The drive from Roanoke to Richmond turned out to be a little longer than we expected and I think it's safe to say that we spend more time in the car than actually in Richmond, but I suppose that's the price of being a true foodie. David (who actually had to drive while I worked from the front seat) may disagree, but I think it was well worth it.
Presented by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the 2012 Food and Beverage Expo featured hundreds of exhibitors showcasing culinary creations made in Virginia specificially for retailers. Many of these products already staples on the shelves of grocery stores, but many more were up-and-coming or so specialized that they are not offered in stores where we typically shop.
Although the expo was packed with exhibitors and buyers, we were fortunate to be able to talk with many different vendors and, of course, stuff ourselves silly with samples. There is nothing I love more than sampling new food, so this was quite possibly heaven-on-earth for me. All of the vendors had unique offerings in dozens of different categories, but a few really stood out to me for various reasons - especially an insanely unique (or tasty!) product or great customer service at their booth.
Although this particular expo was aimed at resalers, many of these companies are happy to make individual sales. Look for some of our favorite vendors in your local stores, or check out their websites and send a little business their way.
*Disclaimer: These are in no particular order, and are simply my own opinions. The pictures, however, are not all mine. My fat fingers were too busy snagging samples to take as many pictures as I should have. If a picture belongs to you, please let me know and I will credit you or remove it.
Without further ado, here is a roundup of some of our favorite vendors from the show. More are coming, but here are two to whet your appetite...
3 words: Sweet Potato Biscuits. Never heard of them? I hadn't either, but these guys rocked my world. It was also a pleasant surprise to meet Jane herself (and her loyal hubby) as they manned their own booth, sharing (extremely) generous samples of tender, delicious biscuits in the original sweet potato and new cheese varieties. She even sent us home with little bags of them! Jane puts Pilsbury, and even Cracker Barrell, biscuits to shame, and the story of her humble baking beginnings will melt your heart. She will ship her nuggets of deliciousness anywhere in the U.S. and, at $9.99 for a dozen, you really can't afford not to try your first sweet potato biscuit. It won't be your last. And if it is, I'll eat whatever you don't :)
If you know me, you know I love popcorn. As in, I eat it pretty much every day (and am currently staring at kernals and trying to decide if I want to pop some to munch while I write). So, I am all for other popcorn affectionados...nd Jody's husband proposed to her with a ring in a Cracker Jack box, so her popcorn passion is clearly legit. Jody's popcorn is a long ways from Cracker Jack, though, and her booth featured my favorite vegetable (actually, popcorn is a grass. I digress) in a wide variety of colors and flavors. I tasted cheddar at the convention and we each came home with small bags of caramel corn, but she has a giant arsenal of flavors and colors, so you can support your favorite team while you snack. Or really impress your friends at a tailgate. If you are overwhelmed by all the choices, they offer tasting packs, and if (gasp!) you don't love popcorn, they also sell fudge and other goodies.
And yes, I made (incredibly ungourmet) popcorn to eat while I type.