Photo credit: Our Valley Cooks
What a wonderful experience I had at the Our Valley Cooks Food Expo 2011.The expo benefited Meridian Community Care for their many wonderful programs in the Youngstown, OH area. Being on the volunteer side of the expo gave me an experience very different from my husband. Phil had a great time walking around from vendor to vendor, taste testing all the samples of food offered by the well over 35 food vendors. Meanwhile I was in the background doing some volunteer work. I really had no idea what my function would be at the expo until a few days before I went. I was scheduled to help with a lunch for volunteers and with a pizza cook-off. I’ll write more about the cook-off later in the week, but I will say that my good friend who helped me get connected to the expo and Meridian happily pushed me to center stage to do my part. I’ll forgive her because to be perfectly honest, I loved every minute of it! I’d rather stand and talk or cook in front of 250 people than drive 10 minutes down the road in the middle of a snowstorm. Many people are the complete opposite.
After my volunteering time was finished I was able to go watch some food demos and then visit the vendors. By this time, the show was winding down and the crowds were very small. I was able to talk one-on-one with a few vendors like I had planned to do.
The food demo put on by Mark Canzonetta, executive chef from the Culinary Arts Center was right up my alley because he showed the audience how to make homemade pasta. I learned a few tricks to help me and am excited to try them soon. I was having trouble getting my eggs to stay in the flour mound even with the well I put in the middle. I guess the key is to go all the way down to the surface when clearing the “well”. Mark used some olive oil in his recipe and when his demo was over, he gave it away. I was the recipient because I happened to ask him a question. It was about the eggs and whether or not one should use room temp eggs or cold eggs. I knew the answer but felt some in the audience could benefit from this information that he forgot to mention in his demo. Is that bad? Lol…anyway in the end I got the olive oil. When I went to the vendor booths I found the seller of this olive oil.
Photo credit: The Olive Tap
It’s called The Olive Tap. There I met John Petrocelly who owns and operates the local franchise of The Olive Tap. The Olive Tap is a unique store in that customers can go in, sample the many olive oils and balsamic vinegar before buying. Then when you find what you like, you bottle it right there in the various size bottles they offer. John was wonderful at the show. He was personable and he was knowledgeable about his products. He took time to get to know Phil and I while he gave us samples of balsamic vinegar and olive oils. I felt like I was doing oil and vinegar shots! It was a new and different experience but one I would do again. Funny thing is that John’s store is located about 15 minutes from my house whereas the food expo was 1 hour and 15 minutes from my house. It really is a small world after all. I can’t wait to pay a visit to his store and get more oil. I like the idea of getting fresh oil, at least it’s fresher than what I get at the local grocery store, bottled who knows when.
Getting back to the Culinary Arts Center, it is owned by the parent company that also owns Gia Russa who I mentioned in my previous blog entry. Gia Russa built a state-of-the-art facility in Boardman, Ohio when they constructed the Culinary Arts Center. I would love to take some classes there but the location is far from me and I just don’t have time in my busy, crazy schedule at the moment to fit them in. Maybe in the fall I can take a class. Mark was great during his food demo of pasta making. His recipe for Bolognese sauce is almost identical to the one I made last year for the first time. I told Mark that I felt better about my own cooking because my food tasted like his and he is a professional chef.
I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with a whole lot about the show all at once so I plan to write more this week about the expo.
Tomorrow I will let you know all about Aarti Sequeira from the Food Network and more about Meridian Community Care and the director Larry Moliterno. I did get to meet Christine Benton who owns and runs Just Pizzelles. She is very inspirational to me and I hope to get to know her more.
Here’s a sneak peek at Aarti on stage.
Stay tuned for additional product and vendor reviews in the coming days.