So this weekend, “Mark D.” and I stopped by the Atlanta Metro Cooking Show to check it out and go to see Paula Deen. In short, I was a little disappointed. To be fair, that’s partially my fault due to having set my expectation perhaps a bit too high. I mean, Tyler Florence, Paula Deen, Mario Batali, Richard Blais, and Bobby Flay were coming, so it had to be pretty good, right? Wrong.
Let’s start with the hour and a half we spent watching Paula. Did she cook anything? No. She left that to her husband and an assistant chef that she met for the first time on-stage. They cooked barbeque pork chops, mac-n-cheese, and brownies. All of it was made from scratch, and I would have really liked to dive in and get the specifics on what was going down in the kitchen. Instead, we were treated to tales of Paula’s urination problems, lots of hugs, and some basic hocking of her new line of frozen fish sticks and Smithfield pork products. The extent of culinary advice given was her telling the assistant chef “Don’t cook them macaroni al dente, cook’em till they’re done.” Don’t get me wrong, Paula’s sweet, charming, funny, and a really good cook. The story about her re-engineering her Depends was priceless. But we paid money to come to the cooking expo and see her cook. Sweet, charming, and funny were not what I wanted to see. I wanted to at least come out of there with some cool tip, trick, or recipe that I didn’t know before. From what I heard, Flay, Florence, and Batali would have been much more in line with my expectation. Unfortunately, my schedule didn’t allow for going to any of those shows.
Now to the expo itself. We got out of the show around lunchtime, and there were samples a plenty to fill our voids. But here again, this is where my expectations and reality clashed. I was expecting a cooking expo, full of vendors from all the major cooking suppliers showing the latest and greatest kitchen toys and gadgets. Instead, there was a hodgepodge mix of future As-Seen-On-TV gadgets, home goods (sheets and vacuum cleaners?), pre-prepared foods, and a few legit suppliers and cooks. A couple years ago, I would have totally expected to see the Sham-wow booth there. It would’ve fit the bill perfectly. The food samples were nice, but I could’ve gone to Costco for free and been just as happy.
In this crazy mess, there were a few good finds. First, in the “Why Didn’t I Think Of That” category, there were these crazy toaster bags. I love making a grilled cheese sandwich from scratch in the cast iron and going all Iron Chef on it (open the fridge and find a surprise ingredient to include in it). But when the game is on and I’ve only go a commercial break, it’s too much work. So these folks have what appeared to be a parchment bag that you stick a fully assembled sandwich in, then shove the whole thing in the toaster. Wait a minute, then presto, “perfect” grilled cheese. The bags are washable and good for about thirty uses. It ain’t fancy cooking, but cool concept. I see this catching on big with bachelors and college students across the country.
One other cool find was the Jubilee Organic Farms. This is the first organic dairy in Georgia, and they were offering samples five butter spreads that are coming soon to a Publix near you. It’s not pure butter, but a blend of organic butter, olive oil, avocado oil, and kefir. Sound’s weird, but trust me, I’ll be buying some. The honey butter spread was just begging for a biscuit, and the unsalted spread tasted pure and clean. The lemon butter was light and fresh, just perfect for a muffin, or better yet, a piece of pound cake. This was our best find of the day. Organic, sustainable, healthy, local, and tasty. Right up our alley. Keep an eye out and buy a tub. We’ll keep you posted.
Hopefully, the expo will continue to grow to be more of what it should be, and less of what it shouldn’t. Till then, we’ll stay at home and watch Food Network re-runs.Head of Southern Food Engineering Ben O.