|Big banner at the entrance|
Although I am not a vendor, retailer or member of the HPBA I was able to attend the Expo as a member of the press due to this blog and my social media presence, and I was so excited. You know how sometimes in sports you hear coaches tell players to not act a certain way, but rather "act like you have been here before"? Yeah..... that was NOT me!! I could hardly sleep the night before attending and I noticed I became more and more anxious and giddy with each passing stop light as I edged closer and closer to downtown Nashville. Anxious because I was not 100% sure they would actually let me in the door. I was convinced, that although I was approved for press credentials, someone, at the last minute, that had read my blog, would see me and laugh at the thought of me be considered "press" and denying my entry. I had a plan and a disguise though. I wore two shirts, and a fake goatee, and if I was stopped at the door I was going to exclaim "Look! Oh my God is that Alan Jackson?" and dart through the door as the guard looked for the famous country singer. I would stay low and blend in with the crowd until I could get to the bathroom and remove my outer shirt, and take off the fake goatee. Making me unrecognizable to the posse that was sure to be searching for me. I know to some of y'all this may seem a bit extreme, but I had traveled too far and would not be denied! Alas, it did not come to this as I was scanned in without incident, although I imagine a trained TSA agent would have spotted my darting eyes, excessive nervousness and sweating....man those two shirts and that fake goatee were hot!
|Just prior to going in!|
As I walked into the exhibition hall I was immediately in awe, this room had to be bigger than a football field, and it was packed to the gills with exhibitor booths containing shiny displays, flashing lights, playing music and staffed with folks ready to chat with you about their products.
I had to take a moment to catch my breath and collect my thoughts as my head was swimming trying to process all I saw. I had a plan, I was going to go to one corner and calmly and methodically go up and down each aisle until I got to the other side of the building. I started out this way but quickly found myself looking ahead, and zig zagging, and booth hopping like I was General MacArthur island hoping my way across the pacific. Thinking to myself I want that, and that, and that! Again I had to collect myself, I had to remind myself, that I was not there only for me, but to cover the Expo for y'all, so I started over and worked very hard at maintaining good aisle discipline, and spent the day looking and products and talking to exhibitors.
It would be impossible to report everything that I saw, so rather than even trying that I will instead give you the highlights, as I saw them, in a category format, much like yearbook superlatives. Note, I did not take as many pictures as I should have, rookie mistake, and I will supplement with manufacturer pictures as needed, to tell the whole story. So if it doesn't look like a photo I took then, it is from the company website.
MUST HAVE PRODUCT: Kick Ash Basket If you own a kamado grill, this is a "must have" product. I bought one of these years ago, for my Big Green Egg, and and it makes charcoal management a breeze, while at the same time improving air flow and making clean up easier. The makers of this product, have recently switch the production of theses baskets over to stainless steel likely making the next one you buy, the last one you buy, unless of course you buy a different size grill or brand of kamado. This company has several other items that may interest you, as they did me, but the basket is a MUST HAVE! They also win BEST SLOGAN, although it was not a formal category, "Shake That Ash, Light That Fire"
BEST NEW CHARCOAL LIGHTER: Grill Torch by JJ George There are more ways way to start a fire than you can shake a stick at, but how many of them can you also use to kill weeds and seal cracks in your driveway? This lighter is new to the market and my favorite things about it are it's portability, self ignition system, and that is temperature adjustable up to 1300 degrees. This lighter also allows you to light your coals from 20 inches away which enables you to keep your propane canister safely upright, and has the added advantage of not requiring you to blow air on your coals which reduces sparking potential.
BEST GRILL TECHNOLOGY: TEC INFARED GRILLS Located in Columbia, South Carolina Thermal Engineering Corporation (TEC) has taken gas grills/infrared grills to a new level. Through patented technology the inventor, Bill Best, found a way to transform the heat and energy from a traditional gas flame into infrared energy. As a former Chemistry teacher I could talk for hours about this conversion and how infrared energy is different but don't worry I won't do that here! However, to make a make a long story short, cooking via infrared allows the food to remain juicer as the food is not being cooked with hot air, like on a traditional gas grill, which tends to dry the food out. TEC technology also inhibits flare ups and charring, and can cook anywhere between 250 and 850 degrees. All of this using 50% less fuel. TEC grills have been around since the last 70's and the current versions have evolved since the early days. Interestingly enough many of the current infrared grills in the marketplace license Mr. Best's early generation technology, but he still holds on to the current technology for the sole use in TEC grills. Needless to say a TEC grill is not your normal gas or infrared grill, in fact there is nothing else quite like it!
Big Green Egg Y'all the folks at BGE have been busy. So busy in fact that I may forget something. Lets start with the easy stuff, BGE has at least one new table design that uses a new wood, acacia I believe. This new wood is also used as a new wood for the nests mates and lid handle. Speaking of the lid, BGE also introduced a new vent cover to replace the familiar daisy wheel design. This new design can open up bigger than before, as well as, serves as a rain cover. The lid also got a newer, "easy open" spring design which greatly reduces the force needed to open the lid. BGE also redesigned the nest itself which makes it easier and safer to move/roll the egg and nest from place to place. Wait I'm not done! As if all of the changes so far were not enough, maybe the biggest change as more of an addition rather than a change. BGE will soon make available to the public their version of of a multilevel-multi-purpose grid/cooking system. Rather than try and describe it, I can tell you it is like a mix between the Kamado Joe "Divide and Conquer" system and the "Adjustable Rig" system from the Ceramic Grill store.
MOST LIKELY TO BE SOCIAL: OFYR I'm not sure how long this idea has been around, but I first discovered this way of cooking a few years ago when looking for a fire-pit. Since then a handful of companies have started making these types of grill, heck I'm not even sure what to call them collectively (like ceramic grills are generally classified as kamados), but I do know that I really like them. Basically it is a large wood burning griddle or plancha. You put wood in the middle and as it burns it heats the thick steel cooking surface. What I love about them is that the the cooking surfaces are large enough, and at a height that several folks can stand around and cook at the same time. This is a very social way to cook and I imagine that if you entertain very often that your guest will want to use this grill more than any other. Obviously this grill cannot do everything that say a kamado or a gas grill can do but it is not trying to, I don't believe. This grill's purpose is to bring folks together, around a fire. It is extremely low maintenance and looks like a piece of art sitting in your yard.
Well that about does it for now, I could go on and on with this, and maybe I will do another post on some of the other products that I found interesting. The products here were only five of literally dozens that I could have written about. Now if you will excuse me I have to go work on my disguise for the 2019 Expo in Dallas, maybe I will go as J.R. Ewing or MacArthur! I am open for suggestions!