Rogue Valley chocolate, gin and vodka earn judges’ nod in Good Food Awards competition

Lillie Belle Farms chocolate and Cascade Peak Spirits Distillery were among the 15 Oregon artisans to bring home gold medals from the third-annual Good Food Awards in San Francisco.
The competition drew 1,366 entries with 114 medals awarded earlier this month during the celebration of the local food movement.
Lillie Belle’s winning entry was actually in the confection realm, rather than chocolate. The Central Point company’s “The Most Awesome Chocolate Bar EVER!!!” lived up to its billing.The hand made praline with Feuillitine wafers and Fleur de Sel has caramelized almonds and hazelnuts stone ground into a butter that blended with organic milk chocolate, feuillitine cookies and “a generous splash of Fleur de Sel.”
Cascade Peak Spirits Distillery earned its second gold medal for its ORGANC NATION gin and vodka.
” As the craft spirits movement continues to grow, we will be able to share more space on the shelves with the large liquor corporations, giving consumers a responsible and palatable choice,” said Diane Paulson, Cascade Peak Spirits co-founder. The Ashland distiller was among a handful of organic entries in the market six years ago. Today there are more than 300 micro-distilleries buying raw ingredients from farmers in their area.

The U.S. economy stood virtually still during the fourth quarter and in a competitive world that means it actually retreated. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis said today the gross domestic product fell by 0.1 percent from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
The economy grew by 3.1 percent in the third quarter.
The BEA said businesses trimmed inventories and government spending fell sharply, while lawmakers haggled over tax increases and budget cuts.
It was the first time in three and a half years GDP declined since the post-financial crisis recovery began, ending a run of 13 straight quarters of growth.
However, the gross domestic product advanced 2.2 percent for all of 2012, compared with 1.8 percent growth in 2011.

The Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research released its own forecast material today as well.
Ball State economist Michael Hicks said his fears the U.S. economy would screech to a halt were confirmed by the Commerce Department.

Spokane-based Sterling Financial Corp. said it will sell three Sterling Savings Bank branches to Bank of the Pacific. The branches are located in Astoria,, Seaside and Aberdeen, Wash.
The transaction is expected to be finalized by early summer, subject to regulatory approval. Bank of the Pacific will pay a 2.77 percent deposit premium on in-market deposits, gaining approximately $50 million of deposits and $6 million of performing loans.

The Oregon Association of Nurseries has weighed-in on immigration reform, saying it was encouraged by the developments in Washington.
“The nursery and greenhouse industry applauds the spirit of the effort underway by President Obama and the U.S. Senate,” President Carson Lord said. “It shows we have a real chance to resolve decades of inaction on immigration policy.”
Lord said reforms need to be in place, allowing a sufficient number of people into the country as guest workers to fill needed positions.
“It’s not enough that our nation spends over $17 billion in border enforcement,” Lord said in a statement. “Our leaders must commit to dealing with the millions of undocumented people and provide authorization to come out of the shadows. We must create a long overdue guest worker program and sensible policy for future flow of workers.”

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    Greg Stiles

    Covering the Southern Oregon business and economy since 2001. Read Full
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