A Southern Grace: free. all-natural. food.

March 19, 2008

free. all-natural. food.


Understatement of the month: The Natural Products Expo West was awesome.

Things I found out on Thursday:
-5.5 hours is much too long for me to sit still, even when there are views like this...

...and this...

...and this:

It's especially tedious when there are people crowding me. Please, fliers--there's a reason it's called personal space.
-Southwest Airlines supplies a lame-o snack box.
-Gambling is not for me. I'll leave it at that.

(We changed planes in Vegas.)

-I am currently nowhere near aggressive enough to drive on the highways in Orange County, especially during rush hour (that's some bad timing on our part).
-Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. will always hold a warm place in my heart, for although I find shrimp revolting, their strawberry shortcake is the very best I’ve ever had:

(Two spoons...I laugh. It was mine, all mine.)

Pathetic picture (apparently there was no time for proper focus), but seriously delicious dessert. The biscuit was soft and buttery (and huge!), the strawberries were fresh, and there were two sauces--one strawberry and one vanilla. The vanilla sauce was magical. I could go on for hours about that sauce. I was super impressed by the strawberries as well, but I should’ve known they’d be great out there in CA--there was even a field across the street:

Strawberry fields forever.

On Friday, the expo began. If you are unfamiliar with this mecca for lovers of all things natural, allow me to introduce you. It's a collection of "thousands of new products, cutting-edge trends, engaging speakers, informative seminars, and endless networking opportunities." There were more than 2,800 exhibitors!

Okay, first things first. We foolishly ate breakfast before going into the convention center. How was I to know the extent of good eats awaiting me farther up the road? But IHOP it was, and my co-worker got the Horton Hears a Who special of "who-cakes" (and green eggs and ham):

According to my co-worker, they were pretty good. He doesn't like squash or tomatoes though, so what does he know?

Now, to the expo. What can I say? Where are the words?

Amazing. Overwhelming. Heaven on Earth.

Even walking up to the convention center, I was met with exhibitors foisting their goods on me. Yogurt, power bars, granola? Yes, please.

Then I passed through the entrance and the clouds parted. Cue the choir of angels! It was incredible. Exhibits as far as the eye could see...and I was only in the first of five massive rooms.

My list of most impressive exhibitors (classified as such if they offered a variety of free goods) is extensive.

Ones you’d expect to be awesome:
-Morningstar Farms (aka my lunch booth, day one)
-Kashi (I really believe that they can do no wrong)
-Horizon Organic (surprisingly delicious new yogurt flavor=maple)
-Amy’s Kitchen (aka my lunch booth, day two)(I highly recommend the black bean tamale verde)
-Burt’s Bees (free chapstick!)(yes, I ventured into non-food territory)(so sue me)
-Fage (that’s some thick yogurt)(suggestion for next year--how about some cucumber, dill, and pita on the side?)
-Green Mountain Coffee (all coffee, all day long--a frequent stop)
-Bear Naked (not only was there an Australian man behind the table, but he gave me an entire huge bag of granola)(swoon)
-Tazo (my favorite chai OF ALL TIME)
-Stonyfield Farm (please go to this site and check out their yogurt election)(how funny that “yopublicans” are whole milk and “demogurts” are fat free)(tasty vanilla chai got my vote)
-Scharffen Berger (free bars of amazing chocolate, need I say more?)

Newbies (to me, at least):
-Crummy Brothers (awesome name, awesome cookies)
-Feed Granola Co. ("America’s Coolest Young Entrepreneurs" indeed!)
-Just Desserts (we’re talking whole pieces of pie and cake and cookies)(no measly bites here)(and it was goooood)
-Explorer's Bounty (quite possibly the best chocolate-covered macadamia nuts I've ever put in my mouth)
-Organic Valley (strawberry milk, a personal favorite)
-Bare Fruit (crunchy all natural dried fruit)(I took a shoulder-bag full)

Last, but most certainly not least...
-The Fartless Factory (so cute, and even their bags are encouraging—"may all yours be quiet and brief")

Two guest speakers that I wish I could've seen (but missed due to meetings) were Tre Wilcox of Top Chef fame and Mollie Katzen, cookbook author extraordinaire. Such is the life of a successful businesswoman. :)

You'd think that noshing all day would stomp out my appetite for dinner. Not so. Night one was The Cheesecake Factory, my true love. I got the stuffed chicken tortillas, which are packed with chicken (hence the name) and topped with cheese and tomatillo sauce. Possibly the best part were the sides--corn cakes, black beans, and salsa. It was so, so good. Of course, I was forced to get the strawberry shortcake in order to do a proper comparison with Bubba Gump's phenomenal dish. I must admit that Bubba's was far, far superior. I guess it's called The Cheesecake Factory for a reason.

(Sidebar: Coincidentally, I was just telling Mike about my love affair with strawberry shortcake, and he's got an awesome recipe just begging to be tried out.)

For dinner on night two, we went to Downtown Disney and ate at the Rainforest Cafe. I sat next to a fish...

...and got the jungle chop salad. They weren't kidding about it being chopped! It was chicken, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and red cabbage, chopped to oblivion, and topped with candied pecans (yum!), blue cheese crumbles (not a fan), and dried cranberries. I'd never had anything like it, and it was fun and yummy.

The temperature was in the 50s and 60s during my outside hours. An improvement, yes, but I was hoping for more. I was forced to sneak out of the show a couple of times to bask in the 70-degree daytime weather. One has to get her vitamin D, after all. However, I didn't realize just how awesome it was in CA until I deplaned in Albany and was met with a frigid gust of wind and temperatures in the single digits. Sigh.

All in all, a fabulous trip. My bag was about twice as heavy on the way back, but I shan't complain--it was full of free, all-natural food.

The end.


Cakespy said...

So much funner than the conventions I used to go to for work (think lots of schlock-y gift items). BTW that is a great tip on Bubba Gump. I am a sucker for a good shortcake...is it a more biscuity type?

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Sounds like a fun trip! And many thanks for the linkage :-)

Anonymous said...

oh man, I so wish I could have flown down and gone to the show with you! Sounds like you had a great time and saw some cool stuff.

Geggie said...

Hi, just found you from Blake Makes. This is my first year in 10 years to miss Expo West. As I moved to the East coast last year. My first trip to Expo east in Baltimore last year was a let down, nowhere near as good as west. Maybe it'll be better in Boston this year!