Monday, November 9, 2009

Berkeley-Made Marshmallows a FoodBuzz-Fest Fave

By Anneli Rufus
Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 2:41 PM

The blog aggregator and social network FoodBuzz hosted its first annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco this weekend with three days' worth of parties, tastings, and demos -- including many by East Bay companies -- for some 250 food bloggers. Getting the word out about yummy stuff has totally gone viral, which is great for small companies that might otherwise elude notice in a corporate world. If what I saw at the festival's Taste Pavilion at the Metreon on Saturday is any indication, then locally produced watermelon beer or handmade cranberry marshmallows might be the new black.

Sharing samples and stories were far-flung companies such as Kerrygold (whose hearty hormone-free cheeses come from the milk of grass-fed cows on tens of thousands of small Irish dairy farms) and Kikkoman (speaking of black: soy-sauce-infused chocolate truffles, that is) and Northern Californians such as Rogue Ales and Annie the Baker.

This being a food festival, East Bay companies proved to be among the most innovative and artisanal. Nina Wanat, who creates her BonbonBar candy bars in a West Berkeley kitchen using organic local ingredients, offered tastes of her single-malt-Scotch ganache -- made with Talisker 1992 Distillers Edition Scotch from the Isle of Skye, topped with Maldon sea salt -- and spunky pumpkin-pie caramallows, whose chewy-smooth coating contains butternut squash bought at farmers' markets: "I couldn't call it a 'butternut-squash caramallow,'" she confessed. (High-fructose corn syrup and other artificial substances "are banned at BonBonBar," just so you know.)

Jeff Bordes from Brentwood's thirty-year-old, 133-acre, 25-variety, all-organic Frog Hollow Farm shared fruit conserve, mellow dried peaches, and crunchy, subtly sweet fresh Warren pears: Notoriously hard to grow, Warrens are produced commercially in the United States by only Frog Hollow and one other farm. Chez Panisse, a regular customer, uses Frog Hollow's Warrens in its desserts. (The farm's first annual Olive Harvest Festival next Sunday, November 15, features a wine lunch, special presentations, an olive U-pick, and orchard tours.)

San Francisco-based standouts included Mission Minis, makers of Ping Pong-ball-sized cupcakes in such flavors as Swiss-almond-coconut and cinnamon-horchata; 479 Degrees Popcorn, whose varieties include chipotle-caramel with almond, Madras curry with cashews, and black truffle with white Cheddar; and Sajen, whose hauntingly rich agave-sweetened turmeric and ginger juices are based on ancient Indonesian wellness and cleansing practices; turmeric contains a huge amount of anti-oxidants.

Foodzie, a San Francisco-based online marketplace for small independent food companies -- in other words, a culinary Etsy -- brought to the festival many of its members and/or samples of their products, introducing attendees to artisan pecan-crust D'Lischka cookies; Honey Ridge Farms honey cremes, crafted by a fifth-generation beekeeper; all-natural Glee Gum, made with chicle harvested sustainably from sapodilla trees in Central American rainforests; intensely tasty pretzels and Egyptian-style "dry dip" from Vibrant Flavors; and flavored roasted almonds sold by a Bakersfield farmer's wife whose company has the coolest name we heard all day: My Husband's Nuts.

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