Tuesday, June 6, 2006
I’m on the floor of the All Candy Expo!
They have internet kiosks positioned around for folks to check their email or to look at company websites.
I’ve done about 1/3 of the floor, just walking it and glancing at the booths - taking reference photos for later posts. I’ve only talked to four companies ... because they’re so nice and welcoming.
Any nervousness I had about coming here is completely gone and it’s all exceeded my wildest expectations.
I hope to get my internet issues resolve, and as William suggested, if I can’t log on at the hotel, there is a Panera with free wifi about a block from there so I can pop over and post some photos with the posts.
So I booked myself into this swell hotel and got all settled in and now their server has died and I have no internet connection.
Have no fear, I’m continuing to write all my lovely posts about every little thing going on, but there will be a slight delay in posting them.
I’m having a fantabulous time and people are wonderfully open and I’ve enjoyed talking to every one of them. My fears of being ignored as one of those “internet” people has completely and happily dissipated.
More later if I can find a computer with a USB port that will let me transfer over my other write ups! The show floor opened 2 minutes ago to the press, so I’m off!
Monday, June 5, 2006
Here I am, all settled into my hotel room and it’s not even 10AM. The trip was okay. It was raining in Pittsburgh and of course the middle of the night when I left the house (and my brother was quite the sport to get up and help me throw my bags in the car and make sure I didn’t forget anything) at 4AM.
The flight full and being the first one out for the morning at 6AM, it seems that the ticket counters still don’t understand that as passengers we’ve been trained to show up 90 minutes to 2 hours before a flight. They didn’t open the ticket counter until after 5. Which meant that I didn’t get any breakfast before getting on the plane. I’ve had three mint Mentos. I’m soooooo hungry.
At the airport my luggage was rather late in arriving ... which only made me realize that I should have grabbed breakfast while I was still in the terminal. The airport shuttle was a joke and I’m not doing that again if I can help it. I missed the first one because my luggage wasn’t there. Then there were eight other hotels on the list of stops. And guess where I fell on that list? LAST. So after a drive into Chicago with rush hour traffic it was a TWO HOURS before I was let off at my hotel. All to save about $8 off the taxi. Hmm, maybe I’ll buck up and buy myself an hour of my life back.
What was nice was how many other people I met and hearing about all the OTHER conferences and conventions going on this week (no one else was for All Candy Expo). It passed the time. And our driver was very nice as were the other folks on the shuttle, so I got a good sense of where I was at as people pointed out landmarks and places they’d eaten at.
I arrived at the hotel and hoped that there’d be a room for me to settle into at this early hour (check in is at 3PM, so the worst case scenario was that they’d hold my luggage until evening).
I’m staying at the Blake and the room is AWESOME. Huge, spacious and other big words that mean big. The decor is simple and elegant and there’s a nice large desk with a real desk chair and free WI-FI so that I can hook everyone up with every little thing for the week.
I’m headed off to the convention center now to get my registration and then back into town to see if I can catch a seminar on new chocolate trends.
I had to look up what a praline is, because I’ve seen so many different versions over the years. And it’s really not helped me to figure out what exactly is and isn’t a praline. In Europe a praline is usually a nut and sugar paste, often used as a filling.
But for the purposes of this post, in the American South the praline is a highly nutted fudge - composed of sugar and butter and sometimes cream that’s caramelized to a dry, crumbly, melt-in-your mouth consistency. Some pralines, such as those from Texas are a bit softer like a caramel.
These pralines, in plain and chocolate are from the Charleston Candy Kitchen (they also have a store in Savannah), a gift from my vacationing neighbors. They’re sizable plops filled with plump and sweet pecans. The candy mixture melts in the mouth with a slight cooling feeling. At first there’s a slight grain of the sugar and a moment later it’s all collapsed into a thick and sweet syrup on the tongue with a strong pecan/maple flavor.
The chocolate ones had the addition of cocoa to them, but it wasn’t quite as satisfying as a good chocolate fudge because it lacked that creamy component. They were tasty, but the plain ones were more satisfying in their pure expression of pecan-ness. I ate them all ... it was probably well over a half a pound and it took me about 30 hours, but I wolfed all four pieces down. I’m glad they didn’t come with a nutrition label.
Pralines are kind of like fudge. I don’t often buy them but if I do have them, it’s a regional thing. Kind of like salt water taffy ... it’s the kind of candy you bring home from a trip. Maybe next week I’ll blog about the chocolate covered macadamia nuts from Hawaii.
Does anyone else know of regional candies that folks bring back as gifts? What was the best one you got?
Sunday, June 4, 2006
Technically the All Candy Expo starts tomorrow. Not really the meat of it - not the show floor. But tomorrow I fly to Chicago and check into my hotel and get my press badge and even attend some seminars about candy marketing and trends.
I’m trying my best to be prepared. Over the weekend I was at a party and met up with a family friend in the candy marketing biz and she and I talked at length about anything and everything much to the amusement of my sister, soon-to-be sister-in-law and mother. It was good prep to know whether or not I can hold my own with this country’s great candy providers.
Then this evening, since I’m in Pittsburgh for the weekend, I went off to have tea with Jon Prince of Candy Favorites in McKeesport (the man who started my Saga of the Valomilk). He and I had a great time talking about candy and he gave me some insider tips on how not to be overwhelmed by it all and cautioned me that it’s not a good idea to eat several pounds of malted milk balls at once. (Yes, I know this intellectually, as I’m sure he does, but sometimes you get carried away.)
I have an insanely early flight (6AM) which gets me in insanely early (6:30 AM thanks to the rotation of of the planet). But hopefully this will give me a good jump on the day. I also hope to be able to post several times a day, I’ll report back on my connected-ness.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.