Blind Tasting 2011
Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2011 in Blog by Jen Flaxman
Photo credit: James Collier
After long days of heavy lifting, when the signs were hung, pods stationed, goodie bags assembled, it was finally time for the event we’ve been working so hard on putting together for the past few months. As we unloaded boxes, looking at the entries of the people who we’d spoken to on the phone or conversed with over e-mail, it finally felt like everything was coming together. We worked tirelessly over the week and weekend, some of us running all over the Bay Area, others manning the endlessly ringing phone, and the rest of us unpacking and sorting the beautiful entries at Veritable Vegetable warehouse.
On Sunday morning, armed with bellies full of Starter Bakery focaccia and caffeine buzzes courtesy of Ritual Coffee, we were anxious and ready. One hundred and thirty of the food movement’s best and brightest started rolling in, game faces on, ready to judge over 900 entries from 46 states, and decide the lucky few who will be honored with this year’s Good Food Awards Ceremony.
Our first tasting session got off and running without a hitch, thanks to all of our wonderful committee heads. As I took a quick tour of our host location, the HUB SoMa, it was clear that each category had it’s own unique approach to judging. While the coffee judges poured, sipped and smelled silently, those in beer got rowdy early, taking a discussion-based approach to weeding through their 120 entries. And as I walked past preserves I heard Alice Waters quietly remark that she’d “really love this jam on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich”.
For lunch, the judges, staff and wonderful volunteers enjoyed cauliflower salad, arugula salad and a pasta salad (featuring Oakland-based Mara’s Pasta) courtesy of 123 Bolinas. Hard to believe that anyone had an appetite after 3 hours of cheese-tasting, but alas, I guess the sight of beautiful, delicious food can provoke anyone.
And so the afternoon began, with each of the categories tasting the top-scoring products from the morning session. The tasting floor was abuzz with discussion, debate and opinions, as the pickles judges narrowed down their choices, and charcuterie kept trucking through their round after round of terrines, hams, and jerkies. But soon into the session, it seemed the judges palates started demanding a change because before we knew it there were pickles in the cheese area, preserves in the spirits area, and charcuterie and beer everywhere. I could have sworn I heard the cheese judges calling out for “an IPA, stat!”
As the tasting wound down, our judges handed in their final score sheets and our Committee Heads tallied up the top-scoring products (who will go through one final vetting process before being formally announced as Finalists in New York City on November 10th – no sneak peaks here!). They gathered their gift bags – featuring Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite’s new book, Eat Good Food, a Heath Ceramics book, Rosemary Shortbread (courtesy of Foodzie), and a special gift from Gilt Taste – and headed to the last part (best part?) of the day…
The After Party!
Held at Sightglass Coffee and hosted by The Butcher’s Guild, the celebration was a mishmash of our judges, staff, volunteers, family and friends, all filled to the brim with Good Food leftovers, and sipping happily on Cinnamon Old Fashioneds and Tequila Punch courtesy of Bon Vivants. For those with a never-ending appetite, there were also Grilled Cheese Sammies on delicious Acme Bread, as well as Wise Sons Deli famous Coffee Cake and Chocolate Babka. From the looks of it we sent everyone home full, happy and definitely not empty-handed.
All things considered, here at Seedling Projects, we are counting the second annual Blind Tasting for the Good Food Awards a major success. A gigantic THANK YOU to everyone who helped make it possible: our Committees, volunteers, judges, and most importantly the producers from all over the country who entered their products, we -literally- couldn’t have done it without you. We can’t wait to announce the winners and see everyone again in January for our Good Food Awards Ceremony and Marketplace!