For foodies, the Fresno Food Expo is a sneak peek at what could be the next buzzworthy local food.
The foods sampled at the expo at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center on Thursday could end up in a cocktail at your favorite restaurant, on the shelves at Save Mart or in a fruit bar bought at Starbucks.
The show, in its seventh year, was a chance for the more than 140 food producers in the San Joaquin Valley to pitch their products to buyers. About 650 local, national and international buyers attended, including Costco, local restaurants, companies that export food to Asia and buyers representing 1,000 85C Bakery Cafes around the world, for example.
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“It uses our almonds and their beer,” said Jasper’s Harley Brinkman. “My boss is good friends with the owners of Dust Bowl. He said, ‘Let’s put beer in the brittle.’ ”
Brinkman had already created an almond brittle recipe and decided to add beer-infused salt to the top. One flavor features amber beer with chile verde salt and another has a lager and lime salt. The brittles’ labels echo the design of Dust Bowl’s beer labels.
It can be purchased at Dust Bowl Brewing and Stewart & Jasper stores in Patterson, Modesto, Newman and Monterey.
Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co.’s Half Dome California Wheat made with stone fruit was basking in the spotlight Thursday. The beer won the expo’s Buyer’s Choice Award for new products.
Stewart & Jasper was one of 10 finalists for the award with almonds flavored like a bloody Mary. The winner last year was beef-heart jerky made by Aubrey Lim at the SnackMasters plant in Hilmar.
The Buyer’s Choice Award was decided by an expert panel. The People’s Choice Award, based on online public voting, went to The Brioche Lady of Clovis for its purple yam version. The Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award, named for a Mexican food producer in Tulare County, was presented to Enzo Olive Oil of Madera for a chile-flavored creation.
Tioga-Sequoia Brewing debuted the revamped wheat beer recipe in April using Wawona peaches. It’s already in BevMo!, Total Wine & More and local stores. It is also on tap at 100 local bars and restaurants, said Tioga-Sequoia president Michael Cruz.
The beer is about to overtake Blue Moon as the No. 1 wheat beer on tap locally, he said. The brewery has attended the expo for years and workers were marketing the beer to even more potential customers at the show.
In contrast, Full Circle Brewing Co. was attending the expo for the first time. The downtown Fresno brewery was marketing cans with plastic tops of its Cluster Fuggle Cream Ale and CryoJuice, a northeastern IPA with a mellow flavor.
“A lot of people who say ‘I don’t like IPAs’ end up liking that one,” Arthur Moye said of the hazy IPA.
Moye was excited that two exporters, restaurants and a Costco representative had chatted with him during the show.
Nearly 20 nut producers were sampling products Thursday, more than last year. Makes sense since there are so many nut growers in the San Joaquin Valley. Samples of almond butters, flavored nuts and trail mixes were a common sight.
Modesto Bee staff writer John Holland contributed to this report.