Best of Good Food Festival 2015

March 23, 2015 at 9:25 am

Happy 11 Years

Unless you’re in Spinal Tap, do you pay attention to 11. But 11 was just as good a year as any for FamilyFarmed and the Good Food Festival. Friday we attended several sessions focused on food policy and the eat local food trade. On Friday night, we gathered for a lot of meatballs and each drank at least $100 worth of local booze (just price the stuff at Binny’s if you don’t believe me). Saturday, there were tons of products to try, lessons to learn, and people to meet. Based on our wanderings and tastings, we present our opinions of Best in Show 2015.

Best Locavore Product Now Easier Available

We have in our pantry, the remains of some chili sauce purchased from Savory Accents at the Madison (Dane County) Farmer’s Market.  We cannot resist something from them, made from locally grown hot peppers, every time we visit that market.  So, boy were we pleased to hear that starting this year, Savory Accents will also now sell their wares at Green City Market.  As a preview to what you can expect, we tasted about all their offerings on Saturday.  We are pleased to report that one product stood out, one product really fills a void in our locavore kitchen.   We’re talking abut their harissa paste.   They call it on their site, “no compromise.”  I guess that means heavyily cumin-ized, but with an intense, forward heat.  Already making recipes in my head; number one, as dressing for boiled carrots.

Best Good Idea Presented to my Wife a Few Weeks Ago and Then Re-Reminded to Me

We’ve covered Tim Magner and his promotion of growing healthy kids in the past on the Local Beet, but when he dropped off a post card for his Farm Camp with the Condiment Queen at the Evanston Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago, we  unjustly  did not make the connection.  Luckily, Tim stopped by our table on Saturday, reminding us of his good works and telling us of good works to come, namely Farm Camp, an exciting opportunity for kids to see the land and learn what’s support on it.  The camp will be lead by our region’s premier wild-ologist, Nancy Klehm.  We were supposed to write about this a few weeks ago.  We’re happy to do it now.

Best Non-Use of Vinegar

Some of the fermented products from the Brinery have been for sale at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market courtesy of the Undergroud Meat Collective.  We never sampled nor purchased.  That will probably change.  On Saturday, we sampled.  And we sampled, and then later in the day when we needed a little nosh, we pretended like we had not tried and went and sampled all of their samples again.  I am telling you this stuff is delicious, about as good as any fermented product I’ve ever sampled.  Grown and made in Michigan but sold in Chicago by Wisconsin sausage makers.

Best Reasons Why There are Certain Gaps in Our Local Food System

Years ago, when the City of Chicago ran a little shop on Randolph focusing on local foods, they asked us, did we have some ideas for local grains to add to their inventory.  We gave them the names of some mills in Indiana that did not quite meet their needs.  See, there’s definately some shortcomings when it comes to getting locally sourced grains and beans.  Today, it’s not as hard, there are options, but it remains a stilted portion of our foodshed.  We attended a panel on Friday on the issue, and we found out many of the reasons why.  Look forward to a post soon on this topic.

Best Food Served at Localicous by a Company with Sales Over $40 Million

We confess we are not without bias when it comes to Eli’s Cheesecake. The Local Beet has a long relationship with them, their farmer’s market and their yearly speaker series. We have several friends there up to their President, Marc Schulman. That does not mean that when we ate their cheesecake at Localicious on Friday, we did not find it equal to products put out by all the other talented chefs. Goood enougn that we ate two slices, with local honey and with salted caramel.  We loved so much at Localicious: Tom Leavitt’s sliders, Big Jone’s upscale take on delta tamales, Vera’s use of the underappreciated persimmon, but take special pride that a company as big as Eli’s can hold their own.

Photo by Bob Benenson

Photo by Bob Benenson

Best Politican Shorter Than the Rest

Way back in my college days, I did some work for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, DC. In said work, I met quite a few public officials, Paul Simon aside, my lasting memory of them was how tall the lot was. Flash forward all these years later, there in front of me was the heir to Senator Simon, recently re-elected Dick Durban. He’s not tall. Except he stands tall for good food, especially SNAP and the food stamp program. We were glad to have seen him.  Read more about Senator Durbin’s visit to the Good Food Festival here.

Best Use of Time

About half through it’s run of 11 years, Good Food Festival Founder and President, Jim Slama, asked us if we wanted a table. At first, we demurred, what do we need a table. Slama answered back, “people pay good money for them, I’m giving you one for free.” Not wanting to be schnorers, we said, of course, we’ll take a table. How could we ever not think it wasn’t a great idea. The best thing about the Festival is our ability to plant ourselves and engage with all who walk past. Of course, a lot of the people who stopped by our table were old friends. We also got the chance to meet new friends. New this year, we’re creating a newsletter to highlight items on our site. We happily collected many names for this newsletter. One lucky person has already won a jar of Tomato Mountain whole roasted tomatoes for putting in with us. For all the good things we tasted and learned, nothing is better at the Good Food Festival than the people who walk through its doors.