Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fresno Food Expo 2013

Last Thursday (3/14) was the night of the annual Fresno Food Expo (still a fairly new event in town). This is a great event for the valley because it brings together the best produce, products, and food producers we have, and the sheer amount of excellence should make us all very proud of what we have to offer. The stories I heard from the farmers alone, about how much of the country's produce they actually provide, would make the rest of the country pay more attention and respect if they only knew.

Nearly all the products I found at the Expo are available in local stores, at local farmstands or markets, or online. If you'd like to see a particular product in your store, be sure and ask the manager! If enough people are asking for something, they will go out of their way to acquire and provide it.

Since pictures really are worth a thousand words, I'll let those tell most of the story, with commentary to follow.

My favorite use of produce goes to perennial fave, Wawona Foods, for several items. Particularly, ready to bake peach cookies, that taste more like little peach dumplings or pies, than cookies. For the more adventurous home cook, they offer a frozen pie filling and glaze in one. Wonderful bags of fruit, that you can either just put into a pie crust, or use any way you like. Completely unlike those gloppy, sugary canned fillings, these are the closest thing you can get to buying fresh fruit and making your own pie filling. Even their simplest frozen fruit was fresh tasting and delicious.

Best innovative new product comes from Pacific Choice's Ya! Greek Salsa... a mixture of olives, capers, and peppers mixed with a light 3 tomato base, this fresh tasting offering would be great on pita chips, or as a topping for gyros (prounounced YEAR-o's for the love of pete!).

My favorite cheese of the show went to Hacienda's Teleme. It was everything I could want in a cheese, it was creamy, with a bit of tang. Rich, without being cloying, it would melt well, and has a flavor that would go with pretty much any food or just as a snack.

My favorite meat product has to go to our old friends at Harris Ranch. Smoked prime rib (served on sandwiches here), are you kidding me? The flavor and tenderness was off the hook! I would serve this at any gathering and be proud to say where it came from.

There were some extremely interesting citrus fruits from Phillips Farm Marketing (the finger limes I mentioned in the previous blog as well as citron aka Buddha's Hand), as well as Gold Nugget tangerines from Homegrown Organic Farms, that are shown in the first picture above (thanks to Cherie France for that!).

I was also pleased to see Fresno State adding to their already extensive lineup, delving into the chocolate bar market with Bulldog Bark, with local almonds and raisins in a delicious chocolate base.

And speaking of chocolate.. I was very pleased to get to speak with a representative of the company that rescued a childhood favorite, Flicks. Here is a link to the interesting history of this delicious treat, how we lost it for awhile, and thanks to local innovation, we got it back and now can enjoy it again!

Of course the valley also produces some pretty tasty alcoholic beverages. There are more and more wineries producing here these days, and our craft beer industry is slowly growing as well. A Big shout out to our own Tioga-Sierra brewery for bringing their great offerings to the Expo. Particular Tamarack Amber Ale. An easy to drink amber with a clean finish and no bitterness. I also enjoyed the previous blog mentioned Cold House Cake Batter Vodka, mixed with pineapple juice and Sprite - Pineapple Upside Down Cake! YUM!

So tired and happily full, I made my way home, glad I came, and even gladder to experience the valley's best of the food and drink industry. Thanks to Danielle LaBouef Griffin for making this experience possible for me.!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Oh What A Night!

Last night I attended the Fresno Food Expo's preview event for their People's Choice and San Joaquin Valley New Product awards. There were samples of 52 products from 30 valley based companies, some familiar, some new. Today's blog is to talk about some of my faves, to encourage the public to vote on the People's Choice portion (which you can at: to plug a very special event at the Tioga-Sequoia Brewery. First the food(and the drinks!). The apparent trend this year is dairies/creameries putting their milk back in bottles. There is a definite flavor difference between milk in plastic or cardboard and milk in glass. It seems fresher, creamier, and has a cleaner taste to it. I tried milk products from Top O' the Morn Farms, Rosa Brothers Milk Company, and Dairy Goddess (who definitely won my heart with their presentation This brand is pasteurized but non homogenized, which gives it a fresher flavor.
Of all the supposedly "hot" or "spicy" items (hey it's not easy to impress a chili head like me!), the real standout in both flavor and heat were the Simply Smoky Jalapeno Peppers from Deb's Gourmet. Real smoked sliced jalapenos, had a delicious smoky flavor, which complemented the flavor of the pepper and helped tamp down the heat a bit by sheer distraction. Unbelievably (and deliciously) paired with blueberries, this is another item I would seek out on my own.
From our old friends at Star (Borges USA - Star Fine Foods)comes a new item in its Balsamic Glazes. They come in apple, raspberry and Modena (aged balsamic), and are an easy way to have a sweet and tasty balsamic glaze on hand to garnish savory or sweet items. tried it on a spinach based pasta, and found it tart with a sweet finish. I also saw the raspberry variety on cheesecake.
For sheer inventiveness, I have to give a shout out to Phillips Farms Marketing new "Finger Limes". They look like..well..finger shaped limes, about the size and shape of a small pickle..and the inside..looks like... green caviar.. and the taste? Like limes. I think the real selling point here is in presentation, because the inside is small nodules of lime pulp, you can easily add a lime flavor (without the juice)to any dish.
My fave pick of the night, was a unique product from Noah's Spring Water/Varni Brothers Corp. Noah's Sparkling Varni Almond Spring Water. If you love almonds, (and sparkling water) you will love this. It isn't a sweetened beverage, but something with a true, strong almond flavor with a refreshing finish. Like fizzy liquid almonds, times 10.
But there was more than just food..there was some delicious adult beverages waiting to be sampled..

The first offering was Raspberry Romance from the San Joaquin Wine Company. A red wine based light (not heavy or syrupy), with a bright raspberry finish.
At the bar, from the Valley Spirits LLC, came two delightful and dangerous offerings in the way of Cold House Cake Batter Vodka, and Outlaw Moonshine Apple Pie. Both spirits tasted exactly like their namesakes, sweet, enticing, complex, and delicious. The moonshine had a wicked kick at the end...
And then the ale.. our local boys at the Tioga-Sequoia brewery were offering up two as yet unreleased items: Sugar Pine Porter, 9flavored with vanilla beans and cacao nibs0, and 99 Golden Ale (a honey golden ale). I tasted the 99, and found it smooth and easy to drink. Which led to an interesting conversation with one of the makers, who told me that they were finally opening the brewery to tours for their second anniversary. Next Saturday, the 9th of March from noon to 6! Here is all the info:

It was fun, exhausting, crazy, trying to juggle food, camera, information, etc.. looking forward to the Food Expo itself...and don't forget to vote for the People's Choice awards!