What’s new? That’s “the question” after the International Home and Housewares Show.
Even for those of us who attend this incredible kitchen and housewares show every year find it hard to answer that question, but let met share a peak from inside this gigantic show, which was held earlier this month.
It is huge. The exhibitors stretch for miles and cover every part of Chicago’s McCormick Place. There are 2,100 exhibitors and approximately 60,000 people attend it. Those who walk the show find that aching feet tend to cloud the brain. If not the tired feet, it is the fact that bright lights, incredible colors, catchy videos and sounds, enticing bites and wonderful aromas from the booths overwhelm the senses.
It’s enough to make you wonder if this is Las Vegas or Chicago?
Home and Housewares. Products to make your life easier, the closet more organized, the cooking faster or tastier, the bath prettier, your pet happier, and the table more colorful, fill this show.
International Show. Exhibitors from every country attract buyers of every nationality. It is a trade show, which means that buyers from department or discount stores, catalogs, websites or small shops attend while media from lots of venues cover the show.
So, back to the question, what is new? When you work in a booth and do not walk the entire show, it is especially hard to know. Some years, the excited whispers about new products become shouts and we know a new product will transform our lives. Think back to how the microwave oven or the slow cooker might have been perceived in years gone by. That was not the case this year.
It is impossible for me to share news on everything new, but I can share a sense of what I saw. I love to cook and the kitchen is my passion, so my perceptions begin and end with the kitchen and the table.
I saw products that were sleek and many had a “European” or “professional” look. Stainless and black ruled the aisles, but splashes of red, lime green and softer or muted palettes accented the array. Pantone, the color authority company, declared Marsala, an earthy red-brown, as the color of the year, but blue, in every shade possible was very strong. Other colors like berry, yellow, lavender, plum, rose, and sage dotted the shelves.
Artisan vs. electronic. As I race by the booths, I am struck by the conflicting looks. Espresso is served in a richly adorned booth that almost shouts old European café. Dishes (which for many of us steal the show), casseroles and glasses appear handmade, unique, individually painted, vintage or natural.
Across the aisle, the latest in electronically controlled appliances send you soaring into the future. Many classic appliances and devices, including familiar brands such as Crock Pot and Mr. Coffee feature “smart” technology and may be controlled remotely via an app or Bluetooth connection from your phone. Companies introduced remotely controlled thermometers for grilling or roasting. Electronic scales for baking, cooking, dieting or preparing cocktails guide your steps with precision.
Blenders are more powerful than ever, yet the ever popular KitchenAid mixer, in every color imaginable, never goes out of style.
New pots and pans gleam in the intense lights, but this year, colors like burgundy, red and turquoise accent the stainless. Ceramic nonstick finishes which claim to last longer than other finishes were common and many companies marketed their pans for induction ranges.
Whimsical has a place in the kitchen. Products that feature Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, or Hello Kitty made me smile.
I rejoice that coffee is still our drink of choice, but the options are endless. Do you want to roast your own beans? Do you want one cup super-fast or do you want to experience every step of the roasting, grinding and brewing process to maximize flavor nuances? Precision-pour electric kettles, a “French-press” for K-cups (a product from Kansas City based Select Brands), and systems for your own “pour over” coffee generate coffee aromas that permeate the aisles.
Buzz words I noticed and will track to see if they become lasting trends or fade quickly include souse vide, induction, slow juicing, convection cooking, cast iron, and Melamine for outdoor kitchens.
What are a few of the specific products now on my wish list?
Pioneer Woman — Ree Drummond of the famed Pioneer Woman blog — has teamed with Gibson to introduce a line of beautiful dishes.
Cuisinart introduced a convection toaster oven that can proof and bake bread, roast meats and then steam cleans the inside of the oven.
The Fagor Lux multicooker is a pressure cooker, yogurt maker, and slow cooker or I might choose a new All Clad pressure cooker. Decisions
Nordic Ware, maker of the Bundt pan, introduced a square pan that I must get when it is available.
Kathy Moore is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is The Newlywed Cookbook: Cooking Happily Ever After. She develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com