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Superstar Foodies shine at the Metropolitan Cooking Show


By Jordan Wright

Last week’s Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show at the Walter Washington Convention Center featured Food Network superstars Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentis and the current “Queen of Southern Cooking” Paula Deen, who held court to an adoring audience.

I caught the shy and self-effacing “Iron Chef” Flay and folksy double entendre Deen putting on a rollicking, rib-poking show.

The crowd “ate it up” as the duo powered their way through cooking tips and recipes on the enormous demo stage, which simulcast the stars on Jumbotron screens.

Over 200 exhibitors displayed their wares and tasty morsels of chocolates, cakes, pies and biscuits beckoned everywhere.

Beer, wine and spirits tasting had begun in earnest in a roped off area that accommodated a large crowd of tasters tippling cheek-to-jowl.  In between food demonstrations I made my way around the booths looking for our local food purveyors and was pleasantly surprised by the high caliber of products.

Beer, wine and spirits tasting had begun in earnest in a roped off area that accommodated a large crowd of tasters tippling cheek-to-jowl.  In between food demonstrations I made my way around the booths looking for our local food purveyors and was pleasantly surprised by the high caliber of products.

Brett Chappell of Calypso Organic Selections
Brett Chappell of Calypso Organic Selections

It was heartening to see how many companies were sourcing local and organic ingredients for their products.

Here are a few local standouts….

I met the Lynch family, from the Piedmont region of Virginia.  Proprietors of Montebello Kitchens, who produce small-batch sauces, locally stone-ground milled grains, spices and rubs, marinades and soups featuring all-natural and organic ingredients.

Husband, Steve, the chef of the family, has auditioned for Food Network here in Rosslyn.  Rebecca, Steve’s wife told me, “We’re waiting to hear what show it’s for.  We have no idea.  We’ll find out in January.”

She told me there were other auditioners some dressed as flamingos, some in drag and some with their agents in tow.  Sounds like an interesting mix.  While they are waiting for their big break they still enjoy doing the food shows, farmers’ markets and live demonstrations for local Whole Foods, who carry their products.

Winner of multiple national awards, the charismatic Brennan Proctor, Uncle Brutha’s founder and creator of its hot sauces, was in command with a spectacular array of his many trophies and over 30 highly coveted food industry awards.  His Fire Sauces No. 9 and No. 10, won for “Best Red” and “Best Green” respectively at the recent 2008 Cajun Hot Sauce Festival in New Iberia, LA, home of Tabasco.

Proctor, a successful musician on the LA music scene played for Alanis Morisette, Brittany Spears, Janet Jackson and other notables before launching his line of hot sauces.  “Once they had tried it, everyone kept asking me for it, but I never gave out my recipes,” Proctor said. “I knew I was on to something and so I came back East to start my business with my family’s help.”

Mary Schellhammer and husband of Spice Rack Chocolates
Mary Schellhammer and husband of Spice
Rack Chocolates

Proctor featured a hot sauce bottle, whose Obama-labeled bottle, designed by his nephew, will be a collector’s item if Proctor gets his fiery products onto The White House kitchen shelves.

Mary Schellhammer of Spice Rack Chocolates in Fredericksburg, whose hand-molded and exquisitely hand-painted chocolates come in 14 different flavor combinations, presided over her unique patented process sweets.  These artisanal confections are a chocolate connoisseur’s dream with a pure and layered taste that unfolds on three levels on the palate.

Vegan and vegetarian with no milk used, they are all solid dark chocolate.  Infusions of herbs, fruits, spices and oils give them the purest of chocolate tastes with a meltingly soft mouth feel.  They are this year’s winner of the VA Department of Agriculture’s “Best New Food Product in the State of Virginia”.

No serious food show is complete without its wines and spirits and this show did not disappoint.

Brett Chappell of Calypso Organic Selections spoke to me about the future of his company and organic wines.  “We’re using the Washington, DC Metro area as a test market because Washington has the largest per capita consumption of wine in the US,” he noted.

The Fairfax-based company founded by Beth Ann Roth, formerly of The Calvert Group, distributes only organic wines in our Metro area.  “As one of the greenest cities in the US we have a lot of organic-aware consumers and we are noticing the same trending around the US.  The future of organic wines is very strong,” he added.

Brennan Proctor of Uncle Brutha's Hot Sauces
Brennan Proctor of Uncle Brutha’s Hot Sauces

For those who gauge the success of a wine by drinking it, the show provided a cordoned off area to sample over 130 wines from a dozen different countries.  Beer drinkers were accommodated too with a selection of over 45 beers.

Jim Barker, president of the Washington Wine Academy, based in Alexandria, whose organization hosts monthly wine events with prominent speakers and gives wine certification classes, conducted the tastings.  This was a very popular venue with the well-dressed trendsetters.

When asked about Virginia wines Barker trumpeted, “The Washington Wine Academy has a soft spot for the Virginia wine industry and looks forward to doing what it can to promote it.”  To that end, there were some very nice examples of Virginia’s finest.

A sleek and savvy publication new to the wine world is “Virginia Wine Lover.”  In celebration of the magazine’s launch and its winter issue, they were giving away complimentary annual subscriptions to all show attendees.  George Carter, circulation manager told me, “Virginia is now fifth in the nation in wine production and we have over 140 wineries in the Commonwealth.” That is testament to the efforts of so many inspired vintners and the delight of so many of wine devotees.

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