What a wonderful week! A couple months ago, I received an email inviting me to attend the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago at McCormick Place. For those of you not privy to this trade show, it is the one that promotes everything you could possibly think of for snacking. Amazing isn’t it? An entire show in half of the humongous McCormick Place Convention Center completely dedicated to snacking. No real foods, just snacks. Sweet snacks, candy, treats, “healthy” snacks like granola bars, chewing gum, nuts, pretzels, chips, jerky,…..pretty much anything you would not generally make into a meal, although they had a lot of pizza flavored snacks and I guess in a pinch you could consider jerky a protein but still a snack food.
The main concept for this show is snacking and they do it in a huge way. From the moment you enter the building everywhere you turn there is a climate of fun starting with the stairs outfitted with candy logos, large displays of candies and even a Nascar covered with candy company logos. Entering the exhibit hall of over 7 acres of space, you will find over 800 vendors all offering something to tempt you; sweet or savory.
The colors are bright, each trying to catch your attention. The people staffing the booths are well versed in whatever makes their product the greatest, best, most astounding items you will find at the show.
Mascots of every conceivable denomination are around for photo-ops, providing interest in booths, as well as walking the floor of the convention center passing out treats. Some of these mascots, I’ve never seen before but they were all energetic and entertaining.
At this show, there is always some new snack item being released for the very first time so as attendees, we get to check them out before the general public. Then there is of course the standard and the not so well known snack companies all trying to get the word out about their tempting treats from all over the world. This is an international trade show after all.
I found a woman that makes jewelry out of candy. In 1996 Debbie Tuch began designing jewelry based on candy and dried fruits encased in a glitter resin showcasing the beauty of the foods we eat. Over the years Glitter Limes Jewelry has been noticed for their innovative style; most recently when the Food Network made a mini-doc of their work you can view on Facebook. These sparkling fruit and candy jewelry are so fun to wear.
One of my favorite items this year was a pistachio brittle presented by Pajama Sweets out of Dallas Texas. This sweet is a Persian delight with notes of cardamom, saffron and pistachios all in a crisply baked batter like a thin cookie but not really a cookie, like a brittle but not sticky like a nut brittle; different in a delicious way. The experience of tasting this pistachio brittle leaves a buttery, nutty lightly caramelized flavor on the palate lightly laced with saffron and cardamom; almost a savory flavor. The complex flavors remind me a little bit like Middle Eastern pastries made with pistachio nuts.
Designed by a Persian artist from New York, the tins are a beautifully delicate pattern of birds and flowers based on ancient Persian poetry. These delightful tins are a lovely gift giving enhancement and would look amazing in a gift basket.
While talking with the owner, Daryush Parsi I learned he named the company Pajama Sweets because he wanted to evoke a feeling of relaxed luxury; a sweet shared in a relaxed atmosphere with friends or by yourself with a cup of tea or a glass of wine. If you’d like to try this amazing taste sensation for yourself, you can order their pistachio brittle on line at PajamaSweets.com.
Like any trade show the Sweets and Snack Expo is only open to members of the food and retail industries. You must have a tax ID as well as proof of a business before paying the entrance fees. By the end of the day, I was on a sugar high and if I do not see another piece of chocolate for a while, I’m good. Can’t wait to go back again next year!