The Good Food Awards roll back into San Francisco for its second year this weekend, highlighting the best artisan producers of everything from beer and charcuterie to preserves and spirits.
"The companies behind this year's 144 Good Food Awards finalists are incredibly diverse, from an eight-person goat cheese dairy in Harrisburg, Missouri to a 400-person brewery in Colorado," said Sarah Weiner, director of the Good Food Awards. "It's fascinating to see such different companies united in the values of sustainability and social responsibility, and producing incredibly delicious food.
"Food manufacturing is one of the largest growth industries in the country, and &‘good food' producers are creating both food and jobs that nourish our communities."
In all, 99 craft food producers from 22 states have been recognized for redefining "good food" across the country, including many local favorites. All will be featured at a Good Foods Marketplace open to the public on Saturday. Here's who to look for from the North Coast, by category:
Lagunitas Brewing Company's Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale is one of 18 finalists in the beer category, which is bursting at the seams with great brews from around the country, from Alaskan Brewing's Smoked Porter to New Hampshire-based Smuttynose Brewing and its Robust Porter. Chosen by an impressive committee of beer experts, including author and Wall Street Journal beer contributor William Bostwick, Petaluma-based Lagunitas is flying the flag high for Sonoma County, its Sumpin' Sumpin' a deliciously smooth, round and pale ale with a jolt of hops on the finish. www.lagunitas.com.
Napa-based Fatted Calf Charcuterie is a 2012 finalist for its pork, rabbit and duck terrine. Based at the Oxbow Public Market, with another outpost on Hayes Street in San Francisco, Fatted Calf is all about combining old-world methods with progressive values, working with organic and hormone-free meats supplied by local farms. They flavor further with natural salts and seasonings, organic herbs and produce to put out fresh, small-batch, seasonal sausage, salumi, p??, confits and other, as they put it, "meaty goods." www.fattedcalf.com.
The fact that Sonoma County doesn't have every cheese it makes on the finalist list is a testament to how far artisanal cheese production has come throughout this country. But Sonoma is well represented nonetheless with two cheeses in the running, as well as a sublime yogurt cheese. Petaluma's Achadinha Cheese Company is given the nod for its Capricious, handmade by Donna Pacheco, who with her husband Jim, also runs the Pacheco Family Dairy, originally a cow dairy that traded in its cows for some 1,600 goats. After letting those goats eat pasture all year, supplemented by brewer's grain and alfalfa hay, Pacheco hand rolls Capricious in an old European style and ages it in the Pacific Ocean-infused air. www.achadinha.com.
Also named is Bellwether Farms (www.bellwetherfarms.com) and its buttery, cow-milk Carmody and Whole Milk Ricotta made from its ocean-view farm near Tomales Bay; and the creamily stupendous cows-milk Organic Yogurt Cheese from Saint-Benoit Creamery (www.stbenoit.com), the best maker of French-style yogurt in America.
What would we do without well-made coffee? Happily, plenty of coffee purveyors exist in our midst, including locally based finalists Equator Coffees & Teas (www.equatorcoffees.com) from San Rafael, which is being singled out for its Ethiopia Watadera fair-trade, organic coffee, and Flying Goat Coffee (www.flyinggoatcoffee.com) for another Ethiopian coffee, its Sidamo Moredocofe, which is organic and shade-grown on a cooperative farm near the border of Kenya.