We New Yorkers pride ourselves on pickles, but if you’re only trying the cucumber kind then you’re missing half the party. Luckily, the city has a lot more to offer than just your standard half sour or dill. Feeling adventurous? The recently announced Good Food Awards finalists are the perfect place to start some exploring. The Good Food Awards is an annual awards ceremony recognizing American producers making “tasty, authentic and responsibly produced” foods in ten categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, pickles, preserves, spirits, and oil. And this year, with 1,450 entries — representing each of the 50 states — the Awards were bigger than ever, reflecting the vitality of our changing preferences for food made by real people with real ingredients, instead of by big companies in big factories far, far away.
“The 200 Good Food Awards Finalists [selected by 225 judges at the September 15 Blind Tasting event in San Francisco] are leading a cultural shift away from business as usual,” says Sarah Weiner, co-founder and executive director of Seedling Projects, which organizes the awards. “They bring the dedication and integrity of true craftsmen to all they do. Their ever stronger presence around the country proves that it can be done — there is a different way to feed our communities.”
And it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this year’s list includes a number of New York food makers — including three in the pickles category.
Locavore pickle eaters probably already know Good Food Awards favorite Rick’s Picks, whose smokra is a 2014 finalist. According to Weiner, the pickle maker “has helped paved the way in New York City for thoughtful, responsible, deliciousness” and has been a “tremendous support and role model for others starting out in pickling.” Rick’s Picks is joined by two other New York picklers making the finalists this year, Crock & Jar with their Ramp Kraut and Josephine’s Feast with its cheese pumpkin chutney are doing their part to maintain the state’s pickle empire rep.
(If pumpkins and ramps don’t sound like a wild enough ride on the pickle train for you, take a voyage beyond our borders. Texas’ Confituras makes pickled blueberries and California’s Wine Forest does pickled sea beans. The sea beans, Weiner says, are “foraged from the coast in California by Connie Green, who is something of a legend out here.”)
But as any New York foodie will tell you, we do so much more here than just pickles. Other New York City companies landing as finalists include Long Island City’s Charlito’s Cocina, whose cerveza seca dry cured beer salami “was noted across the board as having very fruity, complex flavors at the front with a nice, simple, salt finish,” and Sour Puss Pickle‘s shiro plum shrub preserves, which was commended for its “complex balance of sweet and acid.”
From outside the five boroughs, Old Chatham Shepherding Company in Old Chatham, New York, entered its ewe’s blue sheep’s milk cheese. The consensus among the judges was that “it was incredibly blue, with an open texture and extremely peppery, spicy finish.” And Weiner called the Woodstock-based Crosstown Sweets, which had two preserves finalists, “a new company I’ve got my eye on.”
Put those finalists on a cheese board with some fresh, crusty bread, serve it all alongside a Brooklyn Brewery Greenmarket Wheat or Delaware Phoenix Distillery rye or bourbon (both also finalists), and you’ll have the fixings for a lovely little Saturday night.
So what’s the big deal about winning one of these awards? “Good Food Award Winners report growing their businesses 15 percent to 400 percent, increasing purchasing from local and responsible orchards, farms, and ranches accordingly,” Weiner says.
For the full list of 2014 Good Food Awards finalists, including all those hailing from the Great State of New York, check out the website. Winners will be announced January 16.