Brian Johnson and Julie Gordon at the kitchen. Photo: Kaia Diringer
Wooden Spoons owners Brian Johnson and Julie Gordon in their kitchen in 2013. The company won a 2016 Good Food Award for its pork rillettes. Photo: Kaia Diringer
Wooden Spoons owners Brian Johnson and Julie Gordon in their kitchen in 2013. The company won a 2016 Good Food Award for its pork rillettes. Photo: Kaia Diringer

It is not every day that one gets to be serenaded on the merits of coffee, beer and cheese by two charcuterie makers. It is not every day that one gets to hear Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini speak on the future of food. It is not every day that one gets to attend an after-party with Alice Waters, two East Bay culinary artisans and countless other food and beverage producers.

But the annual Good Food Awards ceremony is anything but an ordinary, every day experience. NOSH attended this year’s ceremony, which was held on Jan. 15 at Fort Mason’s Herbst Pavilion in San Francisco. It was a long, rollicking evening, filled with plenty of good food and the aforementioned singing — courtesy of Elias Cairo and Tyler Gaston of Portland’s Olympia Provisions.

Two East Bay companies were among the 176 award winners: Wooden Spoons took home a charcuterie award for its pork rillettes, and La Tourangelle won an oils award for its Gourmande Roasted Hazelnut Oil.

Wooden Spoons 2/12 1.28.13 Photo: Kaia Diringer
Wooden Spoons rillettes. Photo: Kaia Diringer

Wooden Spoons was founded in 2012 by the husband-and-wife team of Brian Johnson and Julie Gordon, and the company exclusively makes rillettes — meat that has been slowly braised until tender and then shredded and packed in jars with fat. Rillettes are most often eaten like pȃté, spread on bread at room temperature. Wooden Spoons currently makes rillettes from duck, pork and rabbit, and sells its wares online through its website, and through Good Eggs. The couple lives in Berkeley and cooks out of Kitchener Oakland.

Johnson and Gordon started Wooden Spoons as a way to “bring cooking and food into our lives in a way that could be fun, profitable and that would allow us to spend more time together,” they told NOSH in 2013. “We love to cook for friends and family and have been making rillettes for many years — it’s long been the in-demand appetizer around the house. A jar of rillettes is an exciting thing to be able to pull out of the fridge for a special treat, and when we looked around us it became clear that this was something that no-one else was approaching it in the way that we had in mind.”

La Tourangelle is a larger operation — it has been producing French-style culinary oils in California since 2003. The company started with California-grown walnut oil, and its line-up has now grown to include everything from roasted almond oil to basil- and lemongrass-infused “Thai Wok oil.” Today, La Tourangelle’s oils are sold in more than 10,000 stores in North America.

All of La Tourangelle’s nut oils are made from nuts grown on its farm in Woodland, and the company’s main office is in West Berkeley. The company also took home two 2015 Good Food Awards for its roasted pistachio oil and roasted walnut oil.

La Tourangelle oils. Photo: dutchbaby/Flickr
La Tourangelle oils. Photo: dutchbaby/Flickr

The Good Food Awards was founded in 2011 by the Seedling Projects’ Sarah Weiner in order to celebrate high-quality, sustainable food production in the U.S. Over the past six years, the awards have grown from a relatively small, West coast-focused ceremony to a wider, regionally diverse celebration of all things good food.

“For a long time, certifications for responsible food production and awards for superior taste have remained distinct — one honors social and environmental responsibility, while the other celebrates flavor,” explains the organization on its website. “The Good Food Awards recognize that truly good food — the kind that brings people together and builds strong, healthy communities — contains all of these ingredients. We take a comprehensive view, honoring people who make food that is delicious, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions.”

Each year, food artisans are invited to submit their products in 13 different categories for judging. The categories run the gamut from charcuterie and cheese to pantry items and honey. Hand-picked judges from various states and professions conduct a blind tasting of the submitted items, and are then scored based on flavor. (Full disclosure: This author was a judge this year in the oils category.) The top products are then vetted for their environmental and social practices.

Up to the the top five products in each region (North, South, East, West, and Central) for each category are named finalists, and up to the top three win an award. Guests to the ceremony got to sample all of the winners at a party afterwards, and many of the artisans sold their wares at the Good Food Awards trade-only Mercantile on Saturday, and the Fort Mason farmers market on Sunday. Winners also receive a special Good Food Awards seal to place on their winning products, national coverage through the Good Food Awards media network, and introductions to local and national buyers.

Other East Bay finalists for 2016 included Fra’Mani Handcrafted Foods for its soppressata, Akka’s Handcrafted Foods for its Akka’s Curry Paste, Lucky Dog Hot Sauce for its Brown Label sauce, and INNA Shrub for its quince shrub and Cherokee Purple tomato shrub.

Connect with Wooden Spoons on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Connect with La Tourangelle on Facebook.

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Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...