The finalists were announced this week for the Good Food Awards, and the Washington area managed to cop just one spot on the lengthy list of artisan producers. By contrast, Washington, the state, scored seven spots on an honor roll that totalled about 118 finalists.
And let’s not even talk about California, which racked up more than 30 finalists for the second-annual ceremony that hopes to become, as the Seedling Projects told me last year, “the James Beard Awards for food crafters.” The Seedling Projects, I should note, is based in San Francisco.
A spokesman for the Seedling Projects, a terrific group dedicated to supporting and promoting the sustainable food movement, confirms that the organization had only 25 entries from the DMV — one from the District, seven from Maryland and 17 from Virginia. There were 926 entries in total.
“We could certainly use some more mid-Atlantic representation,” spokesman Gavin Crynes e-mailed.
That is an understatement. For the Good Food Awards to be legit, it needs to spread the love around the country. Right now, it feels fairly parochial.
With that said, I should note that the one D.C.-area finalist — if you discount S. Wallace Edwards and Sons in Surry, Va. — is a good one. Red Apron Butchery chef Nathan Anda was given a nod for his Creme de Cochon.
What is Creme de Cochon? Good question.
Creme de Cochon is whipped lard, which doesn’t sound like the most appetizing product in the world. So Anda and others at the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which owns Red Apron, brainstormed some alternative names. They settled on Creme de Cochon at about 11:55 p.m. on Aug. 31. The Good Food Awards entry deadline was Sept. 1.
“It was a game-time decision,” Anda notes dryly.
Anda was introduced to whipped lard last year when he took a trip to Italy and started sampling the product from Mason jars at various salumeria. “I came home and just starting figuring out how to do it and going for the flavor profile we wanted,” Anda says.
Anda dices and renders his lard, only to reshape it into a larger lard block. He then grinds the block and begins to add his herbs and spices: garlic, coarse black pepper, coarse sea salt and rosemary. “You don’t want to overwork it, because it starts to melt at the touch of your hand,” he says.
The chef loves how ultra-smooth the finished product feels on the tongue. But then, he says, the fat will soon melt off, leaving the coarse salt and pepper textures and all the flavorings embedded in the fat. He doesn’t really recommend that you eat much of it straight. “After your second spoon, it’s like, ‘I’m going to hurt myself if I have another,’ ” he jokes.
He prefers to slather it on grilled bread, like butter. “It soaks into the bread, and it’s just delicious,” he says.
Creme de Cochon is available at the Red Apron stand on Sundays at the FreshFarm Market at Dupont Circle.
“Hopefully, it starts to sell really well after this nomination,” Anda says. “But it’s one of those things you have to talk people through.”
The winners of the Good Food Awards will be announced on Jan. 13.