Butchers Best’s Jerky Gets First Prize in Specialty Foods

From the Newtown Bee
Share | Local Butcher, Baker Savoring Statewide Specialty Food Honors
By John Voket

Steve Ford of Butcher’s Best Market on South Main Street took First Place in the Meat category of the 2011 Connecticut Specialty Food competition for his hand-cut, all-natural jerky. Newtown based Cookie Wishes and owner Pamela Ahtchi also took third place honors in the chocolate dessert and sweet topping categories. —File PhotoSome may say that Newtown business owners Steve Ford and Pamela Ahtchi have great taste, especially when it comes to their own personal brands of specialty foods. But when it comes to delivering winning entries into the 10th Annual Connecticut Specialty Food competition, it’s all about tasting good.

Both of these local entrepreneurs walked away with honors as the Connecticut Specialty Food Association (CSFA) held its annual competition on February 17. The CSFA is a subdivision of the Connecticut Food Association and is a nonprofit organization that represents small food businesses based in the state.

This year’s competition featured 329 specialty food items from Connecticut-based manufacturers entered into 38 categories. Mr Ford, who operates Butcher’s Best Market, took First Place in the Meat category for his all natural beef jerky, while Ms Ahtchi and her company Cookie Wishes took home third place awards in both the Dessert/Chocolate and Sweet Topping categories .

A number of other products from neighboring communities also received prizes in categories ranging from wine to pesto to condiments.

According to CSFA Director Tricia Levesque, a panel of 40 judges consisting of local media personalities, food writers, and chefs from the Department of Agriculture’s Farm-to-Chef Program scored products on overall taste/flavor, consistency/texture, appeal, and color. Each judge was assigned to specific categories, responsible for evaluating an average of approximately 30 different products.

Other categories included breads, cheese, confections, CT Grown, fruits and vegetables, gift packs, gluten-free, organic, pasta sauces, savory condiments, snack foods, and many others. A variety of Connecticut beers, ales and distilled spirits were featured, as well.

“It is always amazing to see the diversity and quality of the foods and beverages made by producers right here in Connecticut,” said Ms Levesque. “Each year we seem to find additional entrepreneurs looking to showcase the amazing products they produce. Not only are these products perfect for everyday meals and parties, they also make wonderful gifts. And purchasing products from Connecticut companies also fuels our local economy and helps create jobs here in our state.”

Ms Ahtchi told The Newtown Bee that her idea for her third place winning chocolate dessert, Belgian Chocolate Covered Dates, came to her when she was already selling gift boxes of the famous and authentic Deglet Noor dates and was thinking of other delicious ways to use them.

“The dates are high fiber and very healthy, never mind delicious,” she said. “Then I thought, why not take it to the next level and dip the dates in dark decadent Belgian chocolate?”

Since dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants, Ms Ahtchi said making this dessert treat divinely delicious and decadent was an easy stretch.

Her other winning product, Belgian Chocolate Dessert Sauce with Pecans and Dates, happened when she was “combining some of our own Winton Farms Honey with this amazing dark Belgian chocolate one Sunday afternoon.”

“When we tried it on ice cream, it formed a delicious hard shell that we just loved,” Ms Ahtchi added. “We added our dates and roasted pecans to the mix and we knew we had created a very special and unique dessert sauce.”

Cookie Wishes features a variety of hand-decorated, custom designed wedding cookie favors and gifts that are low in fat, sugar, and high in fiber. And their personalized and monogrammed wedding cookie favors are a particular favorite, along with edible image cookies and photo cookies for business and corporate meetings, special occasion parties, and holiday events.

Find out more at cookiewishesonline.com.

Mr Ford, who has been a meat cutter and food entrepreneur for more than 30 years, said his hand-cut jerky was the first specialty food product he ever made, and it has been a favorite of his and his customers since he produced his first few batches.

“We always start with hand-cut, certified antibiotic- and hormone-free angus beef from either here in Connecticut or Pennsylvania,” he said. “But it’s the secret cut we put on the meat that makes the jerky so popular, because it allows for a bit of chew without the toughness of other jerky products.”

Once the meat is cut, it heads into an all-natural marinade of spices, molasses, and soy sauce.

“And we don’t smoke our jerky,” he said, because the preserving technique is “just too overpowering.”

When you bite into a piece of Butcher’s Best jerky, Mr Ford said, “you taste each layer from the marinade down to the beef.”

Sold by the bag for easy grab-and-go convenience, the local jerky runs about $30 a pound or $3.75 for a bog containing four to six pieces.

Butchers Best Market, at 79 South Main Street, also provides quality cuts to restaurants, caterers and chefs as well daily selections of fish products, aged, smoked and cured to customers’ specifications. For more information, visit butchersbestmarket.com.

Consumers looking for any Connecticut specialty food products can visit www.ctspecialtyfood.org or ask for them at local markets and grocers.

Local Companies Among Crop Of Specialty Food Winners

The following local entrepreneurs and companies were among the statewide winners of the 10th Annual Connecticut Specialty Food competition.


First Place, Butcher’s Best Market/Steve Ford, Newtown: Beef Jerky


Third Place, Cookie Wishes/Pamela Ahtchi, Newtown

Belgian Chocolate Truffle Dates with Sprinkled Pistachios

Also Sweet Topping

Third Place, Belgian Chocolate Dessert Sauce with Pecans & Dates

CT Grown

First Place, Winding Drive Corp, Woodbury: Apple Pie Jam


First Place, The Gracious Gourmet, Bridgewater: Lemon Artichoke Pesto

Also Pickle, Relish, or Tapenade

Third Place: Chili Red Pepper Tapenade

Savory Condiment

First Place, White Silo Winery, Sherman: Quince Mustard

Second Place, Winding Drive Corp, Woodbury: Habanera Gold Jelly

Also Second Place: Roasted Garlic Caramelized Onion (spread)

Third Place, White Silo Winery, Sherman: Black Currant Mustard

Wine – Fruit

First Place, Jones Winery, Shelton: Black Currant

Also Third Place: First Blush

Wine – Red

Second Place, Jones Winery, Shelton: Cabernet Franc

Wine – White

First Place, Jones Winery, Shelton: Pinot Gris