Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Let's Get Brutal

It's Tuesday morning and I'm reluctant to leave the security of my hotel room in Northbrook, Illinois for the thirty minute commute to Chicago.

I've been in Chicago since Saturday attending the National Restaurant Association trade show - a four day festival of all things restaurant and hospitality. As far as food trade shows go, it's immense, though not as big as before as the falling economy has caused many vendors to pull out from the show and the organizers to scale back to two halls instead of three. Regardless, seeing everything is brutal on the body.

The NRA Show for me, is like the Specialty Coffee Association's trade show. Lot's of stuff that do not apply. Instead of the syrups and powdered mixes of the SCAA, here it's battered, frozen, portioned and fried foods. Out of the many vendors, maybe three percent apply. The positive thing is that you don't have to buy food so long as you're willing to eat whatever is available and graze.

A couple of celebrity sightings: ran into Rick Bayless at the Cambro booth and wanted to ask him about the finer points of mole but he looked pretty engrossed in shelving. Attended a session with Incanto's Chris Cosentino that was really quite exciting - making a porchetta from a pigs head - most excellent. But the true celebrity moment was while walking along an aisle and spotting someone who I swore I knew from Baltimore. So much so that I started to approach and greet him. Only then did I realize that I didn't know him personally and only knew him from television. For a number of my friends, Hell's Kitchen is our secret indulgence and here was our favorite chef from Season Four, Louis Petrozza - who is as nice in person as his persona on the show.

Today is the last day and I'm heading back for one more round before flying home tonight. The goal: a thorough exploration of a Spanish importer, olives and their jamon iberico.