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2014 Good Food Awards in San Francisco bring finalists from across the USA

Ann's Raspberry Farms of Ohio, a Good Food Awards winner and judge, Ann Trudel
Ann's Raspberry Farms of Ohio, a Good Food Awards winner and judge, Ann Trudel
Photo: Mark Fiore/Gamma Nine

They're changing the way we eat...one pickle at a time

The 4th Annual Good Food Awards are in San Francisco on January 16 to 18, 2014. From 32 states across the nation, finalists chosen from 1,450 entries compete for top prizes awarded by acclaimed judges -- chefs, journalists, farmers, food producers -- applying tight criteria in the categories of beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, oils, preserves, pickles and spirits.

Consider beyond delicious chocolate from Ecuadorian-sourced beans. Crunch into a pickle more mouth-watering than any pickle you've ever tasted. Spread the love of all natural raspberry jam made by hand from seed to jar. Sample really tasty salami from a Swiss-trained producer in Oregon. Savor craft sour beer brewed around the corner by San Francisco Bay Area locals.

Passionate and proud founders

We asked five past winners and current finalists from around the USA to share their thoughts on the slow food movement and their passion about the products they make best. Read interview excerpts from the founders:

- Almanac Beer Company, Farmer’s Reserve No. 3 & Dogpatch Sour, California: Jesse Friedman

- Ann's Raspberry Farm, (multi-past winner/2014 blind tasting judge), Ohio: Ann & Daniel Trudel

- Askinosie Chocolate, 62% Dark Milk Chocolate, Fleur de Sel & 70% Ecuador, Missouri: Shawn Askinoisie

- Gordy’s Pickle Jar, Sweet Pepper Relish & Giardiniera, Washington DC: Sarah Gordon

- Olympic Provisions, Salami Cotto, Oregon: Elias Cairo

Q: How do you think the good food/slow food movement has changed in 2013 and where are we headed in 2014?

A: Jesse: "Small breweries with very personal points of view are able to enter the market. I'd expect to see more new breweries that offer niche beers - ranging from hybrid styles to breweries that just produce one beer."

Ann: "The Good Food Awards have created a national stir. There could be a complete reverse in the food industry with us actually eating the food grown and produced here in the United States, with our vast growing zones, instead of the imports."

Shawn: "The proliferation of good food has, over the past year, contributed to a better informed consumer who appreciates value."

Sarah: "We’re all continuing to get back to our roots in terms of knowing where our food is coming from."

Elias: "The good/slow food movement is becoming a large movement that I feel is exactly what we need right now. They have done such a good thing with bring to light that it is possible to make a product that is made responsibly and sustainable and also very delicious."

Q: Your personal story? How did you happen to develop your passion?

A: Jesse: "Almanac was born out of our love for local beer and the farm to table movement in San Francisco restaurants. To make beers brewed with the same dedication to local agriculture seemed like the natural way to start a brewery."

Ann: "For as long as I can remember, I have made homemade jam with my mom and sister. We began picking the fruit ourselves when I moved to Michigan near a huge raspberry Upick. I can authentically say that my passion comes from the 'yums' I hear at the market every week. The happy consumer sends me back to the kitchen. The Good Food Awards are inspiring!"

Shawn: "I was a criminal defense lawyer for about 20 years and ready for a change. in 2005 I traveled to the Amazon and started learning how farmers post harvest influence the flavor of chocolate. Returning from that trip I started winding down my law practice, bought an old building for my factory, bought equipment from around the world and sold our first chocolate bar the first week of May 2007."

Sarah: "It all happened really organically, Sheila and I had a mutual interest of mastering a craft and celebrating a farmer's harvest."

Elias: "I was eighteen when I left for Switzerland to start my apprenticeship...I just love meeting folks that made a living making a product and had in one way or another mastered a craft so well that they could live off of it."

Q: Tell us more about the handcrafted process.

A: Jesse: "We do our best to capture the deliciousness that comes from the local farms in Northern California, and to see others respond is a huge compliment. In many ways we think it's less that we are crafting them, and more that we let the produce of these great local farms and the barrel aging process shine - we just try to get out of the way and let the barrels to the heavy lifting."

Ann: "We typically harvest berries in the morning 3-5 times per week then head for the commercial kitchen that very same afternoon. In spite of an early production that yields approximately 5,000 units, we still produce in small batches of 10-12 jars at a time. Since I do not use pectin in my raspberry jam, I must test the jelling of the jam for each batch as it is cooking by dropping a teaspoon of the hot jam on a very cold plate. From start to finish, one batch of 10 jars takes about an hour."

Shawn: "A quiet, unassuming village at the foothills of the Andes Mountains is the origin of these beans. Once an outpost for journeying Quechua Indians looking for rest before ascending the Andes, San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador, has made its mark in South America as one of the best regions in which to grow cocoa. Cocoa only grows 20 degrees north or south of the Equator because it prefers hot and humid climates. Fittingly, San Jose Del Tambo’s balmy weather and high altitude, coupled with the roaring waters of the Rio de San Miguela creates one of the world’s best environments for growing superb cocoa beans."

Sarah: "Hot Chili Spears are a relatively straightforward process, the spices go in the jar, then the cukes and brine goes in. The jar is capped and immediately goes in a hot water bath to create the expansion force that seals the jar. Theoretically you can eat it within a couple of days but the longer you let it sit, the more infused the flavors will be."

Elias: "We are very fortunate to be part of a community that takes the food that they consume so seriously. We are able to sell the products that we produce at 17 farmers market a week in the middle of the summer and able to sell year round at a few as well. This is a great way to get out there and have quite a few folks try the product and get feedback on it.

Be there to share

A special ceremony hosted by Master of Ceremonies Dr. Zeke Emanuel, special advisor to President Obama on healthcare and catalyst for the White House Farmers Market, takes place on Thursday, January 16, 20014 at 6:15 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon Street in San Francisco's Marina district.

On Saturday, January 18, this year's Good Food Award winners will have the opportunity to showcase their wares for the public at the Ferry Building. Early Access tickets are available for 8 a.m. entry, with a special gift, and the opportunity to taste and purchase in advance. General admission to the marketplace is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for tickets sold at the door for $5.

Tickets are sold online.