Nine new food and drink products you don’t want to miss at the Fresno Food Expo

From cold brew coffee to gin, the 2017 Fresno Food Expo featured these new local products.

A sneak preview Taste, Tally and Tweet event was held before the main event July 26-27, 2017.
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A sneak preview Taste, Tally and Tweet event was held before the main event July 26-27, 2017.

Want to know what’s good at the upcoming Fresno Food Expo? We’ve got the inside scoop.

From melt-in-your-mouth brioche to creamy cold brew coffee milk, the Fresno Food Expo this week offered a sneak peek of 28 new products competing for a top new product award.

We tasted as many foods and drinks as we could, narrowing it down to our nine favorites. The foods are either incredibly delicious or offer a new twist on something familiar.

Many are already on store shelves or available online. You may have to do a little hunting because the products are new and food makers are still marketing them to stores.

All the foods will also be available to taste during Expolicious, the public portion of the Fresno Food Expo from 5-8 p.m., Thursday, July 27 at the Fresno Convention Center Exhibit Hall. The $50 tickets can be purchased online or at the convention center box office. They usually sell out, so get them quick.

The new foods are in the running for either the Buyer’s Choice Award or the People’s Choice Award that is voted on by the public. To vote for your favorite, go to the Food Expo’s web page,, or its Facebook page.

Here’s our pick for 10 products you should try.

Purple yam brioche from The Brioche Lady

It’s hard to go wrong with fresh-baked brioche, a buttery scrumptious French bread that’s perfect for French toast. But a Clovis woman who grew up in France, Nub Chi Thao aka The Brioche Lady, has added fillings to the bread she sells at local farmers markets, like purple yam, blueberry cream cheese and strawberry cream cheese.

The purple yam bread is her No. 1 seller. It has a mildly sweet flavor that’s hard to describe. And though purple yams may be unfamiliar to many, the taste is probably not outside most people’s comfort zones. It’s ideal for French toast or bread pudding or just noshing on.

Purple yam brioche from Brioche Lady was put out for sampling. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

The purple yams are grown locally and are popular in Asian dishes and desserts.

An original loaf of brioche costs $5 and the filled loaves, including the purple yam, cost $6. You can find The Brioche Lady at both Clovis farmers markets (Friday evenings and Saturday mornings), the Manchester Center farmers market from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and the Kaiser Permanente Farmers Market at 7300 N. Fresno St., Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Thao sells out almost every time, so pre-ordering is recommended. Call or text 209-740-8488 and tell her which flavor you want.

You’ll likely be seeing more of this bread. She is leasing a storefront space and kitchen at Minnewawa and Shaw avenues in Clovis that will be open this winter.

Riley’s gin and vodka

The Fresno area finally has locally made gin and vodka.

Both are from Riley’s Brewing Co. of Madera, which keeps making more delicious things. The company started with craft beer, then hard craft sodas (try the orange cream, it made last year’s list). Now Riley’s gin and vodka are available, too.

Riley's Brewing handcrafted gin is put out among the new products. The company also has a new vodka. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Both are made with corn and distilled five times.

You can try them in cocktails or shots at Riley’s Brew Pub at 2674 Owens Mountain Parkway in Clovis. And bottles of the gin and vodka are for sale at Save Mart stores around the valley.

Ho Tai Chai tea from L.T. Sue Co.

A new line of tea was inspired by the sculpture of a happy laughing Buddha called Ho Tai, who has kept an eye on Hanford’s historic China Alley for more than a decade. The Hanford Tea Room and Emporium makes the chai teas with local fruit.

Jars and packages of Ho Tai Chai teas from L.T. Sue Co. are put out among the new products being previewed at the Food Expo’s Taste, Tally and Tweet event. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

The “Figstachio” tea made with black mission figs and pistachios has an earthy flavor. The “Cocoanut” tea features almonds, cocoa and tropical coconut. And the “Orangebliss” blend is a bold, refreshing tea that’s heavy on the citrus flavor.

The teas can be purchased at the tea house in Hanford at 402 East 7th St. and online at Twenty percent of the profits go toward preserving the China Alley Historic District.

Wicked Harvest Pistachio Bourbon

This is bourbon for people who don’t like bourbon. The spirit goes down smooth and easy without that punch-in-the-mouth feeling that bourbons can sometimes have.

The bourbon is a partnership between a Kentucky master distiller and Fresno-based nut farmers Meridian Growers and distributor Velvetree Foods.

Wicked Harvest's Bourbon Whiskey made with local pistachios is among the new products. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

They take a Kentucky bourbon that’s been aged for five years and put it in used wine barrels with whole pistachios. The oils from the nuts and barrel wood infuse their flavors into the bourbon.

You can buy or taste the bourbon at Max’s Bistro, Shepherd’s Inn, The Standard, Maroa Street Deli and Liquor, Fig Tree Liquor & Wine in Fresno and Frank’s Liquor in Visalia. Don’t be surprised if this bourbon starts showing up at a lot more restaurants.

Half Dome California Wheat

Local craft beer heads are likely already familiar with this beer by Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. But if you haven’t had their Half Dome in a while, you might want to give it another try. That’s because they’ve tinkered with the recipe. Through a partnership with the Fresno County Farm Bureau, the beer now includes locally grown stone fruit, mainly peaches from Wawona farms.

Tioga-Sequoia's Half Dome unfiltered California wheat beer for tasting at the Food Expo's Taste, Tally and Tweet event. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

This beer goes down like lemonade and has 4.7 percent alcohol.

You can buy it a Total Wine & More , BevMo and independent shops like the beer cave inside the Maroa Shell station at Shields and Maroa avenues.

Cabron Hot Jam

Unlike many chile jams that tend to be more sweet than spicy, Cabron’s hot jam is exactly what it says. It’s hot.

Using a combination of cayenne and chile de arbol, the heat from the peppers strikes a nice balance with the sweetness of locally grown apricots. It would definitely add a kick to grilled lamb or pork chops. The owners say some customers have drizzled it on their bagel and cream cheese.

Jars of Cabron Hot Jam are put out among the new products. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

And if you really like hot jam, Cabron makes an extra spicy version using the famed Carolina Reaper, one of the hottest peppers on the planet. That jam is called Fuego.

Look for Cabron Hot Jam at Fresno Ag Hardware.

Casa de Tamales Tortilla Flats

Nothing tastes better than a freshly made flour or corn tortilla. And that is exactly what Liz Aguilar of Casa de Tamales was going for when she created her new line of ready-to-make corn tortillas. Aguilar has replicated that fresh off the comal, or griddle, taste and feel.

These tortillas are soft, pliable and hearty. The tortillas come in three flavors – cilantro-habanero, smoky chile and a rustic corn.

Liz Sanchez, left, and her sister Perla Sanchez of Casa de Tamales heat up their tortilla flats for tasting. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

The tortillas come in quantities of six and are packaged in a clamshell. The tortillas are a perfect compliment for just about anything and even taste good on their own.

You can buy Tortilla Flats tortillas at the Casa de Tamales locations in Fresno.

Enzo Olive Oil, Fresno Chili Crush

Every once in a while you come across a product that makes you thankful to be alive and living in the San Joaquin Valley. Enzo’s Fresno chili oil is one of those products. It looks appetizing just sitting in the bottle. But once you open it, the oil’s spicy and earthy aroma lures you in.

The taste combines the smooth, buttery flavor of extra virgin olive oil with the slow, lingering heat of the famed Fresno chili. If you like heat, this one is for you.

Fresno chili olive oil is a new product from Enzo being previewed at the Food Expo’s Taste, Tally and Tweet event. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Vincent Ricchiuti, director of operations at P-R Farms and the driving force behind Enzo Olive Oil, says the oil has quickly become one of the company’s best sellers. And it’s only been available for about seven months.

“It is really taking off,” Ricchiuiti said.

Chefs are big into condiments right now and Enzo’s chili oil is a perfect compliment for drizzling on pizza, mixing in pasta, or cooking your farm fresh eggs in it.

The Fresno Chili Crush is available at Enzo’s Table at Willow and Shepherd avenues.

Rosa Brothers Milk Company & Lanna Coffee Company, Cold Brew Coffee Milk

A joint project involving two of the Valley’s leading food companies has resulted in a tasty venture. This cold brew coffee milk drink is refreshing, smooth tasting and has plenty of caffeine to get you going.

Cold brew coffee milk from Lanna and Rosa Brothers is among the new products previewed at the Food Expo’s Taste, Tally and Tweet event. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

The new drink combines Rosa Brothers 2 percent milk with Lanna Coffee’s cold brew concentrate. Both companies have done well for themselves. Lanna’s fresh roasted coffee and cold brew are popular as is Rosa Brothers milk and ice cream.

The milky cold brew is sold at several local retailers, including Vons locations, The Market in Fresno, Food 4 Less locations, BL Quality Meats in Visalia and the Rosa Brothers Milk Co. store in Tulare.

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob