Today was the first day of judging for our 37th annual sofi Awards competition. Every year
we bring in a panel of specialty food experts from across the country to sample the hundreds of tempting products submitted by our member companies for this coveted award. Today, tax day, while Americans were crunching last minute numbers, our judges were crunching cookies and crackers. They evaluated 56 cheeses. Goat. Cheddar. Blue. And 53 cookies. And 63 baked goods. And crackers. And pasta sauce. And vinegar. And oil. Dozens of each.
The judges taste and evaluate every single entry. This year it is quite a task. We have nearly 1,400 entries to sample in three days. We expect as many as 700 more fab foods and beverages to be submitted for the second part of the contest in early June. This project is to pick finalists in 33 categories. The finalists will then be judged at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York to determine the winners of the sofi Gold Award for best in their category.
This is my second year helping to run the sofi Awards. I have the great opportunity to taste
some of the entries after the judges are through nibbling the latest rosemary flecked cracker or dipping a tiny spoon into a classic marmalade. Sometimes I can’t resist “trying” a particular cookie I have had many times before, or re-trying a cheese, especially around lunch time.
We asked the nine judges whether they would like us to supply them tomorrow, day 2, with breakfast pastries and fruit along with their coffee. They declined, knowing the agenda: 463 products to taste in categories including cold beverage,
snack food, and “soup, stews, beans or chili.” And that’s before we all convene for a group dinner at Tribeca Grill. I warned the restaurant that some of us may not have too large an appetite.