When the Sonoma County Harvest Fair opens on Friday, food lovers will find plenty to keep them fortified, thanks to some new twists in the three-day extravaganza.
First off, winners of the fair's Professional Food Competition will be serving their creations all three days in the Grace Pavilion, rather than just one. So there will be yummy appetizers, cheese and truffles to taste with the pinot noirs, chardonnays and late-harvest wines.
In addition, the cooking demonstrations are moving into the Hall of Flowers, where each dish will feature a beer or wine pairing.
"We have some big names," Professional Food Competition Coordinator Anne Vercelli said of the chef line-up. "On Friday (at 4:30 p.m.), it's Justin Wangler of Kendall-Jackson. On Saturday (at 12:30 p.m.), it's Dustin Valette of Dry Creek Kitchen."
In addition, Michael Kennedy of diVine Pizza in Healdsburg will give a hands-on pizza dough demo at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and a hands-on fish taco demo at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Executive Chef Thomas Schmidt of John Ash & Co. rounds out the top toques with a demo at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Judging in the Professional Food Competition was completed last week.
The big winner in the appetizer category was Oliver's Market in Santa Rosa, which won Best of Show for a Lamb Shank with Oranges and Dates, as well as the Sweepstakes Award (for most overall points). The Lamb Shank also won Best Use of Sonoma County Wines and Best Use of Lamb.
"The lamb shank came with orange and dates, so there was a good contrast and balance of flavor," Vercelli said. "The orange brought brightness to the dish."
Oliver's Market also won in the appetizer category for Best Use of Cheese (Dessert Cheeses) Best Use of Poultry (Rocky Jr. Curried Meatballs) and Best Use of Olive Oil (Olive Oil Poached Fish).
The BBQ Smokehouse in Sebastopol won Best Use of Beef (BBQ Short Ribs), Best Use of Goat (BBQ Goat) and Best Use of Pork (Whole Pig).
"The whole pig is great because it's tasty," Vercelli siad. "But it also catches your eye."
The Bay View Restaurant in Bodega Bay took home the Best Use of Seafood award (Bay King Salmon Tartar) and Best Use of Vegetables (Eggplant Parmigiana).
In the bread category, Costeaux French Bakery of Healdsburg swept the top awards, taking home Best of Show French Bread for its Sourdough Baguette, Best of Show Specialty Bread for its Sourdough Seeded Batard and the Sweepstakes Award.
"We had a number of vendors who got double golds for specialty bread," Vercelli said. "There are many bakeries in Sonoma County making excellent products."
In the cakes and pastries category, Oliver's Market won Best Decorated Cake for its Beehive Cake, plus the Sweepstakes Award. Costeaux French Bakery won Best of Show Cake/Pastry for its Princess Cake.
In the individual dessert category, Oliver's Market won Best of Show Dessert for its Chocolate Mousse Pop, plus the Sweepstakes Award.
Other big dessert winners included Bear Republic Brewing Co. of Healdsburg for Best Use of Local Products (Stout Berrymisu), Bert's Desserts of Petaluma for Best of Show Candy (Dark Chocolate Coconut Cream with Almonds) and Costeaux Bakery for Best of Show Cookie (Pistachio French Macaron).
"The French macarons are really popular," Vercelli said. "It's really the 'in' cookie."