Newcomers, old favorites win big at Sonoma County Harvest Fair

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair Professional Food Competition has announced the contest’s big winners, with newcomers such as Covet Artisan Bakery of Cotati taking home top awards alongside longtime competitors like Oliver’s Market of Santa Rosa and Costeaux French Bakery of Healdsburg.

For the first time since 1997, the competition judged locally roasted coffees, with Acre Coffee of Petaluma taking home Best of Show Coffee for its Ethiopia Gersi Kebele.

“It’s a very precise type of judging,” said Anne Vercelli, coordinator of the Professional Food Competition. “You have to grind the beans, measure out the water on a scale, then you have to measure the coffee on a scale ... so that every pot of coffee is made the same way.”

During the Harvest Fair Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, the contestants will serve tastes of their foods in the Grand Tasting Pavilion, alongside the wine and cider tastings. Best of Show winners will also showcase their award-winning entries during the reception for the Awards Dinner, held Sept. 25 at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.

The big winner this year in the prestigious appetizer category was Peloton Catering of Healdsburg, which took home the Sweepstakes Appetizer Exhibitor award for amassing the most points of any exhibitor.

The catering company owned by chef Tim Vallery won Best of Show Appetizer for its Heirloom Tomato Bisque, Best Use of Poultry for its Sonoma Foie Gras “Candy,” Best Use of Sonoma County Wine for its Braised Lamb Baked Orecchiette, and Best Use of a Vegetable or Fruit for its Compressed Watermelon. Peloton Chef de Cuisine Patrick Tafoya helped Vallery create the winning entries.

The Bear Republic Brewing Company of Healdsburg won Best Use of Seafood Appetizer for its Calamari Frito Misto and Best of Show Delicatessen for its “Brewben,” a play on the classic Reuben sandwich.

“There was great variety in the seafood appetizers,” Vercelli said. “We had shrimp, cod, calamari, fish cakes and tuna. It was very adventurous.”

Bear Republic also won Best Use of Local Products in the Individual Dessert Category for its Big Bear Gelato Sandwich, an ice cream sandwich made with beer.

Out to Lunch Catering of Petaluma won Best Use of Cheese Appetizer for its Sesame Coated Goat Cheese Ball and Best Use of Pork Appetizer for its Mini Pulled Pork Tamales. The company also won Best Cookie for its Blueberry Crumble Bar.

Oliver’s Markets of Santa Rosa snagged six top awards, including Best Use of Beef Appetizer for its Korean Street Tacos and Best Use of Lamb Appetizer for the Sonoma Lamb Kabobs with Salsa Verde.

“There was a lot of ethnic influence in the appetizers,” Vercelli said. “There was a Beef Agnoletti (filled pasta), Korean Street Tacos, Korean Short Ribs, Thai Beef Salad, New Zealand Steak’n’Cheese Pie and Asada Beef with Fries.”

Oliver’s also did quite well in the categories of desserts, cakes and pastries, winning Best Individual Dessert for its Breton Sable (butter cookie) with Pomegranate, and Best of Show Decorated Cake for its “Great Vintage Steam Pumpkin.” The local grocery store also won the Sweepstakes for Cakes/Pastries and was the Sweepstakes Dessert exhibitor.

Bert’s Desserts of Petaluma took home Best Candy and Best of Show Dessert awards for its Peanut Butter Bar, a classic flavor combination that was popular this year.

“Peanut butter and chocolate was a trend throughout the competition,” Vercelli said. “There was also a peanut butter and jelly cookie.”

Best of Show sauce/topping went to Sonoma Cake Creations of Santa Rosa for its Zinfandel Dark Cherry Sauce.

Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery of Sebastopol won Best of Show Cheese Product for its Goat Milk Terra Cheese, and Best of Show “Other Dairy Product” for its Green Valley Organics Lactose-Free Cow Milk Butter.

The two top categories for bread were split by two of Sonoma County’s most consistent winners. Costeaux of Healdsburg won Best of Show French Bread for its epi, while Village Bakery of Sebastopol and Santa Rosa won Best of Show Specialty Bread for its Seeded Sourdough Batard. Village Bakery also won Best of Show Cake for its Princess Cake, a classic dome-shaped cake from Sweden that is covered in mint green marzipan.

Covet Artisan Bakery of Cotati was the Sweepstakes Bread exhibitor, taking home a total of six double golds and a gold.

The olive oil was judged earlier in the year to ensure freshness of the oils. The Best of Show Olive Oil went to The Olive Press of Sonoma for its Sevillano, which also received a double gold medal in the “Delicate” category. B.R. Cohn Winery of Glen Ellen won Best of Show Vinegar for its Raspberry Champagne Vinegar.

For a complete list of winners or more information, go to

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

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