Entrants in the 2012 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Professional Food Competition ranged from big wineries and hotel chains to budding entrepreneurs like The Strudel Guy of Santa Rosa and Mama Baretta of Penngrove, which both won top awards.
In the dessert category, The Strudel Guy took home the Sweepstakes Award along with Best of Show Dessert and Best Use of Local Products. Meanwhile, Mama Baretta took home a Best of Show Cookie for a gluten-free, Salted Caramel Nut Lace Cookie.
"I call them emerging, local artisans, who get their start at farmers markets," said Sheila Quince, former exhibit coordinator who returned to consult for the 2012 competition. "It's all about local and celebrating Sonoma County."
Harvest Fair Food Judging Coordinator Anne Vercelli brought in a raft of professional chefs in late summer to nibble their way through the seven categories: Dairy Products, Desserts, Cakes-Pastries, Bread-Morning Pastries, Appetizers, Deli-Sauces and Vinegars.
As usual, this year's entries reflect trends in the food world at large, where pork still reigns supreme. In the appetizer category, there were 15 entries showcasing pork, from ribs to pork sliders.
"The largest single class of entries was pork," Vercelli said. "We even had a whole suckling pig entered from the BBQ Smokehouse."
Although that dish received a double gold and a standing ovation from the judges, the Best of Show Appetizer went to Thai Time Asian Bistro in Santa Rosa for its Floating Market Soup, a seafood version of the Tom-Yum soup of Thailand.
The soup, made with aromatics like lemongrass and the ginger-like galangal, was served in a boat-shaped bowl rimmed with onions cut to look like flowers.
"Their presentation was a knockout," Vercelli said. "You just stopped and looked. You hated to eat it."
Thai Time chef/owner Olarn Tonverapongsiri, a native of Bangkok, opened the bistro in May 2011. His sous chef, Nit Bynum, suggested they enter the competition.