Silky smooth vodka, flavorful cheese and pungent olive oil are among the products being showcased today at the annual Fresno Food Expo.
The city-sponsored gathering brings together some of the San Joaquin Valley's best specialty foods, produce and beverages.
This year, 83 food makers will present their products. This is your chance to learn more about the items.
More than 800 people also are expected to attend the evening portion of the event, which is designed with the consumer in mind. Ticket-buyers will be able to sample and buy some of the many foods and beverages created by Valley companies.
"The public perception is that so many of the things produced here are shipped somewhere else to be made into products," says Amy Huerta, the city's local business initiatives manager. "But this expo really shows people what we do here."
Some of the products at the Expo are well known, such as Valley Lavosh's cracker bread and La Tapatia's tortillas. Others will be a surprise.
Among the vendors hoping to gain customers are the makers of Cold House Vodka.
The Modesto-based distiller makes premium vodka in five flavors: wild cherry, blueberry, lemonade, mocha and peach. It also makes a single-malt, unaged whiskey it fondly calls Outlaw Moonshine.
And like the renegade liquor it's named after, it packs a wallop, at 99 proof.
Company founder Lee Palleschi prides himself on the quality of his vodka and says it can compete against most of the top-shelf brands in the market.
"We use a blend of wheat and white corn that gives the vodka a creamy, and sweet consistency," Palleschi says. "You mix in a little juice and the vodka is so smooth it just disappears."
For those interested in experimenting with new flavors, four companies plan to bring samples of their extra virgin olive oil and flavored oils. The Bari Olive Oil company will introduce its new line of infused oils: tandoori-masala, jalapeño-chipotle, basil and fajita.
Other expo participants also will be coming in with new offerings, including sweet, smoky chipotle jalapeños from Deb's Gourmet; almond and cashew butter from Ready Roast Nut Company and a Fiesta bean dip from restaurateur Bobby Salazar.
Dairy Goddess cheese company owner Barbara Martin will bring five flavors of her soft, spreadable cheese that range in flavor from sweet to spicy. Her newest flavor is called Bliss and includes white chocolate, pistachios and cranberries.
Martin hopes her cheeses that sell for about $5 will appeal to people she calls the "budget foodies."
"I am talking about middle-class families who want pure, natural and wholesome foods but don't necessarily have the extra income to spend on some of the higher-end products," Martin says. "And I think there are a lot of us out there."
Looking forward to another expo is Emily Silveira of Clovis. Silveira enjoyed learning about and tasting the different foods made in the Valley.
"It was fun to discover the plethora of products coming out of the Valley," Silveira says. "We had such a good time that I am excited to go back and see what is new."
Fresno Food Expo: Today 5-8 p.m. at Fresno Convention Center, Halls II & III, 848 M. St.
Tickets: $40 in advance and can be purchased online at fresnofoodexpo.com. Online tickets will be sold until noon Thursday. Tickets also will be available at the door.