By Jennifer Williams, Contributor, US Daily Review.

Last weekend, I made my annual trek to the Fabulous Food Show at Cleveland’s I-X Center with my friend Penny. There were celebrity chefs galore including Robert Irvine, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri and Cleveland’s own Iron Chef Mike Symon. Cooking demonstrations, great and small, abounded on several stages so every possible foodie desire could be met. While the number of exhibitors is down over last year (it was disappointing not to have the Alaska Seafood Council there this year), it was still a fun day of tasting and shoppin

The Wine Tasting area is always a draw. I cannot drink so I try to discern wine by smell. I’ve well to do so. This year’s wine offerings included a preponderance of Malbecs and Pinor Noir, owing to the sudden popularity of these wines. Many countries were represented but I was disappointed that the South African varietals were missing (AGAIN) and that no Italian Bruscos were available. However, I did find a few nice, reasonably priced wine. There was a lovely Italian table wine from Terra Elima called Sicilia at $18/bottle and the wildly lovely Spanish offering from Antano Garcia called Carrion – it could easily be pared with turkey at Thanksgiving. For those of you who equate the quality of the win with its cost, you will be floored – $5. Yes, some wines are more expensive and lovely such as the Rascianto Nero di Troia at $54/bottle. I will pick up a bottle at some point because it is a fabulous wine. But not every great wine comes with a huge price. The Canadians had offering from Chateau des Charms in Ontario – the Pinot Noir was one of the better ones available and it was very reasonable at $15/bottle. My next favorite Pinor Noir was Valley of the Moon (CA) at $20/bottle. Sold out, and for good reason, was the Celeste Crianza at $26/bottle. I hope to track down a bottle or two to add the collection. Another red that was a contender was the Etna Russo L’Etna at $19/bottle and the Altadonna Sangiovese at $12/bottle. Any of these reds would a great gift for friends or a nice surprise if you want to make a luscious private meal with your favorite foodie.  I went looking for reds but I did find a couple of goods whites. The Austrians put out the popular Wolfgang Gruner Veltliner at a very affordable $13/bottle. It has a surprisingly crispness without being overly sweet or tart. I’m not a fan of Reislings in general but I added this one to the wine cache. I also give high marks to the Argyle Nuthouse Chardonnay for its mellow and balanced body. There were plenty more offerings from around the world including Ferrante Winery, located in my Ohio backyard in Ashtabula County. Still, I would like to have seen South African and more Canadian vineyards plus a few other wine-making states such as Virginia, Missouri, and Washington represented.

One of my favorite companies is Fantasy Candies. They make a lovely and luscious dark chocolate that is not bitter and has a fairly low glycemic load. For someone like me who cannot have a lot of sugar, this is wonderful. I use it sparingly for dessert drizzles and dipping the end of my cannoli shells. I even send a few bars to a friend in Alaska (you’re welcome, CB). Many local and regional companies come to vie your foodie attention. Fantasy Candies is just one of them. Of course, I could not pass up Smitty’s Sauces from Hell, Michigan (cue the requisite jokes). The spicier, the better as far as I’m concerned. I also picked up a few cannolis from Theresa’s Bakery and some good stuff from Kiedrowski’s Bakery, maker of the BEST paczkis for Fat Tuesday. Missing from the usual suspects was the popular Olive and the Grape.  I realize the economy is down and floor space at the I-X Center is quite pricey but the continued absence of Hammond’s Candies and such great local businesses is a complete bummer.  I  cannot possibly include every vendor in one article but suffice to say it was a wonderful time. I was disappointed that Dean’s Supply did not make a showing the year. Vendors of all good gadgets and cookware were sparse, if almost non-existent, and that was a huge minus. As people stream out of the Food Show’s version of Kitchen Stadium, they would have been primed this year for good sales with the high-energy antics of Fieri and the immense pull of local favorite Mike Symon.

Each year, I look forward to the Fabulous Food Show. I have a budget every year or else I’d have nothing left to buy Christmas gifts. It is several hours of foodie heaven, ensconced with and surrounded by well-dressed and well-heeled fellow foodies. I chose comfort over fashion, as if I were going on a hike afterwards. I came home with six bottles of wine and various other goodies including some nice items from the By Hand Show that is always in tandem with the Fabulous Food Show, showcasing some incredible artistic talent in many mediums. It is a fun day and it is only once year. I could have opted for multi-day tickets and a great seat in Kitchen Stadium but decided to put more money bringing home goodies and more time talking with vendors than squinting at Mike Symon from the only seat I could afford. Take advantage of the fabulous food events in your part of the world. Immerse yourself in the world of food possibilities and enjoy the day. Bon appetite!

Jennifer Williams is adjunct faculty in American History at Ashland (OH) University and the American Public University System. She is also the teaching chef for the New Day Family Resource Center in Sandusky, Ohio. Her interests are photography and curling. She lives with her family in Norwalk, Ohio.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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