Sudbury chocolate maker Goodnow Farms Chocolate just won a Gold Sofi Award in the Specially Food Association’s annual contest for its 70% dark chocolate bar crafted with cacao beans from the jungles of Peru. (Sofi stands for specialty outstanding food innovation). It’s a sought-after honor for an artisanal food maker and akin to an Oscar in the fine-food business — only the statue is of a chef holding a chafing dish. It was a great year for Goodnow: Their products earned five other statues, including three silvers, one bronze, and a new product award.
The association has held the competition since 1972 to recognize unique and innovative foods. This year’s winners were recently announced and 19 New England food producers earned the honors. A panel of 60 judges, seasoned food professionals (chefs, culinary instructors, recipe developers, food journalists, specialty food buyers), chose the winners in a blind tasting over several days from nearly 2,000 entries in 39 categories. “Lots of foods are innovative in their approach, but I’m wowed by flavor, texture, and when something delivers on its name and everything is aligned. That’s hard to do,” says one judge, Aneesha Hargrave, chef for Chopt Creative Salad Co. in New York. For judge Lawrence Jacobs, buyer for Sonoma County grocery chain Oliver’s Markets, the ingredient list is most significant and appearance ranks less important. “I’d rather eat something ugly and unctuous than just good looking,” he says.
Although Goodnow Farms was the only Massachusetts company to earn the gold, others did well. Veteran winner Sauces ‘n Love of Lynn was honored with a silver Sofi for Vegan Pesto and a bronze for Creamy Mushroom Pizza Sauce. Other bronze winners include a chocolate importer from Milton, Belgium’s Chocolate Source for Willie’s Cacao Milk of the Stars, made with single estate Indonesian Surabaya beans; Salem’s Harbor Sweets for Cocoa Sante Kashmir Spice Hot Cocoa Mix; and Pecan Nutcakes from past winner Effie’s Homemade. Judge Tenya Darlington, a cookbook author and writer behind the blog Madame Fromage, evaluated the nutcakes and felt the density, crunch, and simplicity of ingredients made them unique. “I look for ingenuity, creativity, and integrity, and these stand out as perfect,” she says. A new product award was given to a small Newton company, Meal Mantra, recognized for Goan Curry Simmer Sauce, a natural sauce created from an heirloom recipe.
From Vermont, the prestigious gold was given to cookie maker Douglas Sweets in Shelburne for their Italian Lemon & Rosemary Scottish Shortbread. Judges gave two other golds to past winner Vermont Creamery in Websterville for the aged goat milk cheese Coupole, and also for Sea Salt Cultured Butter. The creamery’s French-style Bijou earned a bronze. Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind from Rutland captured the silver for Smoked Sriracha Hot Sauce With Smoked Maple Syrup. Three companies were recognized with new product awards: Cabot Creamery in Waitsfield for Five Year Cheddar; Runamok Maple from Cambridge for Organic Vermont Maple Cream; and Blake Hill Preserves for Wild Rose-infused Strawberry Jam.
From Connecticut, three producers received the gold accolade: TEA-RRIFIC! of Bridgeport, which makes ice cream with tea, won for the flavor Masala Chai; India Spice Palette of Greenwich for its Fusion Indian Spice Blend; and SuperSeedz of North Haven for No Shell Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds. Adamas Caviar from Stamford earned a new product Sofi for Italian Caviar.
New Hampshire’s Wozz! Kitchen Creations from Bethlehem, already with a shelf full of Sofis from past years, was again honored, this time with a gold for Vietnamese Green Tea & Mint Dressing, and two silvers for Moroccan Tomato & Onion Relish and Grapefruit Juniper & Honey Vinegar.
From Maine, GrandyOats from Hiram snagged a bronze for Organic Tumeric Ginger Cashews, and Stonewall Kitchen of York won a bronze for its Grand Reserve Balsamic Vinegar.
For the entire list of winners, visit www.specialtyfood.com/awards/sofi/winners.
ANN TRIEGER KURLAND