#SFMChickpeaParty: Getting to Know HOPE

So, guess what I did Thursday night? OK, I'll tell you: I went to my first blogger's event! After so many years of blogging, it was high time I attended one. As soon as I arrived I thought, why haven't I done this kind of thing already? But of course I well knew the answer. Because I hardly ever leave the house from summertime onward, and when I do, it's typically obligatory, or an infrequent get together with people I already know I like a lot. And actually, the latter is kind of new in itself, too. Since little big boy's arrival nearly three years ago, I only reinstated monthly girls' nights this past January. (As a random aside, does it frustrate you like it does me when people lead into news with 'guess what' and then wait for you to actually guess?) SFMChickpea

To be completely honest, homebody tendencies weren't the only factor at play in "non-blogger-eventing". Equally signigificant is, the blogosphere is replete with prolific bloggers with daunting presence.  Dave often laughs when I stress that I am shy, but he doesn't account for how comfortable I am with him, nor has he had the chance to see me in my most wallflower self-consciousness. Cyberspace offers a unique platform for the whole spectrum of us extroverted introverts/introverted extroverts to share as if actually comfortable with things like mingling and public speaking.

In any case, on Thursday I decided to be brave and go meet other bloggers for a cool event hosted by Sprouts Farmers Market at HOPE Foods, and walking in the assembled group was not what I expected. The other bloggers were dynamic, interesting, and down-to-earth nice. Even better, so were the hosts/leaders of the event.

Once we were all gathered, we went to a kitchen area where we were greeted with a colorful and eclectic spread of yummy goodies and samples around which we could mingle and also get to know some of the HOPE Foods team. Young, talented, dynamic, and successful, these entrepreneurs bring a whole bunch of could-be intimidating factors to the table, but at the same time they were so impressive in their friendly warmth and genuine commitment to quality, as we discovered first-hand in the course of the evening.

SFMChickpea2What better ice breaker and introduction to an amazing product than getting to play with your food? Each blogger was given two sizeable bowls of hummus base, a sweet and a savory, with which to experiment by choosing from a fun array of ingredients to mix in. Once our new blends were complete, we got to scoop them into these cute personalized jars to take home. The savory base was so tasty on its own, I was initially reluctant to add a whole lot, but after doling in some sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic powder, red chili flakes and a dash of cayenne I started to feel a little bit of a buzz. The end result was so good that a) I'm thankful the take home jar was only so big, and b) I think I just may add a dash (or extra dash) of cayenne to every hummus I make or purchase from now on.

As for the sweet base, I remain hesitant to declare a verdict on the success of my own concoction, which included pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, almond butter, vanilla and cacao nibs. That said, if I swap labels from 'hummus' to 'cookie batter', I am much more confident in saying the results were a pleasant surprise. Testament that a rose called something other than a rose may not smell as sweet, but if not, it is probably all in your head. In any case, why not call a chickpea base with sweet addends like the aforementioned "cookie batter"? We bake chickpea cookies all the time, and garbanzo flour is a favorite choice for pancakes, waffles and everything sweet and baked I can think of.

To conclude the evening, we were treated to a tour of the HOPE Foods facility, and on my honor they made a great case for there being a place for packaged foods...at least prepared foods like theirs. The HOPE story is an inspired and inspiring one, so much so I felt like breaking out into applause at points. The humble origins, for one thing. HOPE began when a group of friends graduated from college and began making hummus together in kitchens. They sold at the local Farmers Markets and grew, grew, and grew, maintaining their commitment to natural freshness and high standards.

One gem I learned on the HOPE tour was, unlike the mix-in method we got to play with, each HOPE product is made from scratch. As in, no bases. Every hummus flavor has its own unique blend of quantities, even when the ingredients heavily overlap. What stood out most of all, however, was how HOPE utilizes technology to optimize flavor, color, safety, nutrition, and shelf life without any additives and artificial preservatives. Through HPP (High Pressure Processing), bacteria, yeast, and all pathogens are destroyed by applying pressure six times that of the Mariana Trench. After being vacuum sealed, products are treated to an HPP cold water bath that eliminates disease and decreases spoilage.

Speaking of products, HOPE is best known for its hummus...probably because of the wide range of awesomeness (Thai coconut curry!!). It is also producing pretty rocking guac now, too, and is taking on sweet territory with new products like CHOCOLATE HUMMUS that tastes a lot like brownie batter. If you, like me, experience mental hurdles too full enjoyment because of the "hummus" name, try thinking of it as chocolate chickpea batter. I haven't attempted this yet, but I think this may need to be the base, or inspiration, or even the substitute for frosting on my Little Monkey's birthday cupcakes next month. Will keep you posted. :)

Thanks, Sprouts Farmers Market and HOPE Foods, for a super evening!