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Sunday, November 11, 2007

It Really Was Fabulous

November 10 was my third Fabulous Food Show. The first year, then known as The Great Big Food Show, was sponsored by Food Network and was being tested as a possible yearly touring food fest in Cleveland and Philadelphia. It was a huge success. So why then did Food Network never do it again? That's a mystery to me. So in 2005, there was no show. But in 2006, Cleveland unveiled the Fabulous Food Show.

In attendance this year were chefs Rick Bayless, Jason Roberts, Giada De Laurentiis, Duff Goldman and Alton Brown. How it works is, with the price of admission you get to chose which chef you want to see do a demo. You can only chose one, but you can pay extra and see others if you want. I was thrilled to get tickets to see Alton! He's been to each show in Cleveland and each time we've gone to see someone else (first year, Rachael Ray... second year, Paula Deen). I was even more thrilled because we found out when we arrived that while Duff was on the main stage (where we'd have to pay extra to see him) he was also on the second stage that was open to all! And adding to that, he brought Geof with him, who is one of his friends and helps him at Charm City Cakes and one of my faves on his show. I love Geof (who I call, Low Key Geof).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Our first stop when we arrived was checking out all the gorgeous cakes on display from White Flower Cake Shop in Cleveland. They were stunning! Just take a look for yourself. I personally loved the mosaic cake. It looked amazing, but then again, they all did! I wish we could have tasted them!

We walked, and ate... walked and ate, from one end of the IX-Center, to the other. The place is huge, the show is huge and there is so much to see. Like Jason Roberts, who was on the second stage doing a demo.

There is so much food sampling that it's almost impossible to get to each and every booth. We try, believe me we try! We tried candy, pie, cookies, dips, breads, pulled pork, cheesecake, sweet potatoes, olives, chips, lattes, cheeses, sauces and sauces and more sauces!! There is so much stuff and just about every sample is free. The only one that we had to buy was the pulled pork from Famous Dave's, and it was well worth it! But if you're thinking that all these samples are a bellyache waiting to happen, well.. you're kind of right. That's why when we spotted the stand from Ohio apple farmers, I made a beeline for it! They were giving away whole apples and when you're eating all kinds of combinations of food, putting something nutritious in your belly sure seems like a very good idea. And it was.

So many great places were represented at the show. As I more and more want to delve into more and more Ohio based products and Ohio grown foods, I uncovered a wealth of resources for things that I may never have thought of, like potato chips. So often we just automatically reach for Ruffles or Lays, but now I have the option of Ballreich's very delicious chips, of Tiffin, Ohio. I took everyone's business card that I could grab and these will all go into a file of Ohio resources that I'm going to be starting. To me, it's very important to support local businesses. Which is why I am here, having my picture taken with the mascot for the best Italian Imports store in Cleveland, Gallucci's! I'm not sure, but I'm just going to guess that his name is Guido!

With our bellies already full, and still about 2 hours until it was time to see Alton, we found the second stage where Duff and Geof would be, and found a seat on the floor off to the side. The chairs were all full. What can I say about Duff and Geof? They were fantastic. They were fun, silly, made fun of each other and seemed to really have a blast. Duff did most of the talking while Geof showed us how to color fondant. He did it three different ways: with a brush (that makes kind of a wood grain look), by airbrush for that smooth shiny finish and by hand, kneading the color into the fondant. All the while, Duff talked and took questions. And Geof took every opportunity to zing Duff! You could tell they were good friends who loved to poke fun at each other. A lady in the audience told them she was moving to the Baltimore area and asked if she could have a job with them. Geof answered, "we already have five people who employed who stand around and do nothing." Then he paused, looked at Duff and said, "well 6 really." He was so cute!!! They were very entertaining and fun and I'm so glad we had the opportunity to see them.

We had to leave Duff and Geof's demo a little early because our scheduled time for the Alton demo was approaching. Alton, I have to say, does not disappoint. He's as funny and quick witted as you would think he is. And he loves to poke fun at his Food Network friends. He mentioned Giada, said that "she says she's pregnant." But he can't figure out where she's hiding the pregnancy and said at the most, she looks like she might be hiding a gerbil (I saw her walk by with her bodyguard later, and he's right! She is not showing at all and looks gorgeous!!!).

Alton was supposed to be making chocolate taffy. He said now that he has a child, he's become obsessed with making candy. He put all the ingredients in the pot (when adding butter, a big picture of Paula Deen came on the screen above him!) and when he added the salt, he said, "OK, let's do it for Emeril!" and wanted the crowd to say, "BAM!" but most people didn't catch on quick enough to what he wanted. So he was disappointed in our weak bam. When he added some vinegar, a few BAM's were shouted out and he chastised them for bamming a liquid. He said if you're going to say something when a liquid is put in, it should be "SPLASH!" Then, thinking this over, thought maybe he should copyright that! He's a stitch, I'm telling you!

Once all the ingredients were in and the pot was heating, he had his assistant watch the pot until it reached the proper temperature of 250 degrees. While we waited, he told us the science behind how sugar reacts to different temperatures and methods. And when it got up to temperature, it was poured out onto a silpat and Alton chose two people from the audience to pull the taffy. Wouldn't you know, something was very wrong with that batch of taffy and while he and his assistant tried to start the pulling, it blopped and glopped all over the place.

And then, when the two volunteers got it, they tried so hard to keep it from the floor but they did not succeed. It was taffy gone terribly wrong, and it was really not planned that way, at least it didn't seem like it. Alton was convinced his assistant did not get it up to the right temperature, although she was pretty sure she had. All we know is that this all made for great comedic fodder! Alton seemed genuinely flustered, but at the same time, taking it all in stride. He was fabulous, funny, and truly everything you would expect him to be. One little scoop... he said that there will be a Feasting on Asphalt 3, but this time it will be on a train. He wouldn't say where they were going, and he didn't know when it would air. None has been filmed yet. Oh and he absolutely would not tell us who won The Next Iron Chef (which has it's finale tonight, with Cleveland's own Michael Symon as a possible winner!).

After Alton, we walked around for about two more hours and ate some more! And just when we were getting ready to leave, we happened upon the Taste of the Neighborhood display where area restaurants have samples of some of their best dishes. WOW, we had just eaten our way back to the entrance only to find MORE FOOD. We had soul food (delicious mac and cheese), Ethiopian food (I can't tell you what it was, bit I thought it was delicious! Kind of like a meat mixture in a phyllo crust) and the most delicious pumpkin/currant bread pudding from another restaurant (and I don't even like pumpkin!). I probably gained a few pounds yesterday. Then again, maybe all the walking offset all the food. Oh yeah, walking. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

It was a wonderful day as always and I can't wait until next year! My wish list for next years Fabulous Food Show celebrity chefs are Anthony Bourdain, Tom Collichio, Lidia Bastianich, and Mario Batali.

Special thanks to my good friend, partner in food crime and all around great gal, Lynn for use of her Alton pics!

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