Start a small, locally sourced, handcrafted preserves business in September and win a national award by January? However unlikely, it's all in a day's work for Austin's talented Stephanie McClenny of Confituras.
In a Jan. 14 gala hosted by Alice Waters at San Francisco's Ferry Building, Confituras' Texas Fig Preserves – flavored with Round Rock Honey's wildflower honey, white balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves – was named Good Food Awards winner for preserves in the 10-state South Region.
The inaugural Good Food Awards, organized by Seedling Projects, recognized the nation's best artisanal food producers and celebrated "the kind of food we all want to eat: tasty, authentic, and responsibly produced." Close to 800 entries from 41 states competed for best-of-class awards in beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, pickles, and preserves. A panel of 80 judges (including Ruth Reichl, Bruce Aidells, and John Scharffenberger) selected 130 finalists and ultimately 71 winners who demonstrated the highest standards in taste and sustainability in regional food production. McClenny was the only winner (and one of only two finalists) chosen from Texas. The other finalist was Cuvée Coffee from Spicewood.
"I'm very proud to be representing Austin in this setting," says McClenny. "There's a lot going on here with respect to food, and I'm happy I could help show that to people. And it's great to get this recognition that I'm on the right track with my products."
On the day after the ceremony, award winners were showcased at Saturday's Ferry Plaza farmers' market. McClenny and her Austin entourage (spouse Houston McClenny and friends Casey Woods and Kathy Benayoun) gave out an estimated 500 tastes of Texas Fig Preserves. "That was my favorite part," McClenny says. "I loved interacting with customers and connecting with other winners. People were excited to meet producers from other parts of the country, and they wanted to know all about Austin."
Confituras' seasonal fruit butters and preserves are available online at www.confituras.net and at the Downtown Farmers' Market, the Barton Creek Farmers Market, and various specialty markets around town. The award-winning Texas Fig Preserves won't be available again until the summer, however – not 'til figs are back in season.
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