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  • 19 Dec 2014

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Good Food Awards stop in Stumptown

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JULIA ROGERS - Elias Cairo, right, grills Olympic Provisions sausages, the first time their menu was used for an event.In the Pacific Northwest, demand for local, organic, natural and fair trade products is commonplace, but until five years ago there was no nationally-accredited award accounting for all of those factors — and taste.

The Good Food Awards does just that, and to celebrate its fifth anniversary, the Good Food Awards Roadshow came to Portland on Friday, July 18.

Seven crafters from Portland set up tables outside Olympic Provisions’ Northwest location, including past winners and hopeful winners. Chocolatiers, pickle-makers, coffee brewers and other authentically- and responsibly-produced food companies participated.

“We used to make all our meat here,” says Elias Cairo, co-owner of Olympic Provisions, of their event space vacated in favor of a new southeast-side restaurant location. “We do it (hand-butchering) very unique for America.”

Cairo studied charcuterie in Switzerland, completing a four-year internship there before moving to Greece to be a chef. He moved back to Switzerland, and then came to Portland where he worked as a chef before starting Olympic Provisions with four colleagues.

“(Our) butchering is USDA organic,” says Cairo, 35. “We would be shot in Oregon if not!”

Olympic Provisions now has 95 employees, appears at 13 farmers’ markets a week and distributes across 40 states.

Organic Valley partnered with Olympic Provisions to host the Portland roadshow event. It is organized by a membership association of 250 businesses within the Good Food Merchants Guild, which spans 27 states.

The Good Food Merchants Guild includes retailers as well as food and beverage crafters in nine authentic-food industries. They craft chocolate, beer, spirits, charcuterie, pickles, confections, preserves, cheese and coffee.

In total, 19 vendors were from Oregon, eight came from Washington and one each traveled from Wisconsin and Idaho.

Sash Sunday, owner and fermentationist of OlyKraut LLC, offers crackers spread with peanut butter and topped with her Fire Chi sauerkraut.

“I grew up on peanut butter and pickles,” says Sunday. “(It) was the logical next step.”

The Washington-based pickler is a 2014 Good Food Award winner, sourcing organic ingredients from Pacific Northwest farms to produce three year-round sauerkrauts and six seasonals.

Good Food Awards participants are picked up by as many as 180 stores across the country. Traditional crafters of preserving, brewing, roasting and distilling are invited to apply for the 2015 Good Foods Awards between July 7 and Aug. 1.

According to Sarah Weiner, director of the Good Food Awards, the goal of the event is to build a platform for food producers and their marketplace to thrive.

Weiner has worked and lived in Washington D.C., Italy and England. While in England, she befriended a grocer and noticed a jar with a great taste award sticker from an annual, national competition.

“I started thinking about how there is no award for really great chocolate that’s well-known and respected in America, in Oregon,” says Weiner. “It might be a format that grabs people’s attention in a way that is sustainable and tastes amazing.”

While in northern Italy, Weiner learned how people used food to share their love, showing hospitality and generosity.

“(The) level of enjoyment in life that involves food and involves relaxation, its a lot more elevated than the norm in America,” says Weiner. “Living in other parts of the world informed the way I want to work and interact with people, and influence my community.”

Weiner’s favorite part of the Good Foods Awards is “the leftovers after the blind tasting.”

“No, that’s not true, that’s only one of my favorite parts,” says Weiner. “I also really like it as an excuse to come together with old and new friends I don’t get to see otherwise, from all over the country.”