So I just heard that the Anthem group are putting together another New England Dessert Showcase this year. This is actually quite surprising, given the train wreck it was last year. I mean alright, I personally had a pretty good time and managed to get one of each sample, but I really felt indignant for everyone else in the mile-long line. And for once, I'm not exaggerating about the length. ;) Yeah I did.
But in all seriousness, I ran into a friend who'd been waiting roughly an hour with no progress and pulled her out of line to save a day of misery. We ran into her friends another quarter mile or so, who were wondering what the hell was going on. By the time I'd gotten out there were no samples left, so they were essentially waiting for nothing; though I do here the food was restocked sometime around the end of the day. Very very bad mismanagement.
As to the content, maybe I can be a bit more objective now that I'm less... Livid... about the whole affair. To be honest, I don't have anything against cupcakes. Hell, I like cupcakes. They're delicious. But they do represent the exact sort of pretentious asshattery that makes me not want to associate myself with the word "foodie" in any way whatsoever. I guess I expected a lot more from the "largest convention in the area" with "industry professionals." I suppose in the end I did get some decent eats, even if I ended up paying $55 for a VIP tasting I didn't get and a gift bag full of coupons.
I still haven't decided whether I'll go back.
Today was the day of the New England Dessert Showcase, purportedly the largest dessert showcase in all of the New England area. I've been looking forward to going and seeking some sort of inspiration from professionals in the baking and pastry industry, but after driving an hour and going through all this trouble... Well. How should I put this. You see that photo of the panda there? That was basically the highlight of the entire event.
Alright, maybe I'm being a bit harsh. The event itself was not utterly awful per se, but it was a huge personal disappointment, and not worth the money. For you see, me being the obsessive dork that I am, I went with the $55 VIP ticket, with private tasting. The other options were $40 for regular VIP, $35 for general admissions, and $15 for morning-only. VIP ticket-holders would get the benefit of an opening night party, as well as a gift package worth over $200. And a private tasting for those who wanted to shell out the extra 15. Sounds fabulous, right? That's what I thought too.
Reality: The $200 value in the gift basket was just artificial currency in the form of coupons. That was disappointing; I was hoping I would at least get a funny commemorative keychain of some sort. Instead, the best things in the bag were a bag of chips and a pack of breath mints. I kid you not. Not to mention that everyone grabbed a "VIP" bag, not just the VIPs. I mean, come on guys. The "private tasting" just meant we got let into the convention room an hour early, so we were guaranteed some food. Pretty nice not to have to elbow someone in the groin just to get food, but... Not worth the extra $15. I honestly thought there would be something more special.
Ah, but there is a bright side--They offered a group discount rate of $17 general admission for eligible groups. While I'd say this is not worth the VIP price, $17 gen-admit can definitely be justified. Of course, this means that sites like GroupOn, BuyWithMe, etc, would jump all over that. Which brings me to my second point--the event was way overbooked. Wayyyyy overbooked. Whatever preparations they did, they were obviously unprepared for the onslaught brought on by the major sites and the $17 price tag. By the time it was 2 hours in, the entire room was full and there was 400-person line for admission. And for once, I'm not exaggerating. If I hadn't been so shocked, maybe I would have remembered to take pictures of the line.
And now for the actual contents of the convention. Let me say this first, as it is the most prevalent thought in my mind: There are way. Too. Many. Cupcakes. Seriously. At least 40% of the people there presented cupcakes. Now, nothing against cupcakes, but... The asymptotic awesome limit (Copyright Alex Kuang, 2010) of a cupcake is simply much, much lower than most other desserts. That is; yes, you can have a well-made cupcake. But it doesn't matter if it's a tower of cupcakes the size of King Kong's wang. It doesn't matter if the cupcakes are all shaped to be the exact likeness of Mahatma Gandhi's head. They're still just cupcakes. It simply amazes me how people fail to realize this, and try to hide it with superficial icing decorations, or such sickeningly "creative" names such as: Kick *ss Cupcakes (yes, it WAS with a star), Cakeology, and Keyks. Yes, Keyks. I couldn't make this up if I tried. The point is; in an event where the sole purpose of a vendor is to advertise and impress... Cupcakes are just not up to par. Step it up, guys.
That being said; amidst the sea of cupcakers and new-age "health food" advocates (I'd rant about that, but I don't want to waste my words; suffice to say, not all fruits are paired with ginger, and if you do you'd better execute it bloody well immaculately, and finally granola really doesn't work out in a dessert setting and an energy bar with only 100g carbs and 3g protein is kind of sad), there were quite a few gems. Japonaise Bakery was there, and upholding their usual high standards; their puff pastry was flaky, the cream puffs were creamy, and everything was just great. They're amazing, and were head and shoulders above the competition at the showcase today. Serious kudos to them for giving me one of the only decent things I had to eat today, and for letting me take more than one. Highly recommended. Konditor Meister was there also, as was finale. They both had acceptable offerings, with a good profiterole from Konditor and decent cakes from finale. The most interesting thing though, was a chocolate mousse topped with a whipped cream and mango ginger sauce with tapioca pearls. When I saw this, alarms went off in my head since I knew it would either work out really well, or really terribly. Luckily, this time it was the former. So a tip of the hat to Tim Choi of Top of the Hub restaurant. This combination was pretty dangerous, but all things considered he did it very well, and very cleanly. There were also other decent things, but those are the top I think; though the beer ice cream needs an honorable mention here.
I would go on about things like the Boston Cream Pie, the random purse booth, the tea lollipops, the asshats who wouldn't give free samples and insisted on charging for their goods, how awesome pumpkin beer ice cream was and how sloppy the Boston Cream Pie, but... I have to leave something for Thomas to write about, right? So the bottom line is... I came here looking to discover something that would blow my mind completely, but I just didn't find it in the low level of this showcase. I mean, don't get me wrong; Japonaise, finale, etc are all awesome and their skill levels are up there, but I was looking for someone whose skill levels were up there. In that way, it was a huge personal disappointment. Money-wise, the price was definitely too high for what was offered. I honestly don't think I'll be going next year, unless it's to have a table with 10 trays of tiramisu, just to say "We're 20, we're full-time Computer Science students, and we can still easily wipe the floor with half of you in here."