Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Former Maderan Yoli Reeves and her daughter Chelsea Reeves of Two Cities Rolled Ice Cream make treats during the Fresno Food Expo New Product Awards preview event. The annual Fresno Food Expo is open to the public 5-8 p.m., Thursday evening.
The 2017 Fresno Food Expo kicks off this morning for an expected 650 local, regional, national and international food buyers.
Fresno Chili Crush olive oil, which features Madera-grown olives, is one of the finalists facing a celebrity judging panel today. The panel consists of retail, restaurant, foodservice and packaging professionals includingexpo keynote speaker Phil Lempert and Chef Erna Kubin-Clanin, owner of 5-star Erna’s Elderberry House and Chateau du Sureau in Oakhurst.
“The Fresno chili is co-crushed with our olives at the point of milling and it’s super fresh and super delicious — about medium spice,” said Vincent Ricchiuti, director of operations for P-R Farms and Enzo Olive Oil Company. “Really good finish on pizza, soup, pasta, all that kind of stuff.”
Other featured foods with Madera ties include almond butter Better Butter, craft beer and root beer from Riley’s Brewing, and Two Cities wine barrel-infused coffee and Thailand-style curled ice cream.
“Of course made in Madera, we have our vodka and our gin. Those are our new items for the year,” said Daniel Riley, owner of Riley’s Brewing Company in Madera. “We’re just excited it (our vodka) does so well. In competitions we’ve had, its scoring as high as Grey Goose or Ketel One by far.”
“Why are we sending our almonds out of state for them to sell it back to us?” said Maderan Mallvinder Kahal of Kahal Farms. He and his sister partnered up to make almond butter from their own almonds. Their family has been farming in Madera for “well over 30 years.”
“I grew up in Madera,” said Yoli Reeves, co-owner of Two Cities Coffee in Clovis. “I graduated from Madera High in ’77 and then I met my hubby. So this is a small family business.” She and her husband discovered a form of ice cream that has become popular in New York and involves cream that is fluffed, flattened and curled. They also sell coffee made from beans that aged in recently emptied wine barrels before roasting.
The Fresno Food Expo may be underway for makers and buyers, but for the rest of the public it comes alive 5-8 p.m. Thursday with Expolicious at Fresno Convention Center, Halls I, II and III.
Aside from eating and drinking, attendees can also witness 12 area restaurateurs facing off by cooking up hors d’oeuvres and beverages using some of the 142 expo entries as ingredients on stage at 6:30 p.m. Food Network TV personality Simon Majumdar will honor the best with awards of Most Creative, Best Use of Exhibitor Products and Best Food and Beverage Pairing.
Tickets for Expolicious, a celebration of locally grown food and drink, are $50 and available for purchase at any Ticketmaster Box Office or at www.fresnofoodexpo.com until 3 p.m. Thursday. If not sold out, tickets will also be available at the Fresno Convention Center “will-call” window on M Street.
A flambe at Tioga Sequoia Brewing Company Beer Garden, 745 Fulton Street will celebrate the close of the expo at 8 p.m.