Get Adobe Flash player

Entries Now Open for San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil Competition

The third annual San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil Competition (SJVOOC) is now accepting entries from all olive oil producers in the state of California. To qualify for the opportunity to showcase their flavorful products, olive oil must be made from the most recent olive harvest; deadline to enter is March 24, 2017.

“Giving olive oil producers within California the opportunity and place to showcase their quality products has had a tremendous response,” said Stacy Rianda, Deputy Manager at The Big Fresno Fair. “After a very successful first two years, we look forward to drawing even more producers from even more corners of California.”

There are two classes for entries: Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Flavored Olive Oil. Competition categories in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil class include: Spanish Blends (arbequina, arbosana, etc.); Spanish Singles; Italian Blends (ascolano, etc.); Italian Singles; Other Blends (picholine, barouni, etc.); Other Singles. Competition categories in the Flavored Olive Oil class include: Citrus; Herbal (rosemary; basil, etc.); and Other Flavors (chile, jalapeno, garlic, etc.).

Awards will be given out for gold and silver medals in each category, as well as one overall “Best of Show” in both the Extra Virgin Olive Oil category and the Flavored Oil category. Judging will be evaluated and scored as follows:

Gold Medal: Awarded to an olive oil that demonstrates its type and/or varietal character, balance, structure and complexities to the highest standards. Gold medals will be awarded to those oils receiving scores between 86 – 100 points.
Silver Medal: Awarded to an olive oil reflecting the correct distribution of balance and character of its type or variety; an oil deemed to be well crafted and of excellent quality. Silver medals will be awarded to those oils receiving scores between 76- 85 points.
Best of Show: Awarded to an olive oil recognized to possess special characteristics of the highest quality overall.

Producers may submit multiple entries under one category but may not submit a particular entry to more than one category. All entries must be available for commercial sale at the time of entry. Entries are due by March 24, 2017 by 4:30 p.m. Judging will be held on April 4, 2017 and winners will be announced on April 13, 2017 by 5:00 p.m.

Gold medal and Best of Show winners will have the opportunity to have a booth in the Wells Fargo Agricultural Building on one day during a weekend of the 2017 Big Fresno Fair where they can taste, display and sell their award-winning product. Additionally, educational information will be set up so that fair attendees can learn more about the art of making olive oil, its health benefits, recipes and more.

Each submission must include an entry form, at least two 250 ml bottles of the olive oil with retail labels attached and a $60 non-refundable fee per entry. Entries can be dropped off at The Big Fresno Fair Administration Office or can be shipped to SJVOOC – The Big Fresno Fair, 1121 S. Chance Ave. Fresno, CA 93702 no later than 4:30 p.m. on March 24, 2017. Any entry delivered by mail, freight or express must be prepaid. The administration office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for drop offs.

Last year, 61 entries from all throughout California were received. Below is a list of the Gold medal Winners and Best of Show. For a complete 2016 winners list, go to: https://www.fresnofair.com/sjv-olive-oil-competition.

Extra Virgin Olive Oils – Gold Medal Winners

Spanish Blends
Enzo Olive Oil Company’s Tyler Florence Test Kitchen EVOO (Clovis)
Rosenthal Olive Ranch’s Arbosana (Madera)
Spanish Singles
Coldani Olive Ranch’s Calivirgin Premium EVOO (Lodi)
Calolea Olive Ranch’s Calolea Mission (Marysville)
The Olive Press’ Picual (Sonoma)
Italian Blends
Winter Creek Olive Oil’s Winter Creek Olive Oil (Winter Creek)
Winter Creek Olive Oil’s Ruscello d’Inverno (Winter Creek)
Coldani Olive Ranch’s Lodi Olive Growers Blend (Lodi)
The Olive Press’ Italian Blend (Sonoma)
Coppetti Olive Oil’s Harvest Blend (Modesto)
Bava Family Grove’s Bava Monticelli Estate Napa Valley (Escalon)
San Miguel Olive Farm’s Tuscan Nectar of the Gods (San Miguel)
San Miguel Olive Farm’s Tuscan Gold (San Miguel)
Italian Singles
Coldani Olive Ranch’s Lodi Olive Oil Ascolano (Lodi)
Other Blends
Bozzano Olive Ranch’s A2 (Stockton)

Flavored Olive Oils – Gold Medal Winners

Citrus
The Olive Press’ Lime (Sonoma)
The Olive Press’ Limonata (Sonoma)
Herbal
Coldani Olive Ranch’s Calivirgin Bountiful Basil (Lodi)

Other Flavors
Coldani Olive Ranch’s Calivirgin Jalapeno Garlic (Lodi)
Coldani Olive Ranch’s Calivirgin Extreme Heat Serrano (Lodi)

Best Of Show

The Olive Press’ Picual (Sonoma)
Coldani Olive Ranch’s Calivirgin Bountiful Basil (Lodi)

For more information about the new San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil Competition (SJVOOC), including downloadable entry forms and deadlines, visit www.fresnofair.com/sjv-olive-oil-competition, email questions to srianda@fresnofair.com or call The Big Fresno Fair office at (559) 650-FAIR.

Registration for Fresno Food Expo Now Open

Exhibitor and buyer registration for the 2017 Fresno Food Expo is now underway. The seventh annual event will include expanded exhibitor and buyer platforms aimed at building greater opportunities for central California food and beverage companies to connect and do business with retail and foodservice buyers. These efforts will continue to forge a path that will bring together the region’s food industry leaders to demonstrate, and bring recognition to, the depth and strength the region carries in the global food industry. Nearly 50 percent of the Expo show floor is already filled with returning exhibitors with more than 150 exhibitors and 950 key pre-qualified domestic and international buyers expected to participate.

Kicking off in the spring as part of an expanded exhibitor platform, the Expo will host an exclusive exhibitor gathering that will invite all central California food and beverage companies who have participated, or plan to participate in the Expo, to share in the value of a nationally-recognized business seminar. This first-time event will feature a keynote speaker that will address the needs of businesses throughout the region including topics such as professional leadership, training and motivation. Furthermore, the Expo will continue to include educational training opportunities for current exhibitors throughout the year on varying topics.

Through the Expo’s own awards programs, the region’s innovation will continue to be celebrated and recognized through the New Product Awards presented by Baker Peterson Franklin CPA, LLP, which has debuted over 160 new products from Valley-based companies since the showcase began in 2013. Most recent awards include the 2016 winners, Aubrey’s Jerky, made with real beef heart, who took home first place buyer’s choice award category, and ARO Gourmet Pistachio’s, made with Himalayan Pink Salt, who took home the people’s choice award.

Also returning to the Expo will be the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award. Named in honor of Fred Ruiz, founder of Ruiz Food Products, Inc., this award recognizes companies who have the same vision and qualities that took Ruiz Foods from a small, family start-up to the largest frozen Mexican food manufacturer in the United States. Lanna Coffee Co., a Fresno-based coffee company who sources its beans from Thailand to support economic stability in the villages where the beans are grown, was named the 2016 winner.

These award-winning exhibitors who represent some of the very best food and beverage companies in the nation, in addition to innovative, start-up companies that utilize the Fresno Food Expo platform to launch their businesses, continue to draw in buyers from around the world. Buyer participation is now five times more than the original participation number when the Expo began in 2011 – with the 2016 Fresno Food Expo drawing in over 900 local, national and international buyers, 77 percent of which had decision-making authority. Major retailers attending the show include ALDI, Costco Wholesale, Grocery Outlet, Safeway, Save Mart Supermarkets, Vallarta Supermarkets, Walmart and Whole Foods Market, along with international buyers hosted by the Center for International Trade Development, State Center Community College District as part of an organized buying mission tied to the regional food show.

As part of an effort to continue drawing in these types of decision-making buyers, the Expo touts an expanded buyer platform and will be bringing in a buyer-focused keynote speaker on July 26, the day prior to the tradeshow, who will discuss topics relevant to the retail, foodservice and distributor buying channels – another first-time initiative announced as part of this year’s event.

This year’s Buyer Agenda also includes exhibitor-hosted site tours and the Expo’s opening reception, Pairings, which offers an exclusive opportunity to make meaningful connections with our region’s leading food producers and attending buyers, complete with live cooking stations that will put a spotlight on the region’s most celebrated chefs.

“Now in its seventh year, the Fresno Food Expo has helped elevate public perception of the award-winning Central California food region and put a spotlight on our diverse food industry companies who have been recognized by their peers on state, national and international platforms,” said David Nalchajian, General Manager of the Fresno Food Expo. “To further support and create new pathways for our region’s food industry companies to become recognized leaders and innovators within the food industry, the Expo is excited to launch, and further develop a year-round network that fosters business growth opportunities for companies both big and small.”

In order to further highlight the award-winning region and tell the story behind the region’s food companies, the Expo will begin hosting its own blog and develop a voice representative of central California’s thriving food industry.

A collaborative group of top food industry leaders will continue to lead the Fresno Food Expo as a board of directors serving in various advisory capacities including Chairwoman of the Board Ashley Swearengin, President and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation; Vice Chairwoman of the Board, Agnes Saghatelian, President of Valley Lahvosh Baking Company; Board Secretary, Vincent Ricchiuti, Director of Operations for Enzo Olive Oil Company; Board Treasurer, Denver Schutz, Technical Services Manager of Gerawan Farming; Mark Ford, President of JD Food; Mike Grazier, President of Busseto Foods; Helen Chavez-Hansen, Owner and President of La Tapatia Tortilleria, Inc.; Jimmy Maxey, Chairman of Certified Meat Products; Chuck Nichols, President of Nichols Farms; Rod Noll, Vice President of the Western Region for US Cold Storage; Justin Parnagian, Sales Director for Fowler Packing Company; Fred Ruiz, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Ruiz Foods; and Bill Smittcamp, President and CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods.

The trade show portion of the Expo will take place during the day on Thursday, July 27, followed by the public celebration, Expolicious, filled with sampling and discovery taking place that evening. Registration forms and additional information for exhibitors and buyers are available at www.FresnoFoodExpo.com. Exhibitors can take advantage of early bird discounts, a 30 percent savings available through February 1, with tickets for Expolicious going on sale in May.

Rockin’ and Rollin’ in the House that Humboldt Fog Built

By Lorrie Baumann

Field of Goats - Cypress Grove ChevreCypress Grove originally started in 1983 in a couple of old barns in McKinleyville, California, before moving 13 years ago to its present-day home in Arcata, a small agricultural community just north of Eureka and just south of the border between California and Oregon.

DSCN0155

“We realized we needed a proper cheesemaking facility,” says Cody Wandel, Cypress Grove Quality Technician. “That gave us our first purpose-built cheese facility…. Our kind of cheese is very difficult to make and get to market in good condition. We’ve been evolving our ability to provide the optimum environment for the cheese.”

Mary 1In those days, Cypress Grove Chevre, as it was known then, consisted of about 15 or 20 people following the lead of Founder Mary Keehn in making high quality goat cheeses that adventurous eaters who weren’t familiar with goat milk cheeses found easy to love. An American food movement that valued the local, the sustainable, the artisanal, had just started gathering momentum, and Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog exploded into the scene as an American Original with aesthetics that combined a visually striking appearance with a mellow flavor that reminded precisely no one of the barnyard. “We were there and we were well established,” Wandel says “People in America decided they were willing to give goat cheese a try.”

Today, Cypress Grove is owned by Swiss holding company Emmi, a company with majority ownership by a cooperative of farmers and dairy operators that bought Cypress Grove from Keehn in 2010. Cypress Grove now employs over 70 people, including those at a new demonstration dairy made possible by Emmi’s capital investment, and Keehn is still the spiritual leader guiding the values that appeal to consumers concerned about the environment and social justice as well as flavor. “Emmi’s model is not to be involved in the day-to-day, so we really operate as an autonomous company,” Wandel says. “It’s been one of the challenges – how to grow and keep the sense of intimacy we all used to have with Mary back in the old days…. We pretty much are rolling the way we always did…. It’s very important that our goat cheese is the best you can get.”

“The goal of an artisan cheesemaker is to create a cheese that is roughly the same every time, as opposed to a commodity cheese, which is exactly the same every time,” he continues. “All of our cheeses are almost entirely hand-made, and they’re all made in the same process we’ve always made.”

Cypress Grove’s cheeses include the fresh chevres that were among the first products that Keehn made when she found herself with a herd of show goats and more milk than she and her family could use.

“I started raising goats as a show herd, but if you have enough animals to have a strong genetic base, it’s too much milk to drink,” she says. Her first thought was to sell the milk locally, but it was quickly apparent that there wasn’t enough of a local market for fluid goat milk, so Keehn began making cheese and selling it to retailers wherever she could find them, which was sometimes at the Winter Fancy Food Show, where she’d bring cheese in ice chests – or even in her purse – and urge show attendees to have a taste. “From the very beginning, I was selling out of the area,” she says. “I don’t know why we survived. The cheese was always good, but nobody liked it then…. If you have goats, you’re a little stubborn in the first place – and weird.”

Then came a chance for Keehn to go to France and learn more about traditional European cheeses, including the Morbier that was something of an inspiration for Humboldt Fog. Morbier is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese traditionally made from evening milk and morning milk, separated from each other by a layer of vegetable ash. On her way home from that trip, Keehn had a dream in which she saw, almost photographically, an image of a goat cheese with a black layer of vegetable ash bisecting it like the coastal fog layer that frequently floats among the hills around her Humboldt County home. “The naivety of it – it’s wrong in many ways,” she reflects now. “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

“Nobody liked it for quite a while,” she adds. “We threw away a lot of cheese.”

Some of the people who did like it, though, were rather influential: New York Times food critic Florence Fabricant mentioned Humboldt Fog in a 1997 article about growing interest in fine cheeses, and Russ Parsons, a former food editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, asked Keehn to send some to Julia Child for her birthday. “She happened to taste it, and she liked it,” Keehn says.

Humboldt Fog is still made in essentially the same way that it was in those early days: by hand, by cheesemakers who are asked to remember that they’re not just making cheese – they’re making Humboldt Fog. There are a couple of differences: the cheese is now inoculated with some Geotrichum mold as well as the Penicillium culture in its original recipe, which extends its shelf life a little bit without affecting its flavor, and Cypress Grove is making – and selling – a great deal more of it now that Humboldt Fog has become one of America’s most popular artisanal cheeses. “It just takes time and really sticking with what you care about,” Keehn says.

The path from Cypress Grove’s earliest days is marked along the way by new cheeses, some of which are no longer made, although they’re remembered in plaques outside the meeting rooms in Cypress Groves’ new offices. Truffle Tremor, another aged goat cheese that’s fancied up with the addition of real truffle pieces for an earthy taste of knee-buckling decadence, is a hearty survivor of a ruthless market.

Truffle Tremor started as an experiment in whether truffles and goat cheese could find happiness together, and it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, Keehn remembers. She added some truffles to fresh chevre and realized immediately that the bright, clean flavors of her chevre and the mellow earthiness of the truffles conflicted, as did the contrasting textures of the truffles and the fresh cheese. “It was like a fight in your mouth,” she said. “It was so bad.”

Keehn responded by trying the same strategy that worked for the kids in “The Parent Trap” – putting the pair she loved away by themselves so they could fight it out, in the hope that maybe they’d find a way to get along. Two or three weeks later, she brought the aged truffled cheese out into a staff meeting and asked people what they thought. “We tried this cheese – I swear, this was my, ‘You coulda heard a pin drop’ moment,” recalls Cypress Grove Sales Director Bob McCall. “Nobody said a word for a long time, and then somebody just said, ‘I think you have a winner.’”

“I love it when they do the happy dance,” Keehn adds. “I don’t believe in doing something unless you can really knock it out of the park. There’s no need for another mediocre cheese…. For us, cheese is a vehicle to make people’s lives happier.”

Gourmet News

Follow me on Twitter