The Sonoma County Harvest Fair Professional Food Competition has announced this year’s the winners, including the coveted appetizer category, which proved to be more creative and global than ever.
From South American empanadas and Mexican taquitos to Italian meatballs and French duck confit, the judges were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the flavors and the high quality of the presentations.
“There was a lot of creativity this year,” said Anne Vercelli, coordinator of the competition. “The Best of Show appetizer was a prosciutto cup filled with goat cheese mousse. It was just screaming to have a glass of sparkling wine. It was small and stimulating to the palate … the essence of what an hors d’oeuvres should be.”
That dish, entered by chef/owner Bethany Barsman of Out to Lunch catering in Petaluma, also won Best Use of Pork.
The fall appetizer derived a flavor boast from a sweet and savory sauce that blended La Crema Pinot Noir with honey and blackberry compote.
“I reduced the pinot, and added the honey after it started to get thick,” Barsman said.
“I love those two flavors together, and then blackberries are a great combo, so we put blackberry compote with the sauce.”
In the appetizer category, Out to Lunch also nabbed several other big award, including Best Use of Cheese for their Creamy Tomato Soup, a shooter topped with a small grilled cheese sandwich made with candied bacon, white cheddar, and apricot preserves on brioche bread.
Out to Lunch also won Best Use of Poultry for a Mexican-inspired dish: Marinated Grilled Chicken with chimichurri, cabbage and crema, wrapped in a fried wonton wrapper instead of a tortilla.
“I liked the grilled chicken in the wonton shell … it made it taste lighter and crisper,” said Judge Deidre Francis of Simoncini Vineyards in Healdsburg.
Finally, one of Barsman’s favorite appetizers won Best Use of Vegetable/Fruit: a Locally Harvested Wild Mushroom and Laura Chenel Goat Cheese Empanada with Spicy Aioli.
“We love goat cheese,” she said.
Peloton Culinary & Catering of Healdsburg won the Sweepstakes Awards for Appetizers, entering more than a dozen hors d’oeuvres that garnered the most overall points.
The company, run by chef/owner Tim Vallery with Chef de Cuisine Patrick Tafoya, entered a wide range of seasonal bites that ranged from a Chilled Corn Vichyssoise and Stuffed Heirloom Tomato “BLT” to a Smoked Coho Salmon Tartare and a Potato “Risotto” Gratin.
“We wanted to do a representation of what we do,” Vallery said.
Peloton won Best Use of Beef for their 48-Hour Sous Vide Angus Beef Brisket Slider and Best Use of Sonoma County Wine for their Cremini Mushroom Bisque with Black Pepper Zinfandel Essence.
“Soups made a statement in the competition,” Vercelli said.
“And the use of local products was high, from cheeses like Vella, Point Reyes and Laura Chenel to local bread, honey, heirloom tomatoes and mushrooms.” Here are the other big winners in this year’s competition:
BurtoNZ Bakery of Windsor was the winner for the Sweepstakes Exhibitor, taking home the Best of Show French Bread for their Old World Sourdough as well as the Best of Show Specialty Bread for their Kalamata Olive and Asiago Sourdough.
For a complete list of Harvest Fair food competition winners, go to harvestfair.org/winners/food.