cinnamon liquer. Hey one out of like 20, is a pretty great ratio!
- La Campofilone Tagliatelle: I spotted Elena (pronounced Ellen-uh) on the first day of the Fancy Food show. She was carrying a brand of tagliatelli that Joshua and I eat all the time and absolutely love. It’s our house brand. We had a good chat about food, pasta, and Italian names. Then, she introduced me to La Campofilone Taglilatelle, extraordinarily thin and with the perfect texture, this imported Italian pasta is made from non-GMO durum wheat and pastured eggs.
- Kozlik’s Canadian Horadish Mustard: I’ll admit it was the super-cute packaging the caught my eye, but it was the hot kick of mustard and horseradish that made me a fan. Add to that the smooth texture, and I’d definitely call this Canadian mustard a new must.
- Calivirgin Extra Virgin Olive Oil: An olive oil that tastes a little like malt? Sign me up. I had to taste it twice to trust my palate, but it was there, just a hint, just in the middle, and it’s so good. Oh, and can I tell you how much I love the Coldani family, who makes this oil? It’s so apparent that they love what they do, and you can taste it in their oils. Their flavored oils are fantastic as well- the lemon and the extra hot jalapeño are my favorites.
- California Caviar Company Truffle Infused Caviar: I am a caviar girl. I can’t help myself when I see those little mother of peal spoons, a blini, some crème fraiche, chopped egg, and chives. Believe it or not, fish eggs were a part of my childhood, but not like this. You could have knocked me over with a sturgeon bone when Deborah Keane, founder of The California Caviar Company, offered truffle infused caviar. When I did a little research later that night and learned that her company uses only sustainable fish, I had to go back the next day tell her how awesome I think she is (and try some more of her fabulous creations).
I hope you enjoyed my top 20 list. I know I enjoyed getting there. What are your favorite food finds, from the Fancy Food Show, or otherwise?