SFoodie is calling up food types around the city to ask them about their favorite discovery of the past year, whether it's new or ancient, an ingredient or a person. We'll be running their responses through the end of the year.
When SFoodie originally asked Emily Olson, cofounder of online indie-food marketplace Foodzie (she tweets at @emilyolson), for her favorite discoveries of 2011, she sent us a list of 11. We understand her dilemma. Between us, we were eventually able to whittle 11 down to three:
Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day. "These days, I tend to cook from blogs more than I do books," Olson says. "I love collecting cookbooks, but then they sit there looking pretty. Heidi's book is one of those cookbooks that I keep picking back up. Both the photographs and the recipes give me the confidence that what I make from it will be delicious. What I love about her style of cooking is that I love cooking with whole grains and unprocessed ingredients, but I don't think to use them in the way she does. I'm always learning new things."
Community Grains' polenta. "Just being in the artisan-food space," Olson says, "I had heard about Community Grains [a side project of Oliveto]. When I went to Eat Real Fest this year, I met Oliveto's owner, Bob Klein, who gave me the whole story behind the polenta. The corn variety that they use, floriani, was bred for taste, unlike most of the corn in this country. It was found in someone's yard in Italy, and Anson Mills in South Carolina, who are also selling heirloom grains, brought it to the states. Now they're growing it here in California.
"The way we process grain in this country doesn't allow us to have a connection to our grains," she continues. "Grain from many farms goes into one big batch, mixing the crappy stuff with the good stuff. So there's this movement to figure out how to process grain so you just get the good stuff. I love the mission behind Community Grains, but more importantly, at the end of the day, the polenta is amazing. All you need is salt and butter -- you eat it and think, 'This is what corn tastes like.'"
Knead Patisserie's croissants. "Knead is a little pastry shop in the back of Local: Mission Eatery on 24th and Folsom, and they make the best croissants in the city," Olson says. "The layers, the butteriness -- they're the best I've ever eaten. Sometimes Rob LaFave, my partner in Foodzie and life, and I ride in together on his motorcycle, and we'll strap a box of Knead croissants onto the seat and bring them in for the team. When you open the box and all you smell is butter, you know they're going to be great."