Bethany Clough

Our food writer spent hours tasting local food at the Fresno expo. Here are her favorites

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As the lucky reporter who got to cover the California Food Expo this week, it was literally my job to taste chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, gin and more.

Fun, right?

The event is a huge trade show in downtown Fresno that connects 140 food makers from the Valley and across the state with around 700 stores and other potential buyers.

A portion of the event, Expolicious, is open to the public, but not everyone can make it – or stomach the $60 ticket.

So I thought why not bring a little bit of the food expo to you? I can’t send you all chocolate chip cookies, sadly. But how about some tasty information?

After trying so many things, it became obvious which foods are worth seeking out, and which you can skip. If you’re into supporting local foods, you may want to check them out. The show was open to foods from throughout California, but my favorites just happened to be from the central San Joaquin Valley.

The food

Here’s my favorite foods of the show and where you can find them, in no particular order.

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Hanford-based Rosa Brothers Milk Co. makes flavored coffee creamers, including a simply salted caramel version. Bethany Clough

Rosa Brothers Milk Co. Simply Salted Caramel coffee creamer. It’s hard to go wrong with salted caramel flavored anything. Putting that flavor in your coffee while gearing up to face the day is no exception.

Hanford-based Rosa Brothers has three flavored creamers, including vanilla and hazelnut. (If you’re unfamiliar with the company, you may want to check out its ice cream and flavored milks, like horchata, root beer and strawberry.)

You can find the creamers at Save Mart, Vons and at its creamery at 2400 S. K St., Tulare. You can also find the creamers for sale at Acevedo’s Postreria Gourmet, a Fresno bakery at 1134 E. Champlain Drive that uses Rosa Brothers products in its blended drinks.

Jalen Bailey, who was 8 in this 2016 photo, prepares a batch of cookies at his family’s home in Fresno. Jalen was at the California Food Expo with his chocolate chip cookies, including gluten-free and vegan versions. Craig Kohlruss

Jalen’s Bakery chocolate chip cookies. If you’re a regular Bee reader, you may remember the 2016 story about 8-year-old Jalen Bailey, who started a cookie-making business with his mom, Rhonda Mahan, in hopes of buying her a house.

They haven’t earned enough for a house yet, but the cookie business is thriving. Jalen is 11 now and he and his mom recently hired a full-time head baker. The cookies are delicious, plain and simple. Jalen recently decided to add vegan and gluten-free versions.

You can buy them online, starting at $16. Tower Blendz at 802 E. Olive Ave. also carries them. The vegan cookies are available at La Jacka Mobile, the food truck that also serves vegan food.

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Springville-based Ciderhouse Foods makes apple cider syrup, apple butter and more. Bethany Clough

Ciderhouse Foods apple cider syrup. This is a thick, flavorful syrup with a richness from the addition of butter. The label calls it “apple pie in a bottle” and it’s yummy enough you could use it in other creative ways (including eating it straight out of the bottle).

Ciderhouse Foods is based in Springville, and the people behind it, Kelley and Chad Hansen, have a story to tell. They’re apple farmers and recently started rehabbing and leasing an abandoned apple orchard with 100-year-old trees owned by the government.

Big on sustainability, they turn leftover apple cider into apple cider syrup. Ciderhouse Foods also makes apple granola with dried apples, apple butter and pancake mix.

The one place you can buy it in Fresno is at Vivily Vintage & Handmade, at 1932 N. Echo Ave. (though Ciderhouse went to the food expo in hopes of getting on more store shelves). At least 20 retailers in Tulare County carry it, including the VTEC Farm Store at 2245 S. Linwood St. in Visalia.

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Wicked Harvest barrel-strength pecan bourbon is made with Kentucky bourbon and nuts grown in the Valley. Velvetree Foods

Wicked Harvest pecan barrel strength bourbon. I’m not a bourbon drinker, which is why I was shocked at how much I liked this one.

The company has two new versions of its bourbon, made with Kentucky straight bourbon and pecans grown in the Central Valley. Both are aged in Caribbean rum barrels and have hints of pie and dessert flavors.

One is 80-proof, 40% alcohol by volume. The other is the barrel strength, 106 proof, 53% ABC. As you can imagine, both pack a punch.

The barrel-strength bourbon kept its flavor, despite the burn of the alcohol. It’s good for cocktails because the flavor doesn’t get diluted, said Gloria Zion, owner of Velvetree Foods.

You may know Wicked Harvest from its first release, a mellow pistachio bourbon that is a great gateway bourbon for new drinkers.

The pecan bourbons will be on shelves soon at Total Wine & More and Save Marts in Clovis.

Get Serious Now Serious Sangria. This is yummy sangria with a twist – it comes in a pouch.

It’s designed for portability, to be consumed by backpackers, or at picnics or events where glass bottles aren’t allowed. The inspiration came from when vice president of marketing Gil Soto was selling alcohol at concerts and looking for an alternative to glass bottles.

“Everybody says it’s a Capri Sun for adults,” he said.

There’s also a margarita in a pouch. Both are wine-based and made with grapes grown in Madera.

They are sold at stores in Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks. You can also find them at Save Mart, CVS, and 7-Eleven stores.


There were so many good foods at this show. And with 140 exhibitors each showing off several products, there’s plenty that just barely didn’t make it onto my list of favorites.

So I thought I’d throw out a list of runners-up who also made some delicious foods, in no particular order.

Farm Dog Juices of Reedley is a “farm-to-bottle” company that turns the fruit its owners grow into cold-pressed juice. Flavors include orange, an unusually light pomegranate juice, and a lemonade made with ginger and mint.

Gillum Family Farms of Fresno has a smoked jalapeno-cheddar sausage with a little zing that you can get in stores, and as a corn dog at The Hangar restaurant in River Park.

Full Circle Brewing of Fresno’s Pie of the Tiger sour beer tastes not very sour, but a lot like pie.

Joseph Farms cream cheese isn’t one of the cheeses the Atwater company is known for, but it was especially tasty.

AshaPops from Los Angeles are snackable puffs made from seeds of water lily flowers, a bit like popcorn without the part that gets stuck in your teeth. The entire bag is 100 calories.

Simonian Fruit Co. of Fowler has a pomegranate-blueberry jelly, made from the juice of both those fruits, that looked and tasted delightful on heart-shaped Valley Lahvosh Baking Co. crackers.

Sleepers Fresh California Gourmet Fig LUV jam is made by a Los Angeles company. Three kinds of figs go into this jam – mission, tiger strip and Peter’s honey – along with brandy.

Busseto Foods of Fresno had a fennel salami that was just tasty.

Bethany Clough: (559) 441-6431, @BethanyClough

Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.