Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Howard LIVE! Report

If you didn't get to the Howard LIVE! show this past weekend at the Turf Valley Resort, here's a bit of what you missed. More than 150 exhibitors covered a wide waterfront of luxury home goods and services, gourmet foods and alcoholic beverages. I was there more for the food than the home decor ideas, so I'll start there.

When you registered for $20 you received a wad of food and drink coupons. Local restaurants oZ Chophouse, Elkridge Furnace Inn and Alexandra's of Turf Valley each offered hors d'ouvre-sized samples, one coupon each. Alexandra's had the home court advantage, with two stations and offerings of lamb chops, crab cakes, and a duck appetizer topping the list. The lines for each of the four food stations moved briskly, for the most part, but it would have been nice to have more stations and variety at the show.

The drink coupons were good for a taste of more than 40 wines, a dozen or so beers, vodkas and liquers. I'm not sure how many coupons they gave me, but it was more than enough. The wines were from all over the world, most sold locally through retailers such as Glenwood Wine and Spirits, The Wine Seller, and Decanter Fine Wines. The standout for me was a Spanish Rioja, Rentas de Fincas Reserva. Toward the end of my visit I was one of many folks pounding down samples to make full use of my coupons...not the best way to encourage discriminating analysis, which maybe was the point.

There were also 20 or more snack and gourmet food providers. One highlight for me was discovering FireFly Farms, an award-winning Maryland producer of artisan goat cheese. They were introducing three new varieties -- Black & Blue, Cabra LaMancha and Bella Vita (none yet available on their very nice web site, but coming soon) that were each quite wonderful. Another winner popular with a number of folks were parmesan crisps from Kitchen Table Bakers, sold locally at Casual Gourmet. Barbeque sauces and rubs from Baltimore-based Picky Vicki were also a hit.

While the food displays that gave away samples tended to generate the most traffic, the bulk of the exhibitors offered home improvement, decor and luxury items. Quite a few were playing up their environmentally friendly or energy saving features, and there are several I'll follow up with in coming weeks. This winter's heating bills, despite my solar investments, have me thinking of additional window insulation and energy monitoring options.

In sum, Howard LIVE! proved to be an informative and calorie-intensive way to spend a few weekend hours. I have a few new things for the shopping list and some home improvement items to think about. If the show rolls around again next year, I'll probably attend, especially if I see any advertising or promotion of the event.

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