The fourth day of the Home & Garden Show dawned with appalling promptness. I’d woken twice in the night thinking of things done and not done, that maybe caused problems for others or potentially myself. I was sure I’d left four packages of frozen strawberries out by accident, so I stopped at the store yet again to replace them on my way to the Show. After five miles, I realized with horror that I’d forgotten to buy a cup of coffee. The Dunn Bros. in the convention center is, I believe, as far from the Kitchen Stage as it is possible to get, and there is never time. I sucked it up.
Our first guest on the stage was Chef Todd. He arrived early with a group of at least six assistants and Miss Chiquita, who wore a blue dress with ruffly skirt and a fruit basket hat. She was the spitting image of the banana icon. I gave the friendly chef a quick kitchen orientation, offered whatever help he needed and got out of the way. Not all the assistants had immediate jobs to do, so one offered to get coffee for us. I raised my hand, not believing my luck. With too many bodies onstage, I set about prepping the ingredients for the next few demos, and figure out the brand new Kitchen Aid food processor loaned to us by Macy’s that I had just washed. It was super fancy.Chef Todd happened to come offstage as I was puzzling over how to lock the bowl on the base and the lid on the bowl. He offered to look at it and had it together in seconds. Unfortunately, when his demo started, everything was ready but the microphone, so Chef Todd muscled it through without electronic assistance for about twenty stress-filled minutes until Aaron arrived and set everything right. Chef Todd made a seared pork shoulder on greens that was delicious. I had to return backstage, so I missed whatever he made that involved a thick chocolate sauce and bananas, but the remnants looked decadent.
Before Chef Todd was done, Pat Evans from KARE 11 arrived and was as nice as can be. We chatted a bit until it was time for me to rush as many of the dirty pans through the sudsy water as possible and shunt the rest offstage until the next cleaning opportunity. Diana Pierce arrived to join Pat for their demonstration of Baked Brie with Apricot Jam and Almonds, and Hummus (two different food demos, they were not served together.) The audience was delighted, as they usually are with our local TV celebrities and I got my few minutes onstage, helping locate extraneous items and releasing the lid on the food processor, which closed really tightly.
Chef Joan Ida returned for the next demo with a new assistant, representing the restaurant Scusi this time. I was sent away for a break at this time, with Bruce and Dan taking over for the next three presentations: Joan, Marjorie Johnson (author of Blue Ribbon Baking) and Todd Walker, with Chef Jordan. I got to wander the show with Mr. Wordtabulous for a few hours. I could barely stand to be away, although the gardens and the Idea House were beautiful and there was a dizzying array of things being promoted, demonstrated and sold all around. When my feet started to ache, we made our way back to the stage, where Marjorie Johnson was presenting her Ginger Snap cookies. Marjorie is famous for her baking, but beloved for her personality. At ninety years old and no taller than five feet, she entertains her audience with a running commentary as she dazzles in her red skirt suit and shiny red pumps. Maggie said she had trouble keeping up with Marjorie as they were having a look around the show prior to her appearance.
Todd Walker, with Fox 9 news, claimed he wasn’t a cook but did some humorous color commentary and assisted Chef Jordan Hamilton from Heidi’s. Chef Hamilton demonstrated a homemade Bison Jerky and made Kale & Adzuki beans and Toasted Millet Cakes. I missed the samples because by then, I was getting reoriented backstage. The thing about being four days into the event was that my memory was getting blurry and I was finding myself searching every cupboard for the item I needed and constantly having to refer to my notes to remember who was on next. It is kind of like my computer running on a full hard drive. I needed to defrag, but there was no opportunity.
Chef Todd was back up for round two and I did have a little time to consolidate and organize, and while he was on I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Sarah Master from the restaurant Porter & Frye at Hotel Ivy. She was a little apprehensive about her first time doing a Kitchen Stage demo and seemed to appreciate my offer to mike up and assist her. Once we got Chef Todd’s stage cleared, (he took a moment to admire Sarah’s cowhide kitchen clogs) we and one other person from the restaurant (possibly the restaurant manager? I didn’t get her details) presented her Fried Oysters with oven roasted Asparagus, Hollandaise and Prosciutto. Sarah got her friend busy whisking the egg yolks over a steaming pot of clarified butter while she demonstrated how to shuck an oyster, and the finer points of breading an oyster (shake off excess flour so it doesn’t get gummy, add a dusting of corn meal before frying, preferably in an electric fryer.) When her friend’s arm grew numb, I took over. As Sarah pointed out, restaurant cooking isn’t for wimps. Our samples with oysters were snapped up and then we served asparagus with sauce and prosciutto until that was gone. I asked Sarah to tell us about her non-cooking activities, and she told us that she plays goalie for a Turkish women’s hockey team, travelling globally for six weeks a year. Stunning.
The Porter & Frye hour was followed by Eileen McHale, who has partnered with Dole to demonstrate her Yonanas machine, which processes frozen fruit and other ingredients to a soft-serve consistency, making a sweet delicious and healthy treat. So healthy, it was recommended last year as one of Dr. Oz’s top gifts. The audience was voracious, and even though Eileen had six machines going, one after the other to produce different varieties of desserts, I could barely get the samples out fast enough. Happily, Eileen had a group of friends helping so clean up went fast, and we were ready in no time for the next presentation.
Stephanie March from Mpls St.Paul Magazine arrived first, and soon Stephanie Hansen from my Talk 107 appeared. I was delighted to be able to find just about everything they needed, except we found that all our large bowls were being used to store food for Sunday in the refrigerator. (Note to self: next year use large ziploc bags for storage! Save room, and keep bowls available!) I enjoyed their presentation of Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto and Chicken (am I the only one who didn’t know Gnocchi were made with potatoes?) These women are so smart and confident and had the kind of camaraderie onstage that was more about long friendship than show biz. They offered lots of insights into their philosophy of eating, cooking and feeding kids, as well as the recipe that was a fantastically rustic comfort food.
Next, Eileen from Dole reprised her Yonanas performance and, possibly because I knew it was the last demo of the day, or possibly because my feet were enraged that they had been stood upon all day long, I really started to drag. After several rounds through the audience with trays, I grabbed the next trays of samples, turned and looked at the audience and said, “I have one tray of Peanut Butter Cup, and one tray of Tiramisu (non-alcoholic.) Is there any way I could persuade you folks to come up here for a sample?” “Well, there’s an idea!” Eileen encouraged us, and I will give the audience credit, the walk up to the stage didn’t discourage them in the slightest. They loved the samples and most of them seemed surprised to hear that the Yonanas machine was only $49.99, and available at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond, and disappointed to hear that it wasn’t for sale at the show. So I think Eileen will do pretty well.
The last two demonstrations of the day were cancelled, to the disappointment of the audience, and final clean up took awhile, but felt pretty good because I did it in my sock feet. It had been a twelve and a half hour day, but I didn’t rush because I had been told that two of my colleagues were taking over the Stage Sunday, and I was getting the day off. It was a bittersweet moment. I had told quite a few people, including all of you, that I’d be there all week and I am such a child that I hate missing anything, but I was also so pooped I was afraid I might doze off at a stoplight on the way home. The idea of fully relaxing was delightful, while the thought of relinquishing my responsibility troubled me. That is always a good sign that for me, it is time to let go. I left the Kitchen Stage in the good hands of Maggie and Amanda, and departed with thrilling memories and the hope that maybe next year, with my list of “Things We Have Learned” I might get another chance to do it again. Recipes and pictures will be online soon, and I will be providing links. Thanks for reading!
Related Posts: And the Food Rolls On: Home & Garden Show Day 3
Related Posts: Home & Garden Show Day 2