Two homegrown businesses have picked up honors at the Connecticut Specialty Food Association's annual competition.
Newtown-based won two third place awards and Butcher's Best earned the top spot in the meats category.
Pamela Ahtchi, the owner of Cookie Wishes and Les Oliviers, heard the news while in England. After entering the specialty food competition for the first time last year, Ahtchi entered three products in this year's contest, two of which placed.
Ahtchi's Belgian Chocolate Truffle Dates with Sprinkled Pistachios won third in the Desserts - Chocolate category. The Belgian Chocolate Dessert Sauce with Pecans and Dates, which also contains Ahtchi's own honey, took third place in the Sweet Topping category.
"We had the idea to try mixing the honey and chocolate together and tried it on some ice cream," Ahtchi said by e-mail. "To our amazement, the chocolate dessert formed a hard shell and the flavor was amazing."
Ahtchi moved to Newtown from New Jersey in 2004 and began Cookie Wishes three years later. The business specializes in hand-decorated cookies and other treats for special events.
In 2009, Ahtchi began a second business, Les Oliviers, which focuses on olive oil, the famous chocolate-covered dates and honey harvested by her husband.
Butcher's Best owner Steve Ford looked surprised when Newtown Patch asked about his recent win.
"I won?" he asked. "I didn't know they announced it yet."
A friend of Ford's entered the shop's popular beef jerky into this year's competition a few weeks ago and the entry earned first place in the meat category.
Ford has been making his jerky for more than a year and sells about five pounds of jerky a day. He sells small baggies of jerky at his shop for $3.75, and his customers include a pretty equal mix of men and women.
"Our product is all natural, starting with Certified Angus Beef that has no antibiotics and no hormones," said Ford, adding that he uses local beef when it's available.
Ford makes separate batches of pork and beef jerky, although the pork is not always available. Both meats marinate in molasses, soy sauce and seasonings for several hours before being dehydrated. The process takes about 12 hours.
The CSFA is a non-profit group that hosts this event each February. This year, entrants submitted 329 Connecticut products into 38 different categories. Forty judges tasted and ranked locally made foods, including dessert sauces, breads, cakes, cheeses, fresh produce, frozen goods and even beer and wine.
Visit the CSFA website for a complete list of winners, which include several from this area.