Virginia’s finest showed up March 23rd, 2016 for the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo at the Richmond Convention Center. This event occurs every two years and I was pumped to attend for the first time. The event is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
There were 160 vendors, 80 of which were new vendors. Virginia’s First Lady, Dorothy McAuliffe, was present to help present the “Best of the Best” awards. Mrs. McAuliffe spends quite a bit of her time promoting Virginia’s Food and Beverages. There were 63 entries for the Best New Product competition.
Texas Beach Bloody Mary Mix won first place for Best New Beverage.
These guys have only been in business 14 months and were so excited to have won.They reminded me of Smokin’ Gun Chili when we won our first cook-off.
I love the graphics on their labels too. The mix is savory on the front a little spicy on the back. It is a gluten free and vegan product, with no preservatives. Each mix has a little pickle brine and sriracha pepper in it. They were also quick to let me know the mix is a great addition to any chili recipe too. They also mentioned it was great to tenderize flank steak as well. Check out their buddy in the booth.
Don’t you love his tomato head, pickle eyebrows, olive eyes, garlic cheeks, chili pepper and fish mouth? I love a great decorated booth. We briefly discussed partnering up together for a chili cook off too.
The winner of the “Best New Food” category went to our Charlottesville’s own, Gearhart’s Chocolates.
His food was a Virginia Malt Whiskey Chocolate Truffle and he partnered with the Virginia Distillery Company. There were a lot of great wine and liquor participants at the event. I tried Rosemont wines for the first time and is widely distributed in the Charlottesville,VA area. I really enjoyed their Merlot. They describe “Our Merlot shows the best or our terroir with warm, rich earthy aromas of hazelnut, roasted coffee beans, and intense dark fruit. A strong mid-palate with smooth, well structured tannins. ” Have you ever seen a wine keg? Check this thing out?
One of Johnny Angel’s, (that’s my husband), favorite breweries is Starr Hill. I tried two new one’s that will be coming out this Summer. “The Hook” is a grapefruit session IPA and “Sublime” citrus wit. Both will be perfect drinking for warm weather.
I tried this ghost pepper flavored vodka and it was hot. It was very tasty. I was surprised we were able to try liquor at the event. Of course, they check your ID when you enter the event, and give you an arm band. I believe it was last year the General Assembly passed a law that 1/2 oz. of liquor tastings could be served.
This is small batch drinking vinegar for cocktails, mocktails, and culinary creations. Meredyth Archer said as a child, her grandmother was always telling her to “drink your vinegar, drink your vinegar.” Ms. Archer said the idea came to her to make the drinking vinegar’s after finding some 1800’s cookbooks.
Sue Charney’s company, Red Rocker Candy, is located in my home county of Fluvanna. She has outstanding tasting candy mix and I practically overdosed on it this past Christmas. The candy has also been featured as one of Rachel Ray’s favorite things. Sue says her biggest obstacle she faces on a regular basis are the FDA’s regulations. I heard other participants say that distribution of their product’s is their biggest hurdle.
One of my favorite vendor’s to meet was Andrew Broocker with Reginald’s Homemade. I was curious to find out if he knew that National Peanut Butter Lover’s holiday was March 1st. I published a video about it HERE! No surprise. Of course he knew about it. His peanut butter company is named after his dog, Reginald. Andrew was inspired to create these great flavored recipes after discovering a passion for wellness and fitness. In 6 months, he lost 90 lbs. He became frustrated trying to find a healthy alternative for healthy peanut butter. He only uses two ingredients to get started with his peanut butter. That is Virginia peanuts, and a touch of oil. But then he adds these other outstanding ingredient’s to create Bourbon Pecan Peanut Butter, Hazelnut Amaretto Peanut Butter, and many others. My favorite is the Agave Habanero Peanut Butter. It’s peanut butter with a kick. The spice isn’t overwhelming, but it’s certainly enough to get your attention.
My final taste test from the day came from Dizzy Pig, LLC. I’ve watched some of my chili cook-off competitor’s, who are heavy into BBQ competitions, use these spices with their meat before adding it to their chili. Founded in 2002, they use all natural seasonings and they hand blend their ingredient’s. They sponsor some BBQ teams already, but are now thinking it might be time to sponsor some chili teams. (Ahem, Smokin’Gun Chili Team is available. 😉 ) They gave me a seasoning packet to take home and try for my next pot of chili. Speaking of chili, James Burns, the current CASI World Chili Champ, is coming to cook with our pod in July. You can get his recipe right here on my website. Go ahead and click to download that now.
I would love for you to comment below about which one of these products I mentioned seemed the most intriguing or interesting to you. Be share to share this blog post with your friend’s and share the Virginia love. (Virginia is for Lover’s, ya know!)
I look forward to seeing you on the chili trail ahead!
Peace, love, and hot stuff,