Time for St. Patrick’s Day and for the International Home + Housewares Show!

It was a beautiful Saturday morning on the bank of the Chicago River, freshly dyed green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. I’d waited for warm weather for so long, and now, at last, spring was in town to stay – or so I hoped for, anyway. I left my heavy winter coat at home and drove downtown to take pictures of the river and to enjoy its beauty in the sunshine.ย 

I also went downtown because I wanted to visit the 2014 International Home + Housewares Show at the McCormick Place. Hamilton Beach invited myself and other fellow Chicago food bloggers to attend, and I happily accepted their invitation. Going out to enjoy the warm spring weather and getting the chance to see the latest consumer product innovationsย  sounded like a great way to spend my Saturday.

This year’s International Home + Housewares Show brought together over 2,000 manufacturers and interested buyers from all around the world, who came to the Windy City to check out the latest and brightest products and trends for the home. The products exhibited fell into four categories, which covered a wide range of items, from kitchen appliances to flatware, and from gourmet foods to cleaning and organization.

Naturally, the panini grills and presses were among the first kitchen items I checked out. I noticed many models which had removable and dishwasher-safe grill plates for easy cleaning, in line with consumers’ growing demand in this area. As a heavy panini grill user, I can definitely see the benefit of this option, which would make my life easier in the kitchen.

Slow cookers were a “hot” kitchen gadget area, judging from the significant number of products on display. I really liked this “wrap & serve” slow cooker, which gives you the option to customize the exterior of the slow cooker by adding patterns to suit the color palette of your kitchen, the season, a particular event, or even your mood.

I am a daily travel mug user – as a matter of fact, my travel mug has never left my side this past harsh winter, when in the morning in my car I just could not “function” properly unless I had the reassuring warmth of a hot cocoa by my side. As a travel mug aficionada, I was happy to find out more about the latest innovations in this field from the manufacturers present at the show. A travel mug that’s 100% guaranteed spill-free and has a lid that’s super-easy to clean – what commuter doesn’t want these? Luckily, manufacturers have come up with new solutions to address these very specific consumer needs:

In the cleaning section of the show, I was pleased to see a good variety of all-natural, free from dyes and biodegradable products. I have given this a lot of thinking lately, especially since I became aware of the “green” household cleaning alternatives currently on the market. Overall I like the clean design and feel of these heavily used items, and the fact that they are environmentally friendly definitely adds to their appeal.

I spent a good part of my day at the show talking to various local producers. It was wonderful to meet many family businesses and to see the passion for their products and the infectious enthusiasm with which they talked about them. This was a great chance for me expand my knowledge of food and drinks, and I was grateful for the opportunity, and humbled by the experience.

Many of the people I spoke to had traveled quite a bit to be at the show. This company rep had come all the way from New Zealand!

The Cooking Theater brought together big names from the culinary scene, from celebrated, Michelin-starred Chicagoan legends to Food Network stars. I wish I could have spent more time watching the chefs doing their cooking demonstrations, since they were awesome! Here’s Chef Ming Tsai showing the audience how to cook the perfect steak:

Many celebrity chefs were present at the show via their cookbooks and dinnerware collections, which were presented to the public in carefully orchestrated displays. I really enjoyed the cookware and dinnerware section of the show, which gave me the chance to familiarize myself with the latest trends and with some of the most beautiful designs out there.

I am a big Rachael Ray fan, and as such I was very excited to check out her latest dinnerware range. I liked its charmingly rustic look and thought the color scheme was an excellent choice:

Watching the cooking demonstrations had made me hungry, so I stopped and decided to sample the wide variety of food available. I have a very sweet tooth, so the sweet baked Italian goods were spot on:

I also enjoyed sampling the popcorn. There were so many varieties to choose from, and they were all delicious.

I had a great time at the International Home + Housewares Show and can’t wait for next year’s edition, when I hope to be able to spend more time watching the chefs’ demonstrations in the Cooking Theater. I learned a lot from the people I spoke to at the show, and I think I gained a better understanding of ongoing consumer needs and trends, from local to global. Now that I know what to expect from a show of this caliber, I hope to be able to do a better job covering it in 2015.

*Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated by any of the companies mentioned or shown in this post. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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