Some of Lodi's best bakers, chefs, brewers, artists and cowboys were recognized for their abilities at the 2007 California State Fair in Sacramento.
Jason Breatt of Lodi Beer Company brought home numerous gold medals for beer brewing. Julio Camberos Jr. won first place in a cooking demonstration. Joseph Guzzardi won first place in San Joaquin County for his chocolate banana bread.
Breatt started brewing beer by trial and error in the backyard of his Concord home. He found himself making between 20 and 30 gallons every other weekend. After attending brew classes to understand the technical sides like brewing science and engineering - and after he realized beer was more than a hobby - he decided to do it professionally.
Finding a job in the beer business was tough. His favorite breweries said they didn't need him. Brewers he knew said they didn't have any openings. In October of 2006, he was hired as brew master for Lodi Beer Company.
He didn't know that less than a year later his creations of brew at the Lodi Beer Company would beat out every brewery in California.
His light beer, Lodi Light, a light German lager won gold. So did his Eisbock, a high-alcohol German beer; his Porter; and his Doppelbock, a rich, malty German lager.
"It's not bad for a rookie," Breatt said.
Though his beers were chosen as the best out of about 80 breweries, Breatt is hoping to conquer the country at next year's Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.
"It's the Super Bowl of brewing," he said. "I'd love to say my pale ale beat Sierra Nevada's."
He'll spend the next year perfecting his beer in Lodi as he continues his tradition of waking up at 4 a.m., thinking about each day's batch.
"I spend a lot of time obsessing over my beer," he said. "I'm very involved. It's not just a job."
Nor is being executive chef and owner of Black Tie Gourmet just a job for Camberos, who won first place the Golden Bear State Challenge for cooking.
On the day when his competitors brought the typical ingredients like shallots and asparagus, Camberos had his supply of locally grown vegetables, including squash blossoms, cactus and cuitlacoche - a rare type of mushroom.
The cuitlacoche is his special ingredient. In stores, it runs $32 for a two-pound bag, but Camberos gets them fresh at Philips Farms. The Mexican delicacy grows like a fungus on corn crops and tastes like mushroom.
Camberos' final plate included five parts: Delicadezas Latinos (Latin Delicacies), chipotle-infused potatoes, shrimp and cactus salad, marinated pork tenderloin with pasilla pepper sauce and California vegetable compote.
Lodi Beer Company awards earned
Gold: Lodi Helles (Light Lagers), Plowshear Porter, Lodi Eisbock, Lodi Barleywine
Silver: Lodi Doppelbock, Lodi Export Stout, Lodi Light, Orange Blossom Wheat,
Lodi Pale Ale, Lodi Sherry Bock.
Golden Bear State Challenge
Julio Camberos Jr. for his marinated pork tenderloin, shrimp and cactus salad and delicadezas Latinos
California Kitchen for San Joaquin County
Joe Guzzardi, first place for quick breads: nut and/or fruit breads; second place for muffins and French breads.
Michele Cobarrubio, first place in California's Chocolate Championship
Fine Art for San Joaquin County
Elizabeth Sanchez, award of merit for plein air paintings
Peter Purdy, award of merit for two-dimensional mixed media/collage
Marilyn Eger, of Acampo, award of excellence for plein air paintings
Best of Show Horse Show for San Joaquin County
Angelina Vengley, award of merit for walk/jog western equitation, showmanship, bareback equitation and western pleasure
Kelly Sheridan, of Clements, award of merit for English equitation, trail, hunter hack, bareback equitation, showmanship and Western horsemanship.
Nick Peterson, award of excellence for pony jumpers, working hunters, hunter hack, equitation over fences, California pole bending; award of merit for cloverleaf barrels, bi-rangle stake race; award of distinction for single stake race, California speed barrels
Lodi Wine Winners
Cab-Shiraz 2005, Olde Lockeford Winery
Zinfandel Cum Laude, Reserve, Old Vine 2004; Campus Oaks
Chardonnay 7 Heavenly Chards 2006, Michael-David Winery
The Other 2005, Peirano Estate Vineyards
Voignier Karen's Cuvee 2006, Chouinard Vineyards
Get in the Pink 2006, Incognito
Carignane 2005, Bargetto Winery
Tannat 2004, Ursa Vineyards
Petite Sirah Great Friends 2004; Grand Amis, Borden Ranch
Petite Sirah 2005, Peltier Station
Petite Sirah 2005, Vino Con Brio
Rhone Varietal Blend Red Wine 2005, Incognito
Zinfandel "Old Vine" 2004, Van Ruiten Family Winery
Best of the Lodi Region
Best red: 2005 Lodi Petite Sirah, Peltier Station
Best white: 2006 Lodi 7 Heavenly Chards Chardonnay, Michael-David Winery
Though he found most ingredients within five miles of his Lodi home, his menu spanned many regions.
"I looked back to California and Latin ingredients to represent three areas: Mexico City, the coastal region and Yucatan," Cambero said.
The Delicadezas Latinos was a quesadilla made with Oaxaca-style cheese, masa harina, squash blossom sautéed with onion and garlic and cuitlacoche filling. The shrimp and cactus salad is a mixture of large prawns, boiled cactus, garlic, tomato and jalapeño pepper. The pork tenderloin is not just a piece of the other white meat. Cambero created a marinade with achiote paste, orange and lime juices, habanero chili, cumin and red onion.
Cambero has been cooking professionally since he was 19. Born in Tijuana, he learned to cook by watching his father, also a chef. With his Lodi catering company, Black Tie Gourmet, Cambero now specializes in international cuisine. His next goal, though, is to create a cookbook of his recipes that use his favorite secret ingredients.
Joe Guzzardi, also a News-Sentinel columnist, won over a separate panel of judges at the State Fair in the category of quick breads: nut and/or fruit breads. This year, his chocolate banana bread won first place.
"It's just a recipe I've been working on for the last year," he said.
For Guzzardi, the cliché "practice makes perfect" seems to hold true. He starts by putting variations on recipes. Usually that involves adding dried fruit or frosting. Then, he has people at work and in his neighborhood act as his food critics.
But this year wasn't the first time Guzzardi won. In the four other years he entered, he won first place for his blueberry muffins, lemon pound cake and chocolate muffins.
Guzzardi started baking about 10 years ago. Now, he's sort of addicted.
"I bake virtually every day," said Guzzardi, whose freezer is now filled with cakes and muffins.
Whether it's crafting the perfect beer, finding a rare mushroom under a corn husk or baking to cure a never-ending sweet tooth, Lodi's State Fair winners don't have any plans of getting out of the kitchen. If anything, they agree they'll be doing more.