Recently I attended the 92ND Annual National Restaurant Association show at McCormick Place, Chicago. Oh what a fun time it was, sensory overload in the best kind of way! Celebrity chefs cooking up close and personal, chit chatting with the audience while the room filled with the smells of their signature dishes. The day I arrived at the culinary showcase arena, Chef Kevin Sbraga, winner of Top Chef DC Season 7, was demonstrating how he smokes olive oil, a trend that’s really taking off, (more about that later) and right after that, Chef Rick Tramonto, a well known Chicago chef and cookbook author, started cooking up some good old fashioned Italian comfort food.

Rick Bayless, Marcus Samuelsson, Wylie Dufrense, Gayle Gand and many others were a part of this years show.
The visuals were a food lovers dream, sort of like Disneyworld for foodies! Walls and walls of the latest gadgets, top quality knives of every kind, beautiful platters and plates in all different colors, shapes and designs.
Food companies from all over represented their very best, I was surprised to see how many Italian products were featured, breads, olives, oils, vinegars, pastas, gelato, coffee, espresso, desserts, cheese everywhere you turned, meats, believe me I could go on and on!
Did I tell you there were samples everywhere! Smiling faces ready to pitch their products, and eager for you to taste. I told you it was fun!
High end pastas in wonderful shapes coming straight from Italy.
Entrepreneurs of all sorts looking for distributors.
Dietz and Watson always had a huge crowd around them as the fumes of their gourmet chicken sausages filled the air!
Innovative technology was the focus on equipment to run any type of restaurant or food service business.
I want one of these on my kitchen counter!

And this pizza oven in my back yard!

Vendor after vendor representing all the top brands in cookware, bakeware and specialty pots and pans. Waffle and crepe makers filling the air with sweet smells! Panini grills, meatball machines, honestly I haven’t even scratched the surface!

Are you ready for some dessert now? How about some Chicago based Eli’s Cheesecake.

A little chocolate never hurt anyone!

Or maybe you prefer gelato?
I had a great time navigating all the isles and looking at all the beautiful displays of food. Thank goodness I wore comfortable shoes! I came home with lots of goodies too.

I have to give a shout out to two of my favorite products, Flamous Falafel Chips, they come in original and spicy, all I can say is… FIND THEM!
So addictingly good!

My ultimate favorite food product of the show was this smoked olive oil from a company called, The Smoked Olive. A Napa Valley couple created this award winning olive oil using their own innovative process to infuse extra virgin olive oil with wood smoked flavor without exposing it to light or heat. There business has taken off in a direction they never could have imagined, they knew they were on to something good when celebrity chefs starting endorsing them and international companies started calling.
When I tasted the samples, I immediately fell in love with the flavor, it’s so unique, imagine using it with scallops or any type of seafood for that matter, it enhances meats and all sorts of veggies, a little pricey but worth every luxurious drop! There are 3 different versions
do check them out when you get a chance.

The NRA show unfortunately is not open to the public.

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  1. Wow~now that looked like alot of fun to go to. Thanks for sharing. Bet you came home with alot of ideas for cooking.

  2. Marie, this show looks fantastic! How does one get to go?

    Thanks for posting all the great photos – what fun!

  3. Now that really is like Disneyland for foodies! Looks like it must have been a blast.

  4. Looks like it was very interesting and fun… I would like to have some of the equipment too.
    Love, Lorraine

  5. P.S. Who gave you the “Italian American” blog award?

  6. WOW, super jealous! Love the pastas! BTW, the chocolate ricotta tart was fab, everyone loved it,


  7. That looks like a fantastic experience Marie – sort of like the NYC Fancy Food Show but with kitchenware and equipment too. I can only imagine all the goodies you brought home. I have my doubts about smoked olive oil, but if you give it a thumbs up, it must be good.

  8. awesome post.

  9. At first I thought you were at the NRA…..National Rifle Association’s gun show! I will take all the Staub casseroles please with the ammunition to match!

    Looks like a great fair with drool worthy items.

  10. First “date” with Mrs. Meatball was at this show. Long time ago.

  11. That looked like one heck of a show! I would have been in heaven! Thanks for the recap!

  12. I’m with Stacey. I first read NRA as the National Rifle Association – and I don’t even own a gun! 😀 Shows what an unsophisticated shmoe I am.

    Looks like a blast and it would be hard to be there and not want to eat or have in your kitchen everything you see there!

  13. Wow, does that look like fun! Is the show in Chicago every year? I would love to plan a trip when its being held. My daughter and I would love it.

  14. I was so disappointed it was not open to the public! Doubly so as I look at the wonders – and those pastas are grand.

  15. WOW!!!! Where do I begin?? I would ahve been in heaven attending this show–you were so lucky to be invited, Marie.

    The fresh pastas really caught my eye and those chicken sausages…mmmm. I also LOVE regular falafel, so I will definitely be looking for those chips.

    Smoked flavored olive oil? It sounds fantastic!

  16. Hi – great blog thanks plus it looks like you had plenty of fun – how could you not have fun with the images you have posted.
    I just finished adding an article to my blog this morning on pizza with a little history and it was interesting when researching to note Chicago as the pizza’s entry to the American market – still popular today too.

  17. Marie! How fun for you! Great review, it made it all jealous.
    I’m definitely on the lookout for that smoked olive oil – and look forward to seeing what amazing dishes you cook up with it!

  18. Morning Marie…

    Wow, now this looks like a show I would like to take in. The food displays were amazing, I bet the samples were pretty good too! 😉

    Great post!!!

  19. I was full from this virtual tour! What a fantastic opportunity for you. I will be on the lookout for that smoked oil. xo,

  20. I used to go to the NRA show every year when I lived in Chicago. I always left feeling stuffed!

  21. Wow, a sensory overload, indeed, Marie. My mouth is watering over all those beautiful pastas! It must have been so much fun.

  22. Oh my – that’s one show that would take me days to get around. Looks like lots of fun.