Saw Giada De Laurentis make lamb bruscetta on the big stage. She was a tiny little thing, but very warm and gracious and invited audience members on stage to cook with her. While they did most of the cooking, she answered audience questions. The best part was when a 4 year old girl asked her what she liked to cook with her daughter and then asked for a hug, which she got.
We saw DC legend Michel Richard prepare an orange juice soaked sponge cake. He was HILARIOUS. Watching him cook made me want to go to Citronelle even more. Someone needs to give this man a show on tv. The cake was great and definitely something a home cook could prepare easily. I also really liked that they had high school and college kids from local culinary programs passing out the samples - good experience for them!
After that we went to the National Beef Cook-off stage where we saw Mary Beth Albright, a food writer and finalist (and my personal favorite) for the last season of the Next Food Network Star. She was preparing a recipe from the cook-off's winners' cookbook, which everyone in the audience received. Mary Beth was exactly as she is on tv, funny and friendly, and I was happy to see her in person.
We then went right over to the cook-off's booth, where they had prepared samples, big ones!, of all the winning beef recipes.
I actually went through the line twice so I could taste different recipes. I tried the big winner, which was Asian flavored skirt steak, a fiesta beef and rice, modern strogonoff and a grilled enchilada. The Asian steak was the best by far, so it was easy to see why it won the cook-off.
We then went to the wine tasting area, where my dad discovered a new favorite that apparently retails for just $5.50. I wasn't really impressed with the rest though.
We then spent the rest of the time wandering the vendors and sampling their wares. There were literally hundred of booths with oils, vinegars, cookies, cheeses, soup, bbq sauces, hot sauces, you name it, it was there. I keep trying to find someone that has balsamic vinegar that is on par with the one we got in Connecticut over the summer, but nothing measured up. The best thing I tried all day were a series of sauces/dip from Maison Le Grand. The four nut pesto was amazing. Can't wait to try it on pasta. We also got an excellent cupcake tasting from Cakes by Happy Eatery.
On our way out, we stuck our head in the Paula Deen presentation. I got to hear the accent in person! I love Paula, but I didn't need to watch her from the back of a crowded audience and we were tired from walking around all day.
It was a really fun day and the company does a really great job of organizing the event and making sure everyone is happy. I'd definitely recommend going next year!