The Good Food Festival and the International Home+Housewares Show recap: from blenditarians to social robots… and back!

Metropolitan Farms reps at The Good Food Festival: loud and proud about the urban agriculture movement!

It’s not often that I get the chance to attend two food-related shows in one day, but when it happens – oh, what a joy! Such was the occasion recently, when The Good Food Festival ended the same day the International Home+Housewares Show began, and attending both was an opportunity I simply couldn’t miss. What do these expos have in common? My answer: a desire for innovation complemented by an awareness of the need for sustainable growth, as well as a respect for customers and the environment. Fortunately, sustainability is here to stay ๐Ÿ™‚

Held at the UIC Forum every year, the Good Food Festival & Conference brings together leaders in local, sustainable food – from farmers to chefs, entrepreneurs to policy makers. This year, the Festival welcomed more than 7,500 visitors, a 54% increase from the previous year. Foodies and non-foodies alike got the chance to attend micro workshops and celebrity chef demos and to take home products from more than 150 local farmers, artisanal food producers and retailers.

As a food blogger, I was definitely interested in the latest sustainable food trends. It was my lucky day because the staff from the Knife & Tine restaurant headed by executive chef Paul Caravelli were present at the Festival to promote one of the hottest movements in the country: the blenditarian movement.

Making burgers and meatballs with a blend of mushrooms and ground meat is not only healthy for you and budget-friendly, but can also make a difference to the environment. According to the Blenditarian website, one million pounds of mushrooms “can grow in the space of just an acre, require minimal water and are ready to harvest in just a matter of days, making them one of the most earth-friendly and renewable crops available.”

My family and I couldn’t get enough of the blenditarian meatballs. What a small recipe change, what a big step in the right direction, both flavor- and sustainability-wise!

It was also great to meet the I Heart Keenwah reps again, who were there to promote their two new toasted quinoa hot cereal varieties. Mom and I loved the wholesome taste and creamy texture of the toasted quinoa:

A special mention should go to the delicious preserves sampled at the Joe’s Blues Blueberries stand. The low sugar blueberry preserve, made with honey, was my favorite by far: perfect to fill crรชpes or to top up pancakes, it was so good!

As expected, the urban agriculture movement was well represented at Festival, and The Urban Canopy is just one of the organizations I got the chance to interact with. Founded in 2011, the mission of The Urban Canopy is to grow food locally and sustainably, and its projects include an indoor growing space, a two-acre farm in Englewood, and overall support to adjacent community and school gardens.

Energized by the networking I had done at the Good Food Festival, I left the UIC Forum and spent the other half of my day at the International Home + Housewares Show at McCormick Place. This year’s Show featured more than 2,200 exhibitors, welcomed over 62,000 attendees from 125 countries, and emphasized the future ofย smart and connected products. According to housewares trend experts, connectivity is now being incorporated into nearly every corner of the home. From light bulbs to coffee brewers, from thermostats to ovens – connected products, once only a dream, are fast becoming a reality. Moreover, smart products are making a big impact: from vacuuming robots to trash cans, intelligent sensors are changing the way we live in, and interact with, our homes.

Tellingly, one of the Show’s main attractions was Millennia, the robot,ย whichย displayed a wide range of social skills and excelled at interacting with the audience. Is this the future of housewares? Is this the “kitchen helper” of the future? Hmmm, that’s some serious food for thought:

As a Hamilton Beach Ambassador, I am very familiar with the brand and couldnโ€™t wait to check out their latest product offerings. This year Hamilton Beach will launch a programmable 12 cup coffee maker with 3ย brew strength options and an integrated scale which counts the number of scoops to ensure great drinks at the perfect strength…

… and a hand mixer designed to minimize arm and wrist stress. As the proud owner of two Hamilton Beach hand mixers, I was looking forward to trying out the new ergonomic product on display at the Show and to compare it with what I had at home. I’m pleased to report the new hand mixer delivers big on comfort and control while also performing its function well. Using this mixer is easy and so much fun!

In terms of color trends, housewares experts believe we are going through a period characterized by significant breaks from tradition (partly due to the Millennial generation), the end result being a deliberate mix of different prints, patterns and colors. Strong colors such as bold shades of pink (leaningย toward magenta or fuchsia), red, orange and yellow are very trendy at the moment, along with combinations of yellow & black and blue & orange, respectively.

Strong colors were, indeed, everywhere you looked at this year’s Housewares Show. KitchenAid, FlatBox and Melitta were just a few of the brands whose products epitomized this trend:

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As usual, the Housewares Show was peppered with many celebrity chef appearances. Here’s a pic I took of Chef Jeff Mauro doing a cooking demonstration at the Spectrum Brands booth:

I learned a lot at this year’s edition of the Good Food Festival and the International Home+Housewares Show, and I’m anxious already to discover new trends, innovative concepts and great storiesย  in 2018. This time next year we’ll know for sure whether the blenditarian movement has been successful – and also by then we’ll hopefully know more about the place of social robots in our kitchens. ๐Ÿ™‚ Who knows what the future has in store? I for sure cannot wait to find out!

*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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