I recently went to San Francisco for a food blogging conference with 350 bloggers from around the country who are featured publishers with Foodbuzz, a website devoted to food bloggers and their readers. The conference was sponsored by dozens of food brands including California farms, wineries, a national bread company, a kitchen appliance company, and various snack product companies.
Part of the conference exposed us to a food pavilion of vendor samples where we could meet the owners of some small businesses and ask them questions about their products. Of all the foods that I tried or visited, these five companies were my favorites to recommend.
This is a family-owned and certified organic farm from Brentwood, Calif., that grows seasonal fruits (pears were available to us all weekend), produces fresh baked goods and granola with oats and dried fruits they grow, and is a community supporter at local farmer's markets throughout the state.
I especially loved the dried peaches that were tough and not too chewy, but so fragrant in peach flavor. Fresh peaches are out of season during this time of the year, but eating dried peaches is a great way to enjoy them all year long.
The company also has fruit gift boxes and a fruit of the month program. This was the #1 product I can’t wait to get buy again and give as gifts.
Frog Hollow Farms products are sold locally at Hubbell & Hudson in The Woodlands, and also available on their website.
Just like fresh baked goods, these little brittle bites have a short shelf life because they don’t contain harsh additives or preservatives. Flavors vary from savory — thyme and rosemary — to traditional nutty ones like almond and pistachio. There's also a line of crunchy granola bites.
The packaging is so colorful and fun, it truly popped out at me. Individual flavors or mixed tins can be purchased online.
Custom icing sheets for cakes and cupcakes and beautifully colored sprinkles are a perfect way to dress up your holiday table or party. The sheets are completely edible and are shipped to you for assembly on your cupcake or cake. Images are custom created or uploaded and then printed as sugar.
Ideas range from wedding bells to your puppy’s face to a Christmas tree. Ticings also has a line of sprinkle kits where you can pick the colors and sizes.
These little bites of chewy gooey cookie dough goodness were one of the most popular booths at the pavilion. Based in Yountville, Calif., Annie the Baker says on her website, “My cookies are made specifically for those who love cookie dough more than the cookie.”
They come in flavors like Tuxedo Macadamia and Peanut Butter Cookie with Mini Peanut Butter Cups. They are hard like a cookie on the outside, but their shape looks just like the ball you put in the oven, and they are have a cookie dough consistency on the inside.
Family owned and operated, Mendocino Sea Salt produces delicate and sand-texture salts straight from the California coast. The owner and his wife, both working the crowd at the pavilion, drive their boat offshore anytime the water is calm. He fishes for sea water, then extracts the salt on a stovetop by simmering until the crystals rise to the top. Their methods are simple and done locally without large machinery or processing. It was interesting to learn the steps from the boat driver himself who also markets products to food shows and wholesalers.
All of these products would be a fun, thoughtful gift for the food lover this holiday season. They are perfect as a thank you to a party host or office coworkers, and are also a clever and fresh way to entertain guests. Leave the poinsettias for someone else this year and celebrate the season with specialty foods with a story behind the brand.
Marci Gilbert writes a daily food and fitness blog at www.marcigilbert.com.