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Oct 17, 2010 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

Good Food Awards Blind Tasting – All Mouths on Deck!

If you walked up Mission St. in SoMa last Sunday afternoon you might have seen an unusual sight around The Hub in the SF Chronicle Building.  Meat Slicers in the window, fresh bread being delivered, people rolling out in a cheese coma or others hopped up on fifty-one different roasts of coffee.  That sight was the Blind Tasting of the inaugural Good Food Awards.  Months in the works, through the combined efforts of committees for each tasting category and a dedicated staff at Seedling Projects, the tasting came to fruition Sunday Morning at The Hub SoMa, a funky co-working space for social entrepreneurs that was generously donated for our tasting pleasure!

Great brewers, charcuterie makers, coffee roasters, chocolatiers, cheesemakers, jammers and picklers from all across the country submitted their products to be considered for a Good Food Award because the initiative seeks to recognize the sort of foods that fall in line with their values: great taste, authenticity and responsible production methods.  The producers crafted their great products from ingredients harvested by farmers using sustainable methods, all part of growing healthy food communities.  They sent over 700 products to our generous warehouse partners at Veritable Vegetable, Sonoma Direct and Tomales Bay Foods, where the products were sorted into tasting categories.  The efforts of the producers were certainly brought right to the tasting table.

The day started with fresh baked breads, croissants and pastries from the SF Baking Institute.  Four bakers from the institute served the bread and told us all about their favorites: a plum- filled long roll, a sweeter baguette with teff, an ancient Egyptian wheat, and, my fave, the chocolate croissant (it was obviously someone else’s favorite too, because I overheard her saying that if she could only eat one thing for the rest of their life, it would be those chocolate croissants. Maybe slightly excessive, but they were certainly good).  Right alongside the SF Baking Institute, Ritual Coffee’s head barista, Pele, prepared pour-over coffee by the cup for all and any needing a hot, delicious daystarter!

The judges proceeded to their tasting areas for morning tastings.  Our committee members, experts in each of the tasting categories, managed each of the tastings.  Each station had an individual identity in terms of judge personalities, presentation of the samples, and flow of the tasting.  Chocolate judges were deep in concentration, mulling the experience of each piece.  Cheese judges had a more hands-on approach of smelling and feeling the wheels and blocks of cheese before digging in for a communal cheese frenzy.  Beer set up the beer garden at the back tables and got an early start for the afterparty (though they too tasted with calculated sniffs and sips).  Preserves split into tasting groups, separating out the chutneys, jams, butters and preserves to different groups.  Pickles had a huge diversity of pickled vegetables, relishes and even some pickled watermelon!  Charcuterie made quick work with the slicer and served samples to the executive boardroom table of eighteen judges.  And not to forget coffee, who were machines behind the glass of the double-sized conference room (heating water, weighing beans, grinding, cupping and tasting).  The coffee team gets the longevity award, as they had a smaller judging team cup all 160 coffees in an advance tasting all day Saturday.

I had a great time as the logistics coordinator making sure that all of the teams had what they needed.  But the committees really made my job super easy because they were so self-sufficient and on top of everything!  In fact, everyone at the event, volunteers, committees, staff and judges were awesome.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  The positive energy surrounding the event, the food and the gathering was palpable.  There was truly a sort of organic flow to the event that put everyone at ease and allowed each of the products to be featured to its maximum potential.

Continuing with the flow of the day: 123 Bolinas Artisan Wine Beer and Food provided a lunch of various salads, bruschetta and a juicy peach and caramel dessert, along with donated Honest Tea, Acme Bread and various cheese and charcuterie samples from morning tastings.  The doors to Mission St. opened up and judges mingled in and out from food world to the beautiful October San Francisco sunshine.  The afternoon tastings involved products from different regions and/or subcategories in all categories.  At some point during the tasting, began the Great Sample Exchange between tasting tables!  As the palates of the judges began to get overworked, judges started to ask for samples from other categories to diversify the tastes they received.  The organic exchange had pickles judges noshing on salumi, cheese judges dipping into preserves and beer judges slicing up cheeses.

At the end of the day, the judges agreed on winners in each category and subcategory.  Finalists get announced on November 15th – so don’t ask! :-)  As judges and volunteers left, we loaded them up with gift bags of donated items, including From the Fields Granola, Oren’s Kitchen nuts, and Ricks Picks Pickles, some of the leftover samples from the tastings, and a gift box from Foodzie!  I’d say that tasting great food all day was worth it after all!  We donated all other leftover samples (after setting aside a few for the very worthy volunteers!) to Food Runners, who provide food for homeless shelters.

To the untrained eye that might have been the end of the festivities, but there was one more stop on the Good Food Express.  Almost everyone involved in the day migrated over to the after party at Ritual Coffee’s Roastery.  (Thanks Eileen Hassi for donating this great space!)  The newly-founded Butchers Guild hosted the afterparty, highlighted by a lamb butchering by Dave the Butcher and raffle of the butchered meat and Primal Cuts, the fantastic new book from our Charcuterie Committee Co-Chair Marissa Guggiana.  Also featured were more samples from the tasting, The Taco Guys food truckin it, delicious beers and wines, and DJ Berlin Reed on the turntables.  It was a great wind-down for everyone involved in the day’s events and a relaxing opportunity to meet, mix and enjoy.

All in all, the tasting event was a great gathering of people in the food industry to celebrate food producers across the country.  Can’t wait to tell you all the winners (and find out myself!).  Stay tuned for information about the festivities to give these Good Food producers some public recognition at the Good Food Awards Ceremony and Marketplace in January, along with the following Good Food Month of events across San Francisco.  To get involved, email us at info@goodfoodawards.org.

-Gavin