Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show – Washington DC

The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show was held on November 13 and 14, 2010 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. I decided to go after finding tickets on Groupon for $32. My ticket included general admission to the show as well as entrance to a celebrity presentation of my choice. Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray and Paula Deen were this year’s featured celebrities, and I, of course, chose Paula.

A look at the show from above. As you can see, the show drew quite a crowd.

Here are the four things I learned from attending the show:
1. Apparently, cooking and entertaining is synonymous with condiments. Visiting the exhibit floor was one of the aspects of attending that I was looking forward to. However, after a stroll down a couple of the rows of exhibitors, I discovered that the “condiment show” would have better described what was going on. If you like hot sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, chutney, dressing, marinades and the like, then perhaps waiting in line behind a bunch of people to dip a pretzel into each of the sauces is your idea of a good time, but I had bigger fish to fry.

Condiments, anyone?
2. I wouldn’t mind working for the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT). Every year, NASFT hands out the sofi Awards, recognizing innovative new food products, which means someone or a group of someones has to taste thousands and thousands of these new food items. One of the tasting workshops that was included in my general admission was to taste some of the sofi Gold Award-winning products including: bacon, a “naanwich,” chai, chocolate, vinegar and two condiments. 
I enjoyed most of the products but wouldn’t know what to do with the condiments or the vinegar. Also, I am not much of a chocolate person so I did not enjoy that one much. 
My tasting set-up
Nueske’s Wild Cherrywood Smoked Uncured Bacon, Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods: Tandoori Chicken Naanwich, Spread Health Foods: Nutmeric Ultra, Rishi Tea: Masala Chai Concentrate, Stonehouse 27: Cashews & Cream Indian Cooking Sauce, Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Company: Olive & Sinclair Salt & Pepper Chocolate Bar, South African Consulate General: Rozendal Hibiscus Vinegar
3. Baked goods have the nicest booths. In addition to condiments, baked goods, teas, cheeses, ice creams, coffee, popcorn, nuts and beverages could be found on the show floor. I found that the baked goods had the most eye catching displays. 
Whoopie pies
4. Paula Deen is a bad girl. Okay, so this was a whole lot of funny and not a lot of cooking demonstration. I don’t think I’ve laughed that much in a long time, and I have never seen so many people in DC having such a good time. To put it mildly, they tend to be a little grumpier than Californians.

Paula had her husband Michael along for the ride, and Dr. Jill Biden made a special appearance to say hello to the military spouses in the audience, who were at the show because of the work of Operation Home Cooking. Showing us how to make stuffing and ham fell by the wayside, and instead, Paula entertained us for an hour and half with her stories and Southern hilarity.

Here are a few of the tidbits she told us:
– Don’t ask a fat girl what her favorite dessert. You know she likes all of them.
– Paula has a cat named Pumpkin who likes to catch lizards and then eats the whole thing except for the head which Pumpkin leaves in the bathroom.
– Michael told Paula to tell us how she multi-tasks now that she’s old. She told us that when she sneezes, she pees and poops at the same time.
– Paula’s red sweater was sent to her by a Texas designer, but sometimes he gets her size wrong. She had Michael wear it for a couple of hours to stretch it out to the perfect fit.

The one and only Paula Deen
Paula and Jill Biden
Michael, Paula and Glenn preparing the stuffing
Paula had a booth on the floor as well, where they were selling some yummy seafood dip.
After a good four hours at the show, I couldn’t handle the crowds anymore and was not interested in walking the floor to find things other than condiments. There were a few tasting workshops that I missed and I didn’t spend any time at the cooking stage where local DC chefs were doing demonstrations. Overall, it was a fun day and Paula’s presentation by itself was worth the price of admission.