Wish you could have attended? Don't worry, I've got you covered:
There was a celebrity cooking theater were people could buy tickets to see Food Network chef do cooking demostrations, but I wasn't there to see Paula, Rachel, or Bobby. I love them, but they already have millions; I was out to support small, local, and new food oriented businesses that are fighting hard to succeed during the recession so I focused my work in the Tasting Pavilion. As I walked around, I started to notice that many of the vendors present last year weren't there this year, and sadly some of them have even gone under. So I was bound and determined to do what I could to ensure the longevity of these small companies.
I spent the day trying as many products as possible (there was a point where I was eating straight olive oil and syrup), having meaningful conversations with vendors about their companies, and hearing their stories. Although all of the companies in attendance sell different products, I found that they all share a passion for quality ingredients and the desire to get their name out there through personal connections with their customers.
Of all the things I ate on Saturday, these products really caught my eye:
Al Dente Pasta Company: Monique is so full of energy and is also a food blogger! She gave me several bags of her homemade pasta, but I'm most excited to try the black squid ink fettuccine! The company started with her making pasta in a restaurant kitchen owned by her friend and has now moved to a commercial kitchen. Currently on a pursuit to market her whole wheat pasta, Monique just wants to see people having fun with their food at home.
Bola: Owner Michele Miller is such a sweet woman and she makes delicious granola. Featured by Rachel Ray Magazine, Bola granola has a unique nutty taste because it's 20% crushed almond, but its also filled with other energetic goodies such as pumpkin seeds and rolled oats.
ClinQs: We've all seen wine charms, but ClinQs has finally made something that can be used by those with stemless wine glasses or for those who prefer a bottle of beer. Sisters Jelia (the creative one) and Jenn (the marketing lady) are on the pursuit to get ClinQs on glasses throughout the country to avoid those awkward "umm, you just took my drink" moments.
Cookies and Corks: I love wine. I love cookies. I love Cookies and Corks. Based in Virginia, this company was started by two friends--Leah Kuo (a formally trained pastry chef) and Laura Englander (the marketing and sales person)--who are changing the idea that wine can only be served with cheese. Leah has developed savory and sweet cookie recipes using ingredients that compliment sparkling, white, and red wines and with the help of Amy Reily (the wine and cookie pairing advisor),Cookies and Corks is changing the way we drink wine.
Emily G's Jam: This Georgia based company started after Emily (Emily) and Gina (G), took their kids strawberry picking near Atlanta. With an abundance of strawberries and creativity, the two created a jam that became popular among friends, family, and neighbors--Emily G's was born. All of the jams are hand poured and unique flavors such as cabernet sauvignon and pear honey will make a piece of toast a gourmet breakfast.
Huerto Azul Jam: You guys know I love Chile, so imagine my delight to run into some Chilean vendors at the show! Thanks to Foster Fine Foods Huerto Azul Jam Company is able to import unique, handcrafted jams to the U.S. Unique flavors include onion jam in merlot wine and myrtleberry (a Chilean fruit) chutney with merken (an indigenous spice mixture).
Miss Lillian's Original Sauce: Talking with these ladies was like being at my Aunt's house. Miss Lillian's sauce is a family recipe that is thankfully being shared with us. Available in spicy or mild, this sauce is creamy, smokey, zesty goodness that takes burgers, chicken nuggets, french fries, and other foods to a new level.
Salt Rox: When I a steak being cooked on a salt slab I knew I had to check this company out. Salt Rox is based in Kentucky and they sell Pink Himalayan pink salt. Not only do they sell salt in course granules for grinding, but they are converting people to the salt lifestyle--cooking on salt slabs and doing shots from salt shot glasses (patent pending). I tried both the steak and the margarita in the shot glass; both were so flavorful you'll wonder why you ever bought iodized salt to begin with, I know I've been converted.
S.A.L.T. Sisters: In 2007 owner Charmane Skillen began selling gourmet sea and mineral salts at farmers markets in Indiana, but as demand grew she partnered with friend Brenda Troyer in 2009 to form S.A.L.T. Sisters. Today, this company is one of the premiere providers of gourmet sea salt and seasonings, but they also have a line of rubs, spice, and herb blends. And if you're curious, S.A.L.T. stands for Sydney, Alexis, Lauren, and Taylor, Charmane's daughters.
Sauce Goddess: Jennifer (the Sauce Goddess) is so energetic, laid back, and passionate about her glazes and spice blends. Jennifer's passion for food caused her to start her company, Sauce Goddess, in 2000 with just 2 grill glazes. Today, Sauce Goddess sells 4 wickedly flavorful glazes and four savory spice blends, talk about growth! Sauce Goddess spice blends are the perfect way to add some sass to dips and her glazes will make it seem like you spent hours in the kitchen perfecting your ribs and chicken.
Sonoma Syrup Company: Sonoma Syrup Company was founded in 2002 by Karin Campion. Her attempt: capture the flavors of Sonoma and infuse them into extracts and simple syrup. The result? Handcrafted syrups and extracts made in small batches that are flavorful and unique.
Wanna Hava Cookie: Based in New York, owners Marisa and her husband Mark might just be the cutest couple ever--she's the baker, he's the eater (and site programmer). Marisa started Wanna Hava Cookie with the support of family and friends in an effort to combat unsatisfying, overpriced baked goods that were overly available around the city. Today, she's baking whoopie pies, cookies, bars, and other treats for hungry New Yorkers, but don't worry--you can also order online.
Wild Mountain Gourmet: I actually met the owner while I was greedily eating a cupcake and she was eating carrot sticks and I promised I'd visit her booth, when I made my way over there I was impressed with her homemade mustards that range from zippy (beer and garlic) to sweet (apple and pumpkin). I ended up buying the dill and garlic mustard and it tastes amazing on baked salmon, FYI.
Zip Sauce: With a brusk northern accent one of the guys working the booth said "Anything for you sweethaurt," but that's not why I like zip sauce. This soy-based sauce began as a steak finishing sauce at Lelli's Restaurant in Detroit, but became available to the masses after much demand. Vegetarians, don't think zip sauce is a "meat thing" they were sampling it at the show mixed with a touch of butter and mashed potatoes! It's also gluten free.
That's just a very small sampling of the over 300 vendors present. I left with a number of unique products and I spent way more money than I intended, but hey its good for my belly and small business, so it's a win-win. Hopefully I was able to make you feel like you were hanging out with me in foodie paradise.
At some point during the day, I got an idea to do a giveaway and asked vendors if they would be willing to donate one of their products if I made a purchase. To my surprise, not only were they eager to donate their product, they were really excited about the giveaway and thought it was a great idea! So, thanks to the kindness of the above vendors, I was able to make one lucky reader a gift basket with all of the products I featured. The goal of this giveaway is to spread the foodie love and support small businesses. Want to win? You can potentially enter this giveaway two times, here's what you do:
- Tweet about this giveaway. You can use this: Foodies, let's eat our way through the recession! Support small and local businesses and enter @froandafork's giveaway, http://tiny.cc/xfib4 or you can write something more your style, just remember to mention this post and me in the tweet.
- Leave a comment in this post naming your favorite small and or local business with a link to their page. I will be compiling a list to share with everyone broken into regions of the country.
Spread the food, spread the love.
Thank you to the following for supporting my giveaway and donating a product:
Cookies and Corks
Foster Fine Foods
Miss Lillian's Original Sauce
Sonoma Syrup Company
Wanna Hava Cookie
Wild Mountain Gourmet