After coming home from the Fresno Food Expo with a full belly last week, I'm convinced I have the most fun job on the planet.
Over the past few weeks I've written several stories about the event, the yearly showcase of Valley-made foods ranging from grapes to white chocolate milk made specifically for mochas. And while there are plenty of stories about the importance of exporting local products to the Pacific Rim, the most fun part is tasting all the food.
I thought I'd share a few of my favorites from the 2013 show. If you went to the public portion of the show, feel free to check out my blog at fresnobeehive.com and share your favorites in the comments section.
Finger limes. The weird little finger-shaped limes from Visalia-area Phillips Farms are just cool. Snap 'em open and there are little balls of "citrus caviar" inside. They can be added to ice cream, used atop sushi or swirled into Champagne and cocktails.
For now, they can only be bought online (though they are exported to Europe).
Tioga-Sequoia's 99 Golden Ale. Yes, I sampled beer at the expo (but only a tiny cup, no drunken reporting, I promise). This honey-golden ale is the downtown Fresno brewer's newest regular flavor and it's delicious. It's a tribute to all the cities along Highway 99.
They tell me that everybody from the Coors Light fan to the beer geek likes it. By mid-April the beer will be available at Save Mart, BevMo! and Whole Foods stores in Fresno.
Teleme cheese. Boy, this cheese is yummy. It's a type of Brie made by Peluso Cheese in Los Banos. It's a delicate, mild Brie and is great in paninis, the company says. It also makes a "classy grilled cheese sandwich," says CEO Rene Reynoso.
You can buy it at Vons.
Tweetie's Smokin Salsa. This little Shaver Lake-based company is as notable for its yummy salsa as it is for its back story. The salsa is a family recipe that Vicki "Tweetie" Oliver made for bars and restaurants in Shaver Lake. Before she and her husband Jim could sell it commercially, Tweetie died of chronic pancreatitis in 2007 at age 57. Jim is launching the company in her honor, and the first commercial batch of salsa rolled off the line late last year.
It's pretty spicy and doesn't come in mild. "If you don't like it the way I made it, don't eat it," Tweetie used to say. (But as someone who is pretty sensitive to heat, I could handle it, and even better, I could still taste the flavor behind the heat.)
You can buy it at several stores in Shaver Lake, including Cressman's General Store. I'm really hoping this one makes it to Fresno soon.
YA! The Original Greek Salsa. I almost didn't include this one because it's brand new and you can't buy it anywhere yet. But its maker, Fresno-based Pacific Choice Brands, is big enough (seriously, they make 1,500 products under other brand names) that I'm optimistic it will be in stores soon.
YA! is a salsa, but it's made from three kinds of tomatoes (including sundried), two kinds of olives, peppers and capers. You can really taste the olives, which is my favorite part. It can be used with chips or on bruschetta, even as a sauce for chicken.
Cold House Cake Batter Vodka. This one tied for the industry new product award and rightly so. There are a few other cake batter vodkas out there, but this one is made in Modesto. I really want to buy a bottle and make a "pineapple upside down cake," a shot of the vodka in a pineapple juice that makes it taste like its name.
It's available at Save Mart stores.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, firstname.lastname@example.org
or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on fresnobeehive.com.