January 23, 2018 – The annual Good Food Awards ceremony, celebrating producers of tasty, authentic and socially responsible products, took place Friday night at the monumental SF War Memorial building. Always an event with inspired, funny and heartfelt speakers, this year did not disappoint.
Out of 2,057 entries from more than 30 states, 199 winning artisans were honored and 58% of the finalists had never won before. As is the custom, Alice Waters opened up the show by introducing the 2018 keynote speaker, cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey. She took the prize for best quote of the night with her closing remarks, “A great hooray for good food, for good food all over the world…and I would also like to say hooray for millet!”
And then it was time for the winners to be announced. Each of the 15 categories goes through a comprehensive vetting process and blind tasting by expert food judges to arrive at the finalists. We had three local Monterey Bay Area finalists this year, Happy Girl Kitchen for their Pomegranate Jalapeño Shrub, Katie Blandin Shea of Golden Bear Bitters for her Summer Botanical Tonic Syrup, and Venus Spirits for two entries, Aquavit and Wayward Whiskey Bourbon. In the end, only Venus took home a medal. Sean Venus seemed to be enjoying himself at the after party, celebrating with a bit of the fruits of his own labor along with the rest of us—and a Salt & Straw ice cream sundae too.
Once all the winners paraded onto the stage, accompanied by sweet speeches from fellow crafters and embraced by Alice Waters herself, the founder of the awards, Sarah Weiner, took the microphone for her closing remarks. She, as always, got a standing ovation. And for good reason. Her integrity, dedication and intellect shine through, along with some seriously smart fashion sense. She laid out the many ways that good food is in demand, then said to the “scrappy, hardworking, smart and talented” winners, “You have succeeded in fundamentally changing the desires of our nation…tonight we celebrate the epic cultural achievement.”
And then time for the after party. Over the years, the GFA crowd has grown, requiring larger and more inventive venues to hold the food, drink and revelry on offer. This year Airbnb headquarters hosted us. The astonishing high-tech space that employees have the fortune to utilize every day was a treat for us common citizens to experience. Food stations laden with winning selections of cheeses, honeys, pickles, oils, charcuterie, chocolate, preserves, and fish were descended upon and decimated. Bi-Rite market, a primary sponsor and partner of the GFAs, provided more bites and dishes (the miso, burdock, caviar thing was great). Two bars, one for the spirits, mixed with a variety of elixirs, and one for the beers and ciders. And then the coffee station, where all the coffee geeks lingered for the nuanced, mostly Ethiopia-sourced brew. And then that ice cream sundae bar by Portland-based Salt & Straw, three favors with a variety of toppings.
None of this was too surprising. It’s a given to have this amazing food and drink when at a GFA event. The big surprise of the night was the secret announcement of next year’s category: snacks!
Read EMB’s profile of drinks artisan Sean Venus “Spirits of Santa Cruz” here: https://ediblemontereybay.com/fall-2014/edible-notables-spirits-of-santa-cruz/