The buy fresh, buy local movement is all the rage these days, so when I got the opportunity to sample the best new Virginia-made products from more than 100 Virginia exhibitors at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo, I jumped on it. Every type of food product you can think of was there, including coffee, chocolates, cheeses, sauces, certified organic products and so more.
I personally sampled dozens of products and was beyond impressed with their quality, but even more, I was struck by the passion for creating these products that came from so many of the vendors I spoke to.
Now everyone’s tastes are different, so you’ll just have to check out all the Virginia’s Finest products and try some for yourself, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites from the expo. In no particular order, here they are:
The chocolate lover in me was beyond excited when I came across the Dark Chocolate Caramel from Gearharts FineChocolates. The caramel is made with cocoa, a touch of balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper, then coated in dark chocolate and finished with smoked sea salt. YUM! You can find these chocolates in several Charlottesville area wineries and the representative also mentioned that a Virginia wine inspired chocolate is in the works – now that’s a great combination! Check out the gourmet chocolates from Gearharts at http://gearhartschocolates.com.
Wildwood’s Hickory Syrup was a memorable and unique product as Travis and Joyce Miller of Berryville Virginia are one of very few hickory syrup makers in the country. That’s right hickory syrup – not maple. The syrup is homemade and derived from the bark of hickory trees from Virginia forests. Once gathered, the bark is scrubbed clean, roasted much like coffee beans to enhance the flavor, put through a proprietary extraction process, aged, and filtered, before introducing a minimally refined cane sugar, turbinado, to develop its slightly smoky, yet still sweet flavor. It can be used for salad dressings, marinades, and glazes to name a few. Get yourself a bottle at www.WildwoodsHickorySyrup.com.
I’m kind of a popcorn nut, and when it comes to bacon goodness, I’ve got a weak spot as well, so when I saw Grand Pop’s Best Smoked Bacon Flavored Kettle Corn, I just had to have some. The slight smoky flavor in the background gives the popcorn a little pizazz without taking away from the popcorn flavor that I love. To order some go to www.GrandPopsBest.com.
Simply Panache is a national event planning firm that specializes in personalized parties and professional events. So what were they doing at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo? Well, they were serving up their ‘Mango Mango’ Preserves – a product they proudly call the PARTY preserve as they have used it to create dishes for many parties. Let me tell you, it was quite the party at their booth as they energetically handed out samples of their mango deliciousness. So, if you’re looking for a party planner, if you just want to try a tasty mango preserves, visit www.SimplePanache.com and order a jar.
The folks at Ayrshire Farm in Upperville Virginia have met the standards for Virginia’s Finest products since 2006, but now they are sharing that quality with our loveable four-legged friends with their new certified humane pet food The Furry Foodie. This raw meat pet food is made from the same organic and humanely raised beef, pork, and poultry sold to human customers. Due to minimal processing, this raw food is rich with nutrients and essential amino acids. Dog food contains not only raw meat and vegetables, but also finely ground poultry bones made from organic chickens and turkeys, and whole organic Ayrshire Farm eggs. Order some for your pets at www.AyrshireFarm.com.
Want to learn more about Virginia’s best local products? The Virginia’s Finest gourmet food and beverage products featured on www.shopvafinest.com have met quality standards established by industries and approved by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. With quality products like these, there’s even more reason to shop local.