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.