Click to enlargeFOOD IS MY ART:
Newsom’s ham named Good Food
Awards charcuterie winner

A nationwide celebration of good food the artisan way took place in San Francisco from mid-January through February. To launch the month-long event, the nation’s top artisan goods were singled out for the first ever Good Food Awards. Among the winners was Col. Bill Newsom’s Aged Hams of Princeton.

Nancy Mahaffey was on hand at the celebration in California on Friday evening, Jan. 14, when the awards were presented. Newsom’s Free Range Aged Ham was selected as charcuterie division winner for the southern region.

Mahaffey was among 71 artisan food producers from across the U.S. selected to receive Good Food Awards. There were 780 entries from every region of the country in competition for the awards.

The Good Food Awards honored the nation’s makers of high-quality chocolate, coffee, beer, cheese, charcuterie, pickles and preserves.

“It was truly an honor to be in San Francisco taking part in the Good Food Awards. There were many wonderful products highlighted,” Mahaffey said.

A part of the Seedling Project of San Francisco, the event recognized food artisans, who are preserving a way of life and environmentally compatible methods of production. “While it is unquestionably delicious, the food that they produce,” said Sarah Weiner of the Seedling Project, is “tied to communities and cultural traditions.”

Also, Weiner said, the food produced by the GFA winners is responsibly produced.

Mahaffey said that the program highlighted a national movement that she has also seen taking root from her retail store in Princeton. “It is not just with the product that I sell, but with the young gardeners who are buying seeds and plants for their own gardens, looking at quality and sustainability.”

Newsom’s ham is cured using a recipe that dates to a family will of the 1700s. The first member of the Princeton Newsom family had landed at Jamestown, Va., in 1642 and the venture began.

“The Indians were already here curing venison. Then the Spanish brought the pigs. The Newsoms have been curing hams ever since,” she said.

Ham curing has grown not just into a business, but a way of life, an art for Mahaffey as it was for her forbearers. All Newsom’s hams are ambient weather cured in limited numbers and nitrate free.

Weiner and her Seedling Projects team brought together a group of nationally renowned food producers, food writers, grocers, farmers and chefs to create the first Good Food Awards.

Among those who helped to organize and judge the event were Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet magazine, Nell Newman of Newman’s Own, Paul Bertolli of Fra’ Mani, Alice Medrich, award-winning cookbook author, and Alice Waters, founder of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse and the Edible School-yard.

“It was a great pleasure to visit with Alice Waters again,” said Mahaffey. The two had connected by telephone a few years earlier to talk about the Princeton ham. They last met at a Slowfood Bluegrass event in which Mahaffey was paired with Chef Kathy Cary of Lilly’s in Louisville.

Also, while Mahaffey did not attend a couple of years earlier, Newsom’s Ham was included in the 2008 Slow Food Nation as part of the Taste Hall of Fame.

The Good Food Awards were an outgrowth of the Slow Food Nation extravaganza, where thousands of attendees made their way to the tasting pavilions at Fort Mason in San Francisco to sample some of the nation’s best foods.

Weiner said that the Good Food Awards lived up to her expectations on several levels — the quality of the food, the dedication of the artisan producers and the outpouring of food fans, who gave the winners their due.

“On Friday night, the fooderati of the Bay Area and beyond came out to thank them. It was standing room only after the hundreds of chairs were filled, and the applause when their names were announced reverberated all around the historic Ferry Building,” she wrote in her Seedlings Blog.

She also noted that thousands were drawn to the Good Food Awards Marketplace on Saturday to taste and buy.

The Good Food Awards, Weiner said, will raise the bar for the nation’s artisan food producers, just like the James Beard Awards have raised the bar for chefs.

The Good Food Month celebration continued in San Francisco through Feb. 20 with dozens of Bay Area events showcasing the breadth of the nation’s artisan food production.

...This article appeared in the Feb. 2, 2011 edition of the Times Leader newspaper in Princeton, Ky. ...