The Good Food Awards has announced the finalists in its second annual national celebration of products that are "tasty, authentic, responsible." And the list includes not just several local brewers and spirit makers, but Dagstani & Sons, "A Very Fine Fruit Company" that makes small-batch fine fruit preserves, marmalades and jams by hand in a small kitchen in Washington Park.
"Frankly, we're really excited about being included in this," founder says Raj Dagstani, who bills himself as chief jam-maker. "The preserves judges included Ruth Reichl, Alice Waters and the revelatory jam-maker June Taylor."
The San Francisco-based Good Food Awards are given in eight categories -- beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, pickles, preserves and spirits -- to producers "who push their industries towards craftsmanship and sustainability while enhancing our agricultural landscape and building strong communities." Although Colorado was shut out of half the categories, Odell Brewing, New Belgium Brewing and Pagosa Brewing Company all have brews that are finalists in the beer category; Avalanche Cheese Company is a finalist in cheese; Downslope Distilling, Peak Spirits (makers of Cap Rock) and Leopold Bros. are finalists in spirits; and Dagstani & Sons is a finalist on the preserves list, for its Pear Vanilla Preserves. (Find the complete list of Good Food Finalists here.)
The fruit in the Dagstani preserves are all locally sourced, organic and wild when possible. "Needless to say, Palisade peaches and pears and apples from Colorado's Western Slope won't be our own little secret for long," Dagstani says. "They're just so damned delicious you almost have to try to screw them up."
Most of the company's work is sold by subscription; in Denver, Dagstani & Sons products are available exclusively at the Truffle, Best Cheese Shop in the 2011 Best of Denver. But the family also prepares a weekly selection of the preserves, marmalades and jams that are posted on its website Tuesday mornings -- and although Dagstani was out of the Pear Vanilla yesterday, it's available right now, "back by popular demand, mostly with thanks to The Good Food Awards."
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Those awards have Dagstani thinking of other possibilities for the fruits of his labor. "I love that most of the Colorado contingency for these awards are alcohol-based," he says. "We should probably pair up and open a mean cocktail bar."
We'd be the first to belly up to that bar.
The Good Food winners will be announced on January 13, 2012.