Oh, the humanity.
Julie and I arrived early, in time to check out the exhibitors. Since this was a cooking show, we imagined we would find event planners, gourmet shops, kitchen stores... that kind of thing. I was really really glad to see Rocky Mountain Products - we were given a sampler box of their sauces at Christmas, and they are soooo yummy. There was a booth for "Cooks N Counters" (a kitchen store in Redmond) and Pampered Chef. Oh, and someone from Quizno's was there, handing out Sammies. But Cookie Lee jewelry? And the candle place? Not to mention the retirement home. Hmm... I guess we weren't going to be doing too much networking with them (but it gave us an indication of the target audience, which apparently was NOT us).
We were also dismayed to see some six HUNDRED chairs setup in rows, facing a stage kitchen and two ginormous screens. Small and intimate this show was not. I immediately put my conference-going experience to good use and snagged us seats in the back row. Easier to make an escape, and easier to stand in the case you are surrounded by people you would rather not be surrounded by. (Nothing personal, but I am slighty claustro- and crowd-phobic.)
As for visiting the booths, apparently the format was to stand in line starting at the far end of the hall, and work your way around the outside walls (where the booths were set up) in one bovine-reminiscent queue. Can you say "Moo"? Yeah, me too. Alternate booths seemed to have something yummy to hand out (like the Sammies from Quizno's... they were actually quite good!). Luckily I had eaten a large lunch (at the Speed Shop Deli) so I wasn't too desperate. But about halfway around we got to the concession stand, and it was too much for Julie. She had to get some food.
A word about concessions at any food or cooking-related event. Or, really ANY event, but especially one where you get to watch someone else play with food. First of all, I was shocked that no one was serving or selling glasses of wine. Don't wine and food go together? There was a "wine wheel" (telling you what kind of wine to serve with certain types of food) and the event was sponsored by Gallo, for cripes sake. But there was no. wine. anywhere. Secondly, that had better be some darn good food coming out of the concession stand. Poor Julie... it was as far from any interpretation of "good" that I could conceive. Her "teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables" was a brown, gooey, sloppy mess. The rice was congealed into dry clumps and the whole thing was drowned in some kind of sauce that smelled more like soy than teriyaki. A word to the Deschutes County fairgrounds caterers: Yuck. You need to try harder. Now, the ladies selling the food seemed very nice, and I strongly doubt that they had anything to do with the quality.
OK, I digress. After Julie tossed more than half of her pitiful excuse for dinner away we continued our migration around the booths. As we finished Kate and another non-blogging friend (hi, Adrianne!) joined us. And it was about that time that the show was to begin. We wandered back over to the vicinity of our seats, and found that people had filled in on both sides. So, we could push past the good folks on one side or another and squish together into the teeny, close-set chairs. Or we could stand. We chose door number two. Hooray for us!
And in the end our standing in the back became a show-long running joke. The presenters implored those with empty seats close by to let us in. No thanks, we are just fine standing. Someone later came out with a cart full of chairs, and proceed to set them up for us... directly behind our four chairs in the back row. Really, we are doing great! We kept reassuring people, and then the next person who came along would get upset that we had nowhere to sit. When the whole time the FOUR of us were standing behind our FOUR saved chairs. It was really nice that they were concerned for our backsides... but frankly it was a lot funny too.
Finally it was time for the show to begin. That's right, there really was a "show" that must go on! After the welcome's and thank you's and drawing of names out of the raffle box, out came our cooking expert extraordinaire... someone. No one I had heard of. No one Julie, Kate, or Adrianne had heard of either. I am sure she is a nice person and her friends love going to her house for dinner. But... unfortunately not as exciting as seeing Alton or Emeril. Let alone the dreamy, bad-boy that is Bourdain. Sigh.
First she demonstrated how to cook cornish game hens. She reassured us that you don't need one of those fancy-dancy roasting pans with a rack. Oh no, mortals! You can use one of these instead!
OK readers, get your mind out of the gutter. Yeah, I can tell what you are thinking. Get over it. This is a cooking show, remember?
That's right, you can make a big foil rope thingy. Then fold it into a "W" and perch your little hens on that so they don't stick to the pan. See? Now don't you just feel silly?
I sure felt silly. Because I must have looked like the biggest snob in Redmond that night. Scratch that, I am pretty sure my friends looked like snobs with me. Things people might have overheard us saying?
"Umm, is it really Eggs Benedict if there's no hollandaise sauce?"
"Cool, at least this recipe has liquor in it!"
"Hey, she (the cook) has wine! No fair, we should get a bottle in our goodie bag."
"Look, she's pretending to slice a strawberry... that's pre-sliced!"
"Wow, she goes through a lot of paper towels."
"I used to have one of those mixers. It sucked. They should get her a KitchenAid."
"Smacking it against the rim of the garbage can does the trick, too." (On removing an avocado pit from a knife blade.)
"This really isn’t so bad when you stand in the back with your snarky friends"
Yeah, we were pretty snarky. It was like MST3K goes to Cooking School. But for this type of event it's my saving grace. Later in the show we started leafing through the cookbook/magazine from our goodie bag. Some of the delights inside included:
First off, check out this delightful Honeybee Ham Salad Sandwich - Good concept, poor execution. I don't know what the yellow "frosting" is on the outside of the bee. I don't think I want to. If I made this for my kids they would pick off the olives and then make a run for it.
Easter Bunny Cheese Spread - Perhaps the biggest waste of jelly beans ever committed. And this bunny might just give my kids nightmares to look at, let alone eat. Yikes.
And last but not least...Easter Bunny Bread - this one looked like a cute little bunny that had been shot in the stomach. Handy, so you can scoop out the innards with veggies or parts torn from it's doughy body. To borrow a line from Zippy... Oh my shit.
But there were some legit, yummy-sounding and looking recipes too. Like Lemon-Nut Twists and Strawberries al Moscato With Vanilla Cream in Meringue Nests. What is really puzzling is that though those recipes are in the cookbook/magazine... they were nowhere to be found on the show's website. So sorry suckas, you have to go to the show if you want the good recipes!
Off and on, our cook demonstrated several recipes over the course of two hours. I use the word "demonstrated" because mostly, that's what she did. Granted, she can flip a crepe with the best of 'em. But the vegies were mostly already chopped, so there was no wow-ing us with her knife skills. Which really, is one of my favorite parts of watching cooking shows. It's sort of like going to see the fire eater, just in case he gets burnt. I want them to chop stuff, just in case they bleed. Bwahahaha...
After all of the demonstrations it was time for the final raffle. Since we have a brand-new kitchen I wasn't too excited about most of the appliances on stage, but I had my eye on the cute blue microwave that sat idle for the entire show. If they don't use it, it must be a prize, right? Nope. All that appliance eye-candy that she never used was just that. So, what did they raffle off? That's right... the food. Some of it was finished just minutes ago, but remember the show lasted for two hours. Ummm... do you want faux eggs benedict (with avocado, no less) that has been sitting for more than an hour? Yeah, me neither. I can appreciate not wanting to waste the food... but at least if you are going to give it away, then give it away the minute it's done. Forget the "must be present" till the bitter end crap and feed us. Kthxbye!
Then it was over, and we all (600 of us, mostly in separate cars) fought our way out of the parking lot. And then discovered a fun fact about the geography and placement of the Deschutes County Fairgrounds. Yeup, in between the fairgrounds and the on-ramp to Highway 97 there are railroad tracks. So of course, there was a train, and all (600 of us, mostly in separate cars) had to wait for it to pass.
But all in all, is there ever a bad night out with friends? I can think of better venues and events, but I think all say it was a good time.
Snark and all.